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Teenager gives thumbs up to Epson PictureMate

It's summer time to get outside and take pictures!

All other seasons, my 13-year old is buried deep in school, homework and karate classes. Summer is a special gift of free time ... for other interests like photography.

Last Christmas, she received a new camera, but it's been in the box for her until she's had the time to take, process and print pictures.

Now it's out of the box and busy, along with her iMac and a new Epson PictureMate printer that we're testing.

The first and most critical step, however, is to take some good pictures. Our cabin is a great place to visually capture nature and people, so my daughter brings her camera along and begins shooting everything from cloud formations and wildflowers to her older siblings and 3-year-old nephew.

Next step is to transfer those images from the camera's memory card to the iPhoto Library on her computer (or directly to the printer).

On her iMac, the process of image editing begins. We go over iPhoto's editing tools for cropping, removing red eye, adjusting brightness, contrast, saturation, sharpness, exposure and more. She can also convert images to black and white or sepia, boost the color, apply an antique effect, and other modifications.

She edits some of her images and then, with about 20 photos identified as the best, it's time to fire up this PictureMate Deluxe Viewer Edition printer and see some of her images on paper.

This printer, with its 4x6-inch print format, may be a good choice for anyone who wants standard-size prints. Plus, it can print two 3x4-inch, four even smaller, and a proof sheet of 20 tiny images.

Compact and portable (with a handle), the PictureMate is easy to bring along to where you want to shoot, print and perhaps share photos of a special event or gathering. There's also an optional rechargeable battery for further portability.

Even if the printer stays home, you may not want to bother loading the photos on a computer to edit them before printing. In that case, you can insert the camera's photo memory card (any popular brand) into the built-in card reader and make some basic improvements with this printer's editing tools. There's a small viewing screen for monitoring edits and stepping through menu choices.

For example, you can click to Menu>Color Effects to print in color, black and white, or sepia. For image editing, go to Menu>Fix Photos, and pick auto correct, brightness, saturation or sharpness, for instance. Then watch the screen and make the level of adjustment you want.

OK, let's start printing. We install the printer software, load the photo paper, and six-color ink cartridge. The paper and ink are packaged together in handy packets a 100-sheet pack, for example, costs $29, which means about 29-cents per 4x6-inch print.

I have a little trouble getting the printer to print, but fiddling with settings solves the problem and soon my daughter is printing at a pretty fast pace.

She begins by printing from the computer, having already edited the images there. She clicks to the photo folder on her iMac with the pictures she wants to print. Then, looking at the printer screen, selects a picture, chooses border or borderless, and presses Print. She prints another and another.

The images are sharp and the colors are vivid. Good job, PictureMate. Good job, daughter.

One of the assets of this little printer is that the prints are water and smudge resistant, according to Epson. That does seem to be true, from our limited testing.

Another asset is that it has "archival pigment print technology," which isn't supposed to fade easily. Prints are noted to last around 200 years in photo-album storage conditions and around 100 years when framed and displayed in normal, indoor light. Of course, the printer hasn't been around long enough to test this claim, but let's assume its prints will last a long time.

Now we'll print without connecting to a computer, which is what this Deluxe Viewer edition is designed to do. It can print from a memory card, USB CD-R, Zip drive, or USB mini flash drive.

My daughter slides her camera's memory card (with a fresh batch of photos) into the card reader. The printer loads the images and she steps through them, studying each one on the printer screen until she chooses some to edit and print.

After using the printer's editing tools to make a few adjustments, she prints one. It looks pretty good. She edits and prints another and another.

Personally, I think the pictures that were edited on the computer look a little better than those edited on the printer, but casual viewers probably wouldn't notice a difference.

All in all, my daughter and I agree, the PictureMate is a good printer for anyone who wants to print a lot of standard 4x6-inch pictures. And, for those who'd like to take a printer along on vacations and to family gatherings, it's definitely a good choice.

In sum, if you want to edit and print without a computer, go for this Deluxe model ($199). If you want to edit on a computer before printing, either the Express model ($149) or the basic PictureMate ($129) can produce excellent prints. All three models work with both Macs and PCs.

Source: seattletimes.com

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