Best printer for negative

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by michel_leclerc, Mar 19, 2005.

  1. Hello,

    i'm looking to buy a printer to print large (8X10) B&W negatives for
    alternates processes, what will be a good choice? The new Epson R800
    seems to be good in color but how do they performs in B&W?

  2. Michel, I have a 2200. I am not familiar with the R800 but I think if your main concern is digital negatives for contacting and such, you need real tight dot/dither pattern, as B&W (matermarism?) will not affect you much, and you can concentrate on getting great negatives without fussing on anything but great negatives. Please report back you deision and findings. That said I think the R800 will be a great choice.
  3. The Epson 800 was evaluated on this site:

    If you print B&W it was a problem to get a print without a color cast if I remember correctly. The HP8450 does not have this problem since it has three shades of black ink and only uses black ink to print B&W prints. I believe HP is the only supplier that makes a printer with this characteristic.
  4. Are you talking about paper negatives? In that case a dye based printer might actually be better, having transparent ink and the ability to print on a wider range of media so you can find a paper with no watermark.
  5. I have printed a lot of digital negatives. You don't need to get a negative that appears B&W (mine come out looking a bit green) - mostly you need a printer that can print very sharp detail and can print onto the appropriate media.

    I've used the Epson 2200/7600 for most of my work; these have been excellent for negatives. This is probably the most common printer for people who are doing digital negatives. The media of choice is Pictorico OHP transparency film (for alternative processes) or Pictorico White film (for silver).

    In many ways, the R800 (and the R1800) are newer and better models for general photographic printing. Since these support printing onto glossy papers, I think they might be a better general purpose printer and would still print excellent digital negatives.

    If you want a 'safe' choice for digital negatives - get the Epson 2200 - (look for refurbished models around $550) you'll be able to find help easily on this printer. It is still a great printer.

    If you want a potentially better all-around printer - get the Epson R800 (or the R1800). You might want to contact Pictorico and ask them how well the R800 works with their media. My guess is this will soon become a great printer for this type of work.
  6. Michel,

    I don't think you'll like the R800 for digital negatives, unless you're prepared to put some serious work into it. Now, granted, I've only tried it once, and that was just to print a cal chart so we could go print some platinum and build a curve, but it seems to look "gritty". The different colors all have varying degrees of UV "stopping power", which do not correlate at all with their visible light optical density. So, when it uses multiple colors to make the lighter shades of gray, the end result is a mix of dots with random UV density, and random "grit".

    If you built curves for PhotoShop that controlled CMY and K (as well as you can with the Epson RGB drivers, anyway. Sort of Paul Roark style) you could kill most of the grit. If you built curves for each of the 6 channels separatly in QTR, you could kill all the grit, and it would probably be the best digital negative machine on the market.

    That's the approach I'm working on for the 2200, right now. The 2200 starts off much better for negatives, right out of the box. The light black ink means it dowsn't use anywhere near as many colored inks to make grays (and if you use stock QTR curves, you can do it all on black and light black).

    Whichever you do, if you're doign alternative process negatives, play with the matte black. It's got a lot better UV density than photo black, and you'll need that on those contrast hungry alternative processes.

    p.s. there is an alternative process group on this site, and that's where most of us with experience in printing digital negatives hang out.


  7. Steven,

    Dye based printers typically have ink that lets too much UV through for full scale (dmin to dmax) alternative process prints.

    The Epson pigment inks have much better UV density. Especially their matte black ink, a sooty mix that can probably stop gamma rays...

    The best media for this kind of stuff is Pictorico OHP film. Paper negatives don't work too well unless you try techniques like the "wet paper" negative. And that means you need waterproof dyes, or pigments...
  8. I didn't know you were talking about UV exposure, for visible light I was thinking pigment inks might be far too dense essentially generating the same image as printing in black ink only from the printer itself.
  9. Steve,

    Even for visible light stuff, like good old Ilfor Multigrade, The pigment inks aren't all that dense. A black and white negative (using "photo black", not the sooty "matte black" works well for low contrast grades. A reddish magenta negative works pretty well for the medium grades, keeping contrast from building up too fast.
  10. Not sure what the criteria is needed for a good negative printer.
    Canon's iP5000, shoots out 1 picoliter droplets and prints at 9600x2400. It uses 4(one of which is black) dyes and one black pigment.
    You can also convert some Epsons and make them into a grayscale printer but I think the inks are usually pigments, if that matters.
    The link below is a nice article with lots of links for B&W prints; I don't think they cover negatives, but maybe one of the links do.
  11. Michel,

    I use both the Epson 1280 and 2200 for making 'digital' negs onto Pictorico OHP film
    which are used for platinum printing. Both printers will yield excellent results however I
    have found negs made using the 1280 to have less 'grittiness' than ones made on the
    2200. If you're coming from enlarging small format silver negs you'll be quite pleased
    with either printer - if you are presently contact printing lf negs you may prefer the results
    from the 1280. Epson inks are effective at 'blocking' uv light but your exposure times will
    still be much shorter than those made using traditional 'silver' negs.
  12. Roger,

    Are you getting enough range out of the 1280 to get you from DMIN to DMAX on platinum? Do you intensify the platinuium?

    And if you want better results out of your 2200, do two things. First, kill a few sheets of negative material, doing a printer alignment. Second, play with colors. You'll find if you give the negatives a few different hues, you'll find the one where the visible density and the UV density match well, and the "grit" magically goes away...

    You can use that trick on your 1280, too, and really get smooth.
  13. Joseph,

    Yes, no problem reaching dmin/max on the 1280 for platinum printing. I use a standard
    'mix' of pt to pd 1:5 and process in pot-ox '2' (2 drops sod. dichro per 200ml of stock

    I've gone through about 100 shts of OHP using every method that I've been able to find -
    Burkholder, Schreiber, Nelson, Sullivan. Platinum prints from my 2200 are 'smoother' than
    when I had originally began all this but prints from the 1280 still have the edge - granted
    at the cost of slight sharpness loss compared to the 2200.
  14. Roger,

    Burkholder, Schreiber, and Nelson all try to pick a single color that maximizes the "fit" between the negative's scale and the paper. It sounds counterintuitive, but if you pick colors for minimum grit, you'll end up with a shorter scale in the negative, but a better looking print. Understanding "printer native resolution" and exactly how to add fractional percent noise doesn't hurt, either.

    I'm currently tinkering with doing all the linearization and color curve building through QTR and the GIMP print engine, because it gives you 16 bit (well, 12 bit, technically) control of density, so you can map any full range 8 bit scale to any arbitrarily small range of "printer space" that you like.
  15. OK, now you've got me curious. Sullivan has a method?
  16. Joseph,

    What you are saying sounds interesting. I'm an 'old dog' who has difficulty learning new
    'tricks'. Frankly the whole 'digital' thing has been daunting for me to pick up. Any
    suggestions on sites/reading material regarding adding 'frational' noise?

    Kevin Sullivan I believe prints a massive set of colour scales to find a 'set' that gives the
    smoothest tones and from there roughs out a curve with 3 or so points. I'll email you his
    'condensed' reply.
  17. Thanks for all your answers. From what i understand, i'm better to go for an
    Epson printer and pigmented inks for my purpose (UV printing) specially the
    2200 or R1800 for their matte black ink. What kind of curves will be good for
    ziatype printing. Is the one for traditionnal silver works. Any example? I'm still
    learning a lots!

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