Card Photo Printer CP-200
Company: Canon, Inc.
Cost: $160 – $190, street
My “dream photo printer” turned out to be one that was not even on my mental radar screen.
I was making my bimonthly visit to Office Depot the middle of November, and as usual, I check over the bargain table, just in case there is a deal too good to pass up! I have been casually watching for an ink jet printer that would satisfy a need for an occasional photorealistic printer for such times when I didn’t want to wait for professional prints to be ordered and mailed to me. But, having had quite a bit of experience with ink jet printers, and being spoiled with the speed and overall quality of my Xerox Phaser 860 DP solid ink printer, it’s been difficult talking myself into spending even a modest $200 for a top quality photo-ink jet printer from HP, Epson, or Canon. My main issues have to do with speed (or rather the lack thereof) and the hassle with ink cartridges. It’s also very hard to guestimate what it will cost per photo or to know when how much ink to stock up on for a given job. I was tempted by the open-box Canon i960 at our local Office Depot, and went back two or three times to examine it and think carefully as to whether I could justify the thing. I really wanted something portable, and had even been tempted by the snazzy little Canon i70, but I knew, in the back of my mind, they would ultimately disappoint me. I didn’t need their text printing capabilities; and the larger, more capable i960 is not portable at all, whereas the portable i70 would be slow and produce marginally acceptable photo comps. Besides, I really only need a method to produce 4×6 prints; not 5×7 or 8×10 or larger, as I prefer to use a professional service for those situations.
As it happened, I glanced through the advertising circular on the counter on my way out and saw a little photo printer advertised which was not on display! I asked about it and the staff person said they had just received them and they hadn’t had time to get one set up. I asked to see the box and we opened it up and read the manual. It appeared to be just what I had been looking for, at a price I could live with!
The printer is called a Card Photo Printer, as in post card printer. The CP-200 is the model indicating it’s a significant upgrade over the older CP-100. It’s about half the size of the older model, weighing in at 28 ounces, and roughly 4x6x2 inches. It is a 300 dpi dye-sublimation printer, which means that it prints with a thermal (heat) process using a roll of film to apply yellow, magenta, cyan, black and a clear overcoat in repeating processes, steadily building up the photo in separate passes. It prints a 4×6 photo in 85 seconds. It’s a real photo, folks. Actually, it’s better than a real photo. A 300 dpi dye-sublimation printer will outperform a 4800 dpi ink jet for color photos any day of the week. Plus, the photo is waterproof and fade-resistant, just like a modern, professional photo by Kodak. When it prints, it’s dry and ready to use! And, the back side of the photo is an actual post card. All that’s needed is a stamp, your message, and an address.
The way this works is quite novel for the ink jet owners out there. Basically, you purchase the media in a box that includes the film cartridge for that number of boxed media. The printer comes in a box with a supply of five post cards and ribbon to match. A box of 36 photo cards (they are a post card, with glossy side for accepting the print and the other side looks just like the address side of a post card — room for a message and an address) with the ribbon cartridge included costs $18 at Office Depot. Excluding tax, it costs about $.50 per print. Not bad for instant gratification.
How instant? Well, in case anyone is wondering, many of the newer digital cameras can print directly to this printer. It comes with two USB ports, one for the standard connection to a computer, and one to connect directly to the USB port of a digital camera. With my Canon EOS 300, or the S50, or the s400, I simply take the shots, connect to the printer, and from the menus I can crop, adjust exposure, and send an image to the printer very easily. Since there are a precise number prints allotted with each ribbon cartridge, I don’t have to guess how many prints I will be able to generate, nor how much it will cost per print!
There are basically three options at the present time for print media: the 4×6 photo post cards I mentioned above; a credit-card sized photo card OR sticker (4 per sheet); and mini-labels in 8 per sheet. These can all be printed either edge to edge or with a border.
There is a model CP-300, which is identical to the CP-200 but with a rechargeable battery which allows the printer to function when no power is available. An optional car battery adapter is also available to purchase. Detailed specifications can be found here.
The printer comes with software drivers for Mac OS 9 or X. Installation was a snap! The diminutive size solid construction make it a natural to pack on extended vacations. Send personalized photos to friends and family! I love the ease of use, not to mention the superb quality of the prints! Friends and family have been blown away by how quickly and simply this works!
The main disadvantages to this package are:
- 1) proprietary paper/ribbon requirements; i.e. regular 4×6 bulk print paper will not work here and, besides, the ribbon cartridge can only be purchased with the exact supply of media. If you are ordering online, you might want to check for local availability of the media. I get mine at Office Depot.
2) its small size means it’s not able to do anything larger than 4×6 photos. If you want similar quality, i.e. dye-sub quality, and reasonable speed in larger formats, I suggest the Olympus P-400/440 8×10 printer which can print a full bleed 8×10 in 90 seconds. I’m seeing them listed in the $400 range at present.
3) the printer is not suited for large bulk output of dozens and dozens of photos. Fortunately, the worst that happens is the automatic heat sensor can tell it’s getting too hot and will put it into a rest/pause mode while it cools for 20 or 30 seconds and then resumes printing. I needed to print 40 copies of a photo for my wife and it had to pause after 25 or 30 prints for a brief spell until it cooled down a bit. (If you need the ability to print in bulk, I’d suggest taking a look at the products from www.hitouchimaging.com.)
4) it’s so small you might accidentally leave it in a hotel room! Okay, that’s not really a disadvantage! But it is compact! It is definitely going with us on all our vacations!
It’s not a perfect printer, but for what I need, it’s prett darn close, and it fits in a Christmas stocking! Imagine — the ability to create an instant postcard of yourself wearing the new tie your grandmother knitted for you — which you can mail to her the day after and will, thus, be able to store that sucker (er, the tie!) away and out of sight until her next visit!
MacMice Rating: 4.5 out of 5