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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Gear Up For B&W

Quick guide to the essential equipment you need for taking and printing the best black & white photos

This Article Features Photo Zoom

There are a number of items that can help you produce better black-and-white digital images. In this issue of DPP, we have an article about cameras that are specialized for monochrome capture, "Monochrome Specialists." Here, we want to show you some of the key tools for shooting and printing sharp, crisp, richly toned black-and-white images. We have a particular emphasis on printers and papers in this article. There's just something about black-and-white photos that calls for making prints. Even photographers whose images exist almost entirely in digital form—seen exclusively on monitors, tablets and other screens—feel the call of a paper print for a well-made black-and-white image.

Seeing the fine detail, rich blacks and bright highlights in a proper print is distinctly different than seeing it on a glowing screen. A good print invites the viewer into the image. It's an immersive experience. Getting to that quality print is a matter of coupling your vision with the right equipment for the job.

Epson Stylus Pro 3880
Early inkjet printers didn't do black-and-white well. If you used all the inks, you'd get unpleasant color casts in shadows or highlights, and if you used only the black inks, you'd get a harsh, grainy look. So third parties started offering special monochrome inksets, consisting of black and several shades of gray inks, which produced much better results.

Today, inkjet printers from Canon and Epson can produce terrific monochrome prints because their standard inksets include multiple gray inks along with the black and color inks, and printer driver technology has advanced a lot. Some printers use a bit of colored ink along with the multiple monochrome inks to produce top monochrome results on a variety of papers.

Some inkjet printers use dye-based inks, while others use pigment-based inks. At one time, dye-based inks (consisting of fine colorant particles and additives dissolved in liquid) produced better colors, while pigment-based inks (with larger colorant particles and additives suspended in liquid) provided longer life and better water resistance. Today, both types of inks can produce excellent colors (and monochrome tonal range) and long life. Most higher-end inkjet printers today use pigment-based inks.

Canon Pixma PRO-10
Canon's PIXMA PRO-1 ($999.99) is the company's top 13-inch inkjet, featuring a 12-color Canon Lucia pigment inkset (including five monochrome inks: matte black, photo black, dark gray, gray and light gray, for deep blacks and smooth grayscale tones) in 36ml cartridges. The PIXMA PRO-10 ($699.99) features a wireless WiFi connection and a 10-color Lucia pigment inkset (with three monochrome inks: photo black, matte black and gray) in 14ml cartridges. The multiple monochrome inks and Chroma Optimizer minimize bronzing. Epson's Stylus Pro 3880 ($1,295) is a 17-inch inkjet printer that uses Epson's eight-color UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta pigment inkset in 80ml cartridges (including three monochrome inks: light black, light light black and either photo black or matte black, automatically chosen to suit the paper being used). Advanced Black&White Photo Mode provides presets for neutral, cool, warm and sepia prints, with custom controls that allow you to fine-tune the results (and even save your custom settings for future use). Epson's Stylus Pro 4900 ($1,995) is faster than the 3880 and uses the company's 10-color Ultrachrome HDR pigment inkset in 200ml cartridges (with the same three monochrome inks). Again, the multiple black inks improve image quality and minimize bronzing.


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