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Kodak ESP3 all-in-one-printer

The Kodak ESP3 is a real penny pincher of a printer and that's a very good thing! By Robert Jensen

I may not have what it takes to use a crystal ball to tell your fortune but I can predict a few things about you; You own a computer; You don't have much space on your desk; You need to print out documents and the occasional photo; You need to scan/copy documents or photos once in awhile; You hate paying through the nose for those expensive printer ink cartridges.

How'd I do? I bet I got most of those predictions right didn't I? Especially that last one! If I did well with my predictions then I think I may have just the thing to make your life a little easier and keep some more of that green stuff in your wallets or purses. The Kodak ESP3.

The Kodak ESP3 is a printer, document scanner and copier all in one smallish package. Plus, its the nicest looking printer/all-in-one device I've ever seen with its glossy, piano black finish, Kodak yellow stripe along the front and an embossed matte black scanner lid.

However, the thing that really makes this device stand out is its low cost to operate. The two ink cartridges cost a lot less than the competition's. How about only $14.99 for the color ink and $9.99 for the black ink cartridge? Even better Kodak also offers the two cartridges together for only $22.99 OR the color cartridge plus 135 sheets of their 4x6 paper for only $19.99! That last is an especially good deal since you'll go through the color inks faster than the black (unless you do mostly text printing). As a matter of fact the Kodak ESP3 printer itself comes in at a very efficient price as well, at a suggested retail of $129. At the time of this writing I found the ESP3 at one of the major retailers for less than $100.

Installing the printer was super easy -
1. plug the AC adapter into the wall
2. turn the printer on
3. slide some letter sized paper into the tray
4. let the printer run its self calibration
5. insert one of the two supplied CD's (PC or Mac)
6. follow the simple directions for installing the software
7. plug-in the USB cable when told to
8. You're now ready for action!

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How does it rate on ...?
Copies: The Kodak software is the simplest I've ever worked with for a printer or scanner, even in the Advanced mode. While lacking the more in-depth settings that similar products from other manufacturers offer it might actually be the friendlier interface for the average consumer/home office worker. As for copies, the scanner operates up to 1,200 DPI, again for average home use its enough to get the job done and keeps the price on the unit low.

Photos: Included Kodak software has the amazing ability to automatically whiten the teeth and eyes of your subject whether that is a single portraits or a group photo. Kodak's automatic scene processing algorithms do a very nice job of balancing out the scene, plus it gives you manual overrides so you can adjust to your personal tastes. Cost per 4x6 print is about 10 cents, half or less than what it costs with many other printers.


Regular printing: For most day to day printing I recommend you select 'Draft' mode. This will save you even more on ink costs and the output is more than sufficient for most people's needs. I found the 'Normal' and 'Best' modes to use too much ink and give the sample paper (Kodak Ultimate) a wavy look in areas of solid colors. Draft mode subdued the colors a bit but left no wet look. Using 'Best' mode gave laser quality text output as viewed under a magnifier and solid colors and graphics had no banding issues. Dropping to 'Normal' mode was when banding showed up but text was still very good to excellent, and at reading distances indistinguishable from a laser printer's output.

Scanning: The ESP3 did a nice job on scanning photos and copies were satisfactory, better than what you'd get from most 1 hour labs.

Ease of use: The unit has slots on the upper right front for most of the standard format memory cards. I could plug in my SD and Compact Flash memory with and print using my printer. Some of the more expensive all-in-ones out there have an LCD display that lets you make some adjustments to your photos without benefit of having the unit hooked up to a computer. If this is important to you then you should step up to the $40 more Kodak ESP5 model with its 3" color LCD.

You can also print directly from Pictbridge enabled cameras as well as Bluetooth devices such as camera phones, PDA's and computers (with Kodak's optional Bluetooth adapter). The printer's control panel is simple and easy to figure out. It even provides a link to order more ink and paper from Kodak's online store. (right now shipping is free if you buy 3 sets or more of ink).

Final Thoughts
This printer has an interesting feature. Under the 'Advanced' tab in the printer control panel is a setting to use either 'sRGB' or 'Adobe RGB' the later offering a noticeably better color pallet in photos with deeper, richer colors. Also a 'Watermark' setting so pros can put their studio name across proof prints.

Also under the 'Layout' tab are selections for 'Normal', 'Multi-page', 'Poster' and especially nice, a 'Booklet' setting. You can also print a mirror image (for t-shirt transfers?), manual two-sided printing. Some caution should be taken during the first minute or so after prints come out of the printer. When I ran my wet thumb across a corner of a print just out of the printer and the ink smeared slightly. However, after a minute or so the ink was dry enough that smearing was no longer an issue.

Print life has been rated at 120 years under controlled conditions which should mean at least decades of life for display in albums or glass frames. During startup this unit makes some loud noise, so do many other similar units, but if you need a quiet workspace this might be a concern.

The Kodak ESP3 is a handsome device with a small footprint - approx 16.5" x 11" on your desktop, meaning it takes up slightly more space than a 15.4" laptop. That means it should fit easily on most desks with room to spare. It outputs excellent text, copies are as good as any I've seen and on top of it all it does a good job with photos. All this without breaking your bank account for the unit or consumables.

My only regret is that I didn't get this unit in for review before I'd bought a much bulkier and more expensive unit by another company, otherwise I would have bought the Kodak. That's how much I like it. You can find out more at

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Robert Jensen has spent most of his 55 years in photography, from the age of 11 when he got his first camera (a Kodak Instamatic) to the present, shooting professionally. From 1971 to 1997 he worked in retail selling photographic equipment to people of all skill levels. For most of that period he was also a manager.
Related Keywords:printer, inkjet printer, digital imaging, digital photography,

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