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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Printers For Big Landscapes

An Ansel Adams-esque landscape is up to being displayed big. We’ll show you the best of the best in inkjet printers and explain the technology of printing.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Ansel Adams was a legendary craftsman who labored over the creation of perfect prints. In his home darkroom, Adams had a conventional table-top enlarger for prints up to 11x14 inches or so, and he had a side-mounted model on a rail system to make large prints 16x20 inches and larger by projecting the image on the wall. Some images just call for a big print!

In the digital darkroom, large printers that had been beyond the means of most photographers have come down in price to the point where 17- and 24-inch models are within reach. But which printer has what you need at a price you can afford? A look at the technology and cost breakdowns will help you choose the model that will transform your desktop darkroom into one that a photographer like Ansel Adams would have craved.

Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100
The first question: How big do you want to go? The term “large format” covers a wide variety of printer sizes. At one end of the scale are the 17-inch models, which are capable of producing up to 17x22-inch prints from cut-sheet media or longer prints (i.e., 17x40 inches) using up to 17-inch-wide rolls. Some of these can fit on a desktop, and popular models include the 17-inch Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100 ($1,600 estimated street price, cut-sheet and roll media), the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 ($1,200 estimated street price, cut-sheet only) and the newer Epson Stylus Pro 4900 ($2,500 estimated street price, cut-sheet or roll media). Next in size, and considered the sweet spot in the large-format category, are 24-inch inkjet printers capable of printing on cut-sheet media and rolls up to 24 inches wide. Top choices include the 24-inch Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6300 ($2,600 estimated street price), the new Epson Stylus Pro 7890 ($3,000 estimated street price) and the HP Designjet Z3200 ($3,400 estimated street price). Moving up the scale, in both price and size, are the 44- to 64-inch printers, most of which feature printing technologies and ink sets similar to their 24-inch counterparts. Examples include the 44-inch Canon imagePROGRAF iPF8300 ($4,400 estimated street price), 64-inch Epson Stylus Pro 11880 ($9,000 estimated street price) and 60-inch HP Designjet Z6100 ($16,000 estimated street price).

With large-format printers starting at $1,200, you might be tempted to choose a more affordable ($500-$700) 13x19-inch desktop printer for the majority of your work and send the larger sizes out to a pro lab (the Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II, for example). But if you plan to make more than a few dozen 13x19-inch or larger prints per year, or if you want to take charge of the whole image-making process, you’ll want to invest in your own printer. Let’s take a closer look at these advantages and then compare the features, technologies and image quality available in state-of-the-art 24-inch models from Canon, Epson and HP.


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