When it comes to choosing a new inkjet printer, you really are spoilt for choice. Add in the need for an all-in-one offering, for scanning as well, and things can become a little more complicated. Kodak plan to change this by introducing the EasyShare 5300 to the market. This is a really smart looking inkjet, in a nice white and silver finish that would not look out of place next to an iMac (though it will of course work with any Mac or PC). It offers the ability to scan, print from a selection of memory cards, and of course is a normal inkjet printer. It sports a 3-inch colour LCD screen, borderless printing, and claims of upto 32ppm in black and white, or 30ppm in full colour, which is pretty impressive.
Paper and inks are where the 5300 really excels. On the paper front you have two trays, one can be kept loaded with upto 100 A4 sheets, for regular documents and/or larger photo prints. The smaller tray sits just above this and is dedicated to 6x4 photo paper (capacity 20 sheets). You keep this loaded at all times and engage it by pushing it into the printer body a couple of inches. When engaged a green LED comes on to indicate that you are going to print from the 6x4 tray. This is a nice way of doing things, although I would prefer to select this in the printer driver on-screen rather than having to remember to engage the tray, but I guess this could just be a personal preference.
Inks and economy are taken to a whole new level. Up until now we have all been told to avoid printers that use all in one cartridges, and for good reason. Supposedly, if an ink cartridge consists of cyan, magenta, yellow and black, when just the black or cyan runs out, you have to replace the whole thing, even if the yellow is still full. With many other printers, this can be very costly. I have seen CMYK ink cartridges cost as much as £30 before, so why is the EasyShare 5300 different?
Well, the 5300 has two ink cartridges, one for the black ink and the other holds the cyan, magenta,yellow, light cyan and light magenta. In a typical scenario the black would always run out first, so it is nice that this is separate. But what about that colour cartridge? Kodak have taken a different angle on this all-in-one cartridge business. Firstly, they say that the 5300 uses less ink than its competitors (see chart). You should expect to get around twice as much printing out of a cartridge when dealing with colour and almost three times as much for plain black text documents. Add this to the fact that the black cartridge has an RRP of £6.99 and the colour just £9.99 and you can start to see just how cheap the 5300 can be to run. You can pick up a black and colour cartridge together for as little as £14.99 if you shop around. This should equate to 2p per black A4 document, 5p per A4 colour document and 7p per 4x6 photo. Suddenly, this printer starts to make sense, if it performs well it could be a winner.
Getting the EasyShare 5300 up and running was pretty easy. There was a slight hiccup, where I had just upgraded to Mac OS X 10.4.10 and the Kodak software would not install. Upon contacting Kodak support I was advised that it was not seeing the last zero in my system software, so thought I was running 10.4.1. This was a problem because the 5300 only runs on OS X 10.4.9 or later. Although this was initially a problem I must really congratulate Kodak on the prompt response to the problem. With 48 hours the driver had been fixed and I was up and running.
In use scanning was a breeze, the 5300 is TWAIN compliant, so I used PhotoShop to scan some A4 magazine pages and photos. Colours were very accurate, whites neutral and blacks where quite dense. The level of detail and density was nothing to shout about, but definitely acceptable for the home market.
Printing was also a very good experience, with nice fast black and white printing. Not anywhere near the 32ppm claim, but I did get a ten page document out in one minute. Full colour business type documents were a little slower at around 6ppm, but the colours were bright and crisp, with no spidery text. Moving onto photos and the colour reproduction was fantastic. A borderless A4 full colour photo took almost to minutes, but the colours looked very accurate, the saturation was just right and the level of detail was as good as a lab print (to my eyes). Printing from the Mac, memory card, or via a PictBridge connected camera to the 4x6 paper yielded pretty much the same results. All around 40 seconds per print and all looked very nice.
So, does the EasyShare 5300 live up to its claims? Well, in the quality department I can give it a resounding yes. Prints were crisp, had great levels of detail, and seemed very colour accurate. My only complaint was when printing A4 borderless prints, that the first one of each batch had some feint lines at the top of the print. This did not repeat itself on successive prints. The scanner is also superb, more than good enough for the home market. Copying direct from the glass to the printer was also very easy and produced good results.
In the running cost arena, the 5300 did not quite meet expectations, but I should quickly draw your attention to just how cheap it is to run. I printed out A4 black and white text filled sheets, until the black ran out and got 332 prints, which equates to 2.1p per sheet, this is fantastic and almost matches Kodak’s 2p claim. Moving onto documents with a mix of colour diagrams, a photo and black text, resulted in 178 A4 prints, which equates to 9.5p per sheet. Kodak claim 5p per sheet, but this is at 5% coverage, whereas my documents were more like 10% coverage, so again pretty impressive. Last up were a batch of full coverage 6x4 photos. Again a new set of cartridges and I loaded up the 5300 and let it run, 142 photos later and the colour cartridge was out, so this worked out at 12p per photo. Again this is very good, not quite the 7p claim, but I would be more than happy paying 12p per photo and printing them from the comfort of my house, rather than going to to a photo lab.
As a complete home printing package the Kodak EasyShare 5300 represents really good value for money. It is cheap to run and produces very good results. You also get a very good scanner and convenient copier function too. If you need to send fax documents, then take a look at the EasyShare 5500 which shares all of the features and specification in this review, but add a fax machine into the equation for an extra £70.