- Attractive design, easy to use, good value prints.
- Minor image aberrations.
The Sony Picture Station DPP-FP55 produces reasonable quality prints at a low cost per print making it a wise choice and value buy.
Price$ 279.00 (AUD)
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Of the two dye sublimation photo printers in the Sony Picture Station range, the DPP-FP55 is the more costly, high-end model. With extra features including image editing and both SD Card and Memory Stick compatibility, we were interested to discover whether it was worth its price tag. The Picture Station faired well in our testing, though not brilliantly. The print quality was reasonable and the colours were rich and vibrant, however, a handful of image aberrations and missing features stop it from scoring better.
We were quite taken by the design of the DPP-FP55. White and silver in colour, it has rounded edges and a sophisticated aesthetic that will look good in most homes. The front of the unit has a flip down door where the paper cartridge is inserted, as well as both SD Card and Memory Stick Pro (Standard/DUO) slots. The left side of the unit has a USB input and PictBridge connector, while the rear has only the AC power connector and a paper exit slit toward the base. Another door, on the right hand side, hides the dye cartridge which can easily be removed and replaced with minimal fuss. The function buttons on the top of the unit are clearly labeled and the power and print buttons are enveloped in attractive coloured lights, adding to the overall style of the unit. The two inch screen sits just above the function buttons, recessed into the machine at a 45 degree angle making it clearly visible when sitting in front. We have reviewed printers with screens that could not be viewed at this angle and it made us appreciate this design feature. The quality of the screen is reasonable and the on-screen display is easy to understand and simple to use.
We ran a series of print tests and were satisfied, but not overly impressed with the results. Edge definition was a little soft but colours were quite good. In these small photo printers, the printing process generally emphasises one colour resulting in a print that is over-saturated. This problem did not occur with the DPP-FP55. The soft edges tended to cause gradients to blend together: colour contrasts and subtle details sometimes got lost in the print process.
In addition to the image quality tests, we also ran cartridge life and cost per print tests. The paper tray can hold forty 4in x 6in photos and each dye cartridge can print 40 images. Sony offers three paper and cartridge packages of varying price and volume:
SVMF40P - RRP $34.95 (includes 40 sheets of paper and print cartridge) SVMF80P - RRP $59.95 (includes 80 sheets of paper and print cartridge) SVMF120P - RRP $69.95 (includes 120 sheets of paper and print cartridge)
If you are only purchasing 40 sheets at a time your prints will cost you 87 cents each but the cost per print can drop to as low as 58 cents if you opt for the 120 sheet package. This is still more expensive than getting your photos printed at a photo lab but when compared to other dye sublimation printers, this price is very competitive.
The included installation disc contains all the drivers you will need to connect the photo printer to a computer. It also installs a Sony photo management software package. For the most part this software works quite well and does an excellent job of organizing your photos based on the date they were taken. This is perfect for the budding photographer who can look at their entire collection at a glance in a calendar structure. Alternatively, the images can be organized via their folder structure, which we found far more useful. The interface is attractive with some very cool animations which reminded us of the bells and whistles of an Apple Mac operating system. Mac users will walk away disappointed though, since the software and drivers are exclusive to Windows.
Thankfully, Mac users and those without a PC are not left in the cold due to the SD Card and Memory Stick Pro slots. If the printer is not connected to a computer, flash memory can be inserted into one of these slots allowing photos to be printed directly from a card. We found it curious that the option to use flash memory was disabled when the printer was connected to a PC. We inserted an SD Card into the slot in this state and it did nothing. It was only after we severed the USB connection that the printer found our SD Card. We have not seen this behaviour in a photo printer until now and felt it was counter-productive and undesirable. The final connection option we tested was PictBridge which was a standard affair. When connected to a camera via PictBridge a user can print directly from their camera without the use of a PC. This function worked as expected.
The DPP-FP55 also has a built-in image editing system. It doesn't allow for a wide range of options but it will give users a chance to make minor tweaks before they commit to printing. Brightness, contrast and tint corrections can be made and filters such as sepia, monochrome or red-eye can be applied. The image can also be rotated or moved and there is even an option to reduce red-eye. While this is a far cry from powerful image editing software, it certainly does the job it sets out to do and does it simply and intuitively.
We had a lot of fun with the built-in "Creative Print" feature, as well. Creative Print allows you to manipulate your photos to create either split-screen thumbnail images or calendars from various templates. We were skeptical of its practical uses and figured it would fall by the way side, dismissed as a wacky gimmick, but found it quite fun once we started playing with it. We created some much needed calendars adorned with our own faces and distributed them freely around the office. We're not sure that everyone was exactly thrilled by their new calendar but we sure enjoyed ourselves when making them.
There are other photo printers on the market that outperform the Sony Picture Station DPP-FP55, but for the price and the cost per print this isn't a purchase you will end up regretting. The picture quality and feature set will satisfy the average user but those striving for the creme de la creme will be left wanting.
Struggling for Christmas presents this year? Check out our Christmas Gift Guide for some top tech suggestions and more.
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