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Two Technologies Represented, Continued

4"x6" Printers: Your Own Photo Lab
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Sublimation also has an advantage with regards the printer's form factor. The mechanism is more compact and sublimation printers are therefore smaller. However, you do need to allow space in front of and behind the printer. Sheets of paper are fed from the front and have to exit from the rear between each of the four phases. The quality of the prints is quite good, even though the colors are less intense than they are with inkjet.

Finally, you should know that the print life announced by manufacturers varies greatly and is difficult to verify. Claims range from 30 years with Lexmark to more than a century with Epson and HP. We did conduct a moisture-resistance test as soon as the photo left the printer and a few minutes after. This test showed that all the printers were effective in this area except for the Epson PictureMate, which, because it uses pigment ink, required a drying time of a few minutes to avoid problems with the colors running.

Sublimation Printers

  • Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock Plus
  • Canon Selphy CP500

Inkjet Printers

  • Canon Selphy DS700
  • Epson PictureMate MPE
  • Lexmark P315
  • HP Photosmart 375

How We Tested

To test the seven models in this comparison, we printed several types of photos stressing different aspects of colorimetry. We used both professional photos and shots we took ourselves with a digital camera - an HP Photosmart R707.

We also clocked the printing time. This is not necessarily an essential factor, since you don't generally print large quantities of photos, but the differences between models are fairly substantial.

Finally, we also computed the cost per photo to print. On this point our work was made a lot easier by the manufacturers, almost all of whom offer packs including paper and ink corresponding to a specific number of prints. This is true in particular of thermal sublimation 4"x6" printers, whose cartridges contain a quantity of film capable of printing a set number of photos - 20 to 80, depending on the model - with each cartridge shipped with the necessary number of sheets of paper. On the other hand, for inkjet printers, the volume of ink is sometimes under- or over-estimated in relation to the number of sheets. This depends on the type of photo and the distribution of tints among the three primary colors. Still, using the price of an ink+paper pack is a good way of calculating an average cost.

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