Our daughter gave us a Kodak Instant Dock Printer PD460 photo printer for Christmas. This compact printer makes 4×6-inch prints on special photo paper, using a dye-sublimation process.
Most consumer inkjet printers promise the ability to print photographs. I own an HP Envy printer that is allegedly capable of it, but the darn thing just can’t keep 4×6 printer paper straight through the printing process. It also it uses a ton of ultra-expensive ink only to yield photos of so-so quality.
I’ve long been curious whether a dedicated photo printer would be a better choice, especially compared to sending my images out to be printed. This Kodak printer let me satisfy my curiosity.
The printer retails for about $140, and includes a starter print cartridge and ten sheets of paper. An extra $10 buys this printer in a bundle with two more cartridges and 80 sheets of paper. Additional 80-print packs retail for $35, which works out to 44 cents a print.
Pretty much any big-box or drug-store photo department beats that price. Walmart charges 12 cents for a 4×6 print. The major US pharmacy chains charge a little less than 40 cents per print, but you can usually find discount codes. But there’s the hassle cost of driving to the store to pick up the order, or the wait to have it shipped. Yet those services can also print enlargements, which the PD460 can’t. My HP Envy printer ostensibly prints enlargements up to 8×10 inches, as well.
A printer like the PD460 can make sense when you want just a snapshot-sized print or two right now. You have to be able to afford the printer in the first place, and the up-front costs of the printing supplies. If that’s not a problem for you, it’s convenient and fun to run off a print when you want one.
While you can use the PD460 to print a large batch of images, it is arguably less effort and unarguably more cost effective to send them out.
The PD460 does surprisingly pleasing work. Colors are true to the digital image and sharpness is good. The paper’s finish has a gloss to it but is not highly reflective of light, which makes prints look clean. The paper stock is flexible but not flimsy.
You print directly from your phone via Bluetooth using the Kodak Photo Printer app. There’s no way to print from your desktop computer, so clearly Kodak means for this printer to preserve memories you capture with your phone camera. The app shows you thumbnails of your photos, the most recent ones first. Tap the one you want to print. Tap the Print button to print it.
You can also manipulate the photo. Tap the square-with-a-slash icon in the upper left of the photo to add a border. Tap the Edit icon in the upper right to crop the photo; adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, and sharpness; apply filters; add colorful frames; and crate photo collages. The collage option also lets you create ID photos, such as for a passport. You can adjust brightness right on the photo itself with the slider, as well, and convert the image to black and white.
After you tap Print, the printer makes a heck of racket, whirring and grinding while it sends the paper through four times. The cartridge contains sheets of dye, yellow, magenta, and cyan, followed by a sheet of a laminating material. Each pass lays down one of these four sheets in turn. After a minute or so you have your print, and it is dry to the touch. Break off the perforated ends of the paper and you’re done.
I printed a bunch of images from my phone and then photographed them on my dining table with my Canon PowerShot S95. It’s always tricky to represent a print — do you scan it? do you photograph it? In the end, you’re making an image of an image and something will be lost in translation. Take my word for it that these are good enough representations of these prints. Here’s my wife and four of our kids in downtown South Bend.
The Kodak Instant Dock Printer PD460 makes 4×6 prints, but phones make images in the 4:3 ratio. The PD460 crops the left and right sides off the photo. To print the entire photo, pinch the photo in the app to shrink it. The print will have a top and bottom white border; if that bothers you, cut it off with a scissors. I pinched imprecisely so the border is uneven, but this gives you the idea.
I was eager to print some of my film photos using the PD460. You’d think it would print any digital file on your phone, but I had mixed success when I tried. I went to my Flickr app and downloaded a bunch of film photos I wanted to print. The PD460 prints lab-scanned images just fine.
It doesn’t usually successfully print images I scanned at home, though. Sometimes the app crashes when I tap the Print button and sometimes the printer spits out a blank print. Next I uploaded a few home scans to iCloud and waited for them to appear on my phone. More of those images printed, but I still got some blanks. I don’t get it; isn’t a JPEG a JPEG?
I learned the hard way to not reuse a piece of photo paper that came out blank. It is laminated, and dye won’t stick to it. Then the dye sheets get all jammed up in the printer. I was able to clean the sheets out of the printer with tweezers, but after that when I tried to print the app gave me an error, “Photo Paper Unrecognition.” Long story short, the manufacturer exchanged my printer for a new one.
I tried printing images from various film stocks, especially those known for bold and highly saturated color seeing if I could find the printer’s limits. Here’s a print from a scan of Kodak Ektachrome E100G.
Here’s a print of a scan of Fujifilm Velvia 50. The printer didn’t flinch.
I also found that the printer was capable of rendering good detail, as in this brick wall.
This print of a scan of Fujifilm NPZ 800 didn’t render the detail in the brick wall, however. The intense color blew out the detail.
On this photo, color from the intense blue sky is smeared onto the bright yellow traffic sign. This is also from NPZ 800.
By the way, I tried printing a collage through the app. It works, but it’s not very exciting.
I also tried a black and white conversion. All it does is desaturate the photo, which doesn’t yield a realistic tonal palette.
Here are a couple more prints, just because I’m delighted with how they turned out.
The PD460 is not manufactured by Kodak, but is rather a Kodak-licensed product produced by a company called Prinics, Inc, based in Suwon, South Korea. That’s who answered my support email and eventually agreed to exchange my printer.
In the end, the Kodak Instant Dock Printer PD460 is a fun gadget that easily and quickly makes snapshot prints of comparable quality to your local store’s photo department. It’s not without its limitations, and it may not be the right solution for printing your home film scans. But it does good work — better than some prints I’ve gotten from the drug store.
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