Improved (and more) inks, better papers and the latest printer technology mean inkjet prints that look better—and last longer—than conventional photos
By Mike Stensvold
Printers For Outdoor Photos
Canon’s PIXMA Pro9000 ($499) is a 13x19-inch large-format model that uses eight dye-based ChromaLife 100 inks: cyan, magenta, yellow, black, photo cyan, photo magenta, red and green. A high-precision print head with FINE (Full-lithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) technology accurately deposits microscopic droplets of the high-density, wide-gamut inks on five special Canon papers, yielding 100-year life in albums, 30-year lightfastness and 10-year gas-fastness. Two paper paths make it easy to print on standard and thick art papers.
Higher up in Canon’s large-format inkjet line is the imagePROGRAF iPF5000 ($1,995), a 17-inch wide-format professional model that distributes 12 Canon Lucia pigment inks (cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red, green, blue, gray, photo gray, regular black and matte black) through dual print heads with 30,720 nozzles. The unique blue ink creates beautiful skies, while the black and gray inks deliver excellent black-and-whites. The iPF5000 can handle paper from 8 to 17 inches wide and make prints up to 59 feet long using Canon’s driver; and up to the length of a 150-foot roll using some third-party RIP software.
There are three print paths to suit all sorts of media, plus an optional roll-feed unit (cassette and roll paper can be loaded simultaneously; borderless printing is possible only on rolls). Epson’s Stylus Pro 3800 ($1,299 and up, depending on package) is the company’s latest and most technically advanced printer, with the widest color gamut. The 17x22-inch large-format inkjet prints with eight Epson UltraChrome K3 inks (the K3 indicating three black inks among them): cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta, light black, light light black and either photo black or matte black. The printer holds all nine inks, automatically using photo black or matte black to suit the paper you choose in the print driver.
All-new algorithms for dot placement and photographic screening include technology developed especially for black-and-white printing, and the Stylus Pro 3800 delivers beautiful color and black-and-white prints, from 4x6 to 17x22 inches, on a wide variety of media. Permanence ratings range from 85 to 200 years for color and 76 to 312 years for black-and-white, depending on media used.
The Stylus Photo R2400 ($849) also uses Epson's UltraChrome K3 pigment inkset, but the switch between photo black and matte black inks is done manually by the user rather than automatically by the printer. This fast inkjet features three separate paper paths to handle a wide range of media including posterboard and rolls, and can do borderless or bordered prints from 4x6 to 13x19 inches. As in the Stylus Pro 3800, Advanced Black & White Mode makes it easy to produce terrific black-and-white prints.
HP’s Photosmart Pro B9180 ($699) is a 13x19-inch inkjet that utilizes eight HP Vivera pigment-based inks: cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta, photo black, matte black and light gray (it uses photo black for glossy paper, matte black for matte papers, and both for watercolor and canvas media). Main and straight-through specialty-media trays allow for borderless or bordered printing on a wide range of media (textured HP Aquarella is especially nice for suitable subjects) from wallet size to 13x19 inches. Appropriate HP media deliver waterproof prints with under-glass 200+-year light and thermal permanence.
For those who think really big, there are even larger-format inkjets, such as HP’s Designjet Z2100 Photo Printer. This comes in 24-inch ($3,395) and 44-inch-wide ($5,595) versions, can make prints up to 300 feet long (assuming your operating system and application can handle that), accepts thick media up to 500gsm, and uses the same eight Vivera pigment inks as the B9180 for excellent prints in color and black-and-white. Scalable Printing technology assures reliability and optimizes ink consumption. The Z2100 even has an embedded spectrophotometer with i1 Color Technology from GretagMacbeth to provide automatic media profiling. (Note: Canon and Epson also offer excellent very-large-format inkjet printers.)
All of the printers mentioned here use individual ink tanks, so you don’t have to replace all the colors when one runs low. And all provide easy-to-use drivers that operate as stand-alones or as Photoshop plug-ins.