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Mitsubishi CP-D70DW dye-sublimation printer review


Roll-fed dye-sublimation transfer printers are often used in photo-kiosks but with their fast operation and touch dry photos, they’re also the printer of choice for event photographers.

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Mitsubishi Electric CP-D70DW

Rating 4.5/5 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Price
£1214 (£999 ex VAT) $1,399.95
Contact
Mitsubishi Electric; www.mitsubishielectric.co.uk www.mitsubishi-imaging.com
Needs
Mac OS X 10.5 or Windows XP later
Pros
Print quality, job times, low media costs, durability, build, noise levels
Cons
Noise levels, paper handling niggles, colour profile on request



Buy at Adorama Camera (US) at $1,279.95, plus mail-in rebate available. Buy at Amazon US (sold by Adorama).

Buy the Dual deck CP-D70DW at Adorama now at $1,939.95, plus mail-in rebate (was $2,950).



Introduction


Unlike the process of dithering liquid ink in an inkjet, dye-sublimation printers produce authentic continuous tone images with an analogous look like that of a conventional lab-produced print. They achieve this using thin cellophane ribbon with wax-like dyes that are heated to form a gaseous exchange of dye onto special receiving paper.

Typically, the ribbon has three (CMY) coloured panels of dye plus a fourth over-coating offering durable protection of prints from, moisture, UV and even greasy fingerprints.

Benefits like these are the main attraction for event photographers, and print costs are competitive. Early versions were literally no different to those used in retail photo-kiosks but the recent shift to more compact desktop models is proving attractive not least due to the reduction in size and weight, in many cases around half that of previous offerings.

Mitsubishi’s latest dye-sublimation printer, the roll-fed CP-D70DW is a compact desktop model weighting 12kg and capable of printing high-quality photos up to 6-inches wide at high-speed and with the minimum of fuss.

The £999 (ex VAT) CP-D70DW offers print sizes of 3.5x5-inch, 4x6-inch, 5x7inch and 6x8-inch, from three ribbon sizes. Popular with time-pressured event photographers a fourth size, 6x9-inch, mimicking the uncropped 3:2 format of DSLRs should have been released by the time you read this.

To avoid potential pitfalls such as mismatching of sizes, both ribbon and roll paper are sold together in media packs. Print capacity is quoted as 400x 6x4-inch sheets or 200 sheets at 6x8-inch per media pack and costs are some of the lowest for this type of printer at around 19p ex VAT (30 US cents) per 8x6-inch sheet.

If you’re wondering why you can’t print a 6x9-inch print on 6-inch wide paper, it’s because the ribbon patch determines the size of the print, matching the paper precisely, and simply isn’t physically big enough. While presumably the paper won’t change, Mitsubishi will have to produce new 6x9-inch ribbon and update the drivers.

Setting Up





Setting up is a quick and relatively straightforward affair. Unlike earlier offerings, the delicate ribbon is loaded first into a cassette tray making the installation process far simpler and risk free. Installing the paper is marginally more-fiddly but that’s to be expected. Plastic flanges must be inserted into either end of the paper roll while spacers are used for the smaller media sizes.

Inside the printer, however paper guides must be manually set for either the 5-or-6-inch wide media. It’s a pity this doesn’t take place automatically as this is easily overlooked, what’s more it’s crucial to prevent a paper-jam or misaligned print.

That said, media sizes are unlikely to be switched frequently, and then only when installing new packs where warning labels located inside are likely to remind. In terms of ease of access the front loading tray is a high spot, and even with the inevitable shift in weight, the printer doesn’t tip forward alarmingly like some rival offerings

Drivers





Windows drivers are included on the bundled CD but the Mac driver must be downloaded from the Mitsubishi Electric website. The Mac driver was originally written for Leopard (OS 10.5) though it runs well enough under OS 10.6. Colour management options a choice of either None (application managed) or Tone 1 (printer managed).

If using Windows for a printer managed workflow the driver has some additional colour control settings, to save time adjusting each image before printing. Bearing in mind most event photographers prefer to use the printer driver to colour-manage, the lack of additional colour correction options in the Mac driver seems like an oversight.

It’s not a deal breaker, though, especially as we would recommend using an application-managed workflow for more predictable colour. With just one media type available and no quality settings, only one colour profile is required so it’s hardly challenging. Mitsubishi don’t provide a generic profile but you can contact them directly for one free of charge, as I did.

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Application-managed workflow via Lightroom is simple enough once you've been sent the generic profile (although if you've a spectrophotometer, you can make a profile yourself).
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Lightroom makes colour management simple, in this case managed by the printer. But you must remember to change the driver setting for Color Conversion (above) from None to Tone 1.





In use with either a Windows machine or a Mac, accidentally selecting the wrong print size or layout for the media loaded from within an application (such as Lightroom, for instance) resulted in the print job being halted, seemingly to save unnecessary wastage. Ordinarily, choosing the wrong format for the media loaded has no real impact other than to waste a single sheet. Although slightly tiresome at first, as it’s not immediately obvious what the problem is, once corrected it was fine.


With a 29-second cycle for a 6x8-inch print, including 12 seconds processing time, job times were pleasingly short. And noise levels, something of a weakness of roll-fed dye-subs, were barely audible in standby mode rising to a reasonable 50dB at rest peaking to 70dB during output. Best of all though was the print quality.

With no real discernible difference using the default settings between the two colour management options, colour accuracy was excellent when compared with the Kodak test prints provided as part of the Colour Confidence / Kodak Professional Colour management Check-Up Kit.

Reds and oranges especially were pleasingly more vibrant though I suspect the brighter white base of the Mitsubishi paper over the test print (printed on Kodak Professional Endura) was the reason. This could also go to explain the entirely convincing yet slightly more neutral-looking mono (Black and White) output. Mono isn’t likely to be the first choice for event photographers but at least the CP-D70DW offers that as an option.


In terms of rivals, the front-loading DNP DS-40 is the most obvious competitor and offers both 6x8 and 6x9 inch prints and is slightly cheaper ($1,249.94 / £941 ex VAT) although the Mac driver has slightly ambiguous colour management options and it can’t quite match the Mitsubishi in terms of print quality. With the 6x9-inch media pack being the only real hitch*, the Mitsubishi CP-D70DW stands out in terms of build, ease of use, speed of operation, and picture quality, making it a solid choice for the event photographer.

* UPDATE (11 May 2011), 6x9-inch media is now available.

Rating 4.5/5 HIGHLY RECOMMENDED



Sales


Buy at Adorama Camera (US) at $1,279.95, plus mail-in rebate available. Buy at Amazon US (sold by Adorama).

Buy the Dual deck CP-D70DW at Adorama now at $1,939.95, plus mail-in rebate (was $2,950).

Media is not included in the price (unless it's part of a special promotion); you will need to buy media to be up-and-running. Please follow the link here (currently only special).

Thank you for using this site's links.

UPDATE 8 June 2011


We've had a few emails about UK stockists (please feel free to leave comments below instead - it's far easier). I've only had dealings with Mitsubishi directly, but I also know Photomart (based in London) is one of the UKs leading B2B retailers of dye-sub machines.

To buy the CP-D70DW at £925 ex VAT (£1,110inc VAT) from Photomart, please follow the link here.

Comments

  1. Do you know where i can get compatable media from? i was at a weddign where they had a photobooth using the cp-d70dw printer and it was using compatable media!

    as the paper didnt have any writing on the back of it!

    thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. Adorama sells both the 5x6 and 8x6 media at competitive prices (same as Amazon anyway) and they do bulk discount for two or boxes. There'a a link to the Adorama page above (I get a small referral fee but you don't pay extra, and helps to run the site).

    ReplyDelete

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