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Thursday, May 24, 2007

High-End Printers For Your Studio

The current generation of professional-level inkjet printers can give your studio a steady stream of lucrative print business


An actual print head nozzle magnified to show the structure.
Pigment-based inks have been the exclusive territory of Epson until recently. Starting with the Epson 4000, these inks have excellent archival qualities and are able to print on nearly any media that can be fed through the printer. The Epson UltraChrome printers use eight colors of ink, adding additional blacks for better black and white tonal range and printing on fine-art papers.

The first version of UltraChrome suffered from noticeable metamerism, or shifts of color, under different light conditions. With the latest Epson printers—the Stylus Pro 4800 (17 inches), Stylus Pro 7800 (24 inches) and Stylus Pro 9800 (44 inches)—the inks have greatly reduced metamerism and now show uniform color changes when viewed under different light conditions. A second issue with the first generation was bronzing, where black-and-white prints would show poor tonal quality when viewed at an angle.

Epson has completely revamped its line with the UltraChrome II inks. By adding a third black and reformulating the other inks, this problem has also been resolved.

Canon entered the pigment market for photo printing about a year ago with the imagePROGRAF W6400 (24 inches) and W8400 (44 inches). These seven colors (five, plus a swappable photo and matte black) gave photographers looking for pro photo printers a second choice in the large-format field.

At PMA this year, Canon introduced the imagePROGRAF iPF5000, its first 17-inch printer and the first printer from Canon with the new Lumina pigment inks. This printer packs 12 colors, all of which are available with no swapping by adding
a second print head to the printer.

HP was showing its first pigment printer, the Pro B9180 at PMA also. This printer falls into the desktop range, with a maximum width of 13 inches, but it's a clear indication of the direction in which HP is headed with its photo printers. Also, third-party vendors such as Media Street and Pantone have entered the fray. These manufacturers offer quality products for the pro market.

Along with long display and archive life, which is now being measured in the century rather than year length, pigments can also be used on nearly any media that can be fed into the printer. Many of the fine-art papers, such as the 100% cotton rags and mold-made papers, and canvas can only be used successfully with pigments.



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