HiTi 630PS Printer
Computer Or Computer Less Printing
There are differing opinions on dye diffusion thermal transfer (or dye thermal, for short) printing. Some folks prefer the smooth, even look of thermal, claiming that it offers more of a true photographic quality of continuous tone. Others cede that point somewhat but say that ink jet offers a better option due to the greater variety of paper surfaces and usually larger available paper sizes. But if you want convenience and speed, and the ability to carry your printer with you, then dye thermal is a good choice or an option to your desk-bound ink jet.
One dye thermal we recently had the opportunity to test was the Hi-Touch Imaging Technology HiTi 630PS (list: $249). About the size of a Tolstoy hardbound novel (8.5x8.2x5.5"), the printer fits easily enough into a travel case or on your desktop at home. To load the printer you place the supplied paper (available in 50 sheet packs, with ribbon: $19.99 list) into a loading tray and slip it into the front of the printer, remembering to keep the short end of the scored paper forward. You then put the ribbon into the printer by opening a tab and placing it into the appropriate slot. The printed directions for setting up the printer are a bit obscure, but follow the diagram and it all fits easily enough. The paper size is 4x7" with a 4x6 frame.
You have a choice of printing with the unit attached to a PC or directly from your CompactFlash or SmartMedia memory card. In the case of PC connected printing you first have to load the driver and accompanying Photo Desiree software. This is fairly straightforward and offers the usual image-editing capabilities. But we really liked to direct from card printing, which we found to be quite fast when compared with other direct from card printers we've tried. Unlike other direct printers that might offer an attached monitor aid, the HiTi 630PS comes with a handheld controller that allows you to preview and print using its 1.6" (diagonal) "Wizard Window" or monitor. The controller connects via a telephone-like cord so that you can sit a foot away and still do all the magic.
The controller has all the buttons for making print selections and performing simple but effective edits on the image you want to print. To use it you just put the memory card in the appropriate slot and the unit quickly retrieves the images on the monitor. You then toggle through prints and, if desired, perform various edits such as Move (which, with the four-way toggle shifts the image around the frame); Rotate; Re-size (a cropping tool); number of copies; and Enhance (brightness, contrast, and color balance). Each of the changes is confirmed by pushing an OK button, which does not alter the original file but changes the print characteristics. This may seem like a small amount of enhancements, but if you want more you can always PC the printer and do your thing there. The controller also allows you to do an Index Print of the entire card, make ID images and stickers. The sticker paper is optional but a sample comes with the original packaging.
The specs on the printer says that it takes about 100 seconds to make a print, excluding processing time, but we found that time prediction quite modest, as prints came through for us in much quicker time. We found that the image enhancements worked very well, and we could change the character of the image quite profoundly by playing with the controls. Prints were as sharp, colorful, and clear as we've gotten from any printer of this type, and had a smooth continuous tone that rivals and often beats comparably priced ink jet models. And, if you're a DPOF fan, it's fully compliant.
There are perhaps two drawbacks
to the printer. The enclosed instructions need some work, but at least
there is some printed documentation. Even if you do not use the PC connection
to print we suggest that you load the software to access the instruction
manual, where more coherent details are to be found. The other, for some,
might be the size and lack of availability of many different paper surfaces,
such as those that can be used with an ink jet unit. But we were very
pleased with the prints, especially in the smooth, even tones and excellent
skin tones, and can say that as a proofer and a snapshot-size printer
it's quite good.
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