I've never seen such effective automation in a printer-copier-scanner.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983

T e c h n o f i l e
Kodak printer-copier-scanner is a charm

Nov. 18, 2007

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2007, The Post-Standard

   Kodak is fighting back.
   After watching its Japanese and Korean rivals take over the digital camera market, Eastman Kodak tried selling photo printers. But there was little to distinguish many of Kodak's printers from Lexmark's -- they were actually the same in many cases.
   But the company has gone back to its roots. For the first time, Kodak is selling its own consumer photo printers, designed by Kodak engineers with the same goal George Eastman showed when he advertised his new Brownie cameras a century ago: "You take the picture, we do the rest."
   You take the digital picture, and Kodak's new all-in-one printers will do the rest. I've never seen such effective automation in a printer-copier-scanner. Of course, you can plug one of the new Kodak printers into your Mac or Windows PC and print that way -- the results will be spectacular, every bit as good as what you'd get from a consumer-level Epson or Canon -- but you can just as easily unhook the computer and do everything with just the printer alone.
   In fact, the clever design of the Kodak 5300 printer I borrowed for testing encourages you to loosen its tethers and use it all by itself. Menus that show up on the flip-up screen can even be ignored much of the time; the default actions are nearly always suitable. Plug in your camera's USB cable or stick a memory card into the font slot -- it can handle most kinds -- and choose the pictures you want to print from the full-color flip-up display. Zoom in to check for flaws, crop your pictures and press the button. Kodak does the rest.
   Copying photos is even easier. Put a picture on the glass scanner top and close the lid, then press the button. Copying documents such as letters and newspaper clippings works the same way. To scan a photo into a digital image, you press the Scan button, check the menu and press the Start button. (This only works if the computer is connected, but you don't have to do anything at the computer to get it to work.)
   The 5300 lists for $199 and sells for only a little less, about $189. That makes it twice as expensive as comparable all-in-one printers from Epson when Epson discounts are figured in, but the Kodak's clever design and foolproof operation help justify the higher cost.
   Also helping Kodak's cause is cheaper ink. Even though Kodak's ink is, like Epson's, designed to last a century without fading, using pigments instead of dyes, Kodak charges only half as much for its ink cartridges.
   Kodak packed black and color cartridges with the printer, but I bought some myself at Walmart so I could do a lot of printing. The price seemed like a mistake. I paid only $9.97 for the black cartridge and $14.47 for the color version, reflecting a Walmart discount of 2 cents off Kodak's list price. (Yes, 2 cents and no more.)
   Part of the savings comes from the cartridge design -- expensive inkjet print heads aren't built into each cartridge like they are in Lexmark's design -- and part comes from Kodak's decision to be the "good guy" in the fight against printing costs.
   Ink for ink jet printers normally costs a staggering $3,800 a gallon when you figure the cost of each dollop in a tiny cartridge -- take a look at my article about this scandal at www.technofileonline.com/texts/tec040304.html -- and so anything that reduces that cost needs to be applauded.
   As for those geeky qualities such as print speed, scanner resolution and color accuracy, the 5300 printed more slowly than my other printers, possibly because it coats each photo with a glossy, protective waterproof layer. (I'll take the protective layer over speed every time.) The scanner's maximum optical resolution is 1,200 dots per inch, adequate for most high-quality scanning. Colors were well saturated but tended slightly toward blue.
   I used Kodak's own moderately priced paper and a pack of expensive paper I had bought for my $1,000 Epson. The 5300 did well with both, making borderless prints that emerged ready to frame every time.