One of the best things about using a digital camera is instant gratification. You can find out immediately whether you nailed or missed your shot without waiting to finish and process your roll of film. Nonetheless, many folks still take their “digital film” down to the camera store, or use an online photo lab, instead of printing photos themselves. Epson’s PictureMate ( ) has already helped many printer-phobic shutterbugs make the transition to printing their own photos, but with the new Deluxe Viewer Edition, Epson has made the process even easier. And now you don’t even have to wait until you get home.
Easy does it
Photo ink-jet printers have been around for quite a while, but most of them require transferring images to your computer first, and knowing your way around an image-editing application. For some Macworld readers, this isn’t a problem. Many of us like the flexibility of tweaking skin tones, removing the odd blemish, correcting color casts, and cropping photos to our liking. But, for people who aren’t as comfortable using their computers for this purpose, the PictureMate Deluxe Viewer Edition can take your Mac completely out of the picture.
The Deluxe Viewer Edition is the same size, shape, and color as the original PictureMate, which is still available, and costs $50 less. They both use the same $25 media pack, which contains a six-ink cartridge for printing on the included 100 sheets of glossy photo paper. Epson says the smudge-, fade-, and water-resistant prints will last up to 200 years in a photo album and 100 years in a glass frame. The biggest difference between the original PictureMate and the Deluxe Viewer Edition is the 2.4-inch color LCD that eliminates the need to print thumbnail images of your photos (a contact sheet) so you can choose which photos you want to print. Thumbnails are easy to see on the LCD, as are previews of the custom crops and color effects that you can apply using the LCD’s controls and menus. The new PictureMate supports almost all standard memory cards, and cards inserted into the unit will mount automatically on your Mac’s desktop. Or you can print directly from many cameras via a standard USB 2.0 port on the back of the unit.
You also can connect the PictureMate to your Mac via USB and use your favorite image-editing application to fix your images. One benefit of printing from your computer is a higher resolution mode available in the PictureMate’s OS X print driver that you can’t access from the printer alone. Using this higher resolution mode does help to smooth out the prints, but the difference is barely noticeable at the printer’s 4-by-6-inch print size, and it takes twice as long to print.
The Deluxe Viewer Edition is noticeably faster than the original, which took a little over two minutes to print a 4-by-6-inch, borderless print in stand-alone mode; this newer version printed the same image in just over a minute and a half.
Wherever you print them, the PictureMate’s prints are clear, colorful, and pleasing to the eye. Skin tones looked a little strange, though. One viewer thought they looked flat, but to me, it looked like a little makeup had been applied, removing some of the shine that you’d naturally see on people’s faces. You certainly can get a better, more lifelike print from some desktop ink-jet photo printers, but most consumers and weekend shooters will love the prints they get from the PictureMate.
You can take it with you
Another great addition to the Deluxe Viewer Edition is that you can purchase a $70 optional battery, so you can take the printer with you to a picnic, a party, or to the beach. It will print continuously for approximately two hours. Other options include a Bluetooth photo print adapter for $69, and a car charger for $50.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
You can’t ask for a better, more convenient portable ink-jet printer than the PictureMate Deluxe Viewer Edition. Its speed and image quality are great. But the new 2.4-inch LCD, which offers thumbnail previews, and the optional rechargeable battery, make this little printer shine.
[ James Galbraith is Macworld’s Lab Director. ]Epson PictureMate Deluxe Photo Viewer Edition