Howl and Growl Review of the Epson PictureMate Personal Photo Lab

Intro Standalone Connected to a Computer Conclusion

Hope the Cat

The Epson PictureMate Personal Photo Lab Has a Convenient Carrying Handle!

Introduction

Rating: One Howl and Three Growls

The Epson PictureMate Personal Photo Lab is a nice idea that will make you grow old waiting for the 4x6 prints to spit out. The concept is simple. The printer prints either stand alone or connected to a computer. The printer comes with twenty sheets of 4x6 glossy photo paper and a matching print cartridge. Additional media packs are available with 100 sheets of paper and a cartridge at a cost of less than 30 dollars. The target is 29 cents per print which is less expensive than most photo labs and the output quality is excellent. This unit was purchased in November of 2004 for $195.00 from Competitive Cameras in Dallas Texas.

The kit contains:

Standalone

This printer does NOT require a connection to a computer. The plastic printer has three slots on the front side (under a cover) for:

You can also print from additional external devices including using the USB or the EXT/IF port:

There is an LCD on top of the printer that is "ok" to read, but could be easier. Primary buttons on the printer include an On/Off, Save Photo, Print, Cancel and a Back/Ok toggle.

Here is where all the growls regarding this unit enter the picture. If you are wanting to use this printer to reduce your printer back log from your main computer by just loading up a compact flash card (or other media card) with a bunch of tiffs or JPG files you will be very disappointed in the speed of the unit. An 18 megabyte tiff file took approximately 26 minutes to print a 4x6 print. Yet, another 18 megabyte tiff file took only 3.5 minutes to print and I have no idea why one tiff took an additional 22 minutes to print! Yes, the prints looked great. Compressing the 18 megabyte file to a 3 megabyte JPG file reduced the print time to under 4 minutes. Finally, the same print of "Jessica" printed as a 894Kb sized JPG (768x1150) took just under 2.5 minutes to print. The smaller print, which should be the absolute minimum sized file large enough file to print a 4x6 was had the same quality of the larger JPG or tif files!

"Jessica" print time on the Epson PictureMate took 2.5 to 4 minutes depending on the image size

Features built into the standalone printer include:

Connected to a Computer

Remember that when you install your software do not have the printer connected to your computer via the USB port. The software installed includes:

Epson Photo Starter is simply an interface to allow the automatic invoking of Photo Factory or any other photo software when you are dealing with images.

The installation was easy in a Windows XP environment, although the test page did not print when the unit tried to invoke a test pattern. Going directly to the printer control panel, clicking on properties and printing a test page worked fine.

The Epson Photo Starter allows you to organize and store your photos. You can also modify photos. Consider it a very lightweight Photoshop! Additional features include:

Remember, you don't have to print directly to the PictureMate. You can also specify another printer that handles alternative media types and sizes (I.E. the Sticker Prints Selection). The PictureMate only uses the 4x6 glossy paper.

While the software provided is straightforward and rather simple, it is useful. One growl is that when you print from Photoshop you still have to Image Resize whereas if you use the Compact Flash standalone card the unit will automatically resize the image.

Note the single printer ink cartridge.

Conclusion

One Howl and Three Growls for the Epson PictureMate Personal Photo Lab

The unit is small and compact, works in stand alone mode, but can also be connected to a computer. Why the growls?  

Growls: What I didn't like about the unit:

Howls: What was very cool about the unit:

A Final Comment on the Print Speed

For the price of less than $200.00 the Epson PictureMate printer offers low cost printing and the ability to off load your print projects to a standalone printer. If you have a 6 megabyte digital camera, you can make a pass on your computer with cropping and modifications. You can easily copy 80 of the resulting 3 megabyte JPG files to a compact flash card and put it in this unit. Four hours later you'll have a stack of nice photos equal to or better than the local photo lab. Yes, you will need to check the paper several times to be sure it does not run out ... but while this unit is printing you can concentrate on printing those big 8x10 prints you have been trying to get to for the last year on your full sized printer! This unit never had one paper jam!

Would I buy this unit?  Yes. I did.

Note to Epson: Speed up the printing and use some better materials and my three growls and one howls could easily be a solid four howls!

This review was written by Michael Hahn of Outback Coyote, Inc.  Steps were taken for accuracy in reporting but the reader should check the manufacturer's website to verify the information provided.

The Epson PictureMate Peronal Photo Lab was purchased at: www.competitivecameras.com

Call (972) 768-7469 coyote@outbackcoyote.com

Copyright 1998, 99, 00, 01,02,03,04 Outback Coyote Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Last Modified 12/02/04.

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