Mitsubishi CP9600DW Inverness

Mitsubishi's latest printer is a one-trick pony - its principal task is to produce high-quality photographic prints. The big news about the CP9600DW is that it's the first 600dpi dye-sublimation printer.

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Mitsubishi CP9600DW

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Mitsubishi's latest printer is a one-trick pony - its principal task is to produce high-quality photographic prints. The big news about the CP9600DW is that it's the first 600dpi dye-sublimation printer. Such a low resolution would be risible in the inkjet world but dye-subs play to a different set of rules. Thanks to the continuous tone printing, the dye sublimation process makes resolution less important; even 300dpi dye-sub prints bear very close comparison with true photographic prints.

So the CP9600DW promises to raise the print-quality bar significantly. It can produce full colour 'bleed to edge' 3.5 x 5in, 4 x 6in, 4.5 x 6in, 5 x 7in, 6 x 8in and 6 x 9in prints. Although it can't produce anything larger, say 8 x 10in or A4, this printer is primarily aimed at photographers that need to produce a lot of prints for weddings and so on. Indeed, a kiosk version of the printer is available.

Dye-subs are quite unlike other colour printers such as inkjets. Here the printing dye is heated up until it turns into a gas, at which point it diffuses on to the print media and solidifies. As the dye bypasses the liquid state it is said to 'subliminate'.

Dye-subs' great advantage over inkjets is a much broader colour gamut. Inkjets have to simulate a range of colours by varying the size and/or number of coloured dots against the background of the print media. They also have to use dithering to create the illusion of solid colours. Dye-subs in contrast can produce 256 different shades of each component colour, which can then be overlaid on one another, producing a gamut of 16.8m colours in the process.

Printer installation is straightforward - apart from a PDF-user guide, the only other software provided is the printer drivers. Installing the dye-sub ribbon and the roll of paper is a little trickier; the procedure isn't helped by the small instruction diagrams in the manual. There is but one interface on the CP9600DW - USB 2.0. This is a relatively expensive printer and thus a prime candidate for sharing on a network, so we were disappointed to find no Ethernet port.

Ergonomically, the CP9600DW is a bit of a disaster, a throwback to the 1990s.

It's heavy and it's noisy. There's no output tray to catch prints and you have to remove the trimmings bin before you can open the printer door. Compared to a modern printer such as the sub-£100 HP Photosmart 5280, it's less than user-friendly.

In production mode, the CP9600DW can deliver a 6 x 9in print in 2min 30sec, which is not particularly fast. But the prints are worth waiting for - in a word they're excellent. Close scrutiny with a magnifying glass reveals a complete absence of grain. Colour rendition is very good indeed, with no obvious colour casts. Its greyscale performance was also impressive, though with a very mild pink/purple hint.

Although the paper is supplied on a roll, prints emerge pretty flat. They're dry too, which means they can be handled immediately. Running costs are reasonable - the 6 x 9in kit, comprising a roll of paper plus dye-sub ribbon, costs £127 and can produce 270 prints - that's 47p per print. The 4 x 6in consumables kit produces 600 prints at just under 13p each - not bad.

The CP9600DW though has a strictly niche appeal, professional photographers in the main. It won't disappoint them: for maintaining excellent print quality over long production runs it's hard to fault. Sure, it has rough edges and limitations, but these are easily outweighed by the excellent results.
Needs Mac OS X 10.3.3 or later

Author: Roger Gann

Mitsubishi CP9600DW