DCRP Review: Sony DPP-EX5 Photo Printer
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally Posted: February 21, 2003

Last Updated: March 16, 2003

So you've got your new digital camera -- now how do you get prints? There are many options, but it boils down to two main possibilities: have someone else print them (Ofoto, Wal-mart, Costco), or print'em yourself.

If you've got a Sony digital camera, the DPP-EX5 ($199) is an inexpensive option for printing at home. It has a memory stick slot, and hooks up to your television, so you can print 4 x 6 inch photos without a computer. Of course, if you want to hook the EX5 to your Mac or PC, you can do that too, via a USB connection.

Learn more about the EX5 in our review! Oh, and please excuse my "captures" of the menus and such -- since my computer does not support capturing video, I had to take pictures of my television screen!

Look and Feel

The EX5 is one of the smaller dye-sublimation printers out there. It's small enough that you can keep it near your TV, which is how most people will use it. The printer is made of high grade plastic, and it feels solid enough.

The dimensions of the EX5 are 3.1 x 7.9 x 11.4 inches (W x H x D), without the paper tray installed. The printer weighs 2.2 kg (4 lb 14 oz.).

Here's a straight-on look at the EX5, with the paper tray uninstalled. At the top you can see the Memory Stick slot (card not included). The EX5 supports the new Memory Stick Pro format as well. (Paragraph updated 3/16/03)

When you insert a Memory Stick, the follow screen shows up on your TV:


(again, apologies for the poor quality of these)

You can mark images to be printed by setting the print quantity, and then just hit the Print button (scroll down to see it) and away it goes. You can also hit the Picture button to get a closer look at your image:

Enough of that for now, let's continue our tour.

To insert the paper tray, you just open the plastic door on the front, and stuff it in there. The paper tray can hold 25 or 30 sheets, depending on the size of the paper.

Here's a look at the side of the printer, pretty stylish as you can see.

On the back of the printer, you'll find a USB port, video-out port, and the power input. As I mentioned, you can use the EX5 as a regular printer that you can connect to your Mac or PC (using the USB cable, of course). Printer drivers are included with the printer.

You control the printer via this panel on the top of the EX5. Many of these buttons are self-explanatory, but I'll describe the others in detail now.

The Auto Print button will, well, automatically print photos from your Memory Stick. You can have it print all of your photos, or just the ones you DPOF marked on your camera.

The Creative Print feature let's you create four types of unique prints:

  • Card - greeting card
  • Calendar
  • Sticker - 9 stickers per sheet
  • Split image - 2, 4, 9, 13, or 16 images per sheet

For all of the above, you use templates built into the printer to create your card, calendar, etc. You type the text using an on-screen keyboard, which is a bit of a pain.

The Effect button allows you to rotate, retouch, and enhance your photos.

Here's a rundown of the options available in Effect mode:

  • Zoom in/out
  • Edit
    • Move
    • Rotate 90° Clockwise
    • Rotate 90° Counterclockwise
  • Adjust
    • Brightness
    • Saturation
    • Tint
    • Sharpness
  • Filter
    • Sepia
    • Monochrome
    • Paint - "make the image like a painted picture"
  • Text - use the "keyboard" to put text on your image

I should add that loading and manipulating high resolution images can take a while, so it requires a bit of patience.

Back to the tour now. The Menu button lets you adjust settings, and more:

  • Setup
    • Auto Fine Print 2 (High, lo, off) - amount of automatic image correction
    • Finish (Glossy, texture)
    • Borderless print (on/off) - does not work on the "small" size paper
    • Date print (on/off) - prints the date on your photo
    • Color setting (R, G, B) - adjust the color levels, ±2, for red, green, blue
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Clock set
  • Slide show - you can select the interval between photos as fast or slow
  • Index print - choose from 8 x 6 or 10 x 8 layouts
  • Delete images
  • Format Memory Stick

Those are pretty much all the menus and buttons that require explanation. For the last part of the tour, here's a look at where the print cartridge goes, on top of the EX5.

Printing

For those who like the technical details, the DPP-EX5 has a resolution of 403 x 403 dpi. It makes three passes of color -- yellow, magenta, and cyan -- and then puts a special protective coating layer on top. I witnessed a print get dunked into a hot cup of coffee with no loss of quality. Cool.

It takes 60 seconds to print one small size photo, and 90 seconds for a 4 x 6. That does NOT include the time it takes to process the images off the Memory Stick, so you should add another minute or more to those times.

Print quality is as good as you'd expect from a dye-sublimation printer. Show folks the prints, and they'll think they were professionally developed. No dots, no funny lines -- always perfect. One thing to watch out for is dust or hair on the paper or print cartridge -- it can mess up your prints.

Trying to show you how the print quality looks isn't easy online. The sample below will never replicate what it really looks like, so here's my suggestion: go somewhere where they sell the printer and have a look at its output. Sony even puts a sample print on the outside of the box so you can see it with your own eyes.

Operating Costs

Dye-sublimation printers traditionally are more expensive to run than inkjets, but that is changing. Costs for the "ink" and paper have come down considerably over the years.

In almost all cases, the print cartridge and paper are sold in the same box. That's because the print cartridge always prints a set amount of photos -- 25 or 30 in this case.

You can choose between three paper sizes on the EX5: 4 x 6 inch (postcard), 3.5 x 5 inch, and 3.5 x 4 inch (small). For each paper size, there are various kinds of paper, such as sticker paper.

Since most people are printing 4 x 6's, I'll be looking at that size when examining operating costs.

Sony sells two 4 x 6 inch "print packs":

  • SVM-25LS Print Pack - 25 sheets - $19.95 - 80 cents per print

  • SVM-75LS Value Print Pack - 75 sheets - $42.95 - 57 cents per print

With places like Costco printing 4 x 6's for 19 cents a pop, you can see the home printing (at least dye-sub printing) is still expensive.

You can save a few bucks by using smaller paper (3.5 x 4 inch):

  • SVM-30SS Compact Print Pack - 30 sheets - $14.95 - 50 cents per print

An inkjet printer will certainly cost you less to maintain, as you'll generally get more than 25 prints per ink cartridge -- I've been able to get several times as many personally.

Final Thoughts

If you've got a Sony digital camera and want an easy way to make small-sized prints without touching a computer, then the DPP-EX5 is definitely worth looking at. It's compact and fits nicely with your VCR and home theater stuff. The "keyboard" function is clumsy though, but what are you doing to do when you don't have an easy way to type. You can also hook the printer up to your computer, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Print quality, as I expected, was excellent. I was also not surprised by the high per-print cost, which is the norm for dye-sublimation printers.

One big limitation is the print size: no larger than 4 x 6 inch. I like to print 8 x 10's once in a while, so the EX5 wouldn't be something I'd be interested. But I know that there are plenty of everyday shooters who would not have any issues with the size limitation.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local computer store to check out the DPP-EX5 and the competition before you buy!

Feedback

Jeff always appreciates your comments and questions. Please, due to my limited resources, do not write asking for a personal recommendation.

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