HiTi’s P510Si Printer; For Event Shooters, And More Page 2

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Installing the paper roll is almost as easy. Press the release and remove the square paper cartridge box; add the enclosed flanges to the paper roll (they’re color coded, so you know which flange goes on what side of the roll); drop it in the slot; pull the paper out until the end is even with the box edge; close the box and slide it into the printer until it clicks. If the paper end hangs over the box edge or is too far in to catch, there’s a convenient wheel (with a big arrow indicating direction) that allows you to adjust the paper until it’s positioned properly. Loading ribbon and paper for the first time took us about 3 minutes.

That’s it; you’re ready to print.

(Top): After selecting an image, you can do some fine-tuning and a few minor edits on the LCD: Sharpness, Brightness, Contrast, Zoom, Color, Move, and Rotate. (Center): When you select an icon or thumbnail of an image from the gallery view, the image fills about 2⁄3 of the screen. Below it, you can choose the number of copies. (Bottom): Setting up wireless transmission for PictBridge printing is relatively simple. When the printer is in Wireless mode, the LCD displays this icon.

Screen Options
On power-up, the LCD screen displays four options: Quick Print, Event Photo, Multiple Print, and Settings. What you do and which option you choose requires on-the-job, trial-and-error learning, since the documentation is so badly written, and the online help so sketchy, that it’s virtually worthless. Fortunately, it’s not particularly difficult figuring out how to operate the P510Si.

For our first series of tests, we downloaded a bunch of our niece’s wedding pictures into a key drive and inserted it into the USB slot. Then we selected Multiple Print, which presented us with four options: Batch Print, Selected Print, Index Print, and Print All. Pressing Selected Print displays nine icons at a time. The icons should all turn into thumbnails, so you can quickly page through and select the prints you want. But it’s hit-or-miss whether or not the icons representing the pictures become thumbnails, which can make it cumbersome to choose the photo you want. Regardless of whether an icon or thumbnail is showing, when you press Select, the image fills about 2⁄3 of the screen, with the remainder showing the number of prints selected, Cancel, or Save & Exit. If you wish, you can do some fine-tuning and a few minor edits: Sharpness, Brightness, Contrast, Zoom, Color, Move, and Rotate.

Had we wished, we also could have chosen bordered or borderless printing, used one of HiTi’s free, downloadable eFrames (or design our own), or selected passport/ID photos (like eFrames, you can create or customize your own formats).

The printer is somewhat noisy as it clicks, whirs, and whines, but once it preps, it can turn out 4x6 photos at a fast and steady clip. The control panel gives an estimate of how long the single print or batch job should be. For instance, it told us that our 125 wedding photos would take exactly 27 minutes, 3 seconds to print. Also, HiTi touts the P510Si’s top speed as 12 seconds per print. However, while the estimate is exact, it is not totally accurate, because the print job actually took 33 minutes, 24 seconds, with each print averaging about 15 seconds. Still, that’s significantly faster than most photo inkjet printers, and about the same speed as more expensive SnapLab printers.

Incidentally, don’t make important print adjustments based upon the images displayed on the LCD. We found that the image tended to print darker than what was shown on the LCD, plus the colors were imprecise.

We then printed a series of test photos from a PC. The driver provides users with a variety of options not available to stand-alone printing, such as downloading, choosing, and saving color profiles; color preferences and custom color adjustments; position calibration; and checking the number of remaining prints. For speed and convenience, we eschewed custom settings and selected the default values. Printing was fast, efficient, and trouble-free.

The Custom Settings menu is generally well laid out and comparatively easy to understand, without referring to the documentation.

Wireless Transmitter
What gives the P510Si its unassailable extra added value is its WFT510 wireless transmitter. Weighing 13 oz and about the size of three iPod touches sandwiched together, the battery-powered (four AAs) WFT510 comes with a detachable black canvas carrying case, shoulder strap, and clip key so you can keep it tethered to your camera while shooting. On the unit are two ports (USB and mini-USB), a power switch and an execute button, a built-in swivel antenna, and three status lights (Ready, Transfer, and Error). It works with any PictBridge-enabled digital camera.

Configuring the transmitter for PictBridge printing is a relatively simple matter: enable Wireless in the printer’s Settings menu, attach the transmitter to the printer, press the execute button and wait until they automatically handshake. Then, detach the transmitter and hook it up to almost any digital camera. Next, enable whatever PictBridge settings or commands are built into your particular camera, mark the photo(s) to be printed, and then press the execute button on the transmitter. The Transfer and Error lights will flicker, and within seconds, it will start streaming data wirelessly to the printer. Because it’s Wi-Fi rather than Bluetooth, the transmission range can be up to 200 ft.

The P510Si’s embedded wireless receiver also enables you to print directly from various Nikon and Canon D-SLR models. However, this kind of print-as-you-shoot photography isn’t supported by HiTi’s WFT510 transmitter—you’ll need to use an expensive Canon or Nikon wireless transmitter.

Image quality is quite good, and will both please and satisfy event participants’ expectations for memento-type photos that they used to get only from film and minilabs. But at the end of the day, we’re dealing with inexpensive dye sub snapshots rather than costly, color-managed giclee exhibition prints. So, while color fidelity, contrast, and brightness are very good to excellent, and sharpness is acceptable to very good, there is some loss of detail in the highlights, with significant blow-out in some of our test images. Another minor quirk is that the printer will often arbitrarily clip a small part of the image’s edges, cutting off the tops of heads or the bottoms of feet, even when the camera’s aspect ratio exactly matches that of the printer. We learned to work around this problem by not tightly framing our subjects. And while the snaps make excellent and inexpensive FPOs, you probably wouldn’t want to show them to your clients as the best representations of your work.

What gives the P510Si its unassailable extra added value is its WFT510 wireless transmitter, which comes with a clip key so you can attach it to your belt while shooting.

The P510Si is quite inexpensive to operate. For instance, buying supplies from the online company ImagePro International (on its website, HiTi lists literally scores of vendors and distributors that sell its products), a 4x6” snapshot costs 17.7 cents, a 5x7” photo is 38 cents, and a 6x9” enlargement is 46.7 cents per copy. The unit itself is energy efficient, drawing only 300 watts while printing, and a mere 20 watts while idle. The unit comes with a standard one-year parts and labor warranty; there is no extended warranty, on-site or overnight replacement service is available. HiTi doesn’t publish its products’ duty cycles or MTBFs (Mean Time Between Failures), but a company spokesman said that the P510Si is designed to run continuously without any difficulty.

For what it is and does, the HiTi P510Si is truly a top-flight event printer that touches all the high points: it’s affordable, fast, and trouble-free, plus the prints are inexpensive, attractive, and designed to last. You can’t ask for any more than that for a volume or event printer.

For more information, contact HiTi Digital America, Inc. at: www.hiti.com.

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