The new Kodak inkjet takes on Canon, Epson, and HP. Several hundred prints
and many lab tests later, the best all in one printer is...
When there's no room in the budget or space in the office for a separate photo printer, scanner, fax machine, or copier, an all-in-one (AIO) device might be your best choice. But do serious photographers give up image quality or performance by going this route? Or has premium printing and scanning technology finally trickled down into these jack-of-all-trades? That's what we set out to discover in our first AIO shootout.
We chose four AIOs representing the best values in this class -- the Epson Stylus Photo RX580 ($150 street), Canon's Pixma MP810 ($275 street), Kodak's EasyShare 5300 ($199 street) and HP's Photosmart C7180 ($379 street). All four can produce 8.5x11-inch borderless prints and scan similar sized photos or documents, with built-in card readers for direct printing from memory cards, and LCD color monitors for viewing menus. The higher priced Canon and HP models include a film holder and backlights for scanning negative and slides. In addition, the HP features a larger 3.6-inch LCD monitor, 8.5x12-inch scanning bed, Fax modem, built-in wireless Bluetooth transfer and 802.11G (WiFi) networking, and a wired Ethernet connection.
Kodak claims its new 5300 (and other inkjet models in its AIO family) can produce prints at a cost savings of up to 50% over its competitors, or 4x6 prints at only 10 cents each (about the lowest price you can get at discount online photoprocessors and well below the average cost of 4x6s from its competitors). Review units from Kodak were delayed, so we bought one for $199 at Best Buy to include it in our roundup. Did the Kodak unit live up to its bold pricing claims? Which device delivered the best prints and scans? And which is the best all-in-one for you (especially if you're on a tight budget)? Check out our test results and feature summaries below.
For a comparison of three top pro-level printers, see Michael J. McNamara's Super Printer Shootout from January, or check out our Printers Page for more information.
Canon Pixma MP810
Street Price: $275
When closed up, this looks more like a kitchen appliance than an all-in-one printer, flatbed/film scanner, and copier. But looks are deceiving, and this device handles all three functions with impressive results. The printer has a convenient dual paper path with a paper cartridge that handles up to 50 sheets tucked away under the printer, and a sheet feeder on top in back. When loaded with photo paper in the rear feeder and plain paper in the cassette, the MP810 can automatically pick the right paper for the job.
This printer packs five inks -- four (C,M,Y,K) ChromaLife 100 dye inks, and a pigment black ink primarily used for text. The 4,608 nozzles on the print head produce 1-picoliter droplets (the smallest on any ink jet printer) and delivers better photo-quality results than you'd expect from 4-color printers with larger dot sizes.
In fact, the MP810 produced prints on Canon's Photo Paper Pro with Excellent color accuracy, smooth and very detailed skin tones, and good shadow detail. However, its blacks were not as dark (L=6.08) as those from the Epson (L=4.9) or the HP (L=3.1), and it had a smaller color gamut than the Epson (but a wider one than the Kodak with 3-star paper). Print speed was very fast, ahead of the Epson on borderless 8.5x11 prints (nearly tied on 4x6-borderless) and far faster than the HP (see chart), but the paper profiles included with the printer aren't easy to decipher in the Photoshop driver, so we recommend using the Colorsync setting in Canon's print driver for the most accurate results.
As a scanner, the Canon again rivaled the Epson in speed (at the 600 dpi setting), but featured higher resolution (up to 4800 dpi), 16-bits per color internal (interpolated to 8-bits per color external), and the ability to scan both color negatives and slides. For prints and flat art, the MP810's built-in color management support and scanner profile helped it achieve an Excellent color accuracy and overall image quality rating -- the best of the bunch.
In addition to copying documents, the MP810 also can make prints directly from film and slide scans without using a computer, and its innovative scroll wheel makes it easy to navigate menus, crop, and select photos for printing on its bright and colorful 3-inch LCD. It also has a built-in card reader that handles all but xD Picture Cards, and a Direct Print connector for Canon cameras.
For about $100 more, the similar sized and designed Pixma MP960 features a larger 3.5-inch LCD and higher print image quality with its seven-color ink set (6 ChromaLife 100 dye inks and a pigment black). But in that price range, we'd recommend the HP C7180 for its additional fax, networking, and WiFi features.
Canon Pixma MP810 specs and info.
Canon Pixma MP810 ink and media prices.
Epson Stylus Photo RX580
Street Price: $150
This is the first Epson printer we've tested that uses six Claria Ultra Hi-Definition dye-based inks (CMYKLmLc), and the results were surprising. For starters, the RX580 features the highest color accuracy we've ever found in a printer (an Excellent Rating with an Avg. 3.08 Delta E) and it's also one of the fastest Epson printers we've tested, producing a borderless 4x6-inch print in just 31 sec (See chart for times). It also includes Epson's DX5 print head technology that lets it print 5 variable-sized dots as small as 1.5 picoliter for smooth tonal gradations and increased detail. Prints are water and scratch resistant right off the bat, and based on accelerated tests from Wilhelm Imaging Research, they're expected to last up to 94 years behind glass in a frame and 200 years in an album. That's slightly behind the print life of the HP in this shootout, but longer than the prints from the Canon. (Kodak's claims for its prints lasting a lifetime had not yet been verified by Wilhelm Imaging Research, but we will post those results when they are available.)
In addition, the RX580 is the only one of the test units capable of printing directly onto coated CDs and DVDs (the HP can print on CD and DVD "Tattoos", but not directly on a disc). It features direct printing from memory cards (all SD, CF, and Memory Stick types directly supported as well as xD Picture Cards) via its 2.5-inch LCD (the smallest of the bunch) and copier functions for prints and flat art. Images can also be printed from USB flash drives or memory cards, including indexed thumbnail prints of all.
As with the Canon, the Epson scan utility supports color management and includes a scanner profile. This helped it achieve an Excellent color accuracy rating. But while scans showed decent highlight and shadow detail from prints at 600-dpi setting, both the Canon and HP capture higher maximum resolution (essential for scanning film) than the Epson's maximum 1200x2400 optical dpi. However, unlike the Canon, the RX580 features a "Color Restoration" feature that improves faded photos (up to 5x7-inches in size) automatically during scanning, plus it includes a red-eye removal tool for card photos and the ability to make greeting cards without turning on a computer. It also prints banner photos from a computer with a maximum size of 8x44 inches.
If you're looking for a great 8.5x11 or 4x6 inch borderless photo printer with an occasional need for scanning prints or flat art, this Epson is a great choice for its Excellent print quality and display life, fast and accurate scans, and affordable price.
Epson RX580 specs and info.
Epson paper prices.
Epson replacement inks.