picturemate-charmWhen we first wrote about Epson’s PictureMate printer five years ago, its main appeal was portability. Now it’s smaller and more portable than ever. You could take it to a party or meeting, snap a few pictures, stick your camera card in the PictureMate, and hand out pictures to everyone.

The new “PictureMate Charm” is about the size of a lunch box and has a carrying handle. As with the older model, you don’t need a computer. It works like a charm, too, delivering 4×6-inch color prints in about half a minute. A small view screen shows what you’re printing and what kind of editing you can do. You can crop pictures, remove “red eye” effects, add borders, etc., or select an option to have the printer automatically improve your photo.

The prints are smudge and scratch resistant, and waterproof, claims Epson. They tell us the prints will also last longer and hold their color better than traditional photo prints. Whenever companies make claims like these we always wonder how they know. What they do is accelerate aging and color fade with the use of infra-red and ultra-violet lamps. And, since the printing sheets are plastic instead of paper, they’re definitely waterproof.

The printer accepts all kinds of digital camera cards and can hold 150 glossy sheets or 100 matte sheets of 4 by 6-inch photo paper. If you wish, you can print 8 pictures to the page, print a contact sheet with 20 thumbnails, or make wallet-size prints. It runs on batteries ($50 extra) or power cord.

On the con side, refills are expensive: It costs $40 for a package that includes a new ink cartridge and 150 sheets of photo paper. That works out to about 27 cents per photo, as opposed to about 9 cents a photo from online printing services like Kodak Gallery or Snapfish. Also, the printer’s weight, at eight pounds, would be heavy for a small child.

The PictureMate Charm costs $150 and works with Windows or Mac. We think it’s worth it for the convenience. More info at mypicturemate.com.

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