Gadling gear review – Epson Artisan 810 printer

Last year, we took the time to review the Epson Artisan 700 printer. Just like in that article, I’ll explain why I feel a good printer deserves some attention here on Gadling. Photos are an essential part of traveling – virtually ever traveler has made the switch to digital, so having access to a professional quality printer is a must in my opinion. If you are going to invest in a photo printer, it really does pay to pick the best you can get.

The Epson Artisan 810 is the newest member of the Artisan lineup, and it offers an amazing array of features.

The Artisan 810 combines a pro-grade printer with a very impressive scanner/copier and a fax machine. Inside the device is WiFi, ethernet and USB connectivity as well as a multifunction card reader and a USB port for camera connectivity and device charging.

Unlike most printers, the Artisan 810 offers the print sources – it can hold regular paper and photo paper at the same time. In addition to this, it also offers a built in CD printing tray. And to top it all off, the Artisan 810 even features a duplex unit, for double sided printing.

The Artisan 810 uses the same print cartridges as the Artisan 700 we reviewed, and as with that one, the quality is simply astounding. With the right color settings, I can’t see a difference between prints made on the Artisan 810, and those printed at my local warehouse store.

The scanner portion of the Artisan 810 is better than anything I’ve ever seen on any all-in-one device. Normally, these scanners feel like a cheap afterthought, and really only work for the occasional scan. The scanning unit in the 810 is brilliant – not only does it make fantastic scans, it also offers professional options like dust removal, color correction and back light settings. The Epson Easy Photo Fix feature can help restore old photos and make them look like new again. For the first time in my life, I actually had fun playing with a scanner. The scanner works using the USB connection on the printer, or the ethernet / WiFi networking connection.

You can scan to your PC or directly to an inserted memory card. The scanner can also produce PDF files without the need to convert anything.

Controlling the Artisan 810 is a real treat – on the front of the unit is a massive tilting touch panel. All the various features of the unit can be controlled through this panel. There are even various functions you can perform without the need for your computer. One of the neatest features is the “coloring book” setting – this scans a photo, and actually turns it into a coloring page for your kid(s). I went through about 30 photos making a personalized coloring book for my daughter.

The included software package includes a CD printing application, scanning application, printer driver update manager, settings application and a printer networking tool.

The Epson Artisan 810 retails for $299.99, but you can sometimes find it on sale at your electronics store for under $200, making it a real bargain. Especially this holiday season, I can highly recommend finding one as a gift for the photographer in your life.

Of course, as with most inkjet printers, the Artisan 810 has a real appetite for ink. The included cartridges are starter size, so you’ll need to invest in more ink after about 500 pages. These cartridges don’t come cheap – you need 5 colors and a black, and a total set will cost about $65 (or $85 for a high capacity set). This is in line with the ink cost of most printers nowadays.

PROS: Outstanding print quality, built in networking, double paper source, duplex unit, large touch screen
Hungry for ink, pricey

All in all, anyone who makes a lot of photos will get really good quality prints out of the Artisan 810. The scanner, copier and fax functions are outstanding, and its ability to connect over USB, WiFi and Ethernet make it a real all-rounder.

New Epson PictureMate Charm brings professional grade photo printing to your home

Epson just announced the latest addition to their lineup of photo printers. The new PictureMate Charm is a compact photo printer with built in card readers and a 2.5″ LCD display.

Photos made on the PictureMate Charm are smudge, scratch, water and fade resistant and come out of the printer completely dry. According to Epson, the Charm can print pictures that will last over 200 years in dark storage.

Photos are printed in 5760×1440 dpi, which means they’ll be extremely sharp. The printer accepts photos stored on Compact Flash, SD, SDHC, MMC, xD and Memory Stick cards. An optional Bluetooth adapter allows for wireless printing. If you need printing on the road, you can even add a rechargeable battery pack and carrying case.

Of course, printing photos at home does come with a price, the printer itself costs $149.99, and the average price per print is 26 cents. Print packs for the PictureMate Charm include ink and 100 or 150 sheets of paper.

The PictureMate Charm will be available from the Epson online store on October 20th.

Cherish your photos – how to protect and preserve your digital memories

Very little in the 189 year old world of photography has evolved as quickly as the transition to digital. Twenty years ago, there were no consumer grade digital cameras on the market and even during the 90’s, digital photography had a very slow uptake from consumers, mainly due to the insane cost and poor quality of digital cameras.

In just 9 years, the entire film camera market has virtually disappeared. Iconic brands like Polaroid stopped making their cameras, and the major players in good old film photography have all moved to Digital, with just a handful of them still selling small amounts of the products that made them famous.
With this transition, we’ve also completely changed the way we make, store and publish our photos. Ten years ago, getting your hands on your photos involved a trip to the local 1-hour store, or dropping them off in an envelope at the drugstore. Nowadays, many people don’t even bother making physical prints, and just upload them to their photo hosting site of choice or store them on their computer.

The move to digital photography also opens up a bunch of new ways things can go wrong – with old fashioned film, a decent photo developer could pop the film in a dark box, open it up, and in the worst case scenario, you’d lose a couple of shots. Nowadays, digital usually means you either have your photos, or you don’t.

In this article, I’ll go over some basic ways to protect, preserve and publish your photos, and look at products that can help keep your photos safe.

The risks

The risks involved in dealing with digital photos are real – any time you store photos on digital media, something can go wrong. This could be as simple as physically losing the storage card, or as aggravating as some kind of data corruption deleting all your photos.

Thankfully, current digital storage methods are quite fail-safe, but there are still things that can go wrong, though more often than not, you can prevent them with a couple of simple measures.

The basics of data protection – part 1 – your memory card

When it comes to data storage, you need to know how things can go wrong:

  1. Physically losing a storage card
  2. Data corruption on a storage card
  3. Physical damage to a storage card
  4. Loss or damage to your camera
  5. Loss of data stored on your computer

Preventing physical damage is simple- always take good care of your cards. If you use multiple cards, number them, but use a marker instead of sticker, or you may find your card becoming stuck in your camera. If you are using multiple cards on a single trip (and you should, more on that later), invest in a decent card storage solution.

Staying away from data corruption is slightly tougher, as you have very little control over what happens to all those 1’s and 0’s being sent to your card. The best way to prevent data loss is simple – invest in a good card.

Don’t be tempted to settle for one of those cheap cards at the local supercenter or grocery store. This is an investment that should last for years – so stick to brands geared towards professional users like Sandisk and Lexar.

Yes – their cards are probably 2-3 times more expensive than other brands, but this is one product you won’t want to be cheap with. When buying a memory card, you’ll need to pay attention to two other things – the size and the class.

The size is a simple one – pick a good balance between the number of photos you want to store, and how much you’ll be hurt if you lose the card. A 16GB card is awesome, and will store a weeks worth of photos, but losing it also means you’ll lose a weeks worth of photos.

A simple chart showing how many photos a card can store can be found here. I use 4GB and 8GB cards, but tend to only fill them about 50%, swapping them out after I’ve shot about 200 photos, or when I’ve just finished shooting stuff I really don’t want to lose.

Picking the “class” of the card is tougher. The class rating is a small number usually printed on the label, which describes the maximum speed the card can sustain. The higher the number, the better the speed. On SD and SDHC cards, a class 4 card is slower than the current fastest rating, class 6. Some cards also print the actual speed on the label, so pay attention to what you are buying.

Especially if you plan to use the card with (HD) movie mode, you’ll need the speed. If you use your camera with a slow card that can’t keep up, you may run into write errors, or failed photos/videos.

The quality of the card also comes into play – a poor quality card will eventually break. I’ve had cards where the plastic shell split open, and cards with damaged contacts. One other advantage of a good card is good warranty – should something go wrong, the manufacturer of a good quality card will be there to help you.

When handling your card, make sure to treat it according to the user manual of your camera; never pull the card out when the camera is still writing to it, and always make sure you “unmount” your card if you used it in your computer.

The basics of data protection – part 2 – photo handling

Think of your photo files not just as files, but as memories. When the time comes to transfer them from your card to your PC, use a good quality card reader – once again, it pays to invest in something decent. If you invested in a pricey memory card, it doesn’t make sense to stick it in a $5 reader to transfer the files.

The easiest way to transfer files is of course to use your camera when connected to your PC. As you copy your files, start indexing them right away. Most cameras come with some kind of transfer/index software, but I highly recommend downloading Picasa (made by Google). This free application makes the transfer process as smooth as possible, and once all your photos are indexed, finding them is a breeze. In addition to this, Picasa can help send your photos to an online storage service.

The basics of data protection – part 3 – become a paranoid nutjob

Photos are just bits and bytes, and storage space is cheap. This combination is perfect for becoming a bit of a nutjob. If you are on vacation, don’t settle for storing your photos on a memory card in your purse – get those photos on a hard drive or online service as soon as you can. In my personal setup, I’ll have THREE copies of all my photos stored, even before I arrive back home from a trip.

One copy is on the memory card. I never ever format a memory card when I am on a trip, and I always carry enough spare cards to store everything I plan to shoot.

A second copy goes onto a laptop as soon as I reach my hotel, and a third copy is on an external storage drive (or uploaded if the hotel Internet is speedy enough).

Is this overkill? You bet! Does this make me a paranoid nutjob? You bet! Have I ever lost any digital photos with this method? Nope.

Yes – I agree that my method looks silly, but by safeguarding my files, I don’t run the risk of losing anything. It doesn’t matter if you are not a professional photographer, those memories can’t be recreated if you lose them.

Of course, having three copies of photos is useless if you store the three copies in one place – so I usually keep my SD card holder in my jacket, my laptop in my laptop bag, and my external drive in a second piece of luggage.

The basics of data protection – part 4 – gadgets are your best friend

When it comes to safeguarding your photos, you are not alone. There is an entire industry that revolves around selling cool gadgets with the sole purpose of keeping your stuff safe. Of course, not every backup method requires a gadget, the easiest way to create backups of your photos is to record them to a CD or DVD, just keep in mind that recordable optical media is not going to be a permanent solution – some discs only have a shelf life of 5-10 years. My four favorite tried and tested gadget solutions are:

  • External storage device
  • Dedicated photo storage device
  • Eye-Fi Wireless memory card
  • Smugmug photo hosting site

External storage device

The External storage device is just that – an external hard drive (or USB memory key). They are simple, cheap and reliable.

An 80GB portable hard drive can be found for as little as $40, so there really is no reason to ignore them. Their USB connections are speedy, and you’ll be able to copy all the photos off your laptop onto a drive in about 5 minutes. Since they are designed to be portable, they can also survive a bit of bumping around, though the additional investment in a carrying case is worthwhile.

Dedicated photo storage device

Dedicated photo storage devices are what you buy when you take things to the next level. Not everyone wants to travel with their laptop, despite the recent trend towards smaller machines.

Products like the Epson P-6000 are designed for (semi) professional photographers. This $600 product has a 4″ LCD screen and card slots for SD and Compact Flash cards. Simply turn the device on, pop a card in, and start the backup procedure. The Epson is very fast – an 8GB memory card is fully transferred in about 4 minutes.

Once copied, you can view, index and even edit photos, plus the device doubles as a media player. Once you arrive back home, you simply plug the P-6000 into your PC, and transfer all your photos. I’ll post a full review of this amazing little device next week.

If $600 is out of your league, don’t worry – basic photo storage devices start at about $150.

Eye-Fi Wireless memory card

Next in my gadget lineup, is the Eye-Fi Wireless memory card. The concept is simple – take a normal SD memory card, and add a WiFi interface.

The result is a memory card that can send its photos directly to your computer, or a whole variety of photo hosting sites. Imagine taking a photo, then walking up to a WiFi hotspot – your camera instantly sends all the photos you made directly to Flickr, Smugmug or one of 30 other sites, all without any user intervention. When it starts transferring, you can even get an email on your phone.

The Eye-Fi cards start at just $59.95 for a basic card (for sending photos to your own PC), up to $119 for a card with geotagging (which adds your location embedded in each photo file).

Smugmug photo hosting site

The final tool in my photo storage arsenal is a service instead of a physical product. For years, I’ve relied on Smugmug for storing my photos. The service has been around since 2002, and of all the online services I reviewed, it is quite simply the best. They provide professional (and friendly) service, charge just $39.95/year for unlimited storage and their interface is easy to use, yet very powerful.

Uploading to Smugmug is easy, and they offer a variety of tools for PC and Mac users, as well as a nice iPhone application.

One other reason I really like Smugmug is their security – I can pick who can see my photos, on an album level. For a fee, I can even have them mail me a DVD backup of every single photo I have stored with them, which is perfect if I ever lose my files at home.

Final thoughts

My tips may seem like overkill, and they are by no means the perfect solution for everyone. Even if you only stick to the most basic tip (protecting your memory cards), you’ll be safer than doing nothing.

How much effort (and money) you put into safeguarding your photos all depends on how important those photos are to you. You don’t need to be a professional photographer on an assignment to cherish your photos. Even a $150 photo storage device can mean the difference between having your photos, and losing them.

That said, if all you do is make photos of the Eiffel tower and other objects photographed by millions of others each year, losing them won’t be too much of a disaster.

Daily deal – Refurbished Epson CX8400 scanner/photo printer for $32

My daily deal for today is quite the scorcher – this Epson CX8400 printer may be refurbished, but at $32 it’s an absolute steal.

This all in one device features a flatbed scanner, can print up to 32 pages per minute, integrated copy feature and photo correction settings.

The printer has a built in 2.5″ LCD display and a card reader, making it possible to view and print images directly off your memory cards without the need for a PC.

This printer still sells for $100 on most sites, but if you don’t mind a refurbished unit, you can order it directly from Epson for just $32. The website says $44, but an additional $12 discount is added at the end of the checkout process. You even get free ground shipping from them.

Of course, printers suffer from the “razor blade effect”, so once the ink included with this printer runs out, you’ll have to spend about $60 to refill it. I wouldn’t recommend buying several of these printers just for the ink, but I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

(Via: Fatwallet)

Product review – Epson Artisan 700 all-in-one inkjet printer

In this product review, I’m going to give you a quick look at the newest generation color all-in-one unit from Epson.

The Artisan 700 combines a photo printer, regular printer, scanner and CD printer in one stylish unit. As you can see from the photo above, the Artisan 700 does not look as boring as most other printers, and will certainly help brighten up your office/desk area.

The printer can be connected to your computer using three different methods; USB, Wi-Fi or Ethernet (wired). This also means it can be shared by multiple computers in the household, which is perfect if you have a personal computer as well as a work PC that needs access to a printer.
The front of the Artisan 700 has a tilting control panel with a fairly large display. On the panel you’ll also find 16 buttons, used to select the various features of the printer, and take advantage of the printing and scanning options that can be performed without a computer. To the right of the panel is a card reader and USB connector for connecting to a digital camera. The card reader accepts Compact Flash, SD, XD and Memory Stick formats.

Below the control panel is the paper tray, and that brings me to one of the best features of the Artisan 700; the paper tray holds both regular paper and photo paper at the same time, which means you will no longer have to keep replacing paper every time you want to switch between media.

The third printing tray is hidden inside the printer, and holds CD’s. When you press the CD tray button on the control panel, the machine makes a bunch of clicking noises, and out pops a CD printing tray. To print on a CD or DVD, you will need to purchase special printable discs, these are fairly easy to find, and only cost a few bucks more than a normal 25 or 50 pack.

As I mentioned earlier, the printer has several features built in that can be performed without a PC, these include a copy function, photo viewer (with greeting card option and CD print option), scan to memory card and an option to print ruled papers or graph paper.

Of course, the most important thing a printer can do, is print. And that is one thing the Artisan 700 does quite phenomenally. The machine impressed me both in speed, noise and print quality. Regular documents (I used a full page Word document) print in under 10 seconds, photos on 4×6 or 5×7 photo paper are done in about a minute, full page photos take about 3 minutes when printed on premium paper in the best quality setting.

Included in the retail package is of course the printer itself, as well as 7 ink cartridges. The printer holds 5 color cartridges and one black cartridge, and Epson includes one spare black cartridge as it tends to run out first.

The ink retails for just under $50 for the color multipack and $25 for the black cartridge. After several hundred prints, in various sizes, the printer is down to about half its ink capacity.

The scanner on the Artisan 700 was equally impressive, Epson has a long history of making high quality scanners, and it shows in this product. Photo scans are vibrant and very sharp.

Despite all the great features, there is one area where the Artisan 700 does not always perform as it should – the Ethernet and Wi-Fi interfaces are no very reliable, and I regularly ran into problems connecting with the printer, or kept getting errors that the printer was in use by someone else (I was the only user connected to it at the time).

Of course, these issues could be resolved by a software update in the future, or by connecting the unit to USB and ignoring the network ports.

The Artisan 700 has an MSRP of $199, but can often be found for as little as $149.99. At this price point, it is one of the cheapest network enabled all-in-one machines on the market. The Artisan 700 has a big sister, the Artisan 800. The 800 adds the ability to send and receive fax messages, as well as a sheet-feed scanner.

I’m quite impressed with the Artisan 700, there is no denying that the cost of ink may be a deal breaker for many, but for day to day work at home with the occasional photo or CD print, it will not disappoint you. The print quality is outstanding, and almost on par with the commercial prints you pick up at the local drugstore. CD prints are absolutely fantastic, and allow you to do quite a bit more with your photos than just let them collect dust.