Everything old is new again. After lying dormant for more than a few years, black-and-white photography is growing explosively. Printer manufacturers are putting sizable resources into developing better ink and paper combinations, plus improved software and firmware, to generate black-and-white prints that surpass what was possible in the old wet darkroom. As the latest generation of products comes to market, we're taking a look at the possibilities.
HP Photosmart 8750 Professional Photo Printer
Go up to 13x19 inches with the latest in the HP Photosmart line
By Maura C. Lanahan
The dual task of producing accurate color images as well great black-and-whites can be a challenge for desktop printers. I had recently used Hewlett-Packard's Photosmart 8150 Photo Printer and was extremely pleased with the results, so I requested the new HP Photosmart 8750 Professional Photo Printer for review.
The ability of this printer to render black-and-white images with subtle shifts in tonal variations is remarkable. By using nine different inks, including a light and dark gray cartridge, the 8750 is capable of capturing detail in dark, shadowy areas while deep blacks contribute to high contrasts. The quality of each print stays consistent with different paper surfaces and is comparable to a print finished by hand from a film negative.
The driver is simple to navigate, as choosing paper type and resolution commands are easy to find. I tried toning an image in the driver's advanced color options instead of my image-editing software and turned out an interesting sepia print.
Based on Wilhelm Imaging Research, when the Vivera dye-based ink system (HP 97 Tri-Color, HP 101 Blue Photo and HP 102 Gray Photo Inkjet print cartridges) is used with HP Premium Plus Photo Papers, photos resist fading for more than 100 years when exposed to light and 200 years when kept in a photo album.
Boasting a large carriage, the unit can create up to 13x19-inch borderless images, making it ideal for printing photographs to hang on your wall. Having dimensions of 25.3x24.1x10, the 8750 may take up a considerable amount of space on your desk, but for the size and quality of images, it's well worth it.
• Capable of producing 13x19 borderless prints
The Epson Stylus Photo R2400 printer promises to eliminate the problem by producing monochrome prints that rival, if not surpass, a silver-based print. In addition to delivering a wide tonal range, the printer creates black-and-white prints with a lightfastness of up to 200 years.
Printer performance in both color and black-and-white is a result of Epson's UltraChrome K3 inks. Including cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, light magenta, and photo and matte black inks, the new system now adds light black and light-light black inks (actually grays, but the black name is used to support the K3 nomenclature). This expanded range of black inks gives the printer greater control for a wider range of tones without introducing unwanted color casts.
The three black inks also offer improved midtone and highlight details that often were lost or adversely impacted by color shifts. Rather than depending on the colored inks to render the nuanced changes in tone, the new lighter black inks fill this role, resulting in the neutral prints. For photographers who prefer tinted images, the printer's driver provides easy controls for producing platinum or sepia prints.
The R2400 supports a resolution of up to 5760 x 1400 dpi, but it's the printer's delivery of inks in droplets as small as 3.5 picoliters that provides the fine detail and smooth tones needed for high-quality black-and-white prints. Other benefits include reduced bronzing and metamerism, and increased scratch resistance.
The printer's ability to create gallery-sized prints on a wide variety of paper surfaces promises to make this a popular printer among serious and professional photographers. Capable of prints of up to 13 inches wide, the printer produces 11x14 prints in as fast as two minutes in photo-quality mode. The unit features three paper paths to accommodate papers of different thicknesses, including canvas and posterboard. It offers a maximum printable area of 13x44 inches.
As the popularity of the digital darkroom has increased, so has an interest in quality black-and-white prints. The Epson Stylus Photo R2400 fits a much desired niche among photographers. Estimated Street Price: $849.
Printing Technology: Thermal Inkjet
Inks: Pigment-based—cyan, magenta,
yellow, light cyan, light magenta, photo black,
matte black, light black, light-light black
Direct To Print: n/a
• Creates black-and-white and color prints with a lightfastness of up to 200 years
• Three paper paths for media of different thicknesses
• Three densities of black ink provide neutral monochrome prints
• Increased color gamut improves the range of color prints
Hewlett-Packard Designjet 90
Hewlett-Packard's Vivera inks have done more than deliver improved color and lightfastness. With the HP Designjet 90 printer, the inks produce neutral black-and-white prints that wouldn't seem possible from an inkjet printer.
Designed for professional photography and graphic design work, the HP Designjet 90 has been created with color accuracy as a high priority. When you're producing color-critical photographs or working with pre-press productions, you need precise, consistent color whether it's the first print or the 100th. A built-in color sensor and the Vivera inks make prints that deliver the same color and tonality print after print. This accurate reproduction of color plays a big role in producing quality neutral black-and-white prints.
The six-ink printer uses a special color-layering technology to produce continuous, smooth tones on a wide variety of paper surfaces, from glossy to matte. The control and precision by which the ink is distributed on the paper's surface allows for the retention of details, especially in the shadows and highlights. In addition, prints are resistant to fading for up to 82 years.
HP's Closed Loop Color Calibration (CLCC) and Black Point compensation take the printer beyond simply depositing ink on paper. The CLCC is an advanced tool for ensuring that the color and tones of your original image are accurately reproduced on the page. A built-in scanner reads primary color tiles on the proof to measure variations in color and makes adjustments to the printer's output. The printer's advanced algorithms provide the means for the inks to be delivered in a wide variety of layer combinations for high-quality photographic prints.
The Black Point instantly calculates new black points for each printing and adapts the black point from the image file's initial color profile. It combines both the source and destination profiles to help maintain shadow detail. It also delivers cleaner blacks with reduced color shifting, helping to produce more neutral prints.
Capable of creating prints on precut sheets of up to 18x24 inches, the printer also can output panoramic prints as long as 64 inches. Supporting a resolution of up to 2400 x 1200 dpi, it delivers the Vivera inks in droplets as small as four picoliters.
The HP Designjet 90 promises to be a printer that, whether printing big or small, will offer pro-level color accuracy and high-quality black-and-white at an affordable price. Estimated Street Price: $995.
Advanced color precision delivers neutral black-and-white prints
By Dikla Kadosh
Black-and-white photographs are like a great pair of jeans—they never go out of style. You can print your own gorgeous black-and-white photographs that rival those produced in professional labs without leaving your home or office. Advances in printer technology have made inkjet printers faster, more precise and more sophisticated, and with a set of specialty black-and-white inks, you can produce quality archival photos on the same inkjet printer you use for color prints.
Media Street recently introduced an archival black-and-white inkjet solution that gives you all the tools you need to create dazzling prints worthy of a museum gallery or at least the dining room wall. The package includes a set of Generations QuadBlack pigment inks, an assortment of photographic and fine-art papers, and software to guide you through the process. The variable-tone inks allow you to make cold, warm, neutral or platinum prints with just a few quick selections. Even with a standard photo printer, such as the Epson Stylus Photo R200, this complete system makes it as easy to print in black-and-white as it is in color.
InkjetMall provides two options for printing the highest-quality archival black-and-white photos with Epson printers. Piezography® BW ICC is a system of monochromatic inks and media profiles that automates the process and ensures the best possible results. The PiezoTone inks are pigment inks designed for users who require the absolute greatest available longevity and monochromatic color stability. PiezoTones are available in Warm Neutral, Selenium Tone, Carbon Sepia and Cool Neutral gray sets. The iQuads system utilizes the same PiezoTone inks and features customized printer profiles made specifically for your printer, environment and printing goals.
For black-and-white images with tonal gradations that match traditional silver-halide prints, Lyson offers its Daylight Darkroom system. The Lyson archival inks come in a set of six or seven black inks, varying in intensity and replacing the normal CMYK colors in a standard photo printer. You can choose between a cool, neutral or warm tone to get the look you want. The Daylight Darkroom imaging system incorporates inks, printing software and Lyson media for a total package that produces stunning results.
InkjetMall, (888) 426-6323, www.inkjetmall.com
Lyson, (847) 690-1060, www.lyson.com
Media Street, (888) 633-4295, www.mediastreet.com