Portable photo printers that can produce 4-by-6-inch prints directly from digital cameras, or a camera’s memory card, are very popular. If you need proof, just look at the dizzying number of them introduced in the last couple of years.
Lexmark recently unveiled its latest printer in this category: the stripped down P350, for just $130. At this price, Lexmark will likely sell a huge number of them, but picky photographers would be better off paying a little more for a printer that produces higher quality snapshots.
Lexmark already had a couple of portable photo printers on the market, but those did not offer the option of connecting to and printing from a Macintosh. The P350 is the first portable photo printer from Lexmark to offer that connection option and, when connected via USB to my Mac, it worked well in concert with iPhoto ( ) and Photoshop ( ).
Many folks buying this type of printer do so for the ability to print without a computer, and for those people the P350 offers card slots to accommodate many of today’s popular memory card formats. It also sports a PictBridge USB port for printing directly from a connected digital camera using the camera’s menus to select which and how many photos you want to print. One small feature that I appreciate is the spring-loaded paper guide, which keeps the paper aligned. I didn’t suffer any paper jams or print any misaligned photos during my testing.
One feature missing from Lexmark’s portable photo printer is a battery option. Its built-in handle is a nice touch, but for true print-anywhere convenience, a battery is a necessity.
The P350 marks another first for Lexmark—the introduction of a new ink set, the evercolor2 pigmented inks that are housed in a single, three-color cartridge. When used with Lexmark’s PerfectFinish glossy photo paper, the P350’s prints are both water resistant and smudge-proof. Alas, they also suffer from some serious bronzing (in which the print becomes hard to see at an angle due to a metallic sheen).
The prints were oversharpened for my taste, and I could see faint horizontal lines in darker areas of the pictures. Moreover, the P350’s black-and-white printing feature produced bluish prints.
Taking just under two minutes per 4-by-6-inch print, the P350 was also the slowest portable photo printer we’ve recently tested, but not by much.
|Five 4x6-inch Photos||9:40|
Scale = Minutes: Seconds
|Color Photo quality||Fair|
Scale = Superior, Very Good, Good, Fair, Poor
|Number of inks||3 inks, one cartridge|
|Cost per 4x6-inch print||29 cents—$29 for package of 100 sheets of glossy paper and ink cartridge.|
|Memory Cards||CompactFlash, Sony Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Secure Digital (SD) Card, MultiMediaCard (MMC), xD Card.|
|Printer resolution||4800 x 1200 dpi|
|Special features||2.5-inch LCD; handle|
Macworld’s buying advice
The inexpensive P350 marks a number of firsts for Lexmark—it’s the company’s first portable photo printer to work with a Mac and its first to use water- and smudge-resistant pigment inks. Unfortunately, when compared to competing portable photo printers, such as the HP Photosmart A716 ( ) and the Epson PictureMate PM 280 ( ), it came in last in terms of print quality and speed.
[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]Lexmark P350