What dye-sub photo printer to buy?
November 6, 2005 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Got any recommendations for dye-sublimation photo printers?

Sorry to be asking a "which piece of consumer electronics should I buy" question, but after multiple attempts on Google and Amazon, I am unable to find the answer to this myself.

I am looking to buy my parents a high-quality, easy to use photo printer for Christmas. My preference is for dye-sub rather than inkjet technology, since it sounds so much cooler. :)

My requirements are:

1. Accepts SD cards
2. Has an LCD screen and can print without going through Windows.
3. Costs less than $250

The problem I'm having is finding a dye-sub with any LCD screen whatsoever. If anybody knows more than I do about this, I would appreciate any info, buying tips, or comments in addition to recommendations.

And despite my preference, I'd be happy to hear recommendations for Inkjets as well, if they meet all the other requirements. That will be plan be.
posted by Hildago to Technology (8 answers total)
Does it really need an LCD screen? I mean, I assume there's one on your digital camera...

Also, does it need to accept an SD card? Can it not be a dock-style printer? What kind of camera do you have?

I only have experience with one such printer, the Kodak EasyShare dock, but I can compare that to many inkjets. The dye-sublimation quality just trounces them for normal-sized prints. The prints are very high quality, the per-print price is very good, and the laminate coating gives the prints a nice glossy finish that you can't get with an inkjet. Also, the prints are ready to handle as soon as they're out of the printer, unlike an inkjet.

All that said, for bulk printing, we use a printing service. But for one-off "ooh! I just have to have a copy of that!" kinds of things when friends or relatives come to visit, or if we need a print right away, it's invaluable.

Anyway, to be frank, the only thing I can think of that meets your 3 requirements are the photo printing kiosks at places like Wal-Mart. They have screens, take SD cards, and cost less than $250 (to use, not to buy). But I doubt that's what you had in mind.
posted by jedicus at 3:28 PM on November 6, 2005

I've heard good things about the Canon dye sub printers. I'm curious as to how the dye quality and cost compares to inkjet though...
posted by schwa at 3:40 PM on November 6, 2005

The Kodak stuff is not as well made as anything by Epson and Canon. I'm not sure of the model, but Xerox has a nice dye printer.
posted by mkelley at 5:06 PM on November 6, 2005

Response by poster: Well, this is for my parents. They are not likely to learn photoshop. I mainly want a very simple printer that will let them stick their card in and print out their digital photographs without any kind of software barrier. My preference is for dye-sublimation because it sounds like an all-around better technology than inkjet.
posted by Hildago at 8:50 PM on November 6, 2005

Honest to goodness, I think having a photo printer of any kind is a bit silly when you can go to a drug store or Walmart and print right off the compact flash/sd card or whatever on real photo-paper for next to nothing.
posted by spock at 9:18 PM on November 6, 2005

I don't recall seeing dyesub wax sticks at any of the local computer stores

That's because dyesubs don't use wax sticks. ;)
posted by kindall at 12:07 AM on November 7, 2005

Only dye-sub printer I've ever used was an older Tektronix Phaser, and it used sheets of film for the sublimation process (think typewriter ribbon, on a large scale). The hardware was pretty good for its age, Xerox recently bought them out and as far as I know the new Xerox Phasers use the color sticks rather than film.

Either way the special paper for the damn thing was costly - like $3-$5 per 8.5" x 11" print, and unless Xerox changed this they didn't use a standard paper size, it was slightly narrower and longer than standard US letter but didn't seem to be quite long enough to be European sized.

We priced them for our lab but couldn't justify the expense. You can spend several thousand on a good dye sub, but for less than $800 you can pick up a high-res HP inkjet with LCD screen, multiple card readers, and capacity for everything from 3" x 5" index card to 11" x 17" print sizes.

Print speed is slow at high-res though, and not all of the HP with LCD screens actually give you a preview option, so check before buying.

For what it's worth my in-laws picked up a cheap ($100 or less) HP photo printer with no preview option, and have been happy as clams with it. Even without the preview it's easier for them to make copies of images than it would be to run it through a computer first.

Another thing to consider: My in-laws boiught a DVD player and have yet to do a damn thing with it after several years, because they already have lots of movies on VHS. They can't see the quality difference but they can see the expense of switching to a different format. Guess what I'm saying is dye sub sounds cool, sure, but just because you want one doesn't mean your parents will. At some point it's hard to convince them that something is better, so unless they confirm that a dye-sub print is worth the extra cost I would think twice about going for it.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:05 AM on November 7, 2005

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