Supersize me

Ian Yates
28 January, 2008
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What we really need in a photo printer is not what any vendor is offering right now. Almost every vendor offers a postcard-only photo printer, for three times the money they’re asking for an all-in-one A4-sized scanner/copier/printer/coffee-maker. Oh alright, I made up the bit about the coffee-maker so mouse away from the comment button. But those postcard-sized photo printers are just plain wrong for several reasons.

First off, they are way over-priced. Next, they cost way too much to feed.

You can buy a real postcard print from a real photo outlet in the mall or online for half the price of the blank postcard paper needed to feed your postcard printer. And that’s before you pay for any ink cartridges. And they print a stupid size. Yes, that’s right. Postcard size is dumb, dumb, dumb.

The Europeans already know this. Over there the standard sized print you get back from the mini-labs is 5×7 inches or 13x18cm in newspeak. When you see your photos at this size you’ll think you just jumped up a level in behind the lens skills. Same photos but you can see them properly. You’ll find it hard to test this theory because it’s way too hard to get 5×7 blanks here, and way too hard to find a printer that likes that size. But try printing a photo on half an A4 sheet and you’ll get the idea.

Any size bigger than a 6×4 postcard beats the standard mini-lab set up, at the moment, so they’re not close to offering a competitive rate to home printing on the bigger sizes. And there’s the segue to my next whine. Why can’t you buy blank photo paper in the same sizes that mini-labs use? Where’s the 10×8 inch stock? Why do I care? Photo frames, that’s why. The people who mostly make photo frames still make them to suit the sizes the mini-labs produce. Yeah, sure you can print onto an A4 sheet and get out the scissors. But who has a pro-guillotine at home? And even if you do, how many shots does it take to get it right? Somebody needs to rationalise this silliness.

The printer vendors need to take the lead. First one to offer a range of nice affordable frames matched with a box of paper that fits will get my vote. And how about an A3-sized printer with some software to spray postcard-sized shots across the page to suit one of those multiple pictures frames?

Or maybe we just need to wait for the price of digital photo frames to crash through the floor? What do you think? Are we being under-sized and over-charged on postcard photo printers?

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