-->So what do you think? What is the "digital standard" a printer should be expected to work with?
Thereís no such beast.
What would make everyoneís life easier is if printers really would print to some standard press conditions. Thereís SWOP but thatís real ambiguous for most printers. They all say they print to SWOP standards even when they are printing sheetfed which of course is a big fat lie. Itís what they expect customers to accept and walk away. If you look at conventional photo processes, we have standards. Look at E6 processing. Sure, you can send a dozen pro labs the same exposed shot and they will vary, a bit. In a perfect world, every transparency would be identical. This is not a prefect world. However, the differences and fudge factors seen with all this film is relatively small. Now look at just the printers who say they print ďSWOPĒ. Itís all over the planet. Thatís because by and large, printers donít want their customers to assume that they print like the guy across the street. Then the only competitive advantage is cost. SWOP isnít a standard to aim for, itís to be exceeded! This is chaotic.
Now look at what the SWOP committee had done. They have VERY precise and explicit descriptions of SWOP. They have a specification that is as precise as 928 color patches that all have an exact spectral (LAB) value. Itís called TR001 SWOP. That is, if you were to measure these patches on a press that is really producing SWOP as defined by this group, you could measure all the color patches and have an exact spectral match. The U.S. Web Coated (SWOP) v2 profile in Photoshop is SWOP TR001. IF (huge if) you know a press is conforming to TR001 SWOP, you could convert the data using the Photoshop profile and get awesome output. Problem is, who really is aiming for this standard? All printers say they print SWOP, but are they? Thereís a similar standard for sheetfed being worked on called DTR004 for Commercial Sheetfed Printing. Again, if printers would conform to such a standard, producing really excellent CMYK conversions would be a snap.
BTW, this isnít something that canít and is not being accomplished. There is something like a dozen different newspapers in Europe who all print to a standard and supply a profile that reflects all those press conditions. Itís doable but in the US? Itís not easy.