HP photosmart 245; Taking Your Digital Prints On The Road

HP photosmart 245

HP Photosmart 245 Quick Look
· Easy to carry (less than 3 lbs)
· $199
· Direct-Print capability

Further Information

When we first heard about the HP photosmart 245 we thought it would be an excellent road companion, along with our laptop, battery charger, card reader, and other assorted gear. Our first look was through a website, and it looked handy enough. But when we got the box and opened it we were in for a nice surprise--the 245 weighs a bit less than three lbs and measures 9x4.5x5.2", small enough to fit in our carryon or in checked luggage. Along with the printer came another good thing--a car cigarette lighter adapter that would allow us to make prints in the rental car on the road. Why, it's almost like having a Polaroid camera, the instant type that allowed you to give people their pictures as you moved down the line.

While diminutive compared to most printers this HP model does not skimp on features, and has some interesting facets that make it more than an instant postcard machine. First there's an integrated LCD that allows you to preview images to print, choose print quantities and layouts, all without patching it to a computer (you can also patch it to a computer if you want, but what's the sense)? You can also select something HP calls "print range," which means you don't have to punch in a print order for a series of images. And, one of my favorites, you can have the printer only print those images that are "new," that is, that have not been printed before. Plus you can even print frame-by-frame sequences from digital video clips, albeit without the quality you normally get from a JPEG but still a fascinating thing to do.

You can source images direct from an HP direct-printing digital camera or simply by inserting a memory card right into one of the dedicated slots on the printer. All popular card formats are supported, including xD and Memory Stick. Interestingly, the unit LCD can display the first 2000 (right, two thousand) photos on a memory card. If, notes HP, you have more than 2000 photos on the card you'll have to download those extras to a computer to get them printed out. (If you have more than 2000 photos on a card write us for advice about overshooting. To be fair, this really applies to the digital video clip function.) More useful is the fact that you can also choose Index print as an option, a smallish proof sheet of all the images on a card. And, if you want, you can swap the color ink cart for black and white if monochrome images are more your thing.

The unit supports the Exif Print format, an open standard that helps deliver very good to excellent images from most current digicams. (You can turn Exif off, if desired.) It also supports Adobe RGB color space, which many high-end digital cameras can deliver. This is pretty impressive from a portable unit. The default, however, is sRGB, probably the more common color space, so you have to choose Adobe RGB as an option.

This is an ink jet printer, thus loading ink carts is a simple matter and do away with the fuss associated with dye sub ribbons. Paper, maximum size of 4x6, is front-loaded. While the printer feels sturdy enough the ink cart door, which opens easily and allows for quick reloading of ink, seems a bit skimpy and gives us some concern about durability. But in all the 245 did its job, and the handy car (cigarette lighter) power source sure came in handy while on the road. Street Price: about $199.

Roxio's Easy Media Creator 7

Roxio's Easy Media Creator 7 Quick Look
· Creates music and data CDs/DVDs
· $99.95

Further Information

Roxio's Easy Media Creator 7 is said by the company to be the realization of Roxio's long-term vision to bring together its complete line of full featured photo, video, music, burning, and authoring applications. Dozens of new features, refinements, and an enhanced burning engine are part of this upgrade, including the "seamless" combination of an improved burning suite of Easy CD & DVD Creator with PhotoSuite 7 Platinum, VideoWave 7 Professional, and online music service Napster.

The integrated suite has a common user interface design and workflow model that is said to deliver complete consistency and reduces the learning curve regardless of the type of digital media being used or the task at hand. It has a set of shared utilities for common media tasks such as copying discs, importing photos, capturing video, making labels as well as central utility for easily organizing, finding, and accessing files. The true benefit is that the user can easily pass and share media files and file information between components.
Easy Media Creator 7 is available for a suggested retail price of $99.95 at retailers or from the company's website at www.roxio.com. Although Easy Media Creator 7 includes the complete feature set of VideoWave 7 Professional and PhotoSuite 7 Platinum, both products will also be available separately for a suggested retail price of $79.95 and $49.95 respectively.

Casio's Exilim EX-Z40 Zoom

Casio's Exilim EX-Z40 Quick Look
· USB Direct-Print
· $399
· 4.0 Megapixels
· 3x Optical zoom

Further Information

Casio, Inc. has announced the 4-megapixel EX-Z40, a new model with long battery life and 3x optical zoom. This new camera has a battery life of 2.5 times that of previous models (comparison between the
EX-Z4U and EX-Z40), which the company claims can yield up to 360 photos to be taken on a single charge. Another new feature is Auto Pan Focus. When photos need to be taken in a hurry, one rapid push of the shutter button will make the camera use pan focus, thus removing the need to wait for autofocus. It also sports an approximate 1.6 second high-speed start up time and approximate 0.01 second release time lag. Other features include a large 2.0" TFT LCD screen and the Direct On function for one-touch record and play modes. In addition to being USB Direct-Print compliant for direct connection to printers, the EX-Z40 is also compatible with the PictBridge standard.

This new camera has some fun features as well. It includes a voice record function with playback from the camera's speaker and a "Photostand" feature that lets you view a slide show of images with the camera on its cradle. The camera's "Calendar" feature shows thumbnail images of photos on the day they were taken and you can also create HTML albums in the camera that can be viewed directly by web browsers. Price is about $399.

Desktop Image Viewer

VistaFrame's Image Viewer Quick Look
· Supports 5 popular memory cards
· Power-save mode
· 6.8" TFT LCD Screen
· $299

Further Information

VistaFrame is a digital picture frame offering a simple and easy way to display digital pictures anytime, directly from a memory card. VistaFrame's slide show feature allows you to easily showcase pictures on a personalized display. VistaFrame has two built-in memory card readers compatible with most memory card formats, eliminating the need for a computer.

VistaFrame is compatible with 5 popular memory card formats. The upper memory card slot is a 4-in-1 card reader able to read the following memory card types: SD, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, and MultiMedia Card. VistaFrame's lower memory card slot reads CompactFlash cards (Type I only). You can view digital pictures directly from the memory card or from VistaFrame's internal memory "My Album." Up to 8 pictures can be saved in "My Album." VistaFrame goes into power-saving mode after 60 minutes of inactivity and wakes up when the built-in motion sensor detects movement, a memory card is inserted, or a button is pressed.

One touch of the "Menu" button guides you through options where you can access pictures from "My Album" or a memory card, customize your slide show and change the slide show settings. The "Thumbnails" feature allows you to see six pictures on the display screen at the same time, facilitating picture selection when creating a custom slide show. The "Slide show" button starts and pauses the picture display. The VistaFrame has a 6.8" TFT LCD flat screen and sells for $299.

dotPhoto's Pictavision Sharing Photos On Cell Phones

dotPhoto's Pictavision Quick Look
· Available through many wireless carriers
· Rapid photo download
· Share photos online or on phone
· Uses very little phone memory

Further Information

dotPhoto, Inc. has signed deals with Clubphoto, Fotki, Webshots, and Picturetrail to provide wireless photo access for Pictavision enabled mobile phones. dotPhoto's Pictavision photo sharing application gives wireless customers the ability to view and share personal photos in their online albums right from their mobile phone. The application also allows customers to download photos stored in their accounts as mobile wallpaper.

The company claims that Pictavision technology takes up very little phone memory. This gives users features such as rapid photo download, full screen photo viewing, local photo storage, photo e-mail and still leaves room to load other data services on their phone.

Sharing sites such as Clubphoto, Fotki, Webshots, and Picturetrail have chosen dotPhoto as a development partner to expand their potential client base to wireless carriers and subscribers. The updated version of Pictavision enables customers to access their photos wirelessly at anytime.