Do we need a printer at all?

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by david-nicolas, Sep 6, 2004.

  1. How do you react to the following thought? Labs (like Fuji) print
    cheaper than home printers, and perhaps with equal or better quality.
    Does anyone have contrary opinions on this, e.g. that a printer like
    Epson R800 or Epson 2100/2200 makes better prints (or longer lasting)
    prints than, say, a Fuji lab? If not, then why buy a home printer?
     
  2. That's easy. The prints from my Epson 2100 look like I want them to look. The lab prints look like some stupid maschine thinks they look good... If the lab prints satisfy you, there's no need to buy a printer , if you think they could be improved, there is.
     
  3. I would like my own printer. I love the convenience and how you have total control of the printer.

    I believe for small prints 6x4" it may be the same as home printing. But u need time for the cost of the printer to invest itself. As too with the calibration hardwares and softwares. For large prints I think is where the savings would kick in.

    Yep, I read many reviews that the 2100 or so gives better print when its calibrated, some use that for income, they make the final prints for the client. John Shaw uses the Epson 9600 - a huge thing at 44" wide. He's been unhappy with the lab's work.

    Heard they offer archival quality.
    www.computer-darkroom.com

    I heard the 1290 or so is also v good if not as good as a pro lab, v good nonetheless. Not sure about the R series thou.

    I think it all comes down to conv and fun. When u need to prepurchase all these $$ things it does need sometime before it makes a return. I don't think its a funny matter or the quality really to the avg person. It comes down to interest. The lab's hardwork has shifted to your's thou.
     
  4. Edit: funny matter? I meant money matter!
    The monitor calibration is not bad $150, the printer calibration can be $500 for the desktop version or the pro's *unneeded) is $1500-2000! Not cheap, I don't think money is an issue when comparing outside and home prints. Quality yes better but for the avg person maybe not..
     
  5. I have an Epson 2100/2200. I sold it after a month after I found out how expensive it was to keep it running.

    Labs are cheaper, have better paper and a better printing process. Ink vs laser just doesn't compare.

    Strangely enough, I haven't had the color problems other people seem to be swamped with, even though I run Linux and haven't BOUGHT any weird, expensive "color calibration" software. Spending tons of money on software that does what you can do yourself makes no sense to me.
     
  6. I feel the Fuji Frontier is the best route for glossy prints, and if You can`t get what You want from it is a matter of bad communication between You and Your lab.
    The Frontier prints have way bigger gamut than any ink jet, however in some cases the inkjet may have more "pop" due to the compressed gamut (just like slides over negatives).

    I like the "artistic" surfaces where the ink jets shine, and i use one for that, for output i can`t get from the lab (fine-art surfaces, semi gloss, mattt,..)
     
  7. I'm with Edward & David.

    I use my Canon S800 for proofs & test prints, but always send my portrait jobs and family-album photos to WHCC, Mpix or ezprints. They're cheaper than buying Canon's inks and Pro Glossy paper, especially for small prints. Their prints are claimed to last for "50+ years" (Fuji Professional Crystal Archive paper at WHCC) or "100 years" (Kodak Professional Endura paper at Mpix), if I recall correctly.

    I only use printing services who don't adjust the colors and luminance (unless you request that service).

    "Brandon's Dad"
     
  8. "I feel the Fuji Frontier is the best route for glossy prints, and if You can`t get what You want from it is a matter of bad communication between You and Your lab."

    Or between the Frontier and the 'Tech running it.....
     
  9. The lab prints look like some stupid maschine thinks they look good
    I recently started using a Frontier lab closer to where I work, and had several files from my 10D I had previously printed at a different Frontier shop re-printed at the new lab.
    The files printed at my new Frontier lab matched exactly the prints done at the old Frontier shop.
    So, what we've concluded from the story problem above is Fuji Frontiers, if maintained correctly, deliver extremely standardized prints without having any damn thing to do with operator judgement. If you're using crappy amatuer films and taking them to flaky labs, I agree you'll get varying results.
    To really add to my satisfaction, all my Frontier prints from files, be it from my increasingly rare film scans or 10D capture match exactly to what my monitor is showing without running a bunch of expensive monitor calibration software. You people are listening to a bunch of pre-press geeks jerking you around and making up solutions for problems that don't exist if you really think you need $1000 worth of calibration software to match basic display dynamics to color photographic paper. You have no concept how easy that makes it for me to get perfect results, and to take the lab rat totally out of the equation since they aren't allowed to make judgement calls on my files - period. Two bucks an 8x10 as well.
    Next point: I've used all the Epson printers, including the 2200 and similiar 9600, and even the best calibrated ones are still not as seemless and easy to work with as a Frontier writing to glossy Fuji Crystal Archive paper. The Fuji paper is archival, and it doesn't have holes in it's gamut range like all ink-jets do. Again, the main strength of home ink-jet printing is using artsy matte papers and not glossy papers.
     
  10. Thanks all for your answer. What about matte prints (say A3)? Made at a Fuji lab, or made on the best paper on an Epson 2200? Is the Epson then better as for quality?
     
  11. Scott you are truely amazing, we all can learn alot from you.
     
  12. The lab prints look like some stupid maschine thinks they look good
    I recently started using a Frontier lab closer to where I work, and had several files from my 10D I had previously printed at a different Frontier shop re-printed at the new lab.
    The files printed at my new Frontier lab matched exactly the prints done at the old Frontier shop.
    So, what we've concluded from the story problem above is Fuji Frontiers, if maintained correctly, deliver extremely standardized prints without having any damn thing to do with operator judgement. If you're using crappy amatuer films and taking them to flaky labs, I agree you'll get varying results.
    To really add to my satisfaction, all my Frontier prints from files, be it from my increasingly rare film scans or 10D capture match exactly to what my monitor is showing without running a bunch of expensive monitor calibration software. You people are listening to a bunch of pre-press geeks jerking you around and making up solutions for problems that don't exist if you really think you need $1000 worth of calibration software to match basic display dynamics to color photographic paper. You have no concept how easy that makes it for me to get perfect results, and to take the lab rat totally out of the equation since they aren't allowed to make judgement calls on my files - period. Two bucks an 8x10 as well.
    Next point: I've used all the Epson printers, including the 2200 and similiar 9600, and even the best calibrated ones are still not as seemless and easy to work with as a Frontier writing to glossy Fuji Crystal Archive paper. The Fuji paper is archival, and it doesn't have holes in it's gamut range like all ink-jets do even though the ink-jets can crank out higher resolution. Again, the main strength of home ink-jet printing is using artsy matte papers and not high gloss media.
     
  13. Preparing the digital file yourself and sending it to a digital lab to print is nowadays convenient and usually results in very high quality. It will also save a lot of hassle of owning a printer. A printer can be economic when doing a full A3+ prints or larger in significant amounts (the Frontier does 25x38 cm, not sure about others.) A printer is useful if you need the print right now, not tomorrow.
     
  14. All the answers given here have been very helpful and very informative. Being a complete novice and trying to understand the complexities of entire process of changing a 35 mm print to a digital image, let me ask one question. If I were to elect to have a pro photo lab print my 8x 10 instaed of doing it on my home printer, do I first scan my a neg to my computer and do my final adjustments with Photoshop, than when I am satisfied with my image do I save the image to a disk and bring the disk to the photo lab for them to print an 8 X 10 for me?
     
  15. I am dealing with these same issues myself. In fact, I'm looking thru this forum right now
    to read up on the Epson R800, the printer I'm considering buying.

    My current thoughts are: I want/need a printer for making small prints and proofs, for
    convenience sake as well as for the creative ops that are available from having my own
    printer, but I would rather have pros who work full time at printing (I use Calypso) do my
    printing for "exhibition quality" larger work. I'd rather "sub it out" and spend more time
    with my camera and less time on the computer.

    I think the R800 will be more than enough printer for my home use. I don't think it's gonna
    compare to the quality of Calypso's Lightjet 5000 service though.

    As far as dealing with a pro lab...If you do have a home printer you can then send a proof
    for the lab to use as a guide. I think it will be easier to communicate what I want than just
    saying make it 10% darker, etc. Yes, you can definitely do your corrections yourself and
    send off a file for printing.

    Take care,
    Cathy
     
  16. I still have a couple of Epson printers, but don't really ever use them anymore for color prints. Instead I go to a couple of Frontier labs -- one close to home and another close to work, and yes, the prints are consistent between the two.

    The only times I even digitally print at home these days is for quadtone printing, using MIS inksets on matte paper.
     
  17. I love the Frontier and Noritsu output. The cost is comparable or less to use the commercial printer and the print output is better from a commercial standpoint. After all, when you hand someone a real photographic print created using photographic chemical processes the recipient gets a photo in their hand that looks and feels right. The lack of grain in digital can be ignored or ameliorated as the creater sees fit.

    Whereas I find every inkjet paper I have seen to not feel as good in the hand. Add to that the durability (can you say coffee spill) of the RA-4 output (Frontier, ...) and you have a product inkjets still cannot touch. Sure your inkjet may survive longer under heavy light in a lab, but at 31 years of age I can tell you that the difference between 50 years and 100 years of print longevity in direct sunlight is miniscule compared to the tactile feel of a real photographic print in your hand with the security that that coffee spill did not ruin the last print of your dead aunt. In short, print longevity is only one of many issues that affect how a print is recieved by a recipient. If all your prints will be matted and framed, then this is a non-issue. But I also like the ability to give high quality snapshots of people to them when I get one so that they are even more receptive to having their shot taken in the future. And a real photographic print ties in with many decades of perception with most people. And I personally feel that it is a person's tactile interaction with the image that ruins the presentation of many inkjet papers (but not all).

    Anyway, lots of opinion here from me, but hopefully this should open up some additional awareness of photographic print issues that are less likely to appear in next week/month/year's exciting new comparison of print longevity in your favorite website/magazine on photography.

    hope this gets you thinking,

    Sean (Whose current goal is to learn to please people like his mother who know nothing of exposure, straight horizons, and etcetera that actually buy pretty pictures rather than critiquing them.)
     
  18. The Epson R800 makes great prints with a wide colour gamut, that is arguably larger than Lightjets in a couple of dimensions, and are also waterproof and long-lived under some conditions, and produce much better glossy prints than older Epson pigment ink printers. And they're also handy for printing out online maps, etc.

    Are they perfect? No. Do you want to use one of these for volume printing? No. Are they super cheap to run? No, but they don't have to be. Do professional printers produce better images in some cases? Well I certainly hope so; it'd be humiliating if they didn't.

    Do you want to do proofing yourself without walking back & forth to the lab? Do you want the convenience of making a print anytime you want in the middle of the night / weekend / etc? Do you want some more privacy with your bizarre taste in art / friends / relations to avoid the lab's judgements on your work? Do you want to be in control and responsible for the final results? Etc., etc. There are many valid reasons for having your own printer; and perhaps many for not, and some for using both options where wanted.
     
  19. In the old days this was the same as asking why have a traditional darkroom. If your into serious art, need careful control, then a lab won't cut it (unless its a pro lab). You can tweak your print as much as you want, a little more of this color or that. You won't get that kind of service from anyone but yourself.

    If you have to ask the question, then likely you really don't need one.
     
  20. Do you want to do proofing yourself without walking back & forth to the lab
    I load my images directly from my 10D directly onto my computer, edit them to taste, and kick them up to my lab via broadband. I pick up the final prints on the way home, and they match to what I saw on the display the night before. While not as convenient as my Epson 820, I spend more time cussing at my 820 for running out of ink in the middle of a batch or just deciding it doesn't like a shade of color than my Frontier shop. Plus, I'll challenge an Epson R800 any day with glossy Frontier or LightJet out-out. On Premium lustre or matte/velvet the Epsons rule in my opinion, but they simply are not predictable with glossy media.
    FWIW - I've done comparisons with a LightJet, and Frontier out-put looks pretty much identical considering both are 300 dpi machines.
     
  21. I've never had a problem to get what I have on screen output on a Frontier. Granted, I don't start to measure 5 CC differences, but the prints aren't viewed in fully color corrected light all the time either.

    I think one important point here is to be able to edit the image (eg. do dodge and burn, correct minor color casts, change contrast etc.) before sending it out - there's really no equivalent with the traditional darkroom.
     
  22. There are many aspects of this question. Since the answer _could_ be very long, I'll try to keep it short and simple.

    Quality (resolution issues)
    It's very hard to talk about quality. One can not measure sharpness. So it's more or less personal decision. Many of the devices (lasers and printers) I've seen were not set up correctly - CRT or laser were producing some strange artifacts witch were easier seen on technical images (color charts, letters, lines, ...) and printers were producing banding due to misaligned heads. My opinion is that resolution is not the problem with new machines - both lasers and inkjets - if they are properly maintained.

    Quality (color issues)
    Color management is definitely entering the photo market. The biggest printers (service providers) have already realized the benefit of CM. Smaller are slowly following. The lack of knowledge is the biggest problem. With both providers and users. What works (in most of the cases) is sRGB workflow. AdobeRGB and other have more problems. Main reason is, that CM is not installed properly. And picture in AdobeRGB are outputed in sRGB mode, which is mostly used on minilabs.

    Not many users know, that there are 2 main modes on majority of the machines - sRGB and direct mode (also called print mode, ...). The main difference is that in PD mode minilab has much bigger color gamut in cyan and blue.

    [​IMG]
    Bigger color space is from PD mode, smaller is sRGB. Machine is the same Fuji.

    Surprising is the fact, that some combination of inkjet printer and paper has even bigger color gamut then laser.

    [​IMG]
    Bigger color space is from Epson 2100/2200, Lyson CIS Photochrome (pigmented inks) on Best/EFI photo semimat paper with Best/EFI RIP, smaller is PD mode on Fuji. Don't compare this with sRGB from above :)

    Price
    Of course the price from laser and small inkjet printer are not comparable. But bulk feed systems for some printers can lower the cost of output enormously. Some of the solution do not work, but some work excellent. I have lot's of experience with Lyson and I can tell - it works. And color gamut is even bigger then the 'original' one. Especially in green area. But the price per 1ml is about 10 times lower. And some combinations are even much cheaper then conventional photo development with minilab.

    Future
    Well this is the best part. This debate is similar to "what is the future of digital cameras in professional business" about 5 years ago. My prediction is that in next few years you will find inkjet printers in all minilabs. Some steps in this direction were already made by all major companies - both inkjet and minilab manufacturer.

    Well - I failed! I was not short. But at least I hope it was interesting :)
     
  23. Now I'm a total beginner to digital, so take this for what it's worth....

    I just got the Canon 10D a couple weeks ago, making the switch to digital from film. I've been having my film developed and color corrected by the local pro lab on a Frontier machine. Overall, I've been happy with the results, but I had a sense that I was always getting the lab tech's interpretation of the shot.

    I did my first round of digital printing on the Frontier machine yesterday, after doing my own exposure/color corrections and sharpening in Photoshop. I spent a few minutes talking to the lab techs (fairly experienced folks) to figure out what happens to my photos after I upload them. The lab techs state that there are basically three levels of correction. The first level is done by the Fuji Machine itself, it's like a subtle resolution/levels/density correction to prepare the file for printing output. The lab techs state that this cannot be turned off. The second level is optional, called "image intelligence". It's some sort of pre-programmed auto levels/color balance where the machine does the correction for you. I think you have to choose this as an option in the digital kiosk when uploading the files if you want the machine to do it. The final correction is also optional, having the lab tech hand color correct the files for you. At my lab, you actually have to ask the lab tech to correct them if you want it, otherwise they won't do it. So basically, the machine just preps the files and then outputs them to the printer unless you ask for more.

    Anyhow, I printed about 50 photos and was very pleased with the results. All the color and exposure corrections were very close to how I had set them on my screen. I did not see any evidence of the machine overriding or tampering with what I had done. It was very consistent throughout. I did notice that the machine prints a little more densely than my monitor shows, which was confirmed by the lab tech.

    I had spent a lot of time thinking about how to get the prints that I want from the Frontier machine. I did some quick research and realized that I would need to calibrate my monitor (using a colormeter), and then have a ICC printer profile to calibrate the output to the Frontier machine. This is *way* too much effort and money for my tastes. To get around this, here's what I did. I downloaded a generic color chart (like the Gretag Macbeth) chart, and then had it printed on the Frontier. I took the print back home, and using it as a reference, I adjusted the monitor settings in my control panels to match the color/contrast/brightness of the printed color chart (viewed under differing light sources) to the monitor itself.

    Now this may be way off base for proper color correction (i.e. everyone else's photos may look "wrong" on my monitor). But at least I know that when I color correct for my next round of prints, I'll be getting back exactly what I saw on the monitor. To top it off, Frontier prints aside, the new monitor settings are much more visually pleasing and balanced to my eye.

    So anyhow, with the ease that I can have Fuji Frontier prints made and the degree of control that I have over them, I see no reason to add an injet printer to my workflow. I cannot beat the cost of the Frontier at $0.27/print (I could even go cheaper if I went somewhere besides the pro lab!). And to top it all off, my new digital prints are *much* better than film would have turned out, sharper, more saturated, better exposure. Hooray for digital!

    So, I'll add my vote for the "Don't need an Epson 9600 at home" crowd.

    Hope this helps!

    Sheldon
     
  24. My local semi-pro FUji Lab always jacks the colors and sharpening. I haven't tried telling
    them not to do any correcting as I didn't know that was an option.

    I prefer Matte papers anyway...I have bought an Epson 2200 and I MUCH prefer my own
    prints to what I was getting at the Fuji Lab as well as a local "Pro Lab" I had tried.

    jmp
     
  25. Scott, thanks for your posts. From what I gather of your workflow you capture files with a 10D or a high-quality desktop scanner, edit, convert to SRGB and then print at your local lab without corrections.
    My question is what have you done to calibrate your monitor? Do you use any software program (Adobe Gamma...), do you used canned .icm profiles, did you do soft proofs like the last poster? This is the part I'm having trouble with so any ideas would be appreciated. The colors in my prints are slightly off from the monitor and lose a lot of shadow detail printed to a Frontier Pro with no corrections.
     
  26. Whoa, wait a second! Where did Scott say that he converts to sRGB before sending his file to the lab for printing? And if so, is that only necessary when transmitting a file over the internet, but not when saving a it to a CD?
     
  27. Why would sending the identical data over the net be different than a CD? Scott said in previous posts that he doesn't bother with printer-specific profiles for Frontiers.

    Further dredging through the archives produced this interesting post by Scott Eaton (anything you'd like to change?):

    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=008i28

    "My method is to fix the biggest problem first by making my monitor match the dynamics of the final print medium vs the illogic of thinking a data table (profile) is going ot magically alter the laws of physics. I make a single test print containing a 24step greyscale and a few human subjects with all my system profiling turned off with the Frontier making a 'direct print'. I then look at the resulting print, and use my video card properties to match the contrast and brightness of that test print. I can guarantee you if you do this honestly, you'll find yourself seriously reducing the brightness and contrast of your tube/CRT to match that print. Enough so that your monitor will look outright dim and dull if viewed in a brightly lit room. This is because your fancy new monitor was designed to display 'Lord of the Rings' in a showroom vs matching a reflective print. If I want to watch DVDs or play Halo, I just revert back to the stock profile. Once you get your display under control, and it's not a complete peice of junk, you should find further profling for a Frontier to not be required and all further printing to be really close to what you see."
     
  28. I have no serious homeprinter. There is a Deskjet 670C but I'd also use the old 500. I wouldn't like to go into colorprinting at home. From work I know the great struggle to reproduce the output of Xeroxs color lasers and when we had a Heidelberg Quickmaster DI, there was no real colormanagement too. I doubt myself being able to beat this with a cheap inkjet. I know damn well what a usable set of densitometers or spectral photometers would cost even used and confess I'm not even willing to afford a good light to match colors. So I rather cope with labs and am willing to tip the operator if necessary.
     
  29. Many thanks to all for your varied, detailed and informative answers. I won't try to summarize, but one can sees clearly the pros and cons of personal printers and of Fuji labs. In response to Robert, yes, it's important to convert to sRGB, as their machines assume that your pictures are in this color space. Also important is to ask for no correction: otherwise, you are left to the technician's tastes about come basic color and contrast correction (he will do some before printing). It happened to me once. My own feeling was that the technician was more often wrong, than correct, and in any case, it's only with no correction that the print will match most closely what you yourself have made in Photoshop and what you have on your screen.
     
  30. Can one profile for the printing made by Fuji? Of course, one can, though a technician told me they don't themselves use printing profiles when looking pictures on their screens, as this varies in time depending on paper and ink. (This may be this specific lab policy, though.) He told me that using sRGB as a profile would match best what I would get. Still, would anyone have such a profile available, so that I / we can test it?
     
  31. One problem I have with Fuji labs where I live (in France), is that I haven't yet found any that will print 30 x 45 cm. Their biggest format is 20 x 30. The best I found is, in one lab, 30 x 40, and always with a 10% white margin.
     
  32. Otherwise, have you tried matte on a Fuji lab (compared to on an Epson 2200)? Are you as happy as with glossy ? (I guess I should just do the test myself, on a Fuji. On an Epson, which I don't own, it's also not so easy, in France, to find a retailer that will show you examples of you get on various papers.)
     
  33. David, a profile will not help you much. They should be build on the specific lab, with their paper and their chemistry. There is a difference output with Fuji, Kodak, Tetenal, ... and some of them even use combinations (i.e. Kodak paper and Tetenal chemistry).
     
  34. On Fuji Finland's site, they list the best Frontiers as capable of a print of max. 25x38 cm. That's one reason to look for other printing means beside the Frontier (unless you intend to carefully mount several prints next to each other as in a jigsaw puzzle...)
     
  35. Let me chime in here as a guy who had an epson 7600 wide format printer (not anymore, because it was my roommates who moved out) who had to start using a fuji lab.

    First off, if you don't calculate the cost of the printer intself, it is much cheaper to print on the 7600. It is roughly calculated to 1.25$ / square foot.

    Of course there are more costs, like the printer itself, plus maintanance should something break post-warranty.

    The visual quality of the prints put out by my fuji lab are definitly better then that of the 7600, but for one reason only. The prints have absolutly zero bronzing, where as the 7600 does. Other then THAT fact, the quality appear very very similar.

    The two advantages I liked having the 7600 in the next room, was A)I could have my prints NOW... and B) I could make any size print I want, even a custom size with no problems.

    But all said and done, I find very little inconvenience with my lab as I am able to FTP all the files directly to them, and they print them all in under a day. I just have to go pick them up.
     
  36. Brandon, can you tell more about that price? Was it with original inks, 110 or 220ml, which paper? Thanks.
     
  37. That figure was a rough recall from memory, which was with the 110mls, and with the epson Premium Luster Photo Paper.

    I went and refound the page:

    http://www.inkjetart.com/pro/7600_9600/cost_page.html
     

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