To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have the EasyShare 350 in any colour you like -- as long as it's black. Specifically, it's a small (17.4cm by 6.8cm by 29.5cm), light (1.098 kilograms) dye sublimation printer that Kodak pitches directly at the mobile phone camera market. While Kodak has a working arrangement with Motorola to promote mobile phone photography, we're yet to see a Kodak-branded phone; the EasyShare 350 instead represents their first dip into the mobile photography market.
Like most dye sublimation printers, setup of the EasyShare 350 is simplicity itself; once you've lifted it out of the box it's a simple matter of inserting the dye sublimation ribbon, which only fits one rather obvious way, slotting the paper tray onto the front and supplying power to the socket at the back. If you're only going to be printing from a Bluetooth-compatible mobile phone then you're done; if you're planning to connect the supplied USB cable you'll need to install the drivers and applications from the provided CD. A quick start guide is provided, but we only found it necessary to use it to double-check paper alignment -- at 50c per print or more, it's worth getting that correct.
The EasyShare 350 uses dye sublimation rather than ink printing found in most larger consumer photo printing processes. This approach gives it certain advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, the dye sublimation process includes layering on a waterproof and UV-proof coating to each photo, making them harder to accidentally destroy, and in theory improving the photographic lifespan of the shots. We'll get back to you in a century to let you know if the latter was true.
On the minus side, prints are limited by the capability of the ribbon; you'll only ever get as many shots as are listed on the ribbon, and it can be trickier getting supplies for dye sublimation printers, as the paper and ribbon form a combination pack.
Kodak claims printing speeds for the EasyShare 350 of around 90 seconds via a PC and 120 seconds via either Pictbridge or Bluetooth connections. Unlike most other printers in this size, the EasyShare 350 lacks any kind of media card slot, so if you want to print from non-Pictbridge cameras you'll have to utilise the PC USB connection to produce your shots.
On a physical level, it's worth remembering that the EasyShare 350's small footprint is somewhat deceptive, as you've got to have space for the paper tray at the front and a similar amount of space at the back, as the paper is shuffled in and out four times -- three times for laying down the colour levels, and then a final time for a waterproof coating.
We tested printing shots from a Bluetooth compatible mobile phone -- the i-mate K-JAM, which only comes with a 1.3-megapixel camera, slightly below what Kodak considers "true" mobile phone photography. This was a deliberate choice on our part; there are undoubtedly far more sub 2-megapixel camera phones out there than there are 2-megapixel camera phones, although that's a trend that'll tip the other way over time. Printing speeds were pretty much what Kodak's own figures suggested, with an average of 2:03 for Bluetooth printing.
If you do opt to install the EasyShare 350 as a PC-based printer -- and even with the 350's stated aim of capturing the mobile phone picture market, we can't imagine there are too many consumers who won't -- it's rather annoying that you have to deselect a lot of other Kodak software -- EasyShare Camera Drivers, an automatic software updater and a whole host of Greeting Card templates -- just to install the printer itself. Printing direct from USB was predictably somewhat speedier than via Bluetooth, with an average printing time of 1:30, which was again right in line with Kodak's estimates. Print quality in both cases was quite good, and predictably our better-quality PC shots shone next to the i-mate's very ordinary 1.3-megapixel shots.
The EasyShare 350 bears more than a passing resemblance to its bigger and slightly more expensive brother, the EasyShare 500, which will cost you AU$100 more, but comes with a 3.5-inch LCD display and photo card slots. If you're a keen snapper of digital shots outside the phone world it's rather hard to justify the EasyShare 350, especially when you factor in that it's possible to effectively turn the EasyShare 500 into the 350 with the addition of a Bluetooth adaptor. Given that the EasyShare 350 is available at first from mobile phone vendors, and with the fiercely competitive nature of the mobile phone market and the love of bundling, we wouldn't be at all surprised to see it pop up on plans as a freebie very quickly indeed.