Tuesday, October 7, 2008
High-Tech B&W Printers
Today’s high-tech black-and-white printers can produce images that surpass anything that was possible in the film darkroom
Like the improvements to software, today’s high-end photo printers do a much better job getting your image onto paper the same way it appears on screen. Thanks, in part, to new ink formulations and the addition of more gray inks, it’s possible to get truly neutral black-and-white prints at a reasonable cost without sending your images to a lab. In this roundup, we’ll take a look at the options that are available in 13-inch and larger-size printers.
Inkjet printers use either dye- or pigment-based inks. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on what you’re trying to accomplish. In the class of printers we’re looking at here, the only real option in the dye-based category is the HP Designjet 130. The most compact 24-inch printer available, it’s also the only one with a media tray for cut-sheet paper (all the other printers in this size require feeding cut sheets individually). A separate roll-feed unit also is available. The Designjet 130 is getting a bit long in the tooth, having been out for several years now, but it still has the ability to knock your socks off with the right paper and image type.
All of the most popular printers today use pigment inks. These are great for the variety of media that you can print on (just about anything that you can feed through the printer can be used), and the archival life. Most printers using pigment inks have been rated at well over 100 years, and some exceed 200 years, making them a solution that works for anyone concerned with the longevity of their prints.
Pigment also is where we begin to see additional ink colors being added to the mix. Where six colors—cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta and black—were the standard, these new printers use from eight to 12 ink cartridges for smoother tonal gradation and better color accuracy. Just two short years ago, you’d have been looking at one manufacturer for a printer of this type, Epson. In the past two years, however, Canon and HP have made strong product introductions in the pro-level photo-printer arena, and Epson has continued to refine its lineup with new and improved products. What this means for us is a great number of options to choose from, and at better prices than ever could have been imagined a few years back.
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