EPSON PictureMate Zoom
The Prints Just Keep Popping Out!
by Tony Gomez
Printing snapshot images has just gotten a whole lot easier with the release of Epson’s newest printing wonder— the PictureMate Zoom. It’s a snapshot printer that prints high-quality images directly from your digicam’s memory card, and it takes literally no time at all to do so.
The Epson PictureMate Zoom ($199.99 MSRP) is actually the flagship model of two PictureMate series printers. The Zoom model has all the features of the less expensive Dash model ($99.99 MSRP), plus it adds a CD-ROM burner (more on that later).
Producing high-quality prints is nothing new for Epson; the company has been doing it for years with its larger format Stylus Photo printers. But getting a high quality print from a snapshot printer is more difficult. There are many snapshot-sized ink jet and thermal dye-sublimation printers from the competition out there, but in my opinion, there was always something lacking in their print quality. The prints from these other snapshot printers just lacked the “snap” you’re used to seeing from a professional mini-lab printers that deliver prints in less than an hour.
Epson changed all that with the introduction of its PictureMate printers a couple of years ago. The current PictureMate Zoom and PictureMate Dash printers are the second-generation models. The Zoom model weighs about 6.6 lbs and the Dash weighs about 5 lbs. Both units are about the size of a small toaster.
Portability is just one of the great features of the Zoom and Dash PictureMate models. The control buttons are larger and easier to read than the previous models. Where the Zoom and Dash models really shine is in their ability to print images from memory cards, USB drives and CD-ROMs (Zoom model only).
To this end, there are direct card slots for accepting all the current memory card types: CompactFlash Type I and II (microdrive type), SD/SDHC, Memory Stick (original), Memory Stick Pro/Duo (with adapter), xD Picture Card, miniSD/SDHC (with adapter) and microSD/SDHC (with adapter). I was especially interested in seeing the support for SDHC, the higher capacity SD card (up to 8GB now and larger in the near future). An increasing number of digicams now support the SDHC format; this is important because as digicams increase their resolution, it takes more memory card space to hold the images.
Speedy, Portable Printing
Making a print is as simple as inserting a memory card into its proper slot and waiting for the images to appear on the large 3.6-in. adjustable color LCD screen. They can appear as a single image or up to 16 images to a page. Once you’ve selected an image, you can print it directly with the Print button, or you can edit the image with some handy menu controls to improve brightness, contrast, sharpness, color, etc.
Cropping or trimming an image before printing is one of the easiest tasks on the Zoom or Dash models. With an image selected, click on the Zoom button and then just move the left or right arrows to move the crop frame over the area you want to crop. Press OK, then click Print to begin printing the cropped image.
The Zoom or Dash models can also print images from a USB flash drive. By connecting the USB drive to the PictureMate, I can quickly select from my favorites to make 4x-6-in. snapshot prints on the fly.
So how fast can the Zoom or Dash models print? On average, about 35 seconds for a print.
Burn Directly To A CD
The best feature of the PictureMate Zoom model is its ability to burn images from your memory card to a CD-ROM, without the need to connect to a computer. It’s as simple as inserting a blank CD-ROM in the base of the unit, inserting your memory card and then clicking the SAVE TO CD button. The burning process is somewhat slow, but the cool thing is that the next time you insert another memory card with new images and repeat the Save to CD process, the new images will be added to the previous CD-ROM that was burned, providing there is room.
The Epson 4×6-in. paper and print cartridge for either the Zoom or Dash models come in two varieties- a 150-pack of glossy paper ($50) and a 100-pack of matte paper ($35). That works out to about 33 cents per print for the glossy and about 35 cents per print for matte media. That’s a bit more expensive than what the local printer can do, but the ease of use, portability and direct-to-CD burning features of the PictureMate models more than make up for the slightly greater cost.
The Epson PictureMate Zoom is a terrific standalone snapshot sized printer that handles all of today’s memory cards. It prints gorgeous borderless color prints very quickly, and it also has an easy way to archive those images onto a CD-ROM. For more information, go to www.epson.com.