Dye sublimation printers provide us with archival 4"x6" prints from our digital cameras within minutes.
For years now I've wrestled with inkjet printers to produce the lingua franca of amateur photography: the 4x6 print. I've used Epsons, HPs, and Canons, only to meet the same frustrating fate. It just takes too much fiddling around to squeeze out a few borderless snapshots. Don't get me wrong, I've had great results producing colorful business forms and 8"x11" enlargements. I expect to spend a little more time on those types of output. But 4"x6" prints, whether from Photoshop, iPhoto, or directly from the camera, should be fast and simple.
So, I began researching dye sublimation printers (dye sub, for short). Not the big ones that cost lots, but those little portable units that specialize in snapshots. They use dye sublimation thermal transfer printing. After you send the image to the printer, the paper makes four passes across the printing element. The first pass is yellow, and you don't see much image detail at this point. With magenta, the second pass, it begins to look more like a photograph but not a pretty one. After the third pass, cyan, the image snaps to life and looks beautiful. Most printers add one more layer, a coating that protects against UV rays and moisture. A very nice touch! You can actually run water across these prints without damaging them. And the images last for years and years.
Many camera systems, such as Kodak, Olympus, and Canon, have matching printers for their cameras. However, if your digicam has the PictBridge protocol, it should be able to communicate with any PictBridge-compatible printer. So shop around. Here are a few models to get you started:
- Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock (One of the most popular direct printing systems.)
- Olympus D555 5MP Digital Camera with 2.8x Optical Zoom & ILP-100 Photo Printer Bundle (Camera and printer bundle for about $250.)
- Canon Selphy CP400 Photo Printer (available now on Amazon for 75 percent off - $50. I've tested Canon CP printers, and they are good!)