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                    Review: Fargo FotoFUN Color Printer
                             By:  Jason Compton 

Fargo has long distinguished themselves, on the Amiga and elsewhere, for
high-quality color printers using thermal wax and dye-sublimation transfers
for vibrant color that tends to last quite some time.

The Primera Pro has been the mainstay of the line, creating A4-sized
color printouts that usually stun visitors to dealerships.  But the
Primera's performance doesn't come cheap (Nearly US$2000), so apparently
the people at Fargo felt they wanted a more consumer-oriented product.

The FotoFUN's sole purpose is to create 4"x6" photos from computer images.
The unit itself is a small affair, significantly smaller than a breadbox.
On its front is a slot wide enough to accept a single 4" wide piece of
special FotoFUN photographic paper.

The operation of the FotoFUN is fairly straightforward--an image in IFF
format (1 to 24 bit, including HAM and Halfbrite modes) is sent to the
printer driver, or more specifically, to the AmigaDOS device created by the
printer driver.  This can be done with an image processing program's save
command, or a simple copy.  The driver does the rest of the work,
separating the file into the various portions needed by the printer's
internal workings, and firing them over to the printer.

When the printer receives the first instructions, it begins whirring, which
is the operator's cue to insert a piece of photo paper.  The printer has no
storage capacity of its own.  The driver sends the picture across the
parallel port, the printer churns with the photo for a couple of minutes,
and finally, after a number of passes, you get the finished product, a real
photograph of the computerized image of your choice.

Now, this SHOULD sound neat to you--and it is.  The FotoFUN creates 203 dpi
images at either 24 or 12 bit color depth (there seems to be some
disagreement--the consumer information says 24, the developer documentation
seems to indicate 12), which means that you get a good deal of color clarity
and vibrance right out of a box next to your computer.

After it sounds neat to you, you'll probably wonder "But, um, wait, what
exactly is this GOOD for?"  The advertising materials put it forth as a
companion piece to the PhotoCD enthusiast.  This is actually a very good
angle, as PhotoCDs often contain the sorts of pictures people would like to
be able to put in an album or give to friends anyway.  However, considering
that the cost of the media is quite high (a 36-picture ribbon and 36 pieces
of photo paper are US$35), it would be considerably more economical to just
save your PhotoCD negatives (if you had your own created) and have a pack
of photographs developed professionally.

But there are other, shall we say, "reasonable" uses for this printer.  A
professional 2D or 3D artist may want to send a client away with a
tangible, full-color example of a work in progress.  In moderate usage,
such a printer could help spice up a report or a presentation.

Ah, but who are we kidding?  The FotoFUN's name gives it away--it's largely
something people will play with because it's fun to get a full-color
photographic image off of your computer.  Fargo has two ways to encourage
people to have more fun with their printer--postcard kits and coffee mug

I'm not a postcard sort of person--well, I like getting them (Thanks to
Jorma of Sweden!) but I really don't send them.  But one of the first
things I did with the FotoFUN was create an Amiga Report mug, which is
really a treat to show visitors.  The mug kit works by having you print an
image, in reverse, without the standard protective overlay regular FotoFUN
prints receive.

This print gets wrapped around a specially coated mug from Fargo and locked
into place with a special metal clamp included with the Mug Kit.  Bake the
contraption in an oven for 15 minutes, and before you know it, you have a
tailor-made mug, with whatever image you see fit to transfer onto it.

Fargo's driver for the Amiga, which includes a GUI-based program for
setting your preferences, is not shipped with the printer but is instead
available from their Web site.  The Amiga driver uses one of the keyfiles
from the Windows disk.  The driver doesn't have all of the features of the
Windows and Mac version, but ImageFX 2.6 is shipping with enhanced FotoFUN
support, which we will discuss in an upcoming issue.

The FotoFUN driver virtually uses all of the Amiga's resources.  I highly
recommend that if you are going to print, don't touch anything else.  Even
slight interruptions can corrupt a printout, which is a time-consuming and
costly mistake.

It's tough to make the final call--is the FotoFUN "worth it"?  The output
is high quality, that's not at issue.  But $500, plus $1 a print, for
pictures?  Unless you've got your own scanner, or make lots of PhotoCDs,
you won't have a good way to get your personal favorites into the FotoFUN
to begin with.  This is a neat item, but think closely about the impact of
your purchase.  If you can't think of anything you'd enjoy more than a
full-color printout of the Babylon 5 battle scene you've staged in
Lightwave or Imagine, or a small pinup of Amy the Squirrel, I'd advise you
to go for it.

Fargo Electronics Inc.
7901 Flying Cloud Dr.
Eden Prairie, MN  55344
612-941-9470 voice
612-941-7836 fax