Very recently I led a group here in Chicago on a photo workshop. Toward the end of the day, I pulled a pack of 4x6 prints out of my vest pocket and shared some of my photographs with the group. I didn’t mention the printer I’d used. Instead I opted to wait for someone to ask. It didn’t take long, when the question popped up: What printer did you use? The Epson PictureMate PM-400, I responded with a smile. They were duly impressed.
I also used these prints at other photo workshops that I’d led locally - to illustrate photographic technique or just to give the group a feeling for what to expect, what they might photograph or how they might approach different subjects. Again, there was a round of positive responses. These prints made my pictures look good.
This approach was certainly easier than using my tablet. And I didn’t have to worry about a tablet slipping from my grasp or being knocked from my hands by an errant passerby. Not to mention, I didn’t own a tablet back when the PM-260 was around. But even now, I find it much easier to carry 4x6 prints. Someone even remarked that they look like postcards. I wasn’t initially sure what to make of that comment, but decided the reference was to the prints, not the images on them, so I took it as a compliment.
A Small Package, Big Potential
When the PM-400 arrived, I opened the box and looked at the unit. It was tiny, certainly compared with the old PM-260. Maybe half the height, generally smaller all around, and it proved to be much lighter. In fact, you basically had to carry the old printer with its handle. You can pick up the PM-400 with one hand and barely feel it.
But is size and weight alone enough to make you buy this printer? Certainly not. What’s more, you may be saying to yourself: I can get a letter-size photo printer at a much cheaper price? Of course you can, but, as you’ll see, this tiny printer offers numerous advantages.
There are many benefits, some of which this printer shares with its larger siblings, but in the end you have to look at the total package. You can use the PM-400 to print with or without your computer. Without the computer, just insert an SD card or USB flash drive into the appropriate slot or, using your own USB cable, connect a compatible USB device (including a PictBridge-compatible camera) into the USB port on the PM-400. Or print wirelessly from any supported device.
What’s more, the PM-400 is quieter than those full-size printers, which can be relegated to printing letters and manuscripts, or homework, while you print keepsakes on the PictureMate. And you can run off a batch of prints without disturbing anyone in the house, right from your living room, while watching The Walking Dead, and without missing a beat – that’s more than we can say for the zombies.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
I set up the PM-400 to run with a 21.5-inch iMac, under OS 10.9.5. The computer is equipped with a 3.1 GHz Intel Core i7 processor and 16GB RAM.
Setup was a snap. Once you plug the PM-400 into an AC outlet via the included AC adapter, open the lid (the output tray then drops open – be sure to flip open the extension), lift up the LCD panel, turn on the device, and follow the on-screen prompts. It couldn’t be simpler.
At the outset you’re prompted to install the included printer cartridge. Even though the unit comes with a sample 4x6 print pack with only a handful of sheets, the cartridge itself is full capacity, enabling me to output a full 20-pack of 5x7’s and more besides. I also received a 100-capacity cartridge/4x6 paper pack with the review unit (not included in the retail edition), but didn’t want to crack open the box just yet. Epson also sent a box of 40 semi-glossy sheets (again, not included with the printer).
If you print 5x7’s or other sizes, you’ll throw off the cartridge/sheet ratio in that 100-capacity cartridge/paper pack, so you might consider buying the cartridge and paper separately. Just make sure the printer supports the paper you’re buying, which includes Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Glossy, Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy, Epson Photo Paper Glossy, and Epson Premium Photo Paper Semi-Gloss. The one paper surface not supported is matte (which was supported on the old PM-260).
Other brands of photo paper can be used, but you may not get the image permanence benefits that come from the Epson cartridge-Epson paper matchup. As to popular sizes, they top out at 5x7, with a mix of formats thrown in, including #10 envelopes. Borderless printing is supported.
One other advantage to this printer is that loading paper is as straightforward as it gets – no need to open the unit. Paper drops into the slot right behind the LCD/control panel. When inserting paper, gently use the edge guide to slide the paper toward the left edge in the slot. Once the edge guide is in place, you can drop paper into the slot without resorting to the edge guide, unless you change paper sizes.
Paper is always loaded with the printable (glossy) side up. (Epson papers show the Epson logo on the reverse, non-printable side.) You can load up to 20 sheets of photo paper. For envelopes, see the online manual. Make sure you're not stacking paper above the indicator on the inside of the edge guide.
Load paper with a portrait orientation, vertically. When printing directly from the PM-400, prints automatically orient themselves – portrait or landscape – to match the image being printed. When printing from the computer, you’ll need to manually make that selection up front, along with a number of other settings.
Printing with the PM-400
Printing with this device couldn’t be simpler. I printed wirelessly from my Apple iMac and iPad and directly from the printer itself, in standalone mode.
I used the network connection to output from the computer, primarily from Adobe Lightroom but also Photoshop. I had no problem printing from Lightroom, but did initially encounter a bump in the road with Photoshop. So I retraced my settings, step by step, and easily corrected the situation. Once I had the settings I needed, I saved them as a Preset for this printer. (In Lightroom, under the Print menu option, adjust settings under Print Settings or Printer on the Print page; in Photoshop, select Print and adjust settings. Each time you go to print from Lightroom or Photoshop, you may have to re-select the “scale” options, so make sure to do that; I also found it best to re-select the paper size, which then further selected “scale down only.” See the screen grabs.)
Each time you load paper into the printer, the PM-400 asks you to either confirm the current choice or to choose the paper you’re using. When printing from the device itself, in my case from a USB drive, I followed the prompts in selecting a number of images to print. It’s all fairly straightforward. The online manual should clear up any confusion about a scant few settings that may be unclear.
I was a little disappointed when printing wirelessly from my Apple iPad – not in the PM-400, but in Apple’s AirPrint. I could find no way to direct the printer to output other than borderless full-bleed prints, which tended to crop out some of the image area. But I was otherwise very pleased by the quality of the print.
When closing shop, lower the LCD panel. Remove any unused paper and return it to its original packaging. Then return the tray to its original upright position – where have I heard that one before? - and hold it while lowering the lid with its magnetic closure. You can effortlessly achieve both motions with one hand, using your thumb to hold the raised tray in place (after restoring the extension to its original position as well).
You can see the screen shutting off even under the lid. And of course the indicator light on the front extinguishes as well.
By the way, each time you use the printer, you’ll get an annoying reminder on the printer’s LCD to register. Register and get rid of the message.
Features at a Glance
Easy to use — print oodles of 4 x 6" and 5 x 7" photos almost as effortlessly as turning on the printer.
Prints that stand out — surprisingly good quality for what is obviously more than a snapshot printer
Space-saving design — compact and lightweight so it can be used practically anywhere in your home or office.
Total wireless solution — print from iPad, iPhone, tablets and smartphones; includes Wi-Fi Direct (wireless printing requires that certain conditions be met).
Fast output — print 4" x 6" photos in as fast as 36 seconds (according to Epson, color photo in Default Mode on Premium Photo Paper Glossy measured from start of paper feed. Actual print times will vary based on system configuration, software, and page complexity. For details, visit www.epson.com/printspeed).
Prints potentially last up to 200 years — in an album and under proper storage conditions (according to Epson, when using Epson ink and paper together).
Worry-free handling — photos are smudge, scratch, water and fade-resistant when printed on Epson papers (again, according to Epson, when using Epson ink and paper together).
Convenient print packs — each supports printing of up to 100 4x6 prints with the included cartridge.
User-friendly interface — 2.7" color display and built-in card slot to preview and edit photos with tools such as Auto Photo Correction, crop, remove red eye and more.
Multiple printing options — color, black-and-white or sepia, with or without borders.
Note: PM-400 is designed for use exclusively with Epson cartridges
PictureMate PM-400: What’s Cool…
…And What’s Not
PictureMate PM-400: Best Use
Where can I get more info?
Epson’s website (click here for the PM-400 page).
How much is it?
Direct: $249.99 (B&H: $199.99
Adorama: $199.99 - both with $50 instant rebate)
Epson Ink Cartridge*/paper pack** 320P (w/100 sheets 4x6 glossy paper): $38.21
Epson Ink Cartridge* only 320: $32.99
Note: Epson advises that you use only original, factory-sealed Epson ink cartridges. Ink cartridges for older-model PictureMates may not be usable with this printer, and vice versa.
**Paper packs are also sold separately and will range in price depending on size, quality, quantity and manufacturer. Epson’s claim regarding longevity and durability of prints applies only when Epson inks are used in combination with Epson papers.
What’s in the Box
PictureMate PM-400 personal photo lab
Setup and instruction manual
AC power adapter
1 ink cartridge (CMYBK)
Five Photo Paper Glossy sheets
Space-saving, easy-to-use, convenient, quiet, handy 4x6/5x7/3.5x5 color/b&w printer; uses one simple 4-color dye-based inkjet cartridge; relatively pricey (compared to full-size printers) but worth it for the compact size and convenience; admirable output.
This is an amazing little printer. It was up and running in no time, printing wirelessly from my desktop computer and iPad, or standalone from a USB flash drive (with other options available). I happily shared the prints with others, who were duly impressed. If only it worked on batteries or USB as well. That would have been the icing on the proverbial cake (and I love cake!).
I wouldn’t hesitate to buy this little printer if I were you. Just set it up anywhere – any small space, a spare corner on the desk or a countertop – and start printing. You don’t need to use any software if you don’t want to, or even a computer. Just attach any flash drive that someone may have given you, for example, and print from that. Stick a label and stamp on the back of the prints and use them as postcards or invitations – or even place cards (flip it over for a souvenir picture of the family, for example). What’s especially nice is that the prints are highly durable, withstanding pretty much anything, except perhaps an inquisitive cat or toddler. Keep probing paws, hands, and mouths away and you’ll have prints that last a lifetime.
Here’s a Tip
When printing from the computer, open the printer dialog window and navigate to Color Options. Select the Fix Photo option, and select a Scene Correction setting. You might want to play around with these, but in one test case, with a fiery sunset, I selected Landscape and Digital Camera Correction, and the result was a marked improvement over the normal print, with remarkably greater depth and impact.