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Monday, September 29, 2008

Go Large With High-Tech Printers

Modern large-format printers are cost-effective and give you the opportunity to make exhibition-quality prints right in your studio

pro printers
HP Designjet Z3100
Black-And-White Printing
All three of the printers covered here are capable of excellent black-and-white printing, thanks to the use of multiple shades of black inks. Epson offers an Advanced Black & White mode in its printer driver that neutralizes color shifting while giving you control over toning and overall grayscale adjustments. HP and Canon both offer a mode that uses only the black inks to generate neutral monochrome images. Especially when printing on the baryta-type papers, such as Inkpress Baryta, Hahnemühle Baryta or the outstanding Epson Exhibition Fiber paper, the output from all three printers meets or exceeds what you can create in the traditional darkroom.

The Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 ($3,495) and iPF8100 ($5,995) are the latest versions of Canon’s pro printer line in 24-inch and 44-inch widths, respectively. Both printers use twelve pigment inks with all inks available (no cartridge swap). They are Photo Black, Matte Black, Gray, Photo Gray, Cyan, Photo Cyan, Magenta, Photo Magenta, Yellow, Red, Green and Blue. The printers come with a plug-in for Photoshop that supports 16-bit printing for smooth tones and excellent color reproduction. Canon has a wide range of media available, including photo rags produced by Hahnemühle. Ink costs for the Canon range from about $.58 per ml for the 130ml cartridges in the 24-inch model, to about $.40 per ml for the 700ml cartridges in the 44-inch.

pro printers
Canon iPF6100
The Epson Stylus Pro 7880 ($2,995) and 9880 ($5,995) are the 24-inch and 44-inch versions of Epson’s pigment printers using the new UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta inks. The nine inks (Photo Black, Matte Black, Light Black, Light Light Black, Cyan, Light Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Vivid Light Magenta, Yellow) have excellent color gamut and, when used with Epson’s Advanced Black & White mode, produce outstanding monochrome prints. Ink costs are about $.58 per ml. A version of each printer that includes the ColorBurst RIP is available for an additional $1,000. Epson’s latest drivers support 16-bit printing on Mac OS X v10.5 and later. Due out later this year, the Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 feature new printhead technology that allows both black inks to be installed at the same time and adds additional Orange and Green inks, as well as increasing the maximum cartridge size from 220ml to 700ml. The new inks, called UltraChrome HDR, promise the widest color gamut available in a pigment printer, as well as higher-quality halftoning and improved grayscale output. There’s also an optional SpectroProofer available for onboard calibration and profiling.

The HP Z3100 is available in 24-inch ($3,395) and 44-inch ($5,595) sizes. Postscript versions also are available for $4,595 and $6,995, respectively, and also include HP’s Advanced Profiling Solution for customizing profiles and calibrating displays. There are twelve inks on board (Photo Black, Matte Black, Gray, Light Gray, Magenta, Light Magenta, Light Cyan, Yellow, Red, Green, Blue, Gloss Enhancer). Ink costs for the Z3100 are about $.52 per ml in the 130ml cartridge size. The HP currently is the only printer available that includes an onboard spectrophotometer, made by X-Rite, for calibration and profile creation. The Gloss Enhancer, used on gloss and luster papers eliminates gloss differential. When printing to fine-art papers, a grayscale mode allows you to print with all four blacks for fine control and excellent neutrality.


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