This printer can churn out lush images at poky pace

This printer can churn out lush images at poky pace

By John Breeden II and

Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

Photo-quality digital color printers used to be cranky beasts that demanded filtered water and constant tending. Users put up with them because even a top-end laser, ink-jet or solid-wax printer could not come close to rivaling a photo printer's almost continuous tone.

The Mitsubishi Electronics CP-7500DSW digital color printer wasn't cranky at all; it turned the GCN Lab into a virtual photo laboratory. OK, maybe a small photo lab'the CP-7500's largest prints are 4.3 by 4.2 inches.

The unit is a little smaller than a network laser printer at 17 by 11 by 13 inches. It's fairly heavy at 50 pounds.

In testing, the CP-7500 lost some points because it was difficult to set up. It connects to a computer through a SCSI-2 interface, which appears to be standard for photo-quality printers.

SCSI is a much faster data channel than parallel, serial or Universal Serial Bus, although SCSI is gradually being supplanted by USB and FireWire.

Despite the SCSI connection, the printer was quite slow. A USB cable would be easier to manage without sacrificing much speed.

The setup involved connecting the SCSI cable, installing the printer's software drivers, getting the SCSI card to recognize the CP-7500 and finally persuading Microsoft Windows 98 to install a printer port linked to the SCSI card.

Box Score


Digital Color Printer

Photo quality printer

Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc.;

Cypress, Calif.; tel. 714-220-2500

Price: $5,495

+ Excellent Output

' Difficult Setup

' No output tray

Mitsubishi's documentation was sparse, and we had to fall back on prior experience with SCSI printers. Users who lack such experience might have considerable trouble.

The software provided no spooler'an area set aside on the PC hard drive to hold future print jobs while the printer finishes a job. Win98 sent frequent error messages that the printer was no longer connected. A click on Ignore fixed it each time, but what an annoying glitch.

Another sticking point in the documentation: It contained confusing explanations about the software drivers. And under 'paper size,' the entries included mysterious things such as 'S(Margin cut ON),' 'L(borderless)' and 'W(Same image & 3CUT).'

What size is S, L or W? We never found out but instead guessed and moved images around until our image arrangements worked.

But once the printer got rolling, it did produce images of amazing depth and texture.

An internal spool of filmlike material acts as the medium for images created by a dye-sublimation, thermal-transfer process. The printer yields 288-dot-per-inch print resolution for up to 1,676 by 1,280 pixels in 16.7 million colors.

The Mitsubishi CP-7500DSW does a great job of creating photo business cards and trims paper margins afterward.

Picture this

Loading the spools of special paper also proved tedious.

The roller had to be in just the right place. It was comparable to hand-cranking film for an old 35-mm camera.

The word dot in dot-per-inch is misleading. You won't see any. Even under a magnifying glass, the printer's output looked continuous. GCN's own art staff thought the images were photographs, not computer printouts.

In testing the business card spool, we produced hundreds of business cards. Each spool has 300 units of printable area, and each unit is the size of three business cards. So one spool can make 900 cards.

And what cards they were. We printed photos of objects and people as well as multicolored text on different backgrounds.

Unfortunately, the printing took a long time, which is reasonable because the printer must run across the media three times, successively adding magenta, cyan and yellow tones from a thin-film ribbon.

A block of three complex cards took about a minute, simpler ones about 45 seconds.

One nice feature was that the printer cut the cards apart during the last step. But there was no catch tray, so we ended up with a pile of cards plus cutaway margins strewn on the floor around the printer.

Despite its flaws, the CP-7500 makes solid advances over earlier photo printers and offers a snapshot of the future of color imagery.


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