Dye Sublimation Photo Printers

Although inkjet photo printers are more common, several companies (Olympus, Kodak, Canon, Hi-Touch Imaging, and others) market another type of printer that employs entirely different technology. Such machines are referred to by several names: thermal dye-sublimation, thermal dye diffusion, and dye diffusion thermal transfer, depending on the exact technology that is used. Frequently abbreviated as dye-sub, this technology employs dyes that are stable and highly resistant to fading. (Specific lightfast ratings are rarely published.) The prints are made by applying heat to a ribbon; a colored gas is produced (sublimated) and impregnated into the surface of the paper. Most dye-sub printers apply a protective laminate coating to the prints, useful for greater resistance to the damaging effects of direct sunlight, humidity, fingerprints, and water droplets. Dye-sub printers are designed to print at a printer resolution of 300 dpi or 314 dpi, all that is required for exceptional prints with the dye-sub technology.

Dye-sub printers are fast and produce enduring prints, said to outlast conventional (silver halide) photographs when on display. Although print quality depend on the printer, dye-sub prints are generally sharp, with a rich, vibrant color rendition. The dyes are applied in gaseous form and produce continuous areas of color instead of actual dots on the paper; this makes for a continuous tone output. When compared with an inkjet print, a high-quality dye-sub print more closely resembles a conventional photograph; consequently, some photographers prefer dye-sub prints.

Most dye-sub printers are designed for making borderless prints that are 5.8" x 3.9", or 4" x 6", in size. Some models can only print directly from a digital camera. Others can also print from a computer when connected with a USB cable. Some of the HITI series models from Hi-Touch Imaging include slots for printing directly from some digital camera memory

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i cards. The small-format (for making 4" x 6" or smaller prints) dye-sub printers (see Figure 5.11) range in price from $149 to $300, about the same as many larger inkjet photo printers that can generate borderless 8.5" x 11" prints.

You can also find larger dye-sub printers that can make prints with a maximum printable area of 8" x 10", such as the $1000 Kodak Professional 8500 Digital Photo Printer. This machine primarily targets professional photographers and small photo labs. At the time of this writing, a more affordable model was available, the Olympus P-400, that accepts paper as large as 8.25" x 11.7" with a maximum printable area of 7.64" x 10". Models that will make larger dye-sub prints are available too, but these are intended for use by high-volume commercial labs and are priced accordingly ($5000+).

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Figure 5.11: The small-format dye-sub printers, such as this Kodak DX6000, are intended for those who do not need large prints but who want excellent quality in fade-resistant prints.

It is easy to compare the cost of consumables when comparing several dye-sub printers. That's because each machine accepts only a proprietary kit containing a supply of special paper and a new ink ribbon cartridge. With a bit of math, you can quickly calculate the exact cost per print, for paper and "ink."

As discussed earlier, dye-sub printers have certain benefits, but they have drawbacks as well. The machines are expensive when compared with inkjet printers, and consumables are also more expensive. Only a few of the large, prohibitively expensive commercial models can make prints larger than 8" x 10". A dye-sub printer requires special paper (thermal media), available only in one or two finishes and only from the manufacturer. Finally, dye-sub printers are designed exclusively for printing photos. Hence, they are less versatile than inkjet printers, which accept a broad variety of media and can also be used for printing text and documents. Dust can also be a problem in dye-sub printers, leaving blank specks on the image.

Get Paid to Take Digital Photos

Get Paid to Take Digital Photos

Reasonable care has been taken to ensure that the information presented in this book isĀ  accurate. However, the reader should understand that the information provided does not constitute legal, medical or professional advice of any kind.

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