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Review index:
4” x 6” printer roundup
by Vincent Alzieu
Published on December 16, 2004

The world of personal printing is no longer separated into two categories (printers and multifunction). We now have to include 4”x 6” printers, used to print small format pictures with or without a computer. The particularity of this product is that it not only includes inkjet printers but also dye-sublimation printers.

Future of the market

Manufacturers estimate that the market for 4”x 6” printers will triple next year, while the number of A4 printers sold should go down by 30%. Of course 4”x 6” printers’ and A4 printers’ sales are far from being equivalent, but it’s now undeniable that a new family product is asserting itself on the market.

4” x 6”, for what, for whom and what are the disadvantages?

These new products were developed to make the user’s life easier. According to manufacturers people take alot of digital pictures but many aren’t even printed. The reason is that drivers are too complicated, image management software is too complex, and printing quality can be disappointing. There is some truth to this.

With 4”x6” printers everything is supposedly simple. Just plug in the memory card or the digital camera, push a button, and everything is automatically printed. Of course, foremost users are those not comfortable with IT products, but some will be attracted by other advantages. IT fans will like the ease and quickness to print a series of photos of events such as weddings, births, Christmas etc. The downside is that it isn’t possible to correct red eyes, there are problems with centering, and picture editing isn’t possible. Standard quality, however, will often be enough and perfect for your entourage, who may be amazed to see such a small object replace the traditional photo lab.

This technology still has one major problem, the format. Photos made by compact and bridge digital cameras are all in 4/3. For example, the Canon PowerShot A95 (one of the winners of our last 5 megapixel comparative test) saves pictures in 2592 x 1944 pixels or 2592 / 1944 = 1,3333 = 4 / 3. These printers work exclusively with 4” x 6” photo paper with a 1.5 ratio = 3/2. You may have noticed the problem. Pictures are resized to fit a 4” x 6” format and everything beyond this size is cut off. A 4/3 picture resized to a 6” length should be 4.42” high, and so we lose 0.42 inches or approximately 12.5% of the picture! With a close-up portrait this printer would cut the hair at the roots and the middle of the chin.

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