Surprise: a really good color printer no longer requires a second mortgage. Prices have steadily decreased, and even some of the cheaper models are capable of generating images as sharp as the prints from a film lab. But don't expect these printers to churn out pics in a hurry: smaller, less-expensive machines can take three minutes to print a 4-by-6 image.
The quality of reproduction is measured in dots per inch (DPI): the more dots, the sharper the image. For prints that look good even blown up to 8-by-10, get a printer with at least 1,440-by-720 DPI. Another factor is paper quality. Glossier, heavier stock makes for the best images but can cost as much as a dollar a page. Lighter paper (as low as 10 to 20 cents a sheet) should work just fine—when you really must share that shot of the crab biting Dad's toe with everyone you know.
CHEAP Super-sharp prints are a snap for the 2,880-by-720 DPI Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX ($249; www.epson.com): a crisp 4-by-6 image takes less than a minute. Not only that, but digital memory cards can be inserted directly into this sturdy machine—no cables, no hassle.
CHEAPER The Canon S300 Color Bubble Jet printer (www.usa.canon.com) won't accept memory cards and may take its sweet time (about 21/2 minutes for a clear 4-by-6 image), but at roughly $100 for a compact 2,400-by-1,200 DPI printer, who can complain?
Those who prefer to keep their digital images in the privacy of their own computers should check out software designed to help organize pictures and create digital albums.
FlipAlbum ($49.95; www.flipalbum.com), which recently won an award from the editors at American Photo magazine, is recommended for fastidious types who want a smart-looking presentation: animated pages "flip over" to reveal a sequence of photos. The software is easy to use—in minutes, you can orchestrate a slide show of your last vacation and turn it into a personalized screen saver.
It's not as easy to navigate, but CompuPic ($39.95; www.photodex.com) lets you view pictures as thumbnail images and, more important, organize them in a number of ways, such as by place or date taken. Think of it as a tool to maintain order in the digital shoe box you call your hard drive.