Holding a printed photograph is a valuable experience. Pictures are commonplace, and they are swiped faster than they can be appreciated. But a photograph, on actual paper, can’t be ignored.

My kids place a high value on printed pictures. They get more prints than the average kid, and they hang them on their ceilings and walls to view. When we’re with family at reunions, we make prints each day for all the kids so they have a holdable thing that shows who they all were. Those prints, though cheaply made, are now cherished and the kids love to show each other the previous years’ photos.

In the past, I’ve used a ZINK printer to make those prints, and we’ve used things like the FujiFilm INSTAX cameras/printers, too. But let me show you DNP’s option for mobile printmaking that’s quite impressive.

What’s it do?

The QW410 makes 300 dpi 4-by-6 inch or 4.5-by-8 inch (16:9) prints quickly and without a computer. While Steve Job’s NeXTcube was 12 inches on each side, this little printer is not quite a cube and just 9.4 inches on the longest side. That makes it easy to carry — it fits in several of my large camera bags.

It’s a dye-sublimation printer, meaning that it doesn’t use any ink cartridges and that it prints reliably and repeatably.

It makes a 4-by-6 inch print in as little as 20 seconds, though I clocked it at up to 25 seconds for some prints. But, it’ll keep that speed print after print as fast as you can keep pictures pouring into it.

And that’s the wonderful thing about this tool: It prints from your phone, and you don’t even need an app. (You can also connect it to a computer, but it’s not as fun as pictures flying through the air and magically appearing on paper.)

Who’s it for?

This printer is actually intended for use in high-volume immediate-use situations. Photobooths are the target audience, and it’s perfect for that. There are a bunch of apps that work with your iPad to manage the whole workflow. The iPad is held on a stand, the app lets people take a picture and then choose which one to print and it pops out on the QW410. It’s quick and flawless, and it’s a good idea for a rental business. I often work alongside photobooths at events I’m photographing, and they can bring a pretty penny.

Who else is it for?

I see this printer as a big value-adding tool for all kinds of portraitists. My camera, and practically every camera made today, has an app that will download photos directly to a mobile device or laptop. By shooting RAW+JPEG you’ve got a file ready to go. Sure, it isn’t retouched, but the value of an instantly tangible print more than makes up for the imperfection of the photo. Just shoot in monochrome mode and retouching will matter a lot less, anyway.

Even the print catcher collapses to travel easier.

I could use this with the company I’m making headshots for or I could use it with the little league teams my kids play on. It’ll be a hit at personal family events and parties. My photo club will love making prints for volunteer models right there onsite. Each time I make pictures for someone, I realize another way I could use this printer.

As the printer calibrates for each print, it trims a little paper off and stores it in a bin, keeping your work area neat.

Although I may not be using it to make money directly — I’m probably not going to sell prints from it — but it’s a huge added value for clients. I won’t be billing for it directly, but I will be sending more bills when the referrals come rolling in.

How’s it work?

As I mentioned above, you don’t have to mess around with ink cartridges and carrying around extra supplies. With big printers, I’m always running out of ink, then running out of paper, and there’s no way to plan how much of each I need to have on hand.

The QW410 uses paper and ink ribbons that are paired. You buy the media together and you get a roll of paper and a roll of ribbon in the box (usually it’s a two-pack). When the ink ribbon is empty, you remove the leftover paper and discard both spools together. T

here’s a little extra paper each time, but you don’t need to worry about saving it — just slide in the new paper roll and the new ink ribbon spool and let your kids color on the leftovers.

The ink ribbon goes in the top, and the paper goes in at the bottom of the front.

How many college degrees do I need to set it up?

I was surprised at how easy it is to set up. Including reading the instructions, I had it out of the box and printing in less than ten minutes. There are pictures and simple descriptions.

It includes power cords and printer cables. This model uses little enough power to run it that I can use the battery for my strobes to power it, which makes it even more dynamic.

The Wireless Connect Module includes the cables it needs to plug into the printer.

How hard is the wireless to set up?

There’s an additional module to allow your mobile device to print. The Wireless Connect Module can be added separately, but you can get it in a kit, too. And you really should get it. It makes this all worthwhile.

It connects with USB cords to the printer, and it draws power from the printer, too, so there aren’t any extra cables to trip on. The key thing to remember is that once you power on the printer it takes a couple of minutes for the wireless to boot up.

Printing is an option on your iPhone. Just swipe up from the bottom of any picture.

The wireless module creates its own wifi signal, which is awesome because connecting devices to iffy wifi signals at event centers is for the birds. Just find its signal on your phone and authorize its connection one time and you’re set forever. Anytime you pick that wifi on your phone in the future it’ll connect without a password. Again, simple directions are included.

How are the prints?

If you have an Epson printer at home and Hahnemuhle paper … lower your expectations. But if you’re used to using the aforementioned ZINK printers or Instax, then you will be pleasantly surprised by the quality of these prints. They print at an incredible 300 dots per inch, which is the same as photo printers at labs. The colors are rich and surprisingly similar to what I see on my phone. They look really good.

Also, you can use either 4-inch-wide paper or 4.5-inch-wide paper. The 4 inch paper makes 4-by-6 inch prints, which are the same shape that comes out of your camera (unless you use micro four-thirds). Use the 4.5 inch paper makes 16:9 ratio prints, which are captured by some mobile devices. The resulting prints are 4.5-by-8 inches and it’s a stunning presentation.

What’s the catch?

You’ll notice immediately that the dynamic range is not as good as your phone screen. Anything approaching white will be blown out much lower than you’d hope. Instax may be a little better in this area because the highlight transitions are not as sharp, but it’s far better than the ZINK printers, and it’s on par with other dye-sub printers I’ve experienced. In fact, I feel that it’s much better than most of the prints I’ve experienced from photo booths.

The highlights blow out, taking color with them. Sunrises may not be the ideal subject matter for this printer. But the detail is remarkable.

These prints are sharp and clear, and although the highlights will blow out, the detail and clarity are far better than anything I’ve seen from a photo booth. That difference makes all the difference when you deliver a high-quality experience for clients.

Also, DNP has a proprietary system that helps keep the prints laying flat-ish. Because the paper is on a roll, there is some inevitable curl, but as the paper gets toward the end of the roll the QW410 has something that activates to help keep it flatter. The prints seen here are toward the end of the roll, and they are not bad.

Here’s the digital version of that file from my phone. The print clipped a little in the highlights, but it’s not bad. The printer also cropped it to 4×6.

And did I mention that it’s quick? It makes all the difference to have a quick printer.

What’s the damage?

DNP’s QW410 is in stock at B&H for $429, which includes two rolls of media (300 prints). The Wireless Connect Module is $149, and it’s a must-have addition. Additional media comes in varying packages, but you can get them for $0.21 per print or less, which is much cheaper than the inferior ZINK and Instax prints.

Now, comparing the DWP410 to ZINK and Instax isn’t really a fair comparison. They are aimed at different users, but when you do the math, it actually could be worthwhile for family reunions, especially since it’ll be used much more frequently than that.

This little printer is portable, simple to set up, easy to print with, and it produces terrific prints. As long as you can keep the highlights under control you’ll be very pleased with the high detail, and your clients won’t notice either way. They’ll just be dazzled by having an actual photograph to hold in their hands.

If you’re doing a photo booth, the QW410 is a no-brainer: You’ve got to have it. When you’re making pictures for clients on location, this printer will add value to your clients’ experience and increase customer satisfaction. Finally, if you’ve got a couple of siblings, going in on it with your parents for the next reunion will make it one of the most memorable get-togethers you’ve ever had.

Specs

Printer

  • Technology: Dye Sublimation
  • Resolution: 300 x 300 dpi
  • Borderless: Yes
  • Print speed: 4-by-6 inch: 19 seconds
  • Connectivity: USB Type-B
  • Dimensions: 8.2 x 7.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Weight: 13 pounds

Printer Media Handling

  • Surface finish: Glossy, matte
  • Supported media: Roll

For more information, visit dnpphoto.com.