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Kodak Professional 1400 Dye-sub Printer Review

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Category: Dye-sub Printers
Product: Kodak Professional 1400 Printer

Kodak Professional 1400 Printer - This is a review of the Kodak Professional 1400 Printer.

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Kodak 1400 PrinterAimed at the Professional market, yet still priced competitively, the 1400 is Kodak's latest dye sublimation printer. Based on similar technology to the older and more expensive Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer, the 1400 can be bought online from shops such as ephotozineshop.com for around 350 vs around 850 for the older Kodak 8500 model.

Kodak 1400 Features
  • 90 second print-time per 8x10 sheet
  • 50-sheet capacity sheet feed
  • Ribbon feed of 25 or 50 prints
  • Prints are finished with XTRALIFE laminate
  • Maximum Image area 8.27x12 inches
  • USB 2.0 interface (Compatible with USB 1.1)
  • Maximum sound level: 60db
  • 12.7kg weight
Operation
Arriving in the ePHOTOzine office, the Kodak 1400 came in a box an A3 printer could fit comfortably in. After removing packing materials, the printer is a hefty 12.7kg to lift.

In the usual professional black and grey tones common on most printers, it has an impressive bearing when sitting on a desk. Unfortunately, it does take up quite a lot of room, but then most serious printers do.

Kodak 1400 Printer
Fig 1. A simple interface for opening the printer and showing its status
Kodak 1400 Printer
Fig 2. On pressing the "Open" button, the cover swings open.
Kodak 1400 Printer
Fig 3. The printer ribbon and internals visible.

Our review printer came with the paper and print ribbon already installed, not giving us a chance to assess ease of installation. We can report though the lift-up cover can be troublesome! There's certainly a knack to it, though it's possible our model had been slightly damaged by a previous reviewer as there was a chip of plastic off the cover. As you only need to install a ribbon once every fifty prints, and it's not a difficult knack to master, this isn't a big problem. The button on the front of the printer, labelled "Open" (Fig 1.) causes the black cover to swing up quite quickly (Fig 2.).You then have a view of the ribbon and the internals of the printer (Fig 3.). The troublesome part comes trying to close this cover, with it sometimes not "catching" in the right way.

Kodak 1400 Printer As with most dye-sub printers, the Kodak 1400 runs quite hot. To combat this it has a couple of fans, one at the rear and one at the top of the case. Whilst this keeps the printer cool, it has an unfortunate effect, with the printer making quite a noise even when not printing.

With a USB 2.0 interface, fast paper transport and printing process, an A4 print is delivered in around 90 seconds. The printer would take around one hour twenty minutes to completely print it's entire 50 sheet capacity. This compares well to most of the inkjet printers currently on the market.

Kodak 1400 Printer
The printer driver (Shown above) is quite straightforward with only the minimum of options. For the first print we set the sharpness settings to "None", assuming this would still yield a reasonably sharp print from the original file, but the print was noticeably soft, so this is best left on "Normal".

On a single A4 sheet, you can place via the EasyShare software, 1 - 8x12, 1 - 8x10, 2 - 6x8, 2 - 5x7 or 4 - 4x6 photos. The price per print will be the same regardless of density etc.

A nice benefit of the Kodak 1400, is the XTRALIFE laminate it adds to prints. Sealing the print with this special coating makes it waterproof and fingerprint proof. The print is dry as soon as it emerges from the printer and could even be framed immediately. If you're giving the prints to a customer frame-less, they may well be re-assured to see the "Kodak Proffessional" print on the back.

Print quality
Being squarely aimed at the Pro market, expectations for print quality were quite high when we recieved this printer. One huge advantage it has over inkjet rivals, due to its dye-sub technology, is excellent consistency. There'll be no starting to run out of ink half way through a print or other inkjet troubles.

Colour accuracy, as we'd expected, is spot on, showing a true copy of the original source image. Detail levels are very good, comparing very well to some of the best inkjet technologies available.
Kodak 1400 Printer The only problem we really had with the Kodak 1400 printer was that, due to dirt / dust in the mechanism, there were different coloured marks where the printer couldn't fully print (as illustrated above). This is a problem that affects the majority of dye-sub printers to some degree. We think it was worse in this case, because the printer we received was a review model, probably being sent to several other publications before it reached us. As a result there'd been a build up of dust and dirt in the box and it wasn't packed as well as it would have been leaving the Kodak factory. So with a new printer and with proper care taken, there shouldn't be a big problem with these sort of marks. It's definitely something to bear in mind when transporting and storing your printer though, should you buy one. Kodak 1400 Printer
Crop from original file Kodak 1400 Printer
Print from Kodak 1400 Kodak 1400 Printer
Print from Canon i9100
The above three images give an indication of the level quality you can expect from the Kodak 1400. Please note though that some of the decrease in quality, from the original file to the print, will be from the scanning. The original print is slightly higher quality than shown here. This is particularly true with regards to colour accuracy. We've put a print from the Canon i9100 in as well, for reference.

Verdict
Despite being unlucky with our printer having a bit more dirt in it than normal,we're still happy with the standard of print it produces. If we'd had a brand new printer, we're sure there would have been no problems with marks on the prints.

So whether a professional or a high-level amateur, the Kodak 1400 provides a good route into professional quality printing. Providing you take care to keep it clean, and bearing in mind the caveat of noise levels, we'd have no hesitation in recommending it.

In summary the main positive points of the Kodak 1400 are:

Good colour accuracy
Fast print speed
Competitively priced, especially compared to older models
Easy to setup and use
Excellent XTRALIFE coating

Negative points are:

Some could find it noisy
Need to be careful to keep it dirt / dust free
Quite large and heavy to transport

PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER'S VIEW
We invited professional photographer, Mike French of Meonshore Studios, to test the printer and give a second opinion:

I received my Kodak 1400 directly from ePHOTOzine towers after their review, to reduce the delay in it arriving via Kodak. Whilst the team had packed it well, it has suffered from being a review machine for much of the UK press and was not in good condition when it arrived. Lacking a power cable, USB cables, installation CD, instructions and most importantly, it seems, the plastic bag wrapping to seal it from the environment. The unit also had a broken hinge on the lid of the printer that provides access to the thermal head and sheets of dye.

You might ask why I start my review with this information and hopefully it explains some of my comments and also why I am optimistic for this printer overall.

Once out of the box the printer is reasonably heavy, quite compact (without the media tray in position) and solidly built. Given the lack of instructions it was simple to assemble, and once I had found the necessary missing cables in my spares box, and had received a copy of the driver installations files (thanks to Joe Fox via FTP as the Kodak website could not complete a download), the machine was installed and up and running within 20 minutes.

Prior to running more scientific tests I ran a couple of test prints though the machine, and was disturbed with the amount of missing ink, and or dust specks/spots of colour that appeared on the print. These appeared randomly and in different places as additional prints were made. It does appear that this unit does suffer from problems with dust, and whilst I understand that it was printing well after a fashion at ePHOTOzine the transit in the box to my office seems to have caused it to pick up dust again. Now this might have been due to the damage on the lid but certainly the lack of the protective plastic bag to wrap it in. This does give me cause for concern as this printer would be used by me for events, and would be transported around the country – not just sat in my office under a dustsheet.

After consultation with the ePHOTOzine team, and reading through the maintenance section of the instructions I cleaned the thermal head with some eclipse fluid (normally used for sensor cleaning) and passed another seven sheets through the unit. It now prints perfectly with no signs of dust – but as yet has not been moved from my office. If I do so, then it will be sealed in a bag prior to transport.

Once happy with the quality I ran a series of five different images through at 10x8in and then repeated my tests on an A4 Epson 890 printer. The Kodak 1400 prints with alarming consistency of duration with printer activity beginning after about 6 seconds after initiating the print from Photoshop CS. The finished, laminated, touch dry, print was ready in between 1:16 and 1:23 with most of the prints finishing in 1:17. Conversely the inkjet took considerably longer (photo-quality setting) and whilst again the printer jumped into life after about 10 seconds the final print – which of course would still required time to become touch dry – was in the order of 4:13 to exit the printer. One print took an alarming 9:26 although it was the exception in the batch.

I then compared the quality of the prints. The Kodak did a good job of coping with the range of tones, and made good solid blacks. It did struggle with a high ISO (1600 on a Canon 1D MkII) and was in this respect outclassed by the inkjet, which appears to cope with the noise in a more subtle way. But for prints that do not exhibit much noise I was impressed.

Finally I took a look at cost. The Kodak paper and dye comes as a pack and a sheet of red, yellow, blue and laminate are used for each sheet, and so there is a definite cost to each sheet irregardless of the image or size of print on the paper. This is about £1.70 per sheet (incl. VAT) of either 8.5x12in or 8.5x14in and of course depends on where you get the supply from, as cost will vary. The inkjet is harder to estimate as the volume of ink used varies depending on the image. I use Epson paper and inks, and estimated a cost of 50p for the paper (Epson premium semi-gloss) and probably £1.50 for ink to come to a cost of about £2.

Let me turn to why I would use this printer before I summarise my findings. This is really a printer suited to event work – balls, parties, and sporting events. The immediacy and consistency of the print speed with its dry and robust finish is ideal for the impulse purchase market. As such it has many qualities that suit it to this use. The paper size can accommodate a 10x8in print, and cunningly 2x 8x6in, or smaller if you have the time and inclination to stack them on the one sheet. This is unique in this market with most dye sublimation printers only coping up to 9x6in. That said the small tray capacity and dust issue are a concern, and I suspect that most of my sales are going to be 8x6in and very few 10x8in.

Having a definite print cost is perfect for accurately evaluating your cost of goods and therefore the profit made on a sale. I do know of photographers using this printer in their studio and I would consider it for one-off quick prints in preference to sending a shot away to my pro-lab (in-fact I did that today as a preview print for a client) so it does have other uses in a professional market.

I would however use my pro-lab for volume and non-immediate work as I can get a 10x8in for approximately £1.50 from them, and they are able to print in lustre finish, my preference, which is currently unavailable in this Kodak model.

Verdict
On reflection this is a good unit, certainly capable of professional use and abuse and able to produce prints that I would be prepared to sell to my clients. Now that I have the dust issue seemingly under control I’m more confident about using it in an event situation where both my finances and reputation will rely on the output from it.

Pros
Fast and consistent print speed
Good colours and quality for most images
Known cost of a print
Client ready print on completion
Large maximum print size

Cons
Dust and markings on prints
Noisy when printing
Lack of lustre finish
Reduced quality with ISO 1600 images

Second opinion by Mike French, Meonshore Studios
www.meonshorestudios.co.uk

 

 



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