The Pros and Cons of Photo Printers

Digital cameras are getting smaller--and now, so are dedicated photo printers. These sub-$200 wonders don't exactly fit in a pocket, but they're designed to provide quick-and-easy prints without requiring you to fire up a computer to get at what's on the camera.

The Duo look at models from three vendors. Two, the HP Photosmart 325 and the Canon Selphy DS700, are very similar in operation to the inkjet printer you probably already have--they use the same kinds of ink cartridges and paper (though solely in photo size). They also share one of inkjet printouts' biggest failings: They're not waterproof, as Angela demonstrates by dousing a photo and literally swirling it into a brand-new image.

The Sony PictureStation DPP-Ex50 uses a technology called dye sublimation, which has traditionally been a fairly high-end printing option. With dye-sub, paper and ink are packaged together in special cartridges along with a clear coating that protects the inks once they're applied. The cartridges include about 20 sheets--and when you're out of paper, you're out of ink (and vice versa). The images from the Sony were not smeary, but Steve calls them "stinky"--there's definitely a whiff of ammonia in the room when the PictureStation is up to bat.

All of these no-computer-required models require you to shop carefully to be sure that the printer's card slots are compatible with whatever memory card your camera uses--unless, of course, you plan to use them exclusively in conjunction with a computer. (Though if you do plan to do that, the Duo ask, what's the point of a tiny portable photo printer?) Of the three machines under the Duo microscope, the HP came out ahead in this challenge, accepting Memory Stick, CompactFlash, SmartMedia, SD, and even the tiny new XD chips--a veritable United Nations right on the desk.

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