HiTi’s PocketStudio Printer; On-The-Go Snapshot Prints

Many photographers want, need, and hope for a practical, affordable digital solution that can produce instant on-the-go prints. Enter the HiTi P110S PocketStudio. Designed to work with any PictBridge-enabled digital camera, as well as read images directly from SD/SDHC, MMC, or CF memory cards (or other types with optional adapters), the PocketStudio is a relatively small and lightweight mobile, battery-powered photo printer. The PocketStudio is capable of delivering high-quality snapshot-sized (4x6”) instant photo prints that will satisfy demanding event photographers.

If you’ve been working with a typical transportable event photo printer, like the 24-lb Sony SnapLab, the 37.5-lb Sony UP-DR200, or even the 30-lb HiTi P510Si, the PhotoStudio, at 4.8 lbs (well, 7 lbs, with battery, paper, and carrying case) is a veritable featherweight. The PhotoStudio is about the size and shape of a good dictionary. What’s more, with the optional lithium-ion battery installed, the PhotoStudio is truly portable, with enough juice per charge to output approximately 60 4x6” snapshots.

The PocketStudio is utilitarian-looking with gently rounded corners and flat sides. On its front and back are a variety of slots and ports, plus an LCD panel with a total of 10 function buttons on top. On one side is a cooling grill that vents warm air away from the print engine, and on the other side is a drop-down panel.

The HiTi is intelligently designed and simple to operate, and does not require complex instructions or a steep learning curve to master. What goes where is almost self-explanatory. In the front are two slots, a gray one for inserting or removing the paper cassette, and a white door for snapping in the matching disposable ribbon cartridge. The rear side has only two ports, an AC power connector and a USB outlet, for attaching the printer to a PC. On the side, underneath an orange finger indent and release, is a flap that exposes the rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which can be swapped out in seconds. (Spare batteries sell for $69.) It also allows users to remove rare paper jams.

The 2.5” full-color LCD panel can swivel 90˚ for better viewing. The screen is tiny, but relatively easy to read, especially since the menu options are quite limited and generally restricted to only a word or two. You can choose among four modes: Quick Print, Event Photo, Multiple Print, and Settings.

Quick Print displays all the photos on your attached camera, memory card, or USB key drive. Because only JPEGs are recognized, we suggest setting your camera to save Raw+JPEG images, so you can output them larger on another printer. Quick Print doesn’t allow you to edit photos.

Event Photo allows you to preselect a frame for the printed photos. You can either choose from among HiTi’s downloadable frames, or create your own, using HiTi’s software.

Multiple Print allows printing any number of selected photos, or simply outputting every shot in the camera or on the memory card. From setup to first print takes under 10 minutes. The paper magazine accommodates about 40 sheets of photo or photo sticker paper, and clicks into the side slot. Like many other snapshot printers, there are perforated 1⁄2” snap-off tabs on the horizontal edges on the paper, for handling the print without touching the emulsion.

Being a dye sub printer, the paper requires four passes (cyan, magenta, yellow, and a clear UV coating for protection) to complete. Each pass almost completely ejects the paper out a slot in the front, then reels it back in for the next pass. The extended flap and cloth side strips act to shield the paper while printing, and then as an ad hoc receiver tray when the print is finished and ejected completely. Learning to smoothly alternate shooting with PictBridge printing takes a little practice, but quickly becomes second nature: 1) connect the camera and printer using the special USB switch cable and then 2) change Settings to Camera mode. It takes approximately 12.5 seconds for the unit to begin printing—you’ll know when it starts because the fan roars into life—and about 1 minute, 16 seconds to complete each print. We encountered no printing problems or paper jams in any of our tests. So, you can shoot and print by turning off the USB connection via a handy switch.

The PocketStudio can be attached to any PC or laptop and used as a local printer, but this sort of defeats its purpose as a portable device. However, the printer driver offers a handful of options not available in the stand-alone mode, such as expanded color profiles and custom color adjustments. It also allows users to download firmware updates and additional templates.

The PocketStudio’s image quality is a quantum leap above Polaroid prints, and better than all the consumer-level snapshot printers we’ve tested. Images are razor sharp, with excellent detail, contrast, and luminance. Colors are accurate and vibrant without looking artificial. Every print surface is highly polished gloss (from the UV-protective coating), and the paper has just the right degree of weight and stiffness. HiTi says that images can last as long as 50 years.

The PocketStudio with battery, case, USB cable, and starter kit costs $397. Sixty-sheet packs of print or sticker paper, plus ribbon, lists for $24, or 40 cents per print. For professional event photographers the PocketStudio’s portability and superior image quality easily compensate for the price gap. What’s more, the PocketStudio can crank out many thousands of photos without stressing the print engine—HiTi says that it should last at least five years under heavy use—while many consumer snapshot printer heads will need replacement after a few hundred prints. The PocketStudio comes with a one-year warranty. The HiTi PocketStudio could prove to be an invaluable asset to on-the-go event photographers who want and need instant prints on the fly.

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