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.
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