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I've never included a printer in any computer system that I've owned (well, I gave away the one that came free with my iBook). I just didn't see the point of having one around, and buying that ridiculously expensive ink (let's not even talk about photo paper) for the one time in a year that I might want to print something.

Then there came a time when I had an ongoing desire to print photographs (of Edward, and his Zen gardens). I still wasn't going to deal with the hassle of a printer, especially when I happened across a Kodak Photo Printer in a drug store one day. I figured an actual print shop (Kinko's?) might have better — as it turns out, they had the same thing.

Over the course of several months, I made obeisance to the tall yellow machine quite a few times, filling my office wall with Zen gardens and my home with Edward. It was relatively easy:

  1. take the memory card out of my camera
  2. copy the pictures onto my computer with a USB card reader
  3. perhaps make a few simple edits, such as cropping, with GIMP
  4. trot down to Kinko's, card in hand
  5. insert the card into the Photo Printer
  6. use the simple touchscreen menu to choose the pictures I wanted to print, and in what size and quantity
  7. pay about US$5.00 per sheet, which could contain 1 8x10, 2 5x7s, or myriad smaller renditions
I spent probably about US$150, maybe US$200, in all. You might say I could get a printer for that, but I still don't want the hassle. And the printer in the kiosk, even though it is something you could buy yourself if you wanted to, is a good laser printer, not an inkjet or other cheapy, so I think I'm still ahead, even if you only count up the dollars.

Geez, C-Dawg, (you may be wondering
about now) have you looked at the
title of this node?

And the big cheeses at Sony looked upon this, and saw Kodak getting all the business, and saw that it was not good.

Hey, they said[1], we can throw together some little turnkey PC-and-printer setup just as well as they can. And cut some deal with Kinko's to install ours.

So Sony made the Sony PictureStation, and Kinko's threw out all their thousands of flat yellow Kodak Photo Printers and replaced them with the more stylish Sony's with their nice brushed steel finish. They probably figured their customers wouldn't notice any real difference, right?

Well, let me tell you, there is a difference, easily spotted if you've used both. On my maiden voyage into the land of Sony, here are some things that immediately made me want to hang some Sony programmers from a yardarm.

  • You have to choose the size print that you want before you're shown the menu containing your pictures.
  • So you choose the size, then you see the pictures and you choose the ones you want, and how many.
  • Then you have to remove your media
  • Now, if you want more prints, say of a different size, you have to reinsert your media, then choose the pictures you want to print at that size.
  • Eventually, when you're done (or you hope you are — there's no summary of what you've selected), you press Go or something, and the machine tells you to go find an employee to enter the password so it will print your pictures.
  • Now you find that, while the 8x10s are okay on one normal 8½ by 11 inch sheet of paper, the 5x7s are printed off of a roll and come out with a tremdous curl. Setting one on the table, the middle arches up 1½ inches off the surface. Perfect for framing.
  • While printing my 5x7s, the machine ran out of its special roll of paper, and it took the employee about ten minutes to replace it.

In contrast, the Kodak system shows you all the pictures on the screen, and starts the printing process as soon as you choose the picture and how many you want. The only drawback some might see is that on the Kodak, you always get a complete sheet, so if you want a 5x7, you'll get two of them; if you want a wallet size, you'll get sixteen (or something), while with the Sony you can get exactly one if that's all you want. The flip side of that is that Sony's 5x7 print is borderless; with Kodak's two-up print, you have some white border (which I happen to like). Sorry, Sony, I'm not persuaded.

Next time I've got pictures to print, I'll find a drug store or photofinisher that has a Kodak Photo Printer.

[1] I don't know what they actually said, but this doesn't seem too unlikely.

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