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This article was published on: 04/01/2002


Mike Antoniak is a freelance journalist, who writes frequently on technology.

 Pictures on the run
Printing Digital Images in the Field

New printers that can accept digital files directly from a camera make high-quality digital printing more mobile.


Ever needed a true photo-quality photo of a digital image in a hurry? Maybe the prospects at an open house asked for a “good, clear” photo of the living room to take with them. You had your digital camera, but no way to output the photo. When you finally picked up the print from your local photo processor--late the next day--the prospects had offered for another house.

If this sounds familiar, you may want to investigate an emerging class of specialized color digital photo printers. These new models bring instant printing convenience to digital photography, allowing you to print out an image in your office or in the field, yet still get the look and feel of a glossy, professional photographic print.

“Before printers like the new entry-level HP P-100 Digital Photo Printer came along, digital camera users were hard pressed to find a source where they could get true photographic-quality prints from their digital images,” says Mark Parsons, business development manager for Hewlett Packard’s Small/Medium Business Group.

In fact, your best option was to find a film-processing center that offered prints-from-digital services (and then wait at least several hours). Or you could upload the images to your computer for printing, providing that your desktop printer could deliver photo quality. Parsons notes that any HP printer with “PhotoREt III” print technology will deliver 2,400 dots per inch (dpi) prints in photo mode, if you print on photo inkjet paper. In fact, photo-quality printing is a selling point on several desktop inkjet printers, such as Epson’s C80 Printer.

One of the compelling advantages of dedicated photo printer like the P-100 is its ability to print from digital without a computer connection. This printer can read and print images directly from Compact Flash, SmartMedia, or MemoryStick flash media cards. Just plug the printer into a power source, insert the digital film card from your camera, print out an index print of all images on the card, and select the images you want to print. The P-100 delivers 2,400 dpi, 4 by 6 inch print in less than two minutes. Users have the option of printing one or two images on each sheet of paper. The printer is small enough--roughly 5 by 5 by 9 inches and three pounds--that you can carry it in your car and quickly set up to print at a listing or an open house.

“These are prints you can hand out right away,” notes Parsons. “You can use them at open houses to take pictures of the features buyers like, and print the pictures on the spot. And when you need an image for a listing presentation, you have true photographic quality.”

The printer itself lists at $180; HP also offers a step-up model, the PhotoSmart P1115, which currently sells for around $200. It, too, can print directly from flash media cards but can deliver prints up to 8 by 10 inches. Either printer can produce an image on any print media and but delivers the best results when used with inkjet photo paper, according to Parsons. Photographic inkjet paper is now widely available in most office supply and computer outlets. HP offers it in packs of 20 sheets for under $10 and packs of 60 sheets for less than $20. The color cartridge used by the printers cost $34.95 when purchased directly from HP. The company estimates there’s enough ink to produce 125 4 by 6 inch photo prints in each cartridge.

Of course, HP is not alone in delivering dedicated solutions for photo-quality prints from digital images. With the growing popularity of digital cameras, most vendors of digital cameras or printers now offer a dedicated digital photo printer in their line. Current choices include the $200 Photo 785 EPX from Epson, Canon’s $240 CP-100, the $400 Camedia P-200 from Olympus, Crystal Digital’s $300 Color Plus Photo Printer, the $350 DPP SV55 from Sony, and SiPix’s entry-level, $179 PocketColor 200.

Whichever printer you choose, it’s best to see a sample print to make sure it matches your expectations for photographic quality. Also consider both the cost of the printer and the cost of consumables--paper and ink cartridges--when deciding which model is your best buy.

Until recently, the digital camera’s primary value to real estate professionals has been as a tool for capturing images to showcase listings on the Web. But combine a digital camera with a photo-quality printer, and you’ve got a solution for all your photographic needs.

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