DNP DS80 review

Price when reviewed

The DNP DS80 is an unusual photo printer. Instead of squirting ink onto the page like an inkjet, the DS80 uses a process called dye-sublimation to produce prints. This process uses heat to transfer dye from a polyester ribbon onto a roll of glossy paper, one colour at a time. The DS80 uses a three-colour ribbon – yellow, cyan and magenta – plus an overcoat.

DNP DS80 review

DNP DS80 printer review

Dye sublimation has two main advantages: speed and cost. The DS80 churned out a 10 x 8in test print in only 43 seconds and, unlike the inkjets, it’s dry to touch the moment it flies (and we use that word advisedly) out of the printer. You’ll often see dye sublimation used in professional photo-print kiosks, where you don’t want customers smudging the prints with their fingers.

Those 10 x 8in prints cost only 65p a pop, which includes the paper. Considering that some professional inkjets produce prints at £1 per A4 (8.2 x 11.6in) photo for ink alone, you’re looking at basically half the price of an inkjet print. However, since the printer itself costs well over £1,000 more than most inkjets used by enthusiast photographers, you’ll need to be printing at a prodigious rate to recover that initial outlay – which is why the DS80 is aimed at professional print shops and photographers.

DNP DS80 review - internal view

What about print quality? The DS80’s maximum resolution is 600dpi, so it isn’t going to compete with the finest inkjets when it comes to detail. Look closely and you can clearly see that sharpness isn’t as good.

Colour accuracy is good, though, and we found little difference between how colour management is handled by Photoshop and the printer itself. The left-hand side of the model’s face was a little burnt out on our Colour Collective test print, and there certainly wasn’t the subtle variation or realism of skin tones that you get from the Canon Pixma Pro-100. Our test portrait had a slightly ruddy complexion, but we’d be perfectly happy to pop the photo in a frame. Most of the subtle shades of brown in the rocks of our landscape were missing, though.

The DS80 also has a party trick: a firmware setting can change the finish from gloss to “matte”, with the thermal print head overlaying a random pattern on the photo to give a matte-like texture. It looks a little too synthetic for our liking, and it comes with the downside of increasing wear on the print head.

DNP DS80 review - front view

Talking of which, there is some maintenance involved with the DS80. Changing the thin film ribbon is fiddly, and if the ribbon is torn or damaged, you’ll need to manually reattach it with sticky tape. The paper cutter also has a waste tray that needs to be emptied periodically. Thankfully, the manual gives clear instructions on these procedures, although we’d have liked some warning of the frightful noise the DS80 makes when a new ribbon and paper roll is installed, which had us fretting that we’d bodged the installation for a couple of minutes. In fact, noise is a constant problem with the DS80: it chunters away when printing, and a noisy fan runs constantly when it’s switched on.

Nevertheless, businesses and professionals who need fast, cheap and good-quality photos to hand out at trade shows or events would be foolish not to consider the DS80 over an inkjet.

DNP DS80 specifications

Maximum print resolution300 x 600dpi
Number of colours3
Standard interfacesUSB
Optional interfacesno
Dimensions (WDH)322 x 366 x 170mm
Paper handling
Maximum paper size10 x 12in
Maximum paper weightDNP paper roll only
Standard paper trays (capacity)260 prints per roll
Maximum paper trays (capacity)N/A
Supported operating systemsWindows XP. Vista, 7, 8; Mac OS X 10.5.8+
Other featuresGloss or matte finish on same paper
Buying information
Warranty1yr RTB
Price£1,599 inc VAT
Consumable parts and pricesDNP DS80 8 x 10in Media Pack, including paper and ribbon (260 prints per box), £170
Cost per 10 x 8in print65p (including paper)

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