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Quick Review

 

Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000

(List price at introduction: $199)

Review Posted: 07/23/03

 

 

Manufacturer Overview

It's hard to think of a company with a name more closely associated with photography than Kodak. In fact, they arguably created the entire category of "point & shoot" photography when they introduced the original Brownie box camera in 1900. Their slogan "You push the button, we do the rest" still defines the standard for the ultimate in ease of use. In the modern era, Kodak has maintained that focus on ease of use with their EasyShare camera line. With sophisticated white-balance and exposure algorithms working behind the scenes, the EasyShare models are consistently among the easiest to use on the market, snapping good-looking photos under a surprisingly wide range of conditions. At the same time, Kodak's EasyShare software makes it easy for even the rankest beginner to download, save, print, and email their photos.

Now, the EasyShare Printer Dock 6000 cuts the computer out of the loop entirely, letting you output beautiful borderless 4x6 photos directly from the camera with the push of a button. Let's take a closer look...

 

High Points

  • Continuous tone thermal dye transfer print process, with clear, protective overcoat.
  • Yellow, Cyan, and Magenta color combinations.
  • 4x6-inch (102 x 152 millimeters), borderless maximum printable area.
  • Print speeds as fast as 90 seconds (120 seconds for first direct print from camera, 90 seconds per print after that).
  • Prints directly from Kodak EasyShare CX/DX 6000 and LS600 series cameras, or from a computer using the Kodak EasyShare software.
  • Connects to a computer via USB interface. (Cable not included.)
  • Standard and Index print modes.
  • Maximum print run of 25 photos without reloading consumables. (40 prints on a single ribbon, max of 25 sheets of paper in the printer's paper tray.)
  • Instant image transfer from camera to a computer.
  • A/V out jack for connection to a television set and instant slide show capability (A/V cable not included).
  • Packaged with AC adapter, interface cable, starter five-print color ink cartridge, and starter paper kit.
  • Provides in-camera battery charging and direct connection to a computer.

 

Design

The entire focus of Kodak's EasyShare digital cameras and camera docks is ease of use. You can literally snap a picture, drop the camera into the dock, and transfer files in a matter of minutes. Using a dock is quick, simple, and you don't need to constantly plug and unplug the camera from your computer or mess around with cables. (I don't know why, but dropping a camera onto a dock somehow seems easier than plugging in a cable, even though the cable doesn't really take any more time to use.) Kodak's newest camera dock, the EasyShare Printer Dock 6000 takes things a step further, by providing direct printing from the camera along with the usual dock functions of battery-charging and computer connectivity. You don't even need to transfer files to a computer first. Within minutes of snapping a photo, you can have a 4x6-inch print in your hands. The combination of painless computer connection and super-easy direct printing makes the EasyShare line even more versatile.

The Printer Dock 6000 uses a continuous-tone thermal dye transfer printing process, with three color layers (Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow) and a fourth clear coat for a protective, waterproof finish. The key difference between thermal dye transfer printing and inkjet technology is that the dots laid down by a 6000 are continuous-tone, meaning that they can have varying levels of density. While some inkjet printers can deposit slightly different sizes of dots, inkjet technology in general builds up tonal gradations by "dithering" fixed-size dots of color across larger areas. With dye-transfer printers like that in the Printer Dock 6000, there are no dots to be seen at all. - The prints look like a normal photographs such as you'd get from your local photofinisher.

The Printer Dock 6000 is capable of outputting up to 25 4x6 prints per load of consumables, though paper and ink supplies come as in package sizes as large as 80. (The paper tray holds only 25 sheets at a time, but you won't need to change the ink cartridge until it runs out.) The 6000's maximum printable area is 4x6 inches, roughly postcard size, and the de facto standard for photo prints in the US. Measuring 7.9 x 6.25 x 3.0 inches (20.1 x 15.8 x 7.6 centimeters) without the paper tray extended, the Printer Dock 6000 takes up relatively little desk space. With the paper tray inserted, the 6000 needs about 18 inches of total space front to back, simply because during the printing process, the print moves backward and forward through the printer. As the paper moves backward, it extends from the rear side of the printer about five inches or so. Still, that's not a terribly big space requirement compared to full-sized photo printers, and the printer can remain pushed back against the wall whenever it's not actively printing.

The 6000's duo-toned silver plastic body is fairly sleek and smooth, with minimal controls on the top panel. Weighing in at 34 ounces (1,057 grams) without ink cartridge or paper cassette, the 6000 has enough heft to keep it from sliding around on a desktop, but is still very portable. The 6000 connects directly to Kodak's CX/DX 6000 and LS600 series of digicams, via a connector on the top of the dock. As some digicams are slightly wider or smaller in size, an adapter tray ships with each camera for a secure footing on the dock. It's important to note that the dock prints using the 3:2 aspect ratio of normal 4x6 prints, so some images may be cropped slightly on the sides to make the fill the sheet, without white borders. Kodak recommends setting the image quality on the camera to the "Best 3:2" setting, to ensure your images are not cropped.

In addition to the 6000's printing capabilities, the dock also connects the camera to a computer for transferring files, and connects to a television set for image review. Because the dock also supplies power to the camera, it can charge rechargeable NiMH batteries in-camera in approximately three hours. (The Printer Dock includes an NiMH battery, making it a complete rechargeable power solution for compatible cameras.)

The "ink" (actually dye-carrying film) cartridge slides into the right side of the printer (as viewed from the front), with a small, green Eject lever to release the cartridge. A hinged, plastic door snaps shut once the cartridge is inserted.

The rear of the printer features a vent grille, paper slot, and the USB and DC In connector jacks.

The left side of the dock (as viewed from the front), holds an A/V Out connector jack, for reviewing images on a television screen.

The paper cassette loads directly into the front of the 6000, and finished prints are ejected to stack on top of the cassette. The 6000's cassette accepts 25 sheets at a time, while ink cartridges come in a maximum of 80 print capacity.

The 6000's two-toned top panel features the main camera platform, with the camera connector and a small insert for the camera's tripod mount (this helps steady the camera on the dock). Three LED lamps in front of the platform indicate paper status, battery charge level, and ribbon cartridge status, reading from left to right. On the far left side of the platform is the Slide Show button, which enables an automated slide show of images on the camera's memory card (or internal memory) when the dock is connected to a television set. A series of buttons line the front of the panel, and include the Transfer, Print Mode, Arrow keys, and Print buttons.

The bottom of the 6000 is almost completely smooth, with four rubber feet to protect desktops. Additionally, two channels route the USB and AC adapter cables under the dock and off to the side, to keep them out of the way when the printer is operating. (No photo here, there really wasn't anything to see, so I chose not to waste the screen space on it.)

 

Operation and User Interface

The Printer Dock 6000 connects directly to Kodak's CX/DX 6000 and LS600 series digicams, allowing you to print directly from the camera or transfer files to a computer. You can also print files from a computer, through the Kodak EasyShare software interface. Once the camera is connected, and the paper cassette and ink cartridge are loaded, the dock takes control of the camera and automatically displays the most recently captured image on the LCD screen. From here, you can opt to print the current image, or scroll through and select the images to be printed, one at a time. You can print either individual photo prints, multiple copies of an image, images tagged for printing on the camera, or an index print showing all the photos currently in your camera. Setup is very quick. It literally took me less than five minutes to hook up the printer, set up a print, and pull out the first printed image. (I mean, this is really easy.)

To print from the camera, you scroll through the images on the camera with the dock's arrow keys to find the image you want, then hit the Print button to print the currently displayed image. Pressing the Print Mode button repeatedly cycles through the Tagged, Current, All, and Index print modes as well. That's it! Printing is that simple. Once you've selected the print mode, hitting the Print button starts the process. The Tagged option works with the camera's DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) settings, and prints any images that you previously marked for printing in-camera. (If there are images marked for printing in the camera when you set it down on the dock, the dock will default to the Tagged print option. - You can still change to one of the other modes if you wish though.) You can also print from a computer, using the Kodak EasyShare software.

The remaining dock functions are just as simple. Transferring files from the camera to a computer is as quick as pressing the Transfer button on the dock. The camera's internal memory or memory card appears as a removable disk drove on your computer's desktop, and the dock launches the Kodak EasyShare software. To review images on a television screen, simply connect the dock to a television via an A/V cable, and press the Slide Show button to start an automated show. While in Slide Show mode, you can manually navigate through images with the arrow keys, and you can press the Print button to mark images for subsequent printing (you can also set the number of copies here). The camera's internal Slide Show control settings let you adjust the interval between frames and whether or not the show loops. Battery charging happens automatically, whenever the camera is placed on the dock. (Assuming of course, that the camera has rechargeable batteries in it. - If you have non-rechargeable batteries loaded, the dock will detect them and wisely decline to charge them.)

 

Control Enumeration


Slide Show Button
: To the left of the camera platform, this button enables an automated slide show of all images on the camera when the camera is connected to a television set.


Transfer Button
: The first button in a series in front of the camera platform, this button accesses the computer (if connected) and launches the Kodak EasyShare software. From there, images are transferred from the camera to the computer.


Print Mode Button
: To the right of the Transfer button, this oblong button cycles through the available print modes:

  • Tagged: Prints all images marked on the camera by the DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) controls.
  • Current: Prints the current image on the LCD display.
  • All: Prints all images on the camera's memory card or internal memory.
  • Index: Creates an index print of all the images on the memory card or in the internal memory.


Right and Left Arrow Keys
: Next in line to the right of the Print Mode button, these arrow keys scroll through images on the camera. They can also set the number of prints to be printed, or manually scroll through images in a slide show.


Print Button
: The final button in the series, this button enables the printing process. Pressing and holding the button for two seconds cancels a print job.

 

Output

The 6000 prints via a four-pass, thermal dye transfer process, laying down yellow, magenta, and cyan before layering a clear protective coating over the final image. The clear coating increases scratch resistance and waterproofs the surface. Prints are full-color, with continuous tone, so there are no visible dots or "dithering" patterns. The result is very sharp prints, easily the equal of conventional photographic 4x6 photos of the sort you'd get from your film camera. The 6000 prints one image to a page, or as many as twenty small thumbnails on a single "index" page, printing as many index pages as needed to accommodate all the photos in the camera. A nice touch on the index prints is that the printer overlays red rectangles on full-frame images (as opposed to those shot using the camera's 3:2 aspect ratio mode), showing how the pictures will be cropped when printed. The maximum printable area is 4x6 inches (102 x 152 millimeters) without borders. Paper size is 4x7 inches (102 x 181 millimeters), which includes two 0.6-inch (14.5 millimeter) perforated tabs on either side. Prints are waterproof and seemed to be quite durable.

 

Print Cost

A quick check of the Internet found the 20-pack color cartridge and paper kit available for $14.99, the 40-pack for $24.99, and the 80-pack for $39.99. (As far as I know, these are the list prices - The printer is new enough in the market that there didn't seem to be any retailers selling the supplies at a discount as of this writing in July 2003.) This comes out to about $0.49 per print with the 80-pack, and about $0.62 per print for the 40-pack. The 20-pack is the most expensive at about $0.72 per print. At $0.49 apiece, the prints are toward the upper end of what photofinishers charge for 4x6 prints from digital files, with many offering prints for less than that. - Of course, a key benefit of a printer like the Printer Dock 6000 is that you don't have to go anywhere to get your prints made, and can have them immediately. (In fact, portable photo printers like this are great for parties and gatherings, where you can snap photos and make prints for guests right on the spot.)

 

In the Box

Included in the box are the following items:

  • Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000.
  • Universal camera insert.
  • Paper tray.
  • Kodak EasyShare NiMH rechargeable battery pack.
  • AC adapter.
  • 10-picture sample color cartridge.
  • 10-piece sample paper pack.
  • Print head cleaning tool.
  • Kodak EasyShare Software CD.
  • User guide and registration card.

 

Conclusion

Versatile, compact, and easy to use, the Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000 is definitely worth considering by anyone who owns a Kodak CX/DX 6000 or LS600 series digital camera. The ability to print directly from the camera in just a couple of minutes can't be beat, especially considering the high quality print output. Plus, the dock's instant image transfer capabilities makes downloading images quick and easy, just as the EasyShare name implies. Finally, the built-in battery charger and included rechargeable battery pack substitute for the separate battery/charger set you'd need to buy anyway. Perfect for novices or anyone who wants to print their photos right now, and without the hassle of using a computer, the Printer Dock 6000 should be a best-seller.

 

 

 

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