Steve's Digicams

Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer

Review posted 9/12/02


Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer



The Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer is an affordable 8 x 10-inch, color printer that's perfect for advanced amateurs right up to professional users and mini-labs. Priced at $999, the Kodak 8500 is the least expensive of Kodak's professional grade printers and within the budget of us "normal" folks. The Kodak 8500 produces consistent results using dry imaging technology so there's no worries of clogged heads or spilled ink.

The Kodak 8500 delivers true 8 x 10-inch printed size photos in gloss or matte finish and thanks to the protective laminate overcoat, your pictures are water resistant and highly durable. The Kodak 8500 printer is compatible with Windows PC and Macintosh computers. Not including the spooling time, the Kodak 8500 produces a dry to the touch photographic print in about 75 seconds. The printer uses thermal dye diffusion to achieve 314 dpi continuous tone prints with the look and feel of real photographs. And it does this quite economically with a per print cost of less than two dollars.



Setup

Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer


Setup is simple: Press the big button to open the top, insert the ink ribbon cartridge, close top, load paper in the tray, insert paper tray into front of printer, attach front and rear dust covers, connect power cord, plug in the USB cable to the computer, load software and away you go!



Controls

Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer


Printers controls are few and simple. Not shown here is the front-mounted Power button. Indicators on top for Power, Error, Media (paper in tray) and which I/O port is selected (parallel or USB.) The Online, Print and Interface buttons. The large button on the right opens the top for changing ribbons or cleaning the print head assembly.



Data Interfaces

Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer


The Kodak 8500 has both USB 1.1 and IEEE 1284 parallel interface connectors. Most users will probably use the USB port on their PC or Mac computer. As is the case with most printers being sold today, the 8500 does NOT come with a connecting cable.



Kodak 8500 Consumables

Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer


You must use the Kodak paper and ribbons with this printer. There are three sizes of Kodak Professional Ektatherm paper: 8.5 x 11", 8.5 x 12" and A4. The finished prints have a one-inch top and bottom border and a one-quarter inch border on both right and left sides. The maximum print size with 8.5 x 11" paper is 8 x 9" whereas the 8.5 x 12" and A4 paper yields perfect 8 x 10" prints. The paper comes in 100 print packs with two 50-sheet packages. The paper tray holds a maximum of 50 sheets.

The ribbon cartridges come in Matte and Glossy, your choice. The same paper is used with either ribbon, the 4th pass of the printing system applies the "Xtralife" glossy or matte laminate overcoat finish. Each ribbon cartridge is good for 50 prints and comes boxed with two ribbons making it a 100 print pack.

The 8.5 x 12" paper is about $68 per 100 sheets and the ribbon packs are about $120 so your approximate "per print" cost is around $1.88 per 8 x 10" - this is just the consumable cost without figuring in the cost of the printer itself.



Driver Software

Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer


Driver software is supplied for WINDOWS 98, ME, WINDOWS NT 4.0, 2000, and WINDOWS XP and MACINTOSH OS 9.X. Shown here are the Windows XP screens:

If you've used a modern inkjet photo printer like an Epson then I am sure that you've been overwhelmed by the driver software choices. The Kodak 8500 like most dye-sub printers has a relatively simple set of driver options. If you use the same ribbon type then you probably won't even need to go into the driver.

The first page of driver options lets you specify the paper size, ribbon type and whether or not to apply the Xtralife coating. Beats me why anyone would choose not to apply the Xtralife coating, this is your matte or glossy finish but it is also the UV resistant coating that makes the print last like a real photograph. Other options are for paper orientation, rotation and mirroring, number of copies and scaling percentage. The image sharpness is settable for High, Normal or Off and I find the prints look the best with it set on "High." The Enhancement option is used only if you notice a registration problem between the color passes, it is normally "off."



Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer


The second page of driver settings let you "fine tune" the color, gamma, contrast and brightness. For many users these can all be left at the default "0" settings.

Also included in the software bundle is Adobe Photoshop Elements, the "junior" version of the famous Adobe Photoshop program. Allows for quick corrections to creative editing with digital camera, scanner or any kind of digital images.






Steve's Conclusion

The Kodak 8500 like all dye-sub (actually dye diffusion thermal) printers uses a ribbon that has page-size pieces of yellow, magenta, cyan and the clear protective coating. The print head is a page-wide thermal unit with thousands of individual heating elements. The dyes on the ribbon are vaporized and then diffuse onto the surface of the paper. These dyes are transparent so one secondary color can be (and is) placed on top of each other to produce the primary colors (red, green, blue). Technically known as the subtractive color process, it yields continuous tone prints with 16-million possible color variations. The end result is a digital print with the same brilliant range of colors, UV resistance and the overall durability and longevity as a conventionally processed film print. And it delivers these high quality results, print after print, with very little fuss and bother thanks to its dry and inkless printing system.

The only other "page size" dye diffusion thermal printer that we have used and reviewed is the Olympus P-400. The Olympus P-400 has a small flaw, it is incapable of printing a true 8 x 10" size print. It was sold and marketed as an 8 x 10" printer and ruffled more than a few feathers when the users discovered that the A4 (8.25 x 11.7") paper came out with a printable size of just 7.64" x 10". The P-400's per print cost is approximately $2.80 ($25 paper + $45 ribbon for 25 prints), but can be brought down some by buying the paper in 100-sheet packages.

The Kodak 8500 is a solid piece of hardware that is made to survive in the commercial world and it feels like it too when you pick up the 27+ pound printer. The fit-n- finish is excellent and it's pretty quiet for a dye-sub type printer that is constantly moving paper back and forth. The front and rear are outfitted with dust covers where the paper slides back and forth to avoid any damage to the print. Being a thermal printer you can hear the cooling fan cycle on and off as the printer sits idle. Hooked up to my Pentium 4/2GHz Windows Pro PC the average print time for a full-frame 5-megapixel image was 50 seconds to spool and process and about 75 seconds to make the actual print. The prints look just like real photos and they even say "Kodak" on the back, what more can you ask for?

You can easily change from glossy to matte finish prints by simply swapping out the ribbon cartridge. The glossy finish prints are probably (my opinion) more durable than the matte prints because of the thicker protective layer. Matte prints are excellent for portraits or other photos that will end up behind glass in a frame but for most other prints I'd recommend the glossy finish.

If you're tired of fooling around with inkjet printers, clogged heads and prints that aren't waterproof or won't last as long as real photographs - then maybe it's time to think about buying a dye diffusion printer like the Kodak 8500!










KODAK PROFESSIONAL 8500 Digital Photo Printer

Printer Specifications*

  • Printing process: Thermal dye diffusion
  • Image quality: Continuous tone, 314 dpi
  • Print time: Less than 75 seconds
  • Maximum imageable area: 8 x 10 inches
  • Media capacity: 50 sheets

Computer Interface

  • IEEE 1284 Bi-tronics and USB 1.1 interfaces

Printer Drivers and Software

  • Printer Drivers for WINDOWS 98, ME, WINDOWS NT 4.0, 2000, and WINDOWS XP Systems
  • Printer Drivers for MACINTOSH OS 9.X
  • ADOBE PHOTOSHOP Elements Software
  • Calibration utility

Physical Characteristics/Operating Requirements

  • Physical dimensions: 17" W x 28.5" D x 10.75" H
    (433 mm x 720 mm x 272 mm)
  • Weight: 27 lb (12 kg)
  • Operating temperature: 59 to 86° F (15 to 30° C)
  • Relative humidity: 30 to 85%
  • Power consumption: 210 watts while printing

Agency Approvals

  • UL 1950
  • CSA C22.2 No. 950-95
  • TUV EN60950†

EMI

  • FCC Part 15, Class A
  • ICES-003, Class B
  • CE Mark for Residential, Commercial, and Light Industry†
  • VCCI, Class 2†
  • C-Tick Mark†

*Specifications subject to change.
240-volt model only.







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