Money’s Worth

PHOTO PRINTS IN A FLASH

MICHAEL SNIDER April 26 2004
Money’s Worth

PHOTO PRINTS IN A FLASH

MICHAEL SNIDER April 26 2004

PHOTO PRINTS IN A FLASH

Money’s Worth

MICHAEL SNIDER

SO YOU’VE finally got that digital camera you’ve been craving, but you’re still wondering what to do with the stockpile of images filling up your hard drive. You can order prints on-line (it takes days to get them); you can cart the memory card down to the drugstore photo counter (a hassle); or you can opt for a homemade solution. While professionalquality photo printers still run into the thousands of dollars, a slew of affordable tiny alternatives now cater to the printing needs of the devoted amateur.

Mini-printers are designed for one purpose: to make 4-by-6 prints, the most popular photo size in Canada. You don’t even need a computer to use them: you can plug your camera right into some; others offer slots for memory cards that cameras use to store digital images. The gadgets produce prints of quality comparable to what you get from photo developers, they’re virtually idiot-proof and they’re downright cute. They are also portable, which at first puzzled us-just how urgent are most people’s printing needs? Clearly, though, the idea is for you to take them to the backyard family barbecue and provide everyone with instant photo gratification.

Although mini photo printers currently make up a mere five per cent of Canada’s printer market, their sales have more than doubled in the past year, and manufacturers expect that fast growth to continue as more consumers forgo film for megapixels. We ran four of the latest models through their paces. To evaluate picture quality, we turned to the pros in our photo department.

Verdict: If you shoot a lot of pictures and make a lot of prints, get one. It’s worth it for the sheer convenience, and the cost is reasonable. If you don’t, ask yourself: just how big a hassle is a trip to the drugstore? Our Pick: HP Photosmart.