12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS
A dozen days of gift ideas
NADINE KAM / NKAM@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Selphy CP510 compact photo printer churns out digital prints, such as these of Honolulu City Lights, in a snap.
Camera-printer combos create personal photo lab
Technology can be the life of the party thanks to the newest mini printers that bring the power of a photo lab into your home.
As with the old Polaroids, digital photos taken at the family or office party can be printed up instantly as celebration keepsakes. But even better, digital memory means images can be saved, and pictures of the secretary in sequins or an uncle in a Santa hat or reindeer antlers can be printed over and over for anyone who wants a copy.
If you're looking for a household gift, the combo of a camera and printer is bound to come in useful for everything from a child's birthday or graduation party to the family dog getting a bath.
The best way for non-techies to start is to select a printer from the same maker as your camera. That way, you can expect built-in compatibility and that all the right cords and plug-ins are included in the package.
For me, the camera is a sleek "Vivacious Violet" and silver 5.0 megapixel Canon PowerShot SD30 Digital Elph that measures a petite 3 inches by 1-1/2 inches and 1/2-inch wide, small enough to fit into a Coach wristlet with those evening essentials: credit card, I.D., cash, lipstick and keys.
If violet is not your color, the camera ($350 to $400) also comes in "Rockstar Red," "Glamour Gold" and "Tuxedo Black."
Its slow shutter speed in low light is a detriment to the would-be party paparazzo, but what digital camera -- short of the pro models -- does live up to the speed of life? As long as your subjects are willing to hold a pose, you're fine. But forget the moving conga line.
Fun turned into reality as I waded through the materials needed to set up the Selphy CP510 compact photo printer (about $100). With a unit so simple, you would think all you had to do was pull it out of the box and plug it in.
There is a "dry" acetate ink cartridge to load, plus paper, but it all turned out to be easier than I expected, at 10 minutes from start to finish. Pretty soon I was churning out 4-by-6-inch prints of my favorite subjects, my parrots.
The cost is about 28 cents per print, the equivalent of getting them done at Longs Drugs when they are not running a sale. Each print takes about a minute to process, and with the first few prints it is entertaining to see the layering of the colors and watching the picture emerge on coated paper that offers sun and humidity protection.
Refill packs run about $30 and include enough ink and paper for 108 prints.
The hardest part was figuring out how to attach the camera to the printer's retractable USB cable. I finally figured out that it did not plug into the camera but into the recharging cradle, with the camera sitting in it. Duh.
The printer can also be used to print panoramic shots, passport photos and credit-card size photos, but those are functions to learn after the holidays.
Learning all the camera functions took more time, but it was necessary because you never know when you are going to be forced to switch between manual and automatic, flash or non-flash functions, or effects ranging from black-and-white to sepia-tone. Two buttons essentially control everything from ISO speed to white balance, flash to macro-focusing.
And because I try to read owner's manuals only when necessary, I did wind up killing a bunch of photos when I tried the movie mode, capturing beach-goers and bicyclists walking through Lanikai from a moving car. Because I had only a small memory card, the movie used up every bit of it.
Making movies on a still camera is still not very practical, but having a compact camera that goes everywhere is great for remembering all the parts of life you would otherwise forget.