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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hi-Tech Studio: Print In-House

New printer technology makes this the right time to think about an upgrade

This Article Features Photo Zoom

From left to right: Epson Stylus Photo R2880 , HP Photosmart Pro B9180, HP Photosmart Pro B8850, Epson Stylus Pro 3880.

It’s easy in this all-digital world to go much too long without printing your work. Soft-proofing on calibrated monitors goes a long way, but nothing is quite as good as handing your client a physical print to accompany color-matched files. Even better, simply printing your work for your own benefit can do wonders for your psyche—reminding you that you’re not just a computer tech, you’re a photographer.

For years, desktop printers from Canon, Epson and HP have provided such great quality that the need to outsource everything to the lab has diminished. There are benefits to utilizing the expertise of a professional printer and the specialized capabilities of a pro lab and their equipment, but high-tech innovation means that installing the next generation of inkjet printers in your studio can make relying on the lab for all of your output a thing of the past. That’s good for business and great for your creative well-being.

Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II
What To Look For
Stability. Yesterday’s inkjet prints were already much more archival and chemically stable than a traditional darkroom C-print. Today’s inkjet inks and papers are infinitely more stable than previous generations, meaning the colorfastness, accuracy and archival properties of desktop-made prints have never been better. One hundred years of fade resistance is now standard.

Droplet Size And Density. The size of each drop of ink in an inkjet print is measured in picoliters (pL)—a millionth of a liter. The smaller, the better because a smaller drop can be placed more closely to other drops, which is where drops, really dots, per inch come into play. Dots per inch, or dpi, measures how densely the droplets are placed. Higher dpi means higher density—and that means it’s closer to the look of a continuous-tone print.

Speed. Print speed always has been a tricky thing to measure. For most photographers making an occasional high-quality print for fun, it’s no big deal if the printer isn’t lightning-fast. But when you’re on deadline and waiting for a proof, or if you print on-site with customers waiting, there’s almost nothing more important than a speedy printer. It can be tricky to compare apples to apples among printers in terms of speed because a simple “page per minute” measurement doesn’t always account for what’s on that page. Thankfully, most photo printers these days include an indication of the time to make a particular photo print—like a 4x6 in as little as 10 seconds.

Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II
What To Buy
The Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II inkjet printer uses eight cartridges of ChromaLife100 ink to produce 13x19 borderless color prints. Its 6,144-
nozzle FINE print head makes 2-picoliter droplets—which coupled with the 4800x2400 dpi resolution can create 11-million droplets in a single square inch. Dual paper trays mean switching between two favorite surfaces doesn’t interrupt your workflow, and the 47-second wait time for an 8x10 (and less than 90 seconds for an 11x14) is speedy. Estimated Street Price: $499.

The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II utilizes many of the same features as the Pro9000 Mark II to produce prints up to 19 inches wide, such as 4800x2400 resolution and two separate paper trays. The PIXMA Pro9500, however, offers 25% more nozzles on the print head—7,680 instead of 6,144—which can equate to finer tonal control for smoother gradations. Ten Lucia pigment ink cartridges add more control as well; the additional gray and matte black inks are an ingenious way to create better black-and-white prints and counter metamerism since they don’t require the blending of multiple color inks to produce the appropriate tone. Estimated Street Price: $849.


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