A portable, easy-to-use snapshot printer that delivers long-lasting photo prints for an affordable price.If you're onto a good thing - as the old ad. used to say - why not stick to it? Epson has certainly followed this advice with its new PictureMate 215, which is a simplified version of the PictureMate 250 we reviewed in November 2006. The new model is a little squarer and 300 grams lighter - and its price is lower. Its power efficiency has also improved. . . [more]
If you're onto a good thing - as the old ad. used to say - why not stick to it? Epson has certainly followed this advice with its new PictureMate 215, which is a simplified version of the PictureMate 250 we reviewed in November 2006. The new model is a little squarer and 300 grams lighter - and its price is lower. Its power efficiency has also improved.
However, it has fewer on-board image adjustments and can't use the optional rechargeable battery pack designed for its 'sister' model, the PM270. These omissions account for the almost $130 price difference between the PM215 and the PM270.
Designed for use as a 'portable photo lab', the PM215 can be used as a stand-alone printer or you can connect it to a computer (Windows or Mac OS) via the supplied USB cable. Driver software and an online user guide are supplied on a CD for using the PM215 with a computer and a printed user manual covers standalone printing. An optional Bluetooth adapter allows you to send images wirelessly to the printer from a Bluetooth equipped mobile phone (or similar device).
The PM215 has a box-like shape with a large carrying handle and a lift-up lid that covers the main control panel. Flip the lid up and you'll find an adjustable 2.5-inch LCD monitor for viewing images and menus. The printing paper slides into a slot behind the LCD, which can accommodate up to 20 sheets. In front of the LCD is a line of buttons for switching on the power, entering the menu, changing the display, clearing memory and activating the printing process. Mid-way along this line is an OK button flanked by arrow buttons for scrolling through images or menu settings.
The PM215 in standalone printing configuration.
Two memory card slots are located high on the front panel, just above the flip-down output tray. The upper slot accepts all the smaller card sizes (SD/SDHC. Memory Stick and xD-Picture Card), while the lower slot is used for CompactFlash cards. Adaptors are required for MemoryStick Duo and smaller cards. An indicator LED beside the card slot shows the card is being accessed.
In common with other PictureMate models, the PM215 uses Epson's Claria dye-based photographic inks, which deliver bright, light-fast colours and are highly resistant to airborne pollutants. Tests carried out by Wilhelm Imaging Research, the leading authority on image permanence, give Claria inks a lightfastness rating of 96 years for prints framed behind glass or 17 years when displayed unprotected. Prints on Epson photo paper have a rating of up to 200 years for album storage before any deterioration is detectable.
Setting up the printer is child's play. Paper is loaded into the chute glossy side up and feeder guides can be set to ensure it is correctly positioned. The ink cartridge fits into a slot on the lower edge of the rear panel, behind a flip-down cover. Lowering the cover reveals a lever, which must be pulled outwards to allow the ink cartridge to be inserted. It clicks in positively and then the lever is swung back to keep it in place.
Installing the ink cartridge.
An IC chip on the cartridge monitors ink usage and the cartridge status. This information is used to warn users when a head cleaning cycle is necessary or when ink levels are low. It takes a minute or so to prime the head when a new cartridge is fitted. During this time you can push the memory card into the appropriate slot.
Fitting a memory card into the card slot.
Printing in standalone mode takes approximately five minutes from the time you've loaded the ink cartridge and paper. First the print head must be primed and then the printer has to cycle through a routine where it posts reminders on the LCD telling you where to insert the memory card(s) and which buttons to press. Once this cycle is completed, when you insert a memory card or connect a camera, the first shot on the card is displayed on the LCD.
The LCD displays the first image on the memory card.
You can print individual photos one at a time, select all the images or print all shots taken on a specified date. The PM215 can also recognise images tagged with DPOF (Digital Print order Format) and will automatically print these images when a memory card is inserted. (DPOF tagging can also be used to specify the number of copies you want of each image.)
With the Layout settings in the Menu you can also make multiple-image prints on regular or special sticker paper. Options include borderless and bordered single image, two-up, four-up or 16 image stickers. The Utility setting also lets you print index proof sheets of all shots on a memory card with up to 20 thumbnails per sheet. ID photo printing is also supported, with customisable height and width settings.
Editing options are limited to four settings: off, Enhance, P.I.M. and Scene Detection. You can apply a date stamp or change coloured photos to B&W or sepia. Red-eye correction is also available and text can be printed on photos from cameras that support text superimposition. However, you can't crop images, adjust brightness, colour balance, contrast, sharpness or saturation or add decorative frames to prints.
For more sophisticated editing controls you must connect the PM215 to a computer. A software CD is supplied with the printer driver plus an online instruction manual for computer-base printing and Epson Easy Photo Print software. If you require a wider range of controls than the Epson software offers, the driver can interact with any image editor. However, the range of adjustments it provides is very limited, as shown in the screen grab below.
Settings provided in the PM215 printer driver.
Although Epson claims it takes 37 seconds for the PM215 to produce a borderless 10 x 15 cm print, the average time in Photo Review's tests was closer to 40 seconds both when the printer is used in standalone mode and when printing via a PC - and sometimes up to 10 seconds longer with the former. In standalone mode, spooling time ranged from eight to 15 seconds with average printing time between 32 to 36 seconds. Connected to a PC, spooling time remained at around eight seconds.
It's easy to calculate the cost per print as the media are supplied in a specially designed PicturePack (T5852) containing 150 sheets of paper plus sufficient ink to print them. At $42.49 per pack, this equates to just over 28 cents per print - assuming no wastage. This is comparable in price with prints from many photo labs (although more expensive than the cheapest printing services).
We found the first ink cartridge we fitted triggered a replacement message after only 41 prints. According to Epson, part of the ink from the first cartridge is used for priming the print head. However, we didn't think it would use quite so much.
Prints emerge from the PM215 dry enough to handle and colours stabilise very quickly. PM215 prints are also highly resistant to moisture; we tried spilling some tea on a test print and wiping it off and there was little evidence of the spillage when the print had dried and the surface of the print was undamaged by wiping it.
In the course of Photo Review's tests, we had no instances of paper miss-feeds and no images were poorly printed with respect to the original pictures. In fact, in some cases, our prints were visibly better than the original images. This could be because the LCD screen on the review unit provided a relatively flat representation of the original image. However, it's also worth noting that saturation and contrast are slightly boosted when the Enhance setting is used so slightly flat-looking images stand to gain when printed.
The PictureMate PM215 includes a handy self-cleaning feature, which can be set to clean the MicroPiezo print head's ink nozzles automatically. It works in both standalone and PC-connected modes and ensures print quality remains consistent. Like other PictureMate printers, the PM215 is ideal for families who only want to make 10 x 15 cm prints. Simple enough for almost anybody to operate, it represents an easy, convenient and affordable way to obtain long-lasting, photo quality prints from digital images - without having to visit a photolab.
PictureMate printers are ideal for families and lots of fun to use.
Printer type: On-demand inkjet (piezo-electric)
Resolution: 5760 dpi with Variable-Sized Droplet Technology
Paper sizes: 10 x 15 cm (snapshot) only
Media: Ink + paper pack containing 150 sheets of paper and one 4-colour ink cartridge
Print durability: Up to 200 years album storage
LCD screen: 2.5-inch with tilt adjustment
Interfaces: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed plus card slots for CF, MS, SD, MMC, xD-Picture Card
Power consumption: Approx. 13.3 W (print mode), 2.7 W (sleep mode), 0.2 W (power off)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 231 x 149 x 169 mm
Weight: 2.2 kg
Digital cameras, lenses and accessories with 100% genuine Australian manufacturer's warranties.
Ph: (02) 9029 2219
Ph: 133 686
The largest speciality photographic retail chain in Australia.
CameraPro Pty Ltd
Suite 607, 180 Queen St, Brisbane 4000
Tel: 07 3333 2900
Australian owned and run company based in Brisbane.
Retailer of digital camera equipment and more.
Secure online shopping and delivery across Australia.
Ph: 1300 727 056
Ph: 1800 155 067
Digital Camera Warehouse
174 Canterbury Road 367 High Street
NSW 2193 VIC 3070
Ph: 1300 365 220
1300 801 885
Australian retailer of Vapex rechargeable batteries offering factory direct prices and fast, free shipping Australia wide.
Greg Smith's Photo Accessories
1800 50 80 82
Big range of photographic accessories, Australia-wide shipping.
285 George St
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9299 2999
Photographic Equipment & Supplies - Retail & Repairs. Click here for list of stores.
1800 186 895
Big range of cameras and photographic products with stores in most states and online.
Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Features: 8.0
- Print quality: 8.5
- Print speed: 8.5
- OVERALL: 9.0