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Reviews of photography products that enhance the enjoyment of taking pictures. Published frequently but irregularly.

A Trip To The Store Tweet This   Forward This

16 September 2013

One reason we're glad to offer affiliate links here is that we know you're going to get the best price from our affiliates. We offer more than one outfit because we realize you have your personal preferences. Otherwise it's pretty simple.

Friday night our LaserJet 4M refused to power on. We use a monochrome laser to print text documents. We generate a lot of text for Photo Corners, but we produce even more for other things. And printing any of it with an inkjet is like bathing in champagne.

So we had a problem to solve.


We gave it the old college try. We looked up the problem online, surprised to find that fixyourownprinter didn't really have a repair for it, Moe having only had to replace a handful of power supplies over the years.

So we unplugged everything, took it apart, dusted it with some compressed air, reassembled. It worked. We cycled the power half a dozen times on two outlets and it still worked.

LaserJet 4m. Nikon 990 processed in Photoshop CC with the JPEG filter, Lens Correction filter and Smart Sharpened.

But we had the feeling the old beast was dropping a politely subtle hint that it wanted to retire.

So we gave it the old doctoral program try. We checked out what was available, what was recommended, who had it at what price, what buyers said.

And we realized, sometime Saturday, that if we'd just gone to some brick and mortar store, bought one of each and tried them out, returning the rejects, we could have saved some time.

Research can be like that. Diminishing returns.

So Sunday we gave the old LaserJet one last chance, throwing the switch. Dead. Really? We tried it again. Really.

We gave it a pat and backed the car out of the garage to go shopping.


Wait a minute. Why didn't we just use an affiliate link?

Because 1) there was no price advantage and 2) we would have had to wait all week for delivery. Two good reasons.

Our options were pretty limited, though. Best Buy, Office Depot and what's left of Office Max, which has merged with Office Depot. Staples and Costco were options but they were further away with no price advantage.

We won't ruin your Monday with our price check data. But we did learn a few interesting things:

  • The same company had different prices for the same product at different stores.
  • The most expensive price for our product was at the Office Depot location that was closing and offered "Up to 40 Percent Off" everything in the store.
  • Almost nobody had anything in stock. Which is why we went to one Office Max, two Best Buys and three Office Depots before finding one.

We were interested in two printer models. Of the two, we only saw one of them on display in any of the stores. We never saw the other one. Both were highly recommended. And there was a third alternative, a variation of the model we bought, which we would have considered if we had found it.

We experienced none of the installation problems we read about in customer reviews.

The online price is roughly $99 and that's what we paid at the only store that had them in stock (it had four of them, in fact). But we saw it for $112 and $139 at the other stores where it was out of stock.

That $139 was the Office Depot close-out, with the "discount" taken from the list price not the street price. Ironically, the store that had it in stock for $99 was an Office Depot just down the street from the store that was closing.


While we were shopping at Best Buy, we took a look at the camera offerings.

A white Samsung NX300 with a 20-50mm zoom caught our eye. It powered up, too. And its gorgeous LCD made the world look like a lovely place. A Sony NEX, by comparison seemed dim and awkward. First impressions.

But what really caught our eye was a shelf of Nikon digicams (not a PowerShot among them). There must have been a dozen, all priced from about $100 to $150, although we didn't spend much time examining them.

We just wondered who at Nikon thought anybody was going to differentiate between them. Who was going to read a dozen reviews, examine gallery shots for a dozen of them, sort through the features?

We'd just spent and intensive day or so looking for a monochrome laser printer. Our criteria wasn't too involved:

  • Networkable
  • 25+ pages per minute
  • 250-sheet tray
  • Duplex printing
  • Low-cost consumables (toner, drum)
  • Works with InDesign
  • Low initial cost

Printer shopping is easier than camera shopping, so it's hard to believe a dozen digicams does anything but confuse the consumer.

There were a couple of Nikon 1 cameras on the same shelf but they only distinguished themselves by their price. And neither, strangely, was top of the line.

Best Buy did have the whole dSLR lineup from both Nikon and Canon just across the aisle. So it's not like the store wasn't in the high-end game.

But had someone offered us any camera there, we probably would have gone home with that Samsung NX30. In black. With a longer lens.


We had spent some time reading consumer reviews of the two models that interested us to see what real world experiences had been. It seems like you only get specs and a paragraph in published reviews or confused consumer reviews. How, after all can there be such a divergence of opinion (lots of low ranks, lots of high ranks, some middle ranks sprinkled in between)? They can't all be right.

And they aren't.

We experienced none of the installation problems we read about in customer reviews. Yes, you do have to cable the printer to either a computer or your network to configure it for a wireless connection. But just making an Ethernet connection to your network switch makes it available on the network.

The included CD doesn't contain drivers for the latest OS X systems. But it does have the wireless configuration utility, which worked well enough, and the PDF documentation, which is quite extensive.

The CD does have drivers for older OS X systems (like 10.4 still running on a 12+ year old PowerBook). And for newer systems, you simply use the Print & Scan system preference to add a printer and download the latest driver from Apple, which is how things are done these days for any printer.

So just minutes after printing the test page successfully, we were networked with drivers installed on both new and ancient computers. And paging through the User Guide PDF.

We spent more time lighting candles and chanting over the LaserJet to try to get it to power up Friday night.


This isn't a review (which is why we haven't mentioned the product by name) but there's quite a difference between 1) a landing page for a product on a Web site, 2) customer feedback that pretty much goes unchallenged and 3) what we do with a review product, like the OpticFilm 120.

We do report the specs and then we let you look over our shoulder as we install and use the product on a variety of real jobs. Often we run into a problem before we publish anything (we're there right now with a few reviews). We work with the manufacturer to help resolve the issue, although that doesn't always happen.

We don't publish landing pages because they don't tell you anything you can't learn on the manufacturer's site. We do try not to waste your time here.

Because we've reviewed hundreds of products since the last century, we have a handle on what a reasonable expectation is (it's not a defect to require you to cable connect a network-capable printer to configure it's wireless capability) and what no customer should have to tolerate.

But we don't get mad when things don't work. We ask questions of people who might have answers. And that often leads to a better product than you otherwise could have bought.

Which is another good reason to support our efforts by buying from our affiliate links on the headline page.


With the new printer in harness, we felt a huge weight lift from our shoulders. It was such a relief to print an InDesign document inexpensively on the network.

But we still can't bring ourselves to remove the old one with its USB-to-Centronics cable connection, slow startup and slow printing. Yet. Maybe we'll email Moe at fixyourownprinter to see what he recommends. After all, it's a PostScript printer with many, many years of service that may be the only thing standing after the next earthquake.

Until then, it deserves a place on the shelf next to our 1920 Underwood portable.

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