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Kodak is one of the most recognizable names in the photo industry. It seems logical that a company so well-versed in photo developing and printing would create an outstanding photo printer. With Kodak’s claim of having the cheapest ink costs, we were enticed to give the Kodak ESP-7 a closer look.
Kodak’s lineup of ESP printers currently includes two ESP-3’s, two ESP-5’s, the ESP-7 that we reviewed, and the ESP-9. All are all-in-one printers that can print, copy and scan. Their suggested prices currently range from USD 99.99 to USD 299.99. At a suggested price of USD 199.99 the ESP-7 is right in the middle of the pack.
As shown in Figure 1, the Kodak ESP 7 comes in a bright yellow and white box.
Inside the box, you find the printer, nicely wrapped and padded (as shown in Figure 2). You will also find the ink cartridges covered in plastic and the print head encased in foil, as shown in Figure 3.
Unpacking the box and the printing materials reveals the printer itself, shown in Figure 4, along with other materials, shown in Figure 5. These include the Kodak black ink cartridge, Kodak color ink cartridge, paper sample pack, power supply, adapter cord, Startup Guide, and Kodak Printer Software for the PC and the Mac. The sample pack includes 5 sheets of 4" x 6" (10 x 15 cm) Kodak Ultra Premium Photo Paper and 10 sheets of letter-sized (8 ½" x 11", 216 × 279 mm) Ultimate Paper.
[nextpage title=”The Printer & Setup”]
As you have seen in Figure 4, the printer itself is a fairly large boxy device with rounded corners. The printer top, sides, and back are a frosted black finish. The top is adorned with small shiny black squares in a design which lends a slightly stylish look to the printer. The front panel, including the touch screen is a shiny black surface. The printer is 17.5” wide × 7.4” high × 17” deep (44.5 cm x 19 cm x 43 cm). The top of the printer measures only 12” (30 cm) deep, but a bump out in the front and back, as seen in Figure 6, add several inches to its actual depth. The printer weighs in at 18.7 pounds (8.5 kg).
The flat bed and top of the printer lift to expose the print head and ink cartridges, as shown in Figure 7.
If you follow the included Start Here Guide, the printer setup is easy. It can be attached to one computer via USB cable, attached to a network via Ethernet cable, or setup wirelessly on a wireless network. The USB cable and/or Ethernet cable is not included. For the setup, you will need a USB cable if you want to hook one computer up directly to the printer. You will, however, also need to hook the printer up to a computer by USB cable to perform any firmware updates that may be necessary.
While many printers require that you hook the computer and printer up with a USB cable in order to get it on a wireless network, the ESP-7 does not have this requirement. So if you are putting it on your wireless network, no USB cable is required. In fact, this printer was one of the easiest we’ve seen to get on a wireless network. It immediately saw the network and connected. An on-screen keyboard let’s you enter the password if your network is encrypted. The only problem you may have is that the printer keyboard that is used to enter the password is set to default to CAPS. Most people do not use all caps for their password, so you may have to tap a button to make the keyboard revert to small letters.
This was one of the easiest printer setups that we’ve seen. Total installation including hooking the printer up to a wireless network took less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately, when it was completed, the printer would not print. It went through all the motions of printing, but produced only blank pages. We immediately thought of a bad print head, but decided to contact Kodak to see what troubleshooting they required. Although the Kodak website said that online chat was to be available 24/7, when we tried to use it we were given a message saying that online chat was “unavailable.” Luckily, Kodak’s telephone number was clearly given in the Start Here Guide.
The Kodak representative was polite and intelligent. Although he had a foreign accent, his English was understandable. After a 25-minute telephone troubleshooting call, he decided that we needed a new print head. He ordered it and said it would arrive in 3 days, which it did. With the new print head installed, the printer worked just fine.
We can’t be certain whether this was an isolated event or not, but this year’s Printers Service & Reliability Survey 2009 by PC Magazine, shows that Kodak’s percentage of products needing repairs is the highest on the marketplace at 31%. That is almost one in three Kodak printers needing repair, which indicates that this may be a commonplace occurrence with this batch of Kodak printers.
Once working, the ESP-7 was easy to operate. As you can see in Figure 8, the large 3" color LCD display is bright and clear. In this Figure, you can also see all of the printer’s controls. On the left side is the On/Off button. Under that is the network status light. To the right are the Menu button and the Zoom buttons that lets you zoom in and out of a photograph. The main menu has several choices: Copy Document, Copy Photos, View and Print Photos, Scan, Network Settings, Printer Settings, Maintenance, and Help. Scrolling is done by the 4-way navigation buttons to the right of the screen. The OK button in the center of the 4-way buttons confirms the choice. The Cancel button
on the right will cancel the function, while the Start button will start the operation.
Each menu choice will bring up more choices like the number of copies, the type of copies (color or black and white), etc. Although there are many nested menus, they are easy to navigate.
The front of the Kodak ESP-7 also sports slots for the major types of memory cards including Compact Flash, SD (Secure Digital), MMC (Multimedia Card), and xD (xD Picture Card), and Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, as shown in Figure 9. There is also a USB port that is PictBridge compatible. The idea is that you can plug your media card directly into the printer, view your pictures, and print them.
Our problem was that the printer would only read certain media cards on a hit or miss basis. It read some Compact Flash cards, but not others. The same thing happened with other types of memory cards.
This forced us to go to Kodak tech support once again. This time the online chat was available. After many questions, we were told that the printer needed a firmware update and you had to attach it to a computer with a USB cable to do that. We did. The firmware would not update. After 1 hour in the chat, the representative was willing to go farther into investigating why we could not update the firmware through the typical methods. Since this was projected to take at least another hour, maybe more, so we decided not to pursue it for our test machine. The problem remained unsolved. Our take is that a brand new printer shouldn’t cause this much trouble.
We went on to test out the rest of the printer. We found that the legal-size main tray holds 100 sheets of paper and can accommodate many other media types. Above the main tray is a supplemental piggybacked photo tray that holds 40 sheets of 5-by-7-inch (13 x 18 cm) or smaller photo paper. You can see both trays in Figure 10. Unfortunately, both of these trays are under the tray where the print jobs eject and you have to lift the tray each time you want to add more paper. It’s not terrible, but it’s not the greatest design.
The paper try arrangement is also problematic for printing envelopes as you have to remove any existing paper from the standard paper tray and put the envelope in the tray and then slide the paper guides to hold the envelop in place.
The Kodak ESP-7 is good printer, but it is no speed demon. Kodak says it prints borderless KODAK lab quality 4" × 6" (10 x 15 cm). photos in as little as 28 seconds and prints documents up to 32 pages per minute in black and 30 pages per minute in color. We couldn’t get the printer to live up to these claims, in fact our testing showed it to sometimes take twice as long as Kodak stipulated, especially when used over the network. The fact is, however, although other reviewers have complained about the slowness of the printer, we didn’t find that a huge drawback. Most home and small business users are willing to wait a few extra seconds if they get quality prints.
The print results of this Kodak, however, were mixed. On plain copy paper, black text was crisp and clear. However, color graphics and photos were washed out, grayish, and generally, not very pretty. However, when using Kodak plain paper, the results were quite a bit better. The problem is that most people don’t want to spend extra money on the plain paper that they use for everyday printing.
Where the ESP printer excelled in color was in printing photographs. Like the other ESP printers, it has a 2-cartridge, 6-ink system. The black ink is in one cartridge. The color plus a special photo coating is in the other.
On photo paper by other manufacturers, the color photos sometimes looked banded. We had to adjust the printer controls to work with the paper which took some time and trouble. But when used with Kodak photo paper, the Kodak printer automatically read the paper type and produced beautiful results. Kodak photo papers are bar-coded; the printer senses the code and adjusts itself accordingly.
In fact, borderless prints on high end glossy Kodak paper looked great! They easily stood up to Kodak’s assertions that they would appear to be lab quality photos. And everything is done automatically, so you don’t have to play with the settings. The photos dry instantly and have the nicest finish that we’ve seen on an inkjet printer.
One of Kodak’s big draws is that their printers require less ink and that their ink is cheaper. The box reads “Save $110 a year on ink.” Kodak asserts that consumers can print up to twice as many photos and documents for their money. These assertions are difficult to prove. When tested by Popular Photography and others, they didn’t hold up. However, Kodak and Popular Photography used entirely different methodologies in their testing.
In our testing we believe that the average consumers will pay less for the Kodak inks because the Kodak ink is cheaper than that from most other manufactures. A black ink cartridge costs USD 9.99 and a five-ink cartridge costs USD 14.99. However, you may lose your ink savings since you have to purchase somewhat expensive Kodak paper to get the best quality prints.
The true bargain, however, is to purchase consumables in one of Kodak’s Photo Value Packs. Each of these packs contains a five-ink cartridge and photo paper. There are several combinations including a Photo Value Pack and the Premium Photo Value Pack. If you print photos, this can really keep the cost of consumables down.
The included software and/or the touch screen lets you adjust the paper size and choose the photos you want to print quite easily. In fact, when using the software, you could easily crop a photo and still have it print in the size you requested with pretty near perfect results. Our only complaint was that we would like to be able to print smaller prints as easily as as 4” x 6” (10 x 15 cm) and 5” x 7” (13 x 18 cm) prints. Perhaps Kodak will soon realize that today there are many collage photo frames and smaller frames that we would like to be able to create smaller prints for.
Prints from this unit have been well-rated for fade resistance by highly acclaimed Wilhelm Research laboratories. In fact, Henry Wilhelm, president of Wilhelm Imaging Research stated, “The Kodak printers, pigment-based inks, and photo papers and plain paper have achieved the highest level of overall print permanence of any current consumer desktop printer system.” To the average consumer, this means that the photos printed with this printer on Kodak paper will be well-preserved for a lifetime without special care. So this is a great printer if you want to print lab quality photos inexpensively and you want them to last without fading.
[nextpage title=”Additional Features”]
The Kodak ESP-7 is a capable scanning
device. The top of the printer lifts to reveal a standard A4 flatbed, as shown in Figure 11. Included software lets you run the text through optical character recognition. Scan quality is good. Although color scans show a slight fading, this can easily be made more vibrant with software.
The scanner produces good quality 2400 ppi scans at 48 bits. One very nice feature is that you can scan multiple pictures simultaneously and the software will automatically make sure each is straight and will scan into a separate file. This is a great feature if you are scanning in a lot of old family photos. Also, the unit lets you scan directly to a memory card or USB stick, which can be quite convenient.
If you like a quite world, the Kodak ESP-7 might be a little jarring. The actual printing is not too loud, but the paper handling can generate a lot of noise. You will definitely hear the paper running through the printer and will also hear the paper trays moving into place.
Copying is easy with the Kodak ESP-7. The touch screen walks you through the number and types of copies that you would like and the copies are adequate for most purposes. You can copy without a PC.
When you copy a photograph, you can copy in black and white or color. You can also set brightness and preview.
The included Kodak software is easy to use and has many editing tools that allow you to crop, edit, and adjust your photos. This software also allows you to use the Kodak Perfect Touch processing to restore photos and remove red eye right. This works quite well. There is also a facial retouch editing feature that reduces the appearance of skin blemishes and enhances facial features. While this made a dramatic difference on some photos, it didn’t do much for others.
Kodak sells a Bluetooth adapter for USD 50. You can also purchase an autoduplexer for two-sided printing.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
Kodak ESP-7 All-in-One printer main specifications are:
- Dimensions: 17.5” × 7.4” × 17” (44.5 x 19 x 43 cm)
- Weight: 18.7 lbs (8.5 kg)
- Print sizes: up to 8.5" x 14" (US legal size, 21.5 x 35.5 cm)
- Paper capacity: full size paper tray holds 100 sheets plain paper / 40 sheets photo paper
- Photo tray: dedicated photo tray holds 40 sheets small format photo paper
- Display: 3 in. LCD (color)
- Connectivity: built-in Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g) and two USB ports (one on the front and one on the back). Bluetooth optional (requires adapter).
- PICTBRIDGE enabled
- Supported Memory Card Formats: CompactFlash (CF) I, II and microdrives; Secure Digital (SD)/Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC); Multimedia Card (MMC); XD-Picture Card (xD); Memory Stick (MS)/Memory Stick PRO (PRO)
- CIS (Contact Image Sensor) scanner, 2400 dpi at 48 bit;
- Scan documents and photos up to 8.5" x 11.7" (21.5 x 30 cm);
- More information: https://www.kodak.com
- MRSP in the US: USD 199.00
We were honestly impressed by the quality of the prints and the ease of printing that this printer produced when printing on Kodak paper. It eliminated the stress of choosing the proper paper and the proper settings which ultimately eliminates mistakes and wasted paper and ink. We were equally impressed with the ease of use and the ease with which the printer attached to a wireless network.
Unfortunately, poor quality control and other problems plague this printer. We also have read complaints about paper jamming, but our printer did not exhibit any problems in this area.
While the photos are truly beautiful, we would also like to see a better quality color print on regular, non-Kodak paper which some other printers seem accomplish quite easily.
In fact, because of the problems we had, we cannot recommend this printer. Who wants to buy a new printer only to spend hours with technical support to get it working properly? Yet, we feel that Kodak is a printer manufacturer to watch very carefully. Kodak’s first digital cameras came up short, but after several generations, we found them to be greatly improved. If Kodak can work through their problems with these printers, we feel they could create exceptional printers.
- Excellent prints on Kodak paper
- Very easy to print photos on Kodak paper
- Wireless connectivity easy to set up and use
- Separate photo paper tray
- Excellent fade resistance and photo longevity
- Multiple memory card slots
- Easy to navigate menus
- Good touch screen
- Automatically straightens and separates multiple photos during scan
- Fairly slow network printing
- Colors on plain paper (non-Kodak) appear washed out
- Test printer needed new print head
- Not all media cards worked with test printer