I always find it a nice icebreaker to show my pictures to people I meet on
my travels. I also make it a habit of giving a small print to people I befriend.
And the small print costs me pennies. Plus, 4x6 prints are so much easier to
tote around than 8x10s. The problem is producing these minilab-size prints.
I've wasted numerous 4x6 sheets because of a wrong setting in my desktop
printer. It would be much easier if I had a dedicated device for the job.
But I already own two desktop printers, so do I really want another one? I could
produce 4x6 prints from either of these devices, but the setup and changeover
is often more hassle than it's worth. The Epson PictureMate does away
with all that, and is light and portable in the bargain. The optional rechargeable
battery ($49.99) adds even greater flexibility, letting me produce easily over
100 prints on one charge. And I never have to turn my computer on! In fact,
when connected to a computer, the device's built-in card reader does double-duty
as reader and writer, so what's not to love! And the Zoom model adds CD
writing on a built-in CD reader/writer.
open, the PictureMate takes up little space, with the input tray
at the top, against the lid, and the output tray revealed after
popping open the front door, which also provides access to the memory
card slots. The CD tray (Zoom model only) is quietly nestled on
the left side.
Easy In, Easy Out
With the PictureMate Zoom (PM 290/$199.99) and Dash (PM 260/$99.99), there's
no input or output tray to attach. Just lift the lid and, voilà! There's
your input paper tray (20 sheets max). The lowered front door serves as the
output tray, while giving you access to two memory card slots (CompactFlash
(CF) in the lower and Secure Digital (SD), Memory Stick, and xD in the upper--in
all their iterations). From the rear you can attach a thumb drive or PictBridge/USB
Direct-Print camera via one USB port, a host computer via a second USB port
(the external USB port is a dedicated port only, so your computer can't
communicate with connected USB devices). With an optional adapter, you can even
print from Bluetooth devices. What you can't do is print from memory card
and external device at the same time: PictureMate recognizes only one at a time.
Choose which one you'll be working on from in the Menu. If you load two
memory cards (e.g., CF and SD), the device gives priority on a first-come, first-served
basis. (There is a similar dichotomy when connected to a host computer.)
than (but oddly reminiscent of) a bread basket, the smartly styled
PictureMate can go practically anywhere, especially after adding
the optional battery and travel case (not shown).
The PictureMate uses one cartridge. Simply remove it from its protective plastic
wrapping and it's ready (no tape or plastic parts to deal with--just
keep fingers off the tiny circuit board on the right side). There's nothing
more to do than slide the cartridge into the device from the back, locking it
in place with a lever.
The print pack comes with cartridge and paper. Essentially a matched set, the
cartridge will last as long as the paper does (200-series retail package: 150
glossy/$37.99 or 100 matte/$32.29 MSRP). You have to first install the starter
print pack before installing any retail packs. The starter kit will produce
While the interface screams high tech, it's as inviting as they come.
back of the PictureMate reveals the USB ports (with thumb drive
inserted) and access hatches (the lower one for the cartridge; the
upper one for the optional battery).
Touch-sensitive buttons surround the OK (Enter/Execute) key, which is centered
among the cursor keys. Everything is
clearly labeled. Once you hit a button you'll see the result of your labor
on screen, so there is no guesswork at any stage. It really is that simple.