Mitsubishi CP3800DW review
Mitsubishi's latest dye-sublimation printers, the CP9800DW and CP3800DW, are aimed squarely at pro photographers seeking high-volume, high-quality photos at blistering speed during social events.
Like the earlier mid-range CP9550DW, the 6in CP9800DW is a 300dpi model with a 600-sheet 6 x 4in print capacity but boasts longer head life, shorter job times and better print quality. Mitsubishi claims individual print times of 8.7 seconds for borderless 6 x 4in photos, rising to just 19 seconds for a 6 x 9in print, the largest size available.
Unlike an inkjet, print sizes are dependent on both the printer ribbon and paper size. To avoid potential incompatibility and waste, both paper and ribbon are supplied together in kit form and barring accidents, the number of prints is fixed. This means that the cost per print is a known quantity; the downside is that several pricey media packs may be required to cover all the various print sizes.
The CP9800DW, for example, can print 3.5 x 5in, 4 x 6in, 5 x 7in, 6 x 8in and 6 x 9in prints but requires four separate packs to print at all sizes. Fortunately the hugely popular 6 x 8in and 6 x 9in sizes can be made from the same CK9069 270-sheet media pack but you must switch ribbon and rolls for 4 x 6in prints.
Although the special receiving paper is susceptible to contamination from fingerprints and dust, choosing the appropriate media provides the best economy, with 4 x 6in prints costing about 11p each when using the CK9046 pack. The price for 6 x 8/9in prints works out at a still very reasonable 33p a sheet.
Although equally suited for studio use, the CP3800DW is an 8in printer capable of delivering a 300dpi 12 x 8in print in 35 seconds, rising to just 45 seconds at 600dpi. Another tempting feature is the option to print two 6 x 8in photos from the same 12in ribbon patch. Using the CK3812 media with a 110-sheet capacity, 12 x 8in prints are 70p each; with a 220-sheet capacity 6 x 8in prints are 35p each - close to the CP9800DW.
This isn't quite as convenient as it sounds. Like the 6 x 9in size, the 10 x 12in print is more popular with photographers than 12 x 8in as there's zero cropping required when using a traditional 3:2 format DSLR. Nevertheless it's a welcome feature and a handy 10 x 8in option for occasional prints from the same 12in ribbon adds to the appeal. If you want to print only 10 x 8in photos, using a 130sheet CK3810 media pack works out at 61p per print.
To prevent dust from damaging prints and eliminate paper pick-up issues, like the CP9800DW, single paper rolls are housed within the 8in CP3800DW metal casing. The latter boasts a caddy for the roll paper, but both models sport reloadable cassettes for the delicate ribbon.
There's nothing between the build quality - both are very well made. Intriguingly the 3800 is half the height of the 9800 but at 14kg and 21kg respectively, neither is light. Fore and aft grab handles make the 9800 just manageable for one person to shift.
Setting up was pretty uneventful except that Mac drivers have to be downloaded from Mitsubishi's website and that despite claims, Mac OS X 10.4 doesn't support the 3800. But it works well with Leopard.
The two models come with handy strip-bins - and the 3800's draw-loading mechanism cleverly allows the plastic but seemingly well-made bin to remain attached at all times. By contrast the 9800's clip-on bin and output tray are brittle-looking and must be removed when loading media. There's no output tray for the 3800 though, which is an oversight - given the ejection speed, prints are likely to end up on the floor.