Dude, Wasabi?!

I’ve been playing lately with a Wasabi portable Bluetooth/PictBridge printer (Dell PZ310) that prints on so-called “Zink” (zero ink) paper. The prints are only 2”x3” but they are waterproof, smudgeproof, and peeling off the back reveals an adhesive coating that turns your print into a sticker. This is the same type and size paper that the Polaroid Pogo printer uses, and I suspect the Pogo and the Wasabi are mechanically one and the same. They might have slightly different firmware, which would explain why they have different color balances and why the Wasabi doesn’t like Polaroid’s paper (as evidenced by the red frowny face status light). Each package of paper comes with a barcoded card that runs through the printer as the first sheet of the pack. This sheet apparently tells the printer the brand of paper and some information about color balance, number of sheets, and/or who knows what else.

The print quality varies from decent to downright terrible. Sharpness seems to depend highly on the resolution of the file you send to the printer, indicating that the printer’s internal interpolation algorithm isn’t very sophisticated. Color accuracy is, shall we say, “variable.” It would appear that the gamut is pretty small, therefore the color makeup of the source image seems to have a big influence on the outcome of the print.

My impression? This could be an interesting device for event photographers. It could add some novelty to your coverage options and give you a small bit of market differentiation. The cost per print is pretty high (anywhere between 10¢ and 50¢ depending on where you buy the paper and in what quantity) but the small, self-contained, wireless nature of the device and less-than-a-minute print time make it perfect for covering events with children. The parents may hate you for it, but the kids will love having photo stickers they can stick on everything :) There are some potentially serious uses for the Wasabi as well. Wedding guest books for Zink prints are available from a number of sources, although they are quite pricy. One can stick a Zink print of a guest in the book and the guest can sign next to it.

Unfortunately, Apple did not include an ObEx profile for Bluetooth in their iPhone 3.0 or 3.1 updates, so it’s not possible to print directly from an iPhone to a Wasabi. One would have to import the photos from the iPhone to a Bluetooth-enabled computer and send the photo to the Wasabi from the computer. A pro is not likely to use an iPhone for event photography anyway so that’s not much of a hinderance. The Wasabi is PictBridge-enabled, so one could theoretically print directly from compatible DSLRs over a USB cable.

The Dell Wasabi portable picture printer is a fun little device. It seems to have limited utility in a professional photography setting but would probably be a big hit at children’s events. The Wasabi is great for personal use or for utility functions like printing business card stickers to put on your equipment for identification.

Epson, you're dead to me

I’m really disappointed in Epson these days. Mac users have always been second-class Epson citizens despite buying a lot of high-end Epson printers and oceans of ink, but now they’ve left us out in the cold with Snow Leopard’s release.

Don’t get me wrong — their hardware is top notch. Their drivers and tech support, not so much. I won’t bore you with the details of my tech support encounter over the purple streaks my prints had after switching from Windows 98 to Windows 2000. It dragged on for several months and I ended up fixing it myself. My experience with Epson went from bad to worse when I switched to the Mac.

In the hours and days after Snow Leopard was released to the public (a month early), a lot of developers were scrambling to update their products to fix compatibility issues. That’s understandable. Canon and HP both had updated printer drivers posted the following day or two. Granted, Epson now has a Snow Leopard compatibility page on their support web site, but it only covers their newest, most expensive printers. The Stylus Photo 2200 is still in wide use despite being discontinued a few years ago. Unfortunately, the most recent Mac driver for the 2200 is more than three years old and doesn’t even appear to be a Universal Binary. Okay, I’ll go a little farther and say that it’s crap. It is no secret that the real money is in continuing ink sales, not the initial printer sale, so why wouldn’t Epson want to keep 2200 users happy and buying ink?

So here is the bottom line: Epson, I’m tired of you treating me and my fellow Mac users like dirt instead of like valued customers. I shoot with Canon camera equipment — if you don’t turn your corporate attitude about Macintosh users around in a hurry, I’m switching back to Canon printers. As the president of a photography club in the fourth-largest city in the United States, people frequently ask me for advice about printer purchases. I have usually recommended Epson printers in response to those questions. No more. As I said above, your hardware is top notch. But what good is top notch hardware if you don’t have the software to drive it?

Slow motion

When I started this blog, I had the grand idea that I would write a weekly entry about the iPhone as it relates to photography. Well, things didn’t quite turn out the way I expected. While the iPhone is a wonderful tool for people running small businesses (like photographers), there doesn’t seem to be a lot of photography-specific developments to write about. So, I’m going to expand the scope of the blog. Instead of trying to predict where it will go, I’ll just let the words come out and we’ll see what happens.

One iPhone-photography development is the release of the 3G S model. It’s been out for two and a half months and there has been plenty written about it in other venues, so I won’t give an exhaustive review right now. However, one of the most exciting new features is video recording. The 3G S’s camera isn’t going to come even remotely close to competing with dedicated video cameras, but it is nice to finally have the same ability to record impromptu “snapshot video” that my pre-iPhone phone had. It’s nice to be able to capture moments like this one:

The video quality is surprisingly good and it handles challenging light situations reasonably well (although still isn’t good with low-light situations). But it beats not having a video camera with you wherever you go.