Kodak’s at it again, with new and inexpensive color all-in-one printers and new free software that, for Windows users, can remove blemishes and other imperfections before printing.  Intrigued?  I was.  I was also impressed.The base model, ESP 3, at a retail price of only $130 and an online price I found for that magic “under $100” price, is quite remarkable in all that it can do, and do well.  Do your own search to try and find it for $99.99 as I did.

 

This next generation of Kodak’s successful launch last year of color all-in-ones is smaller, sleeker, blacker and yet similar to the originals in all the best ways.  Using the same inexpensive inks and the same print engine underneath the hood, the output is surprisingly good, really quite vibrant.  The scanner sends images to the USB-attached Mac or Windows PC and also acts as the place to put original docs when using the copying function.  Lift the lid, place the original on the glass and select from one to nine copies, then press the Copy button.

Simple and straightforward in set-up and operation, for $100 or even at its full price of $130, it does a really good job, whether producing copies, scanning or printing documents or photos. With inks that are downright inexpensive as compared to the competition (when you compare the price and the page yield, that is), it makes color printing not the money pit it can be with competitive products.  It’s still not as dirt-cheap to print as it is on my favorite Brother black-and-white laser printers.  But for color, this is likely as inexpensive as you’ll find today, and with very good results.

In other words, as Kodak likes to say, print twice as much!  And they would like you do to just that, because it is from ink sales that all color printer companies make their money.

Photos look just great, as good as what you would get from most labs, only with one of these you get instant gratification.  No, it’s not the fastest printer, nor is it the slowest.  Its print speed is somewhat dependent upon the power of the computer to which it is connected.  Connect it to a new or old slowpoke and this and all the other Kodak printers will poke along.  You could pull your hair out.  Really.  However, connect it to a relatively new computer with, say, a couple of gigabytes of RAM and an Intel Core 2 processor or better in the 1.8GHz area and I think it will do just fine.

The Kodak paper is just fine, too.  I used their Photo Paper, which was dry upon delivery immediately upon finishing printing.  No complaints at all. And this printer is smart. When using any Kodak paper, the printer senses it, reading the backprint, the underside of the paper that lets the printer know exactly the Kodak paper that is loaded, and automatically adjusts settings for the optimized print quality.  I like this!

I like the smaller footprint and sleek, black design of the new printers.  They look completely contemporary and will fit any room, from a student’s to mom or dad’s desk, even in a dorm room.

The software installed easily, if slowly.  Just let it go and finish installation and allow enough time so you don’t get antsy waiting for it to finish.  My advice is to always check the manufacturer’s Website to get the latest software. In this case, since I knew the CDs (one for Mac and one for Windows) had what is newest, it did not matter, but as a matter of course, do check this and do not automatically install what is on the CD or you could get old software, and you would not want that!

Kodak makes a lot of noise about their new Kodak Perfect Touch Technology as part of the software package. This is the software that is an additional free download, the Kodak EasyShare software. Perfect Touch Technology in the software is what makes this and the other Kodak printers a standout. The software automatically makes adjustments to the images – pictures from digital cameras AND from scanned photos, old and new – to produce the best prints possible from the printer.  The software can correct and restore colors and reduce red-eye.

What’s new is Facial retouch editing, available only on Window PCs through the software installed on the PC.  Once the image from the camera, a scanner or some other source is in the PC, one click of the software can automatically “fix” common image problems.

 

(Before)

(After)

Sure, users can call into play expensive software such as Photoshop to repair images, but that requires time and expertise in addition to the expense. In fairness, the results from this kind of retouching may look genuinely like an original, nearly or wholly as good as any original all but the most discerning and trained eyes.  The retouching results from the FREE Kodak software require no such expertise or expense. It’s as simple as click and go. The software sees the image and analyzes its elements, recognizing the need to fix blemishes and skin tone, whiten the eyes and teeth, enhance textures and more.  Consumers have control over which faces in a group are to have fixes applied.  This is cool software that detects what is needed and can fix it before your eyes instantly, at the speed of your processor, so to speak.  What’s more, there is a preview available that shows the user what the corrected image would look like before clicking to lock in the fix.

This tradeoff of expense and the need for expertise for the ease of one-click fixing is a good one, designed to meet the needs and expectations of the general consumer, you know, most of us.  I think that, overall, it does a good job. It is, however, possible to overdo the effect, the “fixing.”  The result can be a muddled mess, an over-softened and tweaked photo, so it is wise to practice and so easy to see it in preview mode.  It either looks better or it does not.  Hey, that’s easy!  Again, though, the positives seriously outweigh any negatives.  Yet, it is my duty to let the reader know that it is not perfect.  I also wish that Kodak would provide software that works for Mac users.  Perfect Touch Technology is not the same as what Apple’s fine iPhoto does with its one-touch Enhance button, so there is room to coexist should Kodak do the right thing here.

Anyone who already owns a previous Kodak all-in-one printer can get the new software and have the same benefits.  Go to www.kodak.com -> Consumer Products -> Downloads and Drivers and then choose the correct printer and operating system.

Copied docs and photos benefit equally from the technology built-in to the printer, as well.

The ESP 3 also includes media slots that accept memory cards in all the popular formats, including xD, Memory Stick, Secure Digital, CF and the new SDHC cards, plus (with adapters) Memory Stick Duo, miniSD and MicroSD.

In addition to the media slots is a front-facing USB port for the purpose of connecting PictBridge enabled cameras that are designed to control connected printers and generate prints without needing to go through a computer. This is one of the least-used features on equipped printers. Pity, too, as this is such a wonderful convenience.  Try it!

What’s missing?  Nothing, really, for that price. For that price one would not appropriately expect an LCD display or an ADF (Automatic Document Feeder) and there are neither on this printer.  It’s a good, basic model with better than basic performance that prints a lot for a little bit of money. NOT included with this or with just about all USB-connected printers I know of is a USB cable.  Get over it. That is just the way it is in the industry. By now, you may already have a collection that includes the needed cable – “USB A to B” – the flat connector on one end and the square-ish connector on the other, the end that plugs into the printer.  You’ll want to get the proper length to go from computer to printer. I usually recommend a 6-foot cable as the universal length.  Get a 6-foot USB cable from Amazon.com for about $3.50, including shipping!

I like it. You will too!

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