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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Gadget Bag: Large Format Printers

Ansel Adams was a master landscape printer. Take the same type of control with your prints by finding the perfect 17-inch printer to meet your preferences.

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Not only was Ansel Adams iconic due to his ability to compose grand landscapes with beautiful light, but he was also known for the excellence of his prints. He often created his monochromatic prints in a large-scale format, using a 16x20 enlarger, allowing the viewer to fully take in the details of the moment. With inkjet printers improving in quality today, it's increasingly possible for every photographer to take the same interest and pride in creating a physical print, regardless of our move to a digital format. Capable of creating 17x22-inch precut prints or longer 17-inch-wide panoramas with paper rolls, the 17-inch printer is a comparable size to Adams' images and provides a great chance to explore the craft of printing.

In terms of size, 17-inch printers are the smallest of the "large-format" printers. Physically, it's a great foray into large format while still being midsized, as it can create large images while sitting on your desktop instead of making its own spatial footprint in your workspace the way most 24-inch (and above) printers do.

If you're comparing a 17-inch printer to a 13x19 desktop, you might be put off by the dramatic price jump. To make this decision, think about how often you'll print at 17 inches and how often you'll have to go to a lab for these prints. You'll also need to consider that, with lab processing, you lose control over quality in terms of ink, permanence and full media selection. Depending on your print frequency and control, you may prefer the initial printer investment.

Color Gamut
A gamut is the range of colors that's possible to display. Your computer screen and the printed page deal with light in different ways. The screen emits light across the RGB (red, blue, green) spectrum, while paper absorbs some light and reflects others within the CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow) color gamut. Because of this difference in light behavior and color gamut, it may not always be possible to reproduce the specific color on your screen onto paper. Printers deal with this disparity through their ink selection and their own factory calibration process. There are several third-party systems for monitor calibration.

Originally, printers for your home came with a very small color palette, making it difficult to print images at a high enough quality. Today's printers have expanded their color gamut to include different dilutions of colors to create flawless transitions between colors, tones and dense spaces, making high-quality home prints possible.

Ink comes in two varieties: dye and pigment. Dye ink is high in saturation and density of blacks. It's less prone to color shifts due to viewing in different temperatured lighting (an occurrence known as metamerism). But while it's highly durable, standing up to scuffing, it has poor permanence and is more likely to fade if it's displayed in areas with extended exposure to light. Pigment ink is more resistant to fading over time. In fact, it may add 100 years to the life of the image. And, through the years, pigment solutions have been increasing in their durability and saturation, as well as decreasing in metamerism.


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