Kodak Professional 8500

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!