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Olympus P-200 review:

Olympus P-200

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The Good Excellent 3-by-4-inch print quality; can also interface with computers.

The Bad Confusing manual; five minutes between prints; short battery life.

The Bottom Line The Olympus P-200 can produce beautiful continuous-tone images, but weighing in at almost three pounds, it won't be your constant companion.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

CNET Editors' Rating

6.0 Overall

Printing out snappy 3-by-4-inch digital color prints with the Olympus P-200 portable dye-sublimation printer is far easier than plowing through the lengthy instruction manual, which is more than 50 pages long and is filled with nearly a hundred warnings, notes, and cautions. It's as exciting as reading a list of prohibitive boarding house rules tacked to a notice board. Nevertheless, only a few of the rules must be heeded to operate the printer, so don't be put off by the portable printing equivalent of "Check out by noon." Printing out snappy 3-by-4-inch digital color prints with the Olympus P-200 portable dye-sublimation printer is far easier than plowing through the lengthy instruction manual, which is more than 50 pages long and is filled with nearly a hundred warnings, notes, and cautions. It's as exciting as reading a list of prohibitive boarding house rules tacked to a notice board. Nevertheless, only a few of the rules must be heeded to operate the printer, so don't be put off by the portable printing equivalent of "Check out by noon."

Sub unit
The P-200 printer produces images by using a high heat process to sublimate (convert) sheets of yellow, magenta, and cyan dye into gases, which are then deposited onto special paper that rolls in and out of the printer in three separate passes. After a fourth pass, which supplies a UV overcoat, the print is ejected. It takes three minutes from hitting Print to holding a print in your hand, plus another two minutes for the the printer to search for the next image to output. So it's not quite instant gratification.

But before pressing the Print button on the P-200, you can choose between three image-quality settings and indicate how many copies of an image you want printed on a single sheet--1, 2, 4, 9, or 16. You can also opt to imprint a date stamp, print an index page of 30 consecutive pictures, and make as many as 25 copies of the same print. Sadly missing, though, is a darken/lighten button to tweak those photos to perfection.

Hard-copy headache
To make a print, you'll have to write down the image file number (the number can be found by browsing through your photos in-camera) or pretag the photo if your camera has a DPOF (Digital Print Order Form) function, but both options can be a royal pain. And we found that these two steps didn't always work when outputting pictures from digicams manufactured by companies other than Olympus. We found it best to switch to the Frame mode and have the P-200 do an automatic index print, assigning its own set of numbers to the images for foolproof output. Then if you want to find those indexed images, you just punch in an image number and that's the one you'll get. Be forewarned, though: Dye-sublimation printers sometimes leave color streaks on their images that, at times, requiring reprinting.

Although the P-200's resolution is only 320dpi, that's high in the world of continuous-tone dye-sublimation, and it easily equals the quality of similarly sized silver-halide photos. In fact, if you're not put off by its print size, you could also hook this tool up to your computer, through an optional parallel or USB cable. In our tests, a fully charged battery printed 15 consecutive images before it died and had to switch to AC power. Even though the unit boasts a two-and-a-half-hour recharge time, you won't be able to recharge the unit while running the printer on AC power.

Portly printer
Fully loaded with paper, dye cartridge, and battery, the P-200 weighs about three pounds. It's not something you'd just throw into your camera bag unless you're Arnold Schwartzenegger. Furthermore, there are limits on its memory card size: 64MB with SmartMedia, 160MB with CompactFlash I, and 340MB with CompactFlast II and IBM Microdrive.

So, if you need to print high-quality, reasonably sized images on the go and you have $450 to spare, the P-200 will deliver. The instruction manual is another story, but then again, who really reads manuals?

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