Whether connected to your computer or operating solo, the hefty Olympus P-440 dye-sublimation printer cranks out photos in dozens of different glossy or matte layouts on A4, A5 Wide, or A6 Wide paper in a blink of an eye. Professional photographers and serious photo enthusiasts will find every feature they need in this 314dpi device, including slots for xD-Picture media cards (used by Olympus and Fuji products); a PC Card slot for optional adapters that accept CompactFlash, SD and other memory cards; and the ability to review, select, and correct images using either your computer, the built-in 46mm (1.8-inch) LCD, or a TV.
The Olympus P-440 photo printer tips the scales at more than 12kg and commands roughly 420 by 270mm of your desktop. However, its vertically oriented design efficiently uses the space. The 25-sheet paper cassette slips into its niche vertically, making the printer taller than it is wide. As you'd expect, all of the controls, the slots for memory cards, the menu LCD, and the other components are arranged on the front panel.
Changing the P-440's ribbon is not a cut-and-dried affair. Instead of simply popping in a series of cartridges, you have to align and attach the printer's ribbon to its ink cassette, which can be a little tricky. Beginners might be better off with a printer that has an easier installation. Once you pull the ribbon taut on to the cassette, the rest of the install is a piece of cake. Just flip open a door in the front and insert the ribbon cartridge, add paper to the cassette and snap it into place, connect the power, and link the printer to your Windows or Macintosh computer using a USB cable (which, as per usual with printers, is not included). Once the driver software is installed, you're ready to go.
Key controls are clustered on the top of the front panel. A selector dial on the left side lets you change the functions available from the LCD. You can choose between Input Select (USB, xD card or PC Card), Paper Size (including A4, A5 Wide, A4 postcard, or A6 Wide) and Setup modes; select individual photos for printing; and choose picture-output type (standard prints, postcards, photo album sheets, passport photos or index prints).
You navigate the menus on the LCD via a four-way cursor pad, and other buttons activate features; print/cancel jobs; and enlarge, rotate, or crop your photos. The menus are well laid out and easy to navigate, so you'll find this printer easy to use when not attached to a computer.
The Olympus P-440 prints only on full-size sheets, but offers many different ways to fill them. You can create single 200x250mm prints on standard paper, or lay out as many as 16 different shots on one sheet. Switch to A4 Postcard paper that's microperforated for separation into four separate cards after printing. Or, you can print multiple pictures on a single sheet in photo album mode, with one, two, three, four or six equal-size images laid out in either vertical or horizontal orientation. Various frames and backgrounds can be added to enhance your album photos.
In Passport mode, you can print one or more pictures on A4 and A6 Wide paper in several sizes and layouts useful for passport and photo-ID applications. Index mode fills the sheet with thumbnails of images on a memory card, laid out in 41 to 84 picture arrays, with date, filename, and other information added to the index.
When printing from your computer, you can select the number of copies, from 1 to 50; choose whether to add an optional clear overcoat to the yellow, magenta, and cyan layers used to image the colour print; enhance sharpness; adjust colour; or scale image size between 25 and 400 percent. If you substitute a special matte ribbon for the glossy ribbon, it will apply a matte overcoat instead. (We didn't test this function, however.) Because you access the key colour management tools from the printer driver, you'll want to use this mode when fine-tuning the colours of your prints.
The printer comes with Camedia Master 4.0, a software application for controlling print layout; editing photos; adding text; adjusting colour, brightness, and contrast; sharpening or blurring images; and removing red-eye. The software also offers cataloguing and special projects such as creating calendars, panoramas, desktop wallpaper or albums.
It may be big, but the Olympus P-440 is no slug. It took just 1.9 minutes to produce an A4 photo -- among the best time of any dye-sub printer we've tested, big or small. However, it took up to 40 seconds for the computer to process and spool the data, which usually indicates an inefficient print driver. For what it's worth, we didn't experience as long a lag when printing from a media card. The P-440 isn't especially noisy, but it makes a high-pitched whine when the ribbon passes from one colour layer to another.
You'll get acceptable prints, with solid detail reproduction in both shadows and highlights. However, the colour balance of our test prints was slightly off; we attribute this to a cyan cast, which also results in washed-out colours. The prints also showed severe metamerism -- the cyan cast turned to a noticeable magenta cast when switching from daylight to fluorescent illumination. In addition, we noticed some visible striations caused by the printhead. Furthermore, thanks to its relatively low resolution, the P-440 had a hard time rendering fine details, especially on diagonals.
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CNET Labs Project leader Dong Van Ngo contributed to this section of the review
Edited by Rebecca Viksnins and Lori Grunin
Additional editing by Nick Hide