Although few people have an eye for good photography, it doesn’t stop us all from clicking photographs, be it on the mobile, compact, or DLSR cameras. There is a photographer residing in each one of us, especially now that compact digital cameras featuring an 8 megapixel CCD are available for as low as Rs 5,000. Occasions such as birthdays, holidays, casual parties and outdoor events are now incomplete without a camera to capture the memories.
Photography is a hobby for many, but what do you do with your digital photo collection? Either you store them on your computer, or burn them on DVDs and show them off to friends and family on your large screen TV or a photo frame. Opting for prints is still an expensive proposition as each print can set you back around Rs. 25 when printed from a photo lab.
Well, here is a new superb concept by Epson that integrates both a digital photo frame and a personal photo printer in one single, compact package. The Epson PictureMate PM310 is the size of a toaster or a vanity hamper and features a 4 x 3 photo printer. It also doubles as a photo frame with its large 7-inch widescreen LCD display. The product is a worthy investment for those who need photo lab quality prints in the comfort and convenience of their own homes or offices.
The printer has an excellent, sturdy shell and great form factor. The top of the printer features a foldable paper input tray and a retractable handle for easy portability. A slot is provided between the handle and paper tray to accommodate the remote control unit. The front features the display panel and a detachable paper-out tray. The left side simply holds the power switch, while the right side has all the connections - the MMC card reader, which supports SD, MS, CF and xD card slots, a USB port that doubles to support a pen drive or a Bluetooth dongle, and PictBridge connectivity. The back of the printer features the power connector and the ink cartridge bay.
The shell is a bright white with a matte finish, but the display screen uses a high-gloss white case which can be easily tarnished. Overall, the printer looks good in white, but the body attracts dust and easily picks up smudges and fingerprints. The power is supplied using an external 42 Volt power brick and features a custom designed power connector for the printer, which ensures that the printer cannot be damaged by being connected using a power adapter from another gadget.
The Epson PictureMate PM 310 features a high quality photo printer that can print at a resolution of 5760 dpi. The printer uses the Variable Sized Droplet Technology coupled with Epson Claria photographic ink to give you smudge-free and water and fade resistant prints that can last almost 200 years. The printer utilizes a single ink cartridge, which houses all the four - C, M, Y, and K - ink tanks. The single four-color cartridge is beneficial to some extent, but can prove to be expensive in the long run. Installation of the cartridge is easy, but when a particular color ink runs out, the whole cartridge has to be replaced, resulting in wastage and added expense.
The printer features multiple input interfaces, including USB (PC, pen drive or PictBridge), flash cards (MMC card reader) and Bluetooth (optional, a Bluetooth dongle is required). According to the company, a compatible Epson Bluetooth dongle would be required for Bluetooth connectivity, but we managed to use a regular Bluetooth dongle and it worked just fine. You can insert a memory card from a digital camera directly into the card reader and view or print the photos immediately. We saved some photos on a USB pen drive and inserted it into the USB slot and the printer immediately popped up a message stating the number of photos found on the pen drive. After a few minutes of the printer being untouched, the display screen shows off the photos on the screen in a preset slideshow.
Once the printer finds the images, you have an option to either view them on the display screen as a slideshow, or one after the other to select the images to be printed. Each photo can be custom printed and the number of prints can be specified. You can also edit photos using the onboard utility, which can crop, rotate, remove red-eye or add color effects such as black and white and sepia. The photos can be selected in multiple numbers and can all be printed in one go. Optionally, you can print either single selected photos, all photos available on the memory card/pen drive, or an index of all the photos.
The slideshow option has pre-defined flash-based interfaces and can be viewed with interesting effects such as spin, cross-fade, zoom, book style, museum, story, fashion show, clock and calendar. We found that each of the slideshows were painstakingly slow, as each photo is displayed for at least 7 to 8 seconds before it changes to the next one. You can neither set the timing of the slides, nor can you move the photos forward or backward during a slideshow.
During the slideshow itself, you will need to choose the photo to be printed, and you can print all the selected photos only once the slideshow ends. So if you have around hundred photos on a memory card and you would like to print a few of them after the slideshow ends, it would take a painstaking 12 to 15 minutes to just choose them. Add to that the additional time taken for the printing process. On the other hand, the printer is a speedy one, and you can get a high-quality 4 x 6-inch print in less than 40 seconds.
The display screen is the largest to grace any printer yet. The 7-inch display is ideal for convenient viewing and placement on your table or showcase. The display can be tilted according to your comfort (around 45 degrees upwards), but the viewing angle seems a bit problematic as it tends to change colors slightly when viewed from an angle, but it isn’t much of an issue. The display screen isn’t firm either. We found it to be a bit flimsy when setting it to an angle, but it stays firm after it’s finally positioned. It also can be lifted upwards by a few inches to obtain a better viewing angle.
The printer and photo frame combo though great with its large display screen, lacks any sort of control buttons. There are no buttons to even cancel a print, let alone having a control panel to set up the printer or to scroll through your photo collection. The complete functionality of the printer needs to be controlled and set up using an IR remote control unit. If you lose the remote, you are left to use the product as an automatic slideshow photo frame and a computer-controlled printer. An integrated touch screen would have certainly been a great add-on.
The photo frame also lacks a speaker to play an audio track while running your slideshows. The addition of a speaker would have definitely added more value to the product, as it could’ve also been used to playback videos or music. In short, what you get is a photo frame that can only do slideshows; how boring!
We rigorously tested the printer to assess its functionality, features and print quality. Once you plug in a pen drive or memory card into its respective slot, the printer must be initially set using the IR remote to choose the storage medium. The user interface is very simple and easy to use, but a little sluggish. The menus are easy to follow, but a first time user would take at least 30 minutes to an hour to get well-versed with its complete functionality.
As far as the performance goes, the printer can outperform most photo printers available in the market. It prints crisp, vivid and natural photos in less than 40 seconds. When compared to an original photo lab print of the same photo, we could barely spot any deficiencies. The printer bundles the Easy Photo Print software, which can be used for editing and enhancing photos on a PC before opting for a final print.
The software is very easy to use and needs absolutely no technical expertise, letting you customize and edit multiple photographs together in just a few clicks. Once the photo is edited, you can opt for borderless, index or ID photo prints. Apart from regular photo printing, the software features multiple customized frames, including Disney themes, which are great for creative birthday photos for your kids. Further, you can create/edit custom frames using the software itself.
The printer retails for an affordable Rs. 14,999, while the ink cartridge sells at Rs 2,750 and also bundles 150 photo sheets for printing. The cost per print amounts to approximately Rs 19.
Although they could have gone a step further and embedded a speaker into the photo frame, thus adding the ability to watch movies and play music, Epson seems to be the first to implement the concept of a photo frame built into a photo printer. The PictureMate PM310, with its stylish looks, is an excellent investment for those opting for a personal photo printer at home or in the office. Photographers, modeling institutions, and professionals and businesses in various other fields can benefit from this printer and photo frame combo. Selling at Rs. 14,999, this product is good value for money and is a better option over other similar products available in the market, which cost around Rs. 14,000 and feature a maximum 3.5-inch display.
Published Date: Apr 08, 2010 04:57 pm | Updated Date: Apr 08, 2010 04:57 pm