When I wrote the blog post "Kodak printer sellout: Are consumers voting for lower ink prices?" in March 2007, I had no idea it would become a lightning rod for folks who have had problems with Kodak's EasyShare printer (ESP) line. Two years later, that blog still gets thousands of reads a month, and the 180+ reader complaints posted there vastly outnumber the positive comments.
If you read those comments, you might conclude that the Kodak unit is a piece junk. But it's not that easy. I used one heavily for three months without any failures. And Kodak's units are much cheaper to run than other ink jet printers. So I've brought another unit into my office to test.
For three months after writing that first blog post, I personally tested Kodak's EasyShare 5300 model in a head-to-head competition with HP's C5180. I ran more than 1,000 pages of text and photo prints on the unit using a wide variety of papers. While I ran into a few glitches here and there, I experienced no failures. In addition, my cost per pagefor photo printing was one third of what HP cartridges cost, and black and white copies cost half as much. If you use a lot of ink that sounds like a pretty good deal.
Readers who posted comments complained about many different problems, but the top issue appears to revolve around print head failures. Some people also had print quality issues (if this is you be sure to read the review as well as these tips on choosing the right printer paper for photos.) Many of those complaints identified the ESP-7, a newer model in the Kodak ink jet line. Users posted mixed reviews for the ESP-7 on Amazon.com. Ratings were polarized, with most users giving the unit either the highest rating or the lowest one on Amazon's five-star system.
It's possible that I just got lucky that I happened to receive a good unit when many others did not. On the other hand, while the blog post has become a magnet for folks who no doubt have legitimate complaints about their own experiences, it's hard to say whether this is truly representative of the broader group of users or simply a common meeting point for those who have had issues. Dissatisfied users do tend to be more vocal.
Kodak acknowledges that some users have had problems. "Whenever you launch into a category and you have a new product you might see some issues. But we believe that all of those are behind us now," says Cheryl Pohlman, director of worldwide product marketing for Kodak's ink jet lines. And she flatly denies that there are any known issues with print heads.
Next week, I'll be setting up a Kodak ESP 7 printer, to see how it performs over the next month or two. The unit supports wireless Wi-Fi printing - a hot feature right now for consumer ink jets, according to NPD Group, a market research firm that monitors the printer business. "A lot of consumers have had issues trying to get wireless connected [on competing printers]," says Pohlman. "Ours works really well." We'll see.
Other nice features include a separate paper tray for 5x7 photos that automatically engages for single prints and a paper sensor that not only detects the type of paper inserted (photographic, regular) but whether or not you have enough paper in the tray to complete the current job.
Let the testing begin.
Note: I've done some testing since this post. Read about my Kodak ESP 7 installation experience and first impressions here.
PS - If you have suggestions for testing or things you'd like me to look out for please put your comments below.