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Author Topic: Inkjet vs. Photographic enlargements  (Read 17041 times)

douglasboyd

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Inkjet vs. Photographic enlargements
« on: December 18, 2007, 06:57:38 pm »

I print enlargements at 30"x50" from high resolution digital files.  I was looking for advice on this board about how to get the best quality.  But from what I can see, most of the discussion here seems to be about inkjet printers, and the problems people are having.  In my own testing, when I put an inkjet enlargement next to a photographic enlargement made with Chomira, Lightjet, or PoliLaserLab, the photo process wins hands down.  Especially using paper like Fuji Super Gloss, the colors are richer, gamut much wider, etc.  

Also there seems to be only a minor cost difference between the two processes on a per sq. ft. basis.  So why all the interest in Inkjet?   Or am I missing something?  For example have the experts found a way to get better quality out of Epson 7800, and other printers than I am seeing by sending my files out?  One issue I am suspicious of is that the Inkjet services I have tested are requiring sRGB files, where the photographic services accept adobeRGB.

So do people here feel that they can get close to photographic quality with their inkjets, or is everyone simply accepting the lower quality of inkjet for some reason.

Here in Las Vegas we have three Peter Lik galleries.  Using Lightjet printing Peter Lik is selling prints for up to $100,000 each to enthusiastic buyers who are blown away by the quality.

Am I missing something here?

==Doug
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shewhorn

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« Reply #1 on: December 18, 2007, 07:17:38 pm »

My personal experience has been opposite. The gamut from inkjets (even old inkjets like the 2200) is far wider than an RA-4 process. In addition it seems that very few labs in the US accept Adobe RGB and those that actually do are converting down to sRGB before printing anyway. If I had my choice I'd be using Pixel Perfect or The Edge in Australia but shipping makes that cost prohibitive. ProDPI is supposed to be revamping their operation and will soon be accepting files in ANY format (including ProPhoto) in the near future so I'll check that out but... I want the control of my prints BACK so I bought an IPF6100. I'll still run off large 4x6 orders with a lab because I'm not

All of the RA-4 printers should be able to output quite a bit more gamut than what most labs are getting out of them but from my understanding a properly calibrated inkjet (especially the most recent offerings from Epson and Canon) should extend beyond that AND, they accept 16 bit files, something that most labs don't do (nor is it really practical for me from a bandwidth perspective to be sending 16 bit TIFFs down the pipe).

Cheers, Joe
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douglasboyd

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« Reply #2 on: December 18, 2007, 08:44:36 pm »

Joe,

Your experience is helpful.  I have used West Coast Imaging and looked at Calypso in California as RA4 suppliers.  WCI accepts any color space and reads it from the image header.  Calypso requires you to do a conversion in Photoshop to profiles that they supply for each paper.  I also have a test in at iPhotoshop.com that has recently installed a laser RA4 printer in Las Vegas.  They were able to use AdobeRGB, but in my test it was a manual process--not sure yet if they can automatically read it from the header.  I believe all 3 R4 shops will support ProPhoto as well.

However, none of the Inkjet shops I tested go beyond sRGB.  This could be the problem.  If you own your own inkjet printer, you can convert directly from any colorspace in Photoshop to the printer profiles as required by Calypso.  Maybe this is why people are getting good results using their own printer.

So I will look farther for an Inkjet Printer service that understands colorspace, and test again.

Hope that some others will comment as well.

==Doug
« Last Edit: December 18, 2007, 08:57:09 pm by douglasboyd »
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Paul Sumi

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« Reply #3 on: December 18, 2007, 09:08:21 pm »

While I have not yet used them, Nash Editions (Graham Nash and Mac Holbert) here in the Los Angeles area has an excellent reputation for fine art digital printing for photography:

http://www.nasheditions.com/

Paul
« Last Edit: December 18, 2007, 09:09:51 pm by PaulS »
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shewhorn

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« Reply #4 on: December 18, 2007, 10:22:37 pm »

Quote
However, none of the Inkjet shops I tested go beyond sRGB.  This could be the problem.

I would think so, inkjet prints are SO gorgeous when done right, especially if you're dealing with an image that has fine gradations. Working up the photo as a 16 bit image in an Adobe RGB or Pro Photo color space is going to be something that the current inkjets will be able to take advantage of. Not sure of any labs that accept 16 bit files (kind of impractical if you're sending a lot of them) but then again I haven't ever asked either. If you have your own though, no problem. I do however think that you have to love the process. The people who like fiddling with a printer and a file to optimize the output for a given image are probably the same folks who have fond memories of snorting developer (that would have been me however... asthma and allergies don't go well with noxious fumes so... technology has finally brought me something that I always felt I was missing out on).

Cheers, Joe
« Last Edit: December 18, 2007, 10:29:18 pm by shewhorn »
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TMcCulley

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« Reply #5 on: December 19, 2007, 03:05:16 am »

Doug,

I would suggest that there are four major reasons for using an inkjet instead of one of the photographic based processes.

1.  Versatility.  You mentioned one paper that you use and like for making your prints.  There are catalogs full of inkjet papers some of which will match and exceed the paper you like.  (If you are going to compare you must use a paper of the same quality on the same size print.)  In addition you have the choice of surfaces that the photographic process does not like textured paper or canvas.

2.  Control.  Because the printer is available directly to the photographer in many cases absolute control of the color range and gamut, ink density, color profile used, and a known workflow from image to print.  Plus the print may never leave your possession.  Reprinting is never something you like to do but if it is required you can make the decision to do so before your customer sees the print

3.  Speed.  The inkjet prints of the size you are printing probably take as long to process as the photographic process especially considering curing time.  But you can do the work when it needs to be done even at midnight you can be printing while uploading images to the web or working on another image(s).  This usually means that prints are available days if not weeks sooner.

4.  Quality.  The current professional printers from Epson, Canon, and HP are capable of outstanding print quality.  Even the high end consumer printers are exceptional.  Of course a color managed workflow is required to get the best results.

Now you should know that an Epson 7800 can not print 30 X 50 prints but the 9800 or the new 9880 can and with the correct work flow will match anything out there.

A last thought.  The printing quality available to the photographer allows the decision about inkjet or photographic to be an artistic decision instead of a technical decision.  I am sure the Peter Lik buzz is about the print not the printing

Tom
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Jim Cole

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« Reply #6 on: December 19, 2007, 11:08:27 am »

I used West Coast Imaging for several years and they also print on Epson inkjets along with their Chromira machines. Their inkjet process uses the same Adobe RGB colorspace as well, so you should be able to get excellent prints from them.

Jim
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douglasboyd

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« Reply #7 on: December 19, 2007, 01:52:50 pm »

Thansk Paul, John, Jim and Joe,

I took a quick look at Nasheditions.com, but they seem to be 2-3x too expensive. Jim's suggestion to use West Coast Imaging to get a comparison Inkjet print on the same high-gloss paper and wide gamut seems like a great idea and I will do this and report back.

Tom's comment about the Peter Lik buz being about the print, not the printing is the real issue that I am trying to understand.  Peter's prints use highly saturated colors (he apparently has a team of expert photoshop illustrators preparing these).  He starts with a 6x17cm Fujichrome transparency which is drum scanned.  I am trying to duplicate that quality using 2-3 P30 (31mp) images photostitched to 60-70mp.  In the gallery, the prints are displayed under high-intensity spot lights that make the high-gloss prints look like back-lighted transparencies.  I'm still not convinced that this is feasible with inkjet, but following the advice here I will give it a try at West Coast Imaging.  By the way my Chromira prints do appear to match Peter's effect.  

Depending on this test, I may think about getting the HP z3100.  Since I only print occasionally, and Las Vegas has very low humidity, head clogging is a major concern.  This seems to rule out Epson.

Tom, iPhotoshop.com here in Las Vegas can print 30x49 inch RA4 enlargements with same day service, at a cost of ~$7/sq. ft., so cost and turnaround is not a problem.  I will get to see my first 30x49 print from them later today.

==Doug
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Wayne Fox

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« Reply #8 on: December 19, 2007, 03:55:11 pm »

Quote
He starts with a 6x17cm Fujichrome transparency which is drum scanned.  I am trying to duplicate that quality using 2-3 P30 (31mp) images photostitched to 60-70mp.  In the gallery, the prints are displayed under high-intensity spot lights that make the high-gloss prints look like back-lighted transparencies.  I'm still not convinced that this is feasible with inkjet, but following the advice here I will give it a try at West Coast Imaging.  By the way my Chromira prints do appear to match Peter's effect. 

==Doug
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A few comments.  I do not believe all of Peter Lik's images are taken with the Fuji 6x17 camera, and according to staff in 2 different galleries, one his most popular pieces right now (a shot of the grand canyon that is not a panorama) was taken with a Hasselblad and digital back.  They also claimed he uses a Seitz 6x17 digital camera some of the time as well. (www.roundshot.ch/xml_1/internet/de/application/d438/d925/f934.cfm).

 Not that it matters, and who knows if they even know what they're talking about, just passing on what I've heard.

The advantage of silver halide prints such as Chromeria (we operate one) to obtain that particular look isn't necessarily increased gamut, in fact any good inkjet print on the right media exceeds the gamut and dmax of a photo print .  The difference is in surface/finishing options.  To get the maximum saturation and great look under spots such as Lik requires a very consistent, absolutely smooth and very high gloss surface.  With traditional photo papers you have zero gloss differential and metamerism issues, and you can even use very high gloss lacquers that achieve better results than lacquers designed for inkjet prints. (the photo paper colors won't dissolve, spread or run).

 I have used a very high gloss laminate on Kodak Professional Gloss inkjet paper, and the result is terrific.

Of course, this look is only one option, and other presentations can be equally appealing.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2007, 03:56:39 pm by Wayne Fox »
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Geoff Wittig

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« Reply #9 on: December 19, 2007, 04:40:59 pm »

For what it's worth, at a recent course in Michael's gallery in Toronto Bill Atkinson indicated that current generation inkjet printers have a wider color gamut than the Lightjet/Chromira printers. An optimally lit print produced with careful craftsmanship using either method will look great, but while most of us can justify an inkjet purchase to our spouse/S.O., a $100,000 lightjet might be a bit of a tough sell.  
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Bruce Watson

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« Reply #10 on: December 19, 2007, 05:04:09 pm »

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...but while most of us can justify an inkjet purchase to our spouse/S.O., a $100,000 lightjet might be a bit of a tough sell. 
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=161811\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
We should note that Lightjet printers are no longer being made - at least that's what my local Lightjet owning prolab told me. He's wondering what to do with his now that he can't get a service contract and parts are iffy.

But the real problem is that the Lightjet just exposes the paper. Then you need an automated RA-4 processing line behind it. The total floor space required would probably make your spouse go ballistic!
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jschone

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« Reply #11 on: December 19, 2007, 05:52:47 pm »

Wayne, which laminate (brand, material (pvc, polyester etc.) and mil, weight) did you use.? I have tried several gloss laminates but they still seem to be to plastic. Hope you have some ideas. Equipment I have (pleximount with Seal Opti, normal mounting to Gatorfoam, Dibond etc, all fine), but the laminating is still not good enough.

Jochem

Quote
A few comments.  I do not believe all of Peter Lik's images are taken with the Fuji 6x17 camera, and according to staff in 2 different galleries, one his most popular pieces right now (a shot of the grand canyon that is not a panorama) was taken with a Hasselblad and digital back.  They also claimed he uses a Seitz 6x17 digital camera some of the time as well. (www.roundshot.ch/xml_1/internet/de/application/d438/d925/f934.cfm).

 Not that it matters, and who knows if they even know what they're talking about, just passing on what I've heard.

The advantage of silver halide prints such as Chromeria (we operate one) to obtain that particular look isn't necessarily increased gamut, in fact any good inkjet print on the right media exceeds the gamut and dmax of a photo print .  The difference is in surface/finishing options.  To get the maximum saturation and great look under spots such as Lik requires a very consistent, absolutely smooth and very high gloss surface.  With traditional photo papers you have zero gloss differential and metamerism issues, and you can even use very high gloss lacquers that achieve better results than lacquers designed for inkjet prints. (the photo paper colors won't dissolve, spread or run).

 I have used a very high gloss laminate on Kodak Professional Gloss inkjet paper, and the result is terrific.

Of course, this look is only one option, and other presentations can be equally appealing.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=161795\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
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douglasboyd

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« Reply #12 on: December 19, 2007, 06:07:29 pm »

Wayne, Geoff, Bruce,

Aha, now I get it.  I will need to specify a high-gloss laminate with my glossy inkjet print in order to get the Peter Lik effect.  I will do that for my next test.

I just now returned from Mr. Shin's iPhotoshop.com store in Las Vegas and viewed my test print that I dropped off the previous evening.  This was printed on a Poly Laserlab printer using Fuji Crystal Archive paper.  The cost for the 30x49" print was $65.  I believe the turn around time is less than an hour.  That is about 1/3 the price and 3 weeks faster than my first test print at West Coast Imaging using Chromira.  The Chromira print was on Fuji Super Gloss, but the Crystal Archive paper was only a hair less glossy, and had the same excellent image quality as the Chromira print  The archive paper is paper based and a bit stronger than the Super Gloss  polyethelene base.  Both prints appear to be good enough for the Peter Lik effect.   Mr. Shin has now sent both test prints out to his other stores in California for high end mounting and framing.  I guess this is where the lacquer coating will come in.

For what its worth, Mr. Shin also routinely prints with Epson 9800 and was shocked to learn that their are experts on this forum who believe inkjet can rival or exceed RA4 printing-- apparently this is contrary to his  experience.  That was borne out by the several inkjet samples I reviewed in his shop.

A word about the Poly Laserlab printer.  The throughput is very fast, you can goggle to find out how fast.  And the footprint is very small, not much larger than the Epson 9800 it was sitting next to.  That is because everything  is done inside a 30" x 13" drum.  For exposure, a laser rotates down a screw inside the drum.  Not sure if the developnent uses the same drum or not, but the concept reminds me of how we used to do home Cibrachrome processing.  The disadvantage is that you can't print longer than 49".  Of course the cost is on the order of $400,000.   Mr. Shin believes that his Poly Laserlab printers are slightly higher resolution than Chromira's led array printer.  Something like 360dpi vs. 300dpi.  I couldn't see this difference in my test prints, maybe because my files was at only 240dpi.

I highly recommend using iPhotoshop's service as an alternative to apparently soon to be obsolete Lightjet printing and as a competitor to Chomira.

==Doug
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Jonathan Wienke

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« Reply #13 on: December 20, 2007, 07:24:29 am »

Quote
For what its worth, Mr. Shin also routinely prints with Epson 9800 and was shocked to learn that their are experts on this forum who believe inkjet can rival or exceed RA4 printing-- apparently this is contrary to his  experience.  That was borne out by the several inkjet samples I reviewed in his shop.

The methods used to profile the printer are critically important for this, as is choice of driver settings, etc. Default settings with canned profiles may not do well, nor will custom profiles made with less-than-optimal paper settings, etc. Then there's the issue of printer color management, and how one converts from the editing profile (ProPhoto,Adobe RGB, etc) to the printer profile. If the printer's workflow requires sRGB and to a lesser extent Adobe RGB, you're crippling gamut, as most inkjets have some colors they can print outside these spaces.
« Last Edit: December 20, 2007, 07:39:48 am by Jonathan Wienke »
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TMcCulley

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« Reply #14 on: December 20, 2007, 01:17:30 pm »

I am not sure of the look that you are talking about but I get the sense that the media you want is Pictorico High Gloss Film.  No it is not a film it is a paper and is supposed to rival Cibachrome for saturated colors but better longevity.

Tom
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Farmer

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« Reply #15 on: December 21, 2007, 09:34:38 am »

Typically, RA-4 process calls for data input as sRGB IEC61966-2.1.  That immediately tells you that the available colour gamut will be smaller than any of the top end inkjets on the market currently.

In this particular case, having visited the website, there's no mention of colour spaces.  Since you've been through the process, could you advise which colour space you provided or were asked for?

There's no doubt that some colours through RA-4 look better than inkjet to some users (perhaps even many?) but it's not that it has a larger gamut it's just that the prints appear to be more saturated because of the process.

If that's what you're after, then that's better.  If you're after a wider gamut and more colour accuracy, then the inkjets will provide more options.

I did a quick (and I mean quick :-) search for a profile for a Poly Laserlab but didn't find one.  That would help show the differences.
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« Reply #16 on: December 21, 2007, 04:54:54 pm »

I've made some "hard" tests with Epson 11880/Harman Baryta vs Durst Lambda c-print on Fuji paper.
Printing 16bit ProPhotoRGB Kodak Color Evaluation test image.
And it's no doubt about it, which are the winner;
The Ep 11 combo are much sharper, more vibrant colors, crisp, clear, rich and very "open"(?).
In fact; very natural!!

/Sven
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douglasboyd

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« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2007, 11:37:21 am »

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douglasboyd

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« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2007, 01:21:18 pm »

Quote
Typically, RA-4 process calls for data input as sRGB IEC61966-2.1.  That immediately tells you that the available colour gamut will be smaller than any of the top end inkjets on the market currently.

In this particular case, having visited the website, there's no mention of colour spaces.  Since you've been through the process, could you advise which colour space you provided or were asked for?

[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

iPhotoshop.com accepts pictures in any profile and format known to Photoshop CS3 including PhotoPro and AdobeRGB.  In my test I submitted a TIFF file in AdobeRGB, approx. 250MB.  On the screen there is more brilliant color using aRGB then sRGB, perhaps due to bright oranges and read in my picture.  You may see a downsized version of my test image here:  [a href=\"http://www.dboyd.com/Photos_07/Valley%20of%20Fire/ValleyofFire%2010x16.6.%20sRGB.jpg]http://www.dboyd.com/Photos_07/Valley%20of...6.6.%20sRGB.jpg[/url]
Note that I have converted to sRGB for web viewing.  The downsizing is by a factor of 3.

==Doug
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dealy663

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« Reply #19 on: December 22, 2007, 01:43:24 pm »

On my color calibrated monitors, that image looks to have some very extreme color manipulations applied to it (the reds don't look like real world colors to me). And the tonal transitions as these extremities are approached look very harsh and discontiguous.

I would expect an inkjet to accurately (as possible) try to mimic these colors and tones and thereby deliver something that doesn't look all that great. It may be that when using a chemical process to reproduce this image that indeed you get something smoother and more pleasing since there may be some sort of softening of the harshness, and natural degradation of the extreme colors.

Quote
iPhotoshop.com accepts pictures in any profile and format known to Photoshop CS3 including PhotoPro and AdobeRGB.  In my test I submitted a TIFF file in AdobeRGB, approx. 250MB.  On the screen there is more brilliant color using aRGB then sRGB, perhaps due to bright oranges and read in my picture.  You may see a downsized version of my test image here:  http://www.dboyd.com/Photos_07/Valley%20of...6.6.%20sRGB.jpg
Note that I have converted to sRGB for web viewing.  The downsizing is by a factor of 3.

==Doug
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