Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000

Top-notch prints and easy operation makes this the photo printer of choice for compatible Kodak cameras. It does have a few drawbacks, though.

Designed to work with select Kodak cameras, the Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000 produces quality 4x6-inch prints. While we wish it ran on batteries for truly mobile operation, this photo printer is compact enough to tote on jaunts away from your computer, though its full footprint will commandeer your desktop. Overall, this 6000 is easy to use, and we like that it conveniently doubles as a recharger for your camera's batteries. It's plenty fast, too. However, be prepared to cough up as much as AU$1 a picture.

Although it's a real space hog for such a small photo printer, the solidly built Kodak EasyShare Printer Dock 6000's fast, very good thermal-dye-transfer photos justifies the desktop space it occupies. At a little more than 900 grams (not including the AC adapter) and 20.23 x 15.24 x 7.62 cm, it's compact and light, but you'll need to allot at least 45 x 20 cm of desk space, thanks to the way the paper path is designed. Its paper-supply tray juts out 16.5 cm in front, and you'll need an additional 15.2 cm behind the unit to allow the 4x6-inch prints to pass completely through during the four-step printing process. Be careful where you place the USB and power cables that plug into the back of the printer, too; careless positioning tends to cause prints to snag on the cords as they move in and out.

Compatible Kodak EasyShare cameras (such as the EasyShare 7430 we used to test this printer) come with a docking plate that fits on top and an LCD that faces forward so that you can navigate through menus and select images to print. There are five buttons on the dock for controlling key functions; one initiates the transfer of the camera's pictures to the computer, and a second lets you switch among several printing options. You can choose to print tagged photos only, all the photos in the camera, or the currently selected photo, as well as create an index print. Using the Share button on your Kodak camera, you can specify which photos to print or transfer before docking the camera. You'll find a pair of buttons for navigating photos on the camera's LCD, and they double as plus/minus keys to increase or decrease the number of prints to be made. Press the fifth button to start or cancel printing.

As the Printer Dock prints each photo, it feeds the paper from the removable front-mounted supply tray all the way through the machine and back in again as it lays down the yellow, magenta, and cyan dyes as well as Kodak's Xtralife clear, waterproof protective coating. Finished prints drop neatly onto the lid of the input tray. After printing, you'll need to remove the 0.6-inch perforated end tabs to create borderless prints; you'll have to do this carefully to avoid creasing the photos.

In standalone mode, the printing options are rather sparse. You'll need to transfer your shots to your computer and load Kodak's EasyShare software, which allows you to rotate, zoom, crop, change brightness or contrast, and add special effects. Direct printing is possible from only the Kodak camera's internal memory or memory card; unlike some competing snapshot printers, the 6000 doesn't come with additional memory card slots. However, using the Kodak EasyShare software on your computer, you can print any image you've added to its album library. The dock also comes with an A/V cable so that you can view and select your photos via your TV screen or gather the family around for a presentation using the slide-show button on the dock.

Unlike printers that take ink cartridges, the Kodak Printer Dock 6000 doesn't need to feature any kind of ink-supply "gas gauge," though we'd still like to know how many prints are left. Each paper/dye ribbon pack includes exactly the consumables required to print 40 4x6-inch photos. At AU$40 per pack, the per-print cost of AU$1 is on the high side.

Compatible with all Kodak CX/DX 6000/7000- and LS 600/700-series cameras, the Kodak Printer Dock 6000 comes with a nickel-metal-hydride battery pack for supported cameras, as well as an 24V AC adapter that can charge the battery in about three hours.

The Kodak Easy Printer Dock 6000 performed well in CNET Labs' tests. It took approximately one and a half minutes to print out a 4x6-inch photo, which comes to about 0.7 photo per minute. That's 35 percent faster than the Epson PictureMate but 30 percent slower than the current speed champ among snapshot printers, the Olympus P-10.

This dye-sub model produces very good prints, with rich colours and a reasonably broad tonal scale that showed detail in both highlights and shadows. The composite blacks (formed by combining the cyan, magenta, and yellow colours, as there is no black panel in the dye-transfer ribbon) were dense and neutral. Flesh tones were pleasing, and there was only the faintest of blue casts detectable in the whites of some prints. We did see some bleeding from the red to gray, as well as some blown-out highlights in lighter areas (such as light reflecting off the dimples of a golf ball).

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