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Color Printers

by Philip Greenspun, August, 2001

Ink Jet (small, cheap, and slow)

Inexpensive ink jet printers ($300 to $1000) can produce remarkably good quality photographs if you choose your paper carefully. These prints can also be archival if you choose your ink carefully. Epson and Canon typically make the best ink-jet printers for photographers. The Canon S800, for example is a good low-cost machine ( about $300). The Epson Stylus Photo 2000P, about $750, offers Pigmented Archival Ink, good for making prints that can last 100 years, i.e., five times as long as a Genuine Kodak Paper print and almost twice as long as a standard print on Fuji paper. For the best user interface, look at the Kodak Personal Picture Maker 200 (PPM200; about $150). This printer includes an LCD screen and slots for CompactFlash and SmartMedia cards. You can pop a storage card out of your camera and into the printer, scroll through your photos, and make prints of selected images all without using a personal computer.

Whatever printer you get, make sure to follow the manufacturer's recommendations for paper. You'll need expensive glossy paper to get photo-quality results.

Expect to suffer from color calibration problems with any ink jet. Your monitor is an RGB device. Your ink jet printer is a CMYK device. Good luck at getting anything out of the printer that resembles what you see on the monitor.

Dye Sublimation Printers

"Dye-sub" printers were among the first photo-quality color computer printers, emerging in the early 1990s. Sadly most of the prints made with these machines had faded by the time we entered the New Millennium. The latest dye-sub printers allegedly produce more archival prints but this whole technology seems to be fading in favor of ink jet.

Color management is a problem with dye-sub, as with ink jet. These are CMYK devices.

Fujix 3000 (and now 4000)

Though rather long in the tooth, this is the choice of most imaging professionals. The Fujix machines uses three lasers to expose a specially treated "donor paper" which is then thermally developed and transfered onto "receiver paper". It is a traditional silver halide process but one need not maintain chemistry or clean processor rollers. Resolution is 400 dpi on an 8.5x11 sheet (Fujix 3500) or 12x18 (Fujix 4000). Image quality is the best of any printer available, comparable to an Ilfochrome, and archival qualities are reputed to be good. The printer is a standard piece of office equipment and the expended donor paper goes back UPS to Fuji for recycling and disposal. Consumables cost $2-4 per page and you can make transparencies as well as opaque photos.

Another significant advantage of the Fujix over most color printers is that it is a true RGB device and thus one need not deal with the horrors of CMYK conversion. Even without going to special lengths with color management, you'll probably get a nice print on your first try.

The Fujix can be obtained from a handful of national retailers, including Adorama. The 4000 is about $13,000 and the 3500 is about $5500.

If you want to try Fujix printing before you buy, visit your local professional digital color lab. They'll probably have a machine.

Onto Conventional Paper

A variety of companies make high-volume, high-cost machines that use RGB lasers to print onto standard photographic paper, either Ilfochrome or RA-4 negative printing paper. At their best, these can be as good as the Fujix printers and the per-page cost for media is much lower. Print size can be outrageously large. These machines usually print on rolls and can therefore make a print 50 meters long (but only 127 cm or 50" wide).

Vendors include Gretag Lab Systems ( www.fotoprint.com), Durst Lambda, and CSI Lightjet. Whatever you choose, remember that these machines only expose paper. Development requires a standard RA-4 or Ilfochrome processor with traditional photo chemistry. Traditional photo chemistry implies that someone is cleaning and maintaining the processor regularly. Also note that expended photo chemistry constitutes a disposal problem: you can't just dump it down the sink.

For most people it is not practical to own one of these machines. You prepare your digital files and send them to a lab. If you aren't happy with your local labs, try ColorWorks in Portland, Maine or Precision Color (Michigan and Nevada; (702) 736-8400 ask for Pat).

Ink Jet (big and expensive)

For a painterly look, try an Iris ink-jet print onto watercolor paper. The machines themselves cost a lot and the original inks were not archival but it is an unusual way to make art that cannot be easily duplicated with other kinds of machines. Send a file to ColorWorks to try out Iris (Giclee) printing at its best.


Readers' Comments

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Glen Johnson , January 13, 1997; 11:16 A.M.

I recently saw some prints that were made from images that had been captured by a low end digital camera. The prints were small. One set had been made with an inexpensive ink jet printer. The other set had been made with a dye sublimation printer.

The set that were made on the inexpensive ink jet printer looked like the typical low resolution, lots of dots stereotypical cheap digital stuff that many people are familiar with.

The dye sublimation prints looked good enough that they could have easily fooled a casual viewer into thinking that they were small photographs.

I don't know whether the difference was printer setup software related or if it was completely due to process. In any event, the difference was huge.

David Gurr , February 18, 1997; 04:47 A.M.

There's been a rash of new, low-cost and reputedly "photo quality" inkjet printers released onto the market. In particular, the Canon BJC-4200 and 4550 (A3/tabloid sized), and the Epson 500 are reputed to give near photo quality at around 720dpi.

Whilst there's plenty of reviews of these by the computer press, I've yet to find any reviews by folks with a photographic bent ...

Barry Hargrave , March 07, 1997; 03:57 P.M.

I have an Epson Stylus Colour II printer which I use for colour prints (Photoshop produced files from either scanned or digital camera output). The quality is 'near photographic' if you use Epson High Quality (720 dpi) paper (standard and glossy paper is available). However, the cost of this paper is about $2.50/sheet (8.5" x 11"). I have compared the output for the same image printed with a Tectronix dyesub printer and the dyesub images are superior. No dots are visible- even with a magnifying glass- because the printing method 'melts' adjacent pixels together during the printing process. Since the 'melted' pixels emmulate the silver grains of traditional photographic paper, I think that this approaches (but does not equal) 'true' photographic quality.

Jeff Mandell , March 07, 1997; 06:43 P.M.

I believe a whole lot of photographers are setting themselves up for a rude shock when all of their digital prints start fading away. The fact is that other than the Kokak Xtralife ribbon prints, nothing is going to last!! Until photographers demand (and are willing to support) printing that lasts, this will continue to be the time bomb of the digital renaissance.

Agnius Griskevicius , April 17, 1997; 01:14 A.M.

Today I visited Sammy's Camera in Hollywood, CA, and saw a nice Fujix printer that does not cost 30K anymore. The model is NC-500, it is only 7K, (like I have 7K laying around... ) and it uses "thermo autochrome" printing process. From the brochure I found out that the dies are embeded the paper, and that's it. No messy processing, just heat and UV light to stabilize the dyies. Paper, according to the salesman, is about $1 a sheet. Output looked very nice, it had that "photographic" quality. BTW, there is nothing mentioned in the FUJI's flyer regarding longevity of the prints, so I took the sample I was able to obtain, cut it up into "test strips", and placed them in following places: one with my photos in the notebook, second under the transparent plastic of my notebook, and third - in direct sunlight (for about half the day) in my balcony. I will let you know what happens in about a month. As a control, I am using Kodak's RC Polycontrast paper print. If anyone has more info or questions on the printer I saw, let me know. I'll do my best!

Cheers, Agnius

Agnius Griskevicius , May 11, 1997; 12:49 P.M.

Today I took down the test strip I had hanging in sunlight and compared to the other 2 strips that were not treated so harshly. These are my observations: 1) Sunlit strip of Fuji's "auto thermochrome" paper shifted to yellow and got "warped" (wavy). Original grays now look green, original whites looks yellowish. 2) No naked eye observable difference of Kodak Polycontrast RC print hanged in sunlight or archived in files. Conclusion: Because Fuji uses ultraviolet part of the spectrum in "stabilizing" colors, direct exposure to vast quantities of sunlight (which has plenty of UV in it, even filtered by smog here in L.A.), destroys the prints. If you want more "permanence", make silver halide prints. For color use Cibachrome (now Ilfochrome). I am not versed in color printing, so those recomendations are not mine. Happy printing!

Agnius Griskevicius

"I love the smell of the fixer in the morning"

Joseph Levy , June 12, 1997; 12:46 P.M.

I have read the page on Colour Printers. The direct comparisons with the quality of photographic prints is well justified, especially in the area of longevity, is well justified, I think we should be looking upon digital printers rather as a NEW medium, and judging the results on their own merit. In the early days of photography the prints were compared very unfavourably with paintings, and early attempts at photo-mechanical reproductions were poor subtitutes for the originals. Each has however survived and flourished.

I have been a Commercial Photographer for close to 40 years with a colour print darkroom where i produce quantity prints as well as enlargements p to 24" wide. I have been dabbling in digital photography for 2 or 3 years, but have recently become serious about it. I am using a PC with Photoshop 4.0, an Agfa Arcus II scanner, and an Epson 600 printer.

My conclusions are that given an original photograph with some imperfections in it (that could not be corrected at the shooting stage)I would rather correct those imperfections digitally and accept the resulting print from the printer. With a little practice and some imagination the resulting print may not look precisely like the original photograph, but will be very accepatble in it it's own right. With all the filters, effects and enhancements available the picture can be far more attractive overall than the unmanipulated version.

Yes, if you look closely you can see tiny dots, though mostly just in the light areas  but then so you can in any glossy magazine photo printed with a 150 line screen.

I have actually reproduced a final image from a fax that I enhanced and printed. Without any knowledge of its origins it was thought to be very Creative, because it was judged only on its own merit.

The technology is in its infancy. Let us accept it as a new medium. The weak areas, such as lack of stability will be overcome. In the mid '40s 35mm. film was traditionally only 12 or 25 ASA, or it would be too grainy for anything larger than 2"x3" prints. We've come a long way since then.

Antonio Petrone , August 20, 1997; 08:35 A.M.

Concerning the photo quality printer I use an Epson Stylus Photo and I am very pleased with it. It prints not only photos but also, by the way, standard B/W documents. It takes time to understand "how it works" in order to define the better result in term of "output colour accurancy", later on is faster than printing colour print in your dark room , with or without Cibachrome, don't to mention photo labs . Obviously PhotoShop, a film scanner and an Apple Power Macintosh are a must ! Using the "Digital Dark Room" it is now easy and funny to have standard print to use as personal post-card or souvenir or , some time, as "poster" in A4 format. Recommended !

Quang-Tuan Luong , November 10, 1997; 03:26 P.M.

I don't agree with Ilfochrome being the best color printing process. In the fine art circles dye color transfer prints (not to be confused with "thermal dye color transfer", another name for dye sublimation) are considered to be vastly superior.

Danno -- , December 25, 1997; 10:41 A.M.

I realize that there are expensive printers out there, but my experience has been limited to those under $700. I've had several generations of Epson (Stylus II to the 600), as well as a few cannons, but the most fabulous prints I have managed have come from the Alps MD2300 Photographic printer. Printing an image taken from this site I had trouble convincing "joe/jane on the street" that it wasn't a real photograph. The colors are vivid, rich and continuous with a clear overcoat. I've had a photo hanging in a sun facing window for 6 mo. that looks the same as it's contol photo in an album. It's a great printer wich doubles as a high qaulity B/W printer for text (1200dpi). You need special paper and ink carts for photo, but it's worth it. This printer will aslo print metallic (yellow, cyan, magenta, silver) onto the photos if you desire. It's been called dated and obsolete compared to the new inkjets, but as for now I'll take it any day.

Gary Robertshaw , December 31, 1997; 12:35 A.M.

Does anyone remember what color prints looked like in the 1950's? The vast improvement in quality which we are so furtunate to have access to, took many years to produce. Modern desktop inkjet printers, such as the Epson Stylus series, use a technology only a few years old, and yet they are capable of producing outstanding quality.

I can scan a photo with poor color, work on it in Photoshop, and print out a much improved copy using My Epson Stylus Color II, and premium inkjet paper, which now only costs about 10 cents per sheet! (glossy is about 70 cents).

Anyone willing to spend the time learning how to properly use these relatively inexpensive desktop printers can produce excellent photos, and easily redo them in whichever way suits them.

We don't need to pit film technology against digital; I love being part of the digital revolution in photography, yet I have no plans to abandon my 35mm equipment. They both belong, in their own rites.

michael przewrocki switzerland , March 12, 1998; 03:30 P.M.

i have seen test-prints of all 3/4 alps-printers such as md 2010=md4000 without 24 bit scanner/md 1000 and md 2300. md 2010 is too grainy for photos. md 1000 is much better, has wax- type-printer-like pattern but image behind pattern is sharp. output-for layout or visitcards is quick, around 7 min.2010 takes only 3.5min. md 2300 is really the printer for all photo-freaks. it has no competitors yet. prints have no grain, shadow- details are good. the ink- printing-system only produces stripes which can only be seen when light is reflecting the surface. alsp told will introduce a bigger sized- model for 33x48 cm? size. they are solving a problem concerning printing 4-times(4 inks) precisely. paper-path-problems. as a panorama-freak i asked alsp and a supplier- company to reflect about banner type-possibility. md 2300 costs less than 1000 usd.

Robert SIlvers , April 23, 1998; 08:07 P.M.

For large prints (72" by 1200")I have been getting great results from the 200dpi Lambda machine. It uses lasers to write onto color photographic paper or Ilfochrome paper. The output looked way better than making an LVT chrome and printing that with an enlarger. The 200dpi is continuous-tone, not to be confused with a halftone like what the Epson Stylus Photo uses. For images up to 20x33, the Kodak LED photographic printer (over $100,000) is 250dpi and looks excellent. For smaller prints (up to about 18 inches), the Fujix Pictrography 4000 is best.

Charles Clemens , April 27, 1998; 11:18 A.M.

I print from Kodak Photo CD and other sources using the Epson 600. It print 720X1440. I use primarily Epson Matte Finish Photo Quality paper(11 cents a sheet). I laminate the prints for handling and waterproofness. I have directly compared the same Adobe photoshop file (18megs for a 8X10 print)printed on my printer vs a Fujix thermoautochrome or even a C41 print and find no perceptable difference. I love my cheap little Epson 600.

Ben Jackson , August 06, 1998; 03:43 A.M.

So far there aren't many "personal" (in the $500 range) printers which can produce photographic output. Most of the ones that can require special inks and papers which drive the per-page cost up. While I'm waiting for a printer in my price/performance range, I'm making display prints from digital images at Kodak Image Magic Print Stations. You can get a list (with addresses) at the Kodak website. You'll have to call the stores yourself and ask if they have the "Business Builder '98" software which allows you to print from floppy. Most places charge between $7-10 for an 8.5"x11" sheet. When you print the sheet you can decide on any of several layouts which provide anywhere from 1 8"x10" print to 20 wallet size prints. If you don't have a nice roll cutter be sure to choose the $10/page place which will cut your prints for you.

And remember, no matter what your output device, the results will look better with a nice wide white matte!

Scott Gant , August 10, 1998; 09:26 A.M.


They do have a printer in your price range that provides excellent quality, photographic output. The Epson Photo Stylus. You can get one in the $300 and less range. They even have a new one that prints on 11x17 for $499.

I've seen the in-store displays for this printer which have a picture printed from a photo-lab and the same picture printed from the Epson side by side and ask you to tell the difference. You'd be amazed.

Also, this isn't a special printer that requires hard to find inks and materials. The Photo Stylus supplies are available everywhere from computers stores to office supply stores.

George Pang , August 10, 1998; 06:06 P.M.

I picked up a Kodak XLS-8600 PS printer a couple months ago for an incredibly good price (think exponential orders less than it's supposed to be). I believe the 'current' models of this printer are the DS-8650/8670 and they're around $7000.

The printer uses the afore-mentioned Kodak Xtra-life dye-sublimation media which puts its price per page in at around $2.30.

Quality is exceptional. Much better than the Epson Stylus Color or Color II which I used to own.

Color matching is difficult possibly because I use a PC rather than a Macintosh and lack any real color matching software.

Even so, colors are rich and saturated. No apparent dots.

The printer has a SCSI port and a parallel port built in with a network card option. With the parallel port, prints take about 2 minutes MOST of the time being spent transferring and processing the image.

Dust control can be a problem as the Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow layers are printed in sequence so dust may move around the page between layers.

I'll test out the longevity as soon as I get a chance, but I left some prints in my car's rear window by accident. In the week they were there they were apparently unaffected. They were also unaffected by some hot coffee I spilled on them..

Dave Conrad , August 29, 1998; 07:41 P.M.

I looked at the printer market in the $500 and under range about one year ago and settled on the HP PhotoSmart, which at that time sold for $500.

Today that same printer goes for $400. BUT! there is another HP printer, the HP720 or HP722 which sells for around $300 and can match the performance of the PhotoSmart, when using the Glossy Photo HP paper.

The cost of a print is $0.80 for the photo paper and $0.80 for the ink, for 8"x10" prints on 8.5x11 paper.

The print quality is excellent, difficult to distinguish from a "real" photo at normal viewing distances for a photo that size. HP does not rate the printer for dot pitch, since the photo paper reacts with the ink to "meld" the printed pixels as the ink spreads into the paper coating, it doesn't make sense to speak of dot pitch.

Kodak makes a photo paper that costs about half the HP paper. I have not tried it yet.

Tom Menegatos , September 11, 1998; 12:51 P.M.

I've had an Epson Photo EX for a few months now. I love it! I do some electronic art and some more photo retouching. The colors are smooth and it provides good contrast and excelent sharpness. I've had some digital images transfered to slides then printed and the results were exactly the same except that I was in control of the process. I had some initially dissapointing results when I scanned in some black and white prints for enlarging. There wasn't enough detail in the shadows. This was a probably a result of my reasonably priced 30 bit flatbed scanner. Some tweaking in photoshop however rectified the problem. Some of the work I've taken to framing shops has gotten good comments.

Davide Vignati , September 17, 1998; 10:37 A.M.

I have a PowerMacintosh, an Agfa Snapscan 600 scanner and an Epson Stylus Photo 700 printer. The results? Good, very good for a relatively cheap system. I scan and print photographs taken with an Yashica FX3 Super 2000 and Contax 50/1.4 lense. Davide (from Italy)

Davide Vignati , September 17, 1998; 10:43 A.M.

I have a PowerMacintosh, an Agfa Snapscan 600 scanner and an Epson Stylus Photo 700 printer. The results? Good, very good for a relatively cheap system. I scan and print photographs taken with an Yashica FX3 Super 2000 and Contax 50/1.4 lense. Davide (from Italy)

brian ashe , October 06, 1998; 08:00 P.M.

just reading all the color printer news & thought I'd add my $.02. I've had my Epson Stylus Color 400 for nearly a year and am still totally pleased. I do scans for a magazine and the proofs I give them look better than what shows up in the magazine. I print at 720 x 1440 on Epson Photo Quality Ink Jet paper ($15/100 sheets) and get about 75 prints (~2" x 4" images) from a set of cartridges ($25 for black, $30 for color.) I look forward to getting a 6-color unit from Epson soon. (CMYK + 50%C & 50%M.)

Sharon Jones , October 14, 1998; 05:36 P.M.

Not a photographer, but a photographer's daughter, so I'm fairly fussy about quality. I recently bought an HP PhotoSmart, and I'm pleased with the quality, and, it was $299.00 at Best Buy, and there's a $120.00 rebate till January 1999. So it's a very good deal!

Larry Becker , October 21, 1998; 03:38 A.M.

I'm a new owner of an Epson Photo EX and one of the reasons I enjoy it is that I combined it with a Nikon LS-2000 slide/negative scanner and an upgrade to Photoshop 5.0.

The standard scans I have done in the past with my old HP 2C flatbed scanner still look horrible, even on my new printer, but the scans on the Nikon print out very well. At a normal viewing distance of even a few inches away, the prints are of sufficient photo quality to satisfy my needs. My major concern is the longevity of the prints. Time will tell, but if they fade, I'll print new ones! Another concern is a documented difficulty scanning Kodachrome (only) slides. The blue tint is so deep on some scans (but not the slides themselves) it's hard to effectively remove without damaging the image. Highly recommended, but only in a working combination of input/output devices! And get a fast machine with a BIG harddrive and lots of RAM!

Mark Scrivener , November 29, 1998; 08:43 P.M.

In June I purchased an HP Photosmart Printer (along with the Photosmart Scanner) and Adobe Photoshop. I was quite disapointed that my prints fell far short of what I considered "photo quality." Dots were visable even to the naked eye, and shadow detail was poor. HP support was fantastic, but unable to resolve the problem. Upon closer inspection I noticed that HP's sample photos were primarly smooth flesh tones with little detail.

I decided to return the HP printer and purchased the ALPS MD1300. I have been quite pleased. While some minor tweeking was required to lighten my prints, the detail was fantastic and no grain was visiable, even with a lupe.

I get fantasic results at 5x7, and very good results at 8x10. When printing at 8x10, some imaages show pixalation, but this is a result of my scan, not the printer.

I haven't seen any specs from ALPS on image fading, so I can only comment that I have not noticed any degradation of my prints in the last 5 months.

I just noticed ALPS is advertising a MD-5000 now, with 2400DPI (on any paper) and a USB connection. They also claim "fadeproof" - what ever that is. Any one used one? (specs available at www.alps.com) Mark

John Bartucci , February 02, 1999; 04:16 P.M.

Short comment on the ALPS MD-1300 printer. I have been using mine now for almost a year. The results are nothing short of excellent. A bit pricey for an 8x10 but worth every penny considering what you can do digitally before making the print. Subjective opinions have consistently favored the digital print over the original darkroom print. To test the fade resistance of the dye-sub process, I've been running a simple environmental exposure test for the past few months. First, the print was exposed to direct sunlight for up to 2 hours per day for two months. Next, I placed the print 2 inches from a 40w flourescent light fixture for 12 hrs per day. So far, no visible deterioration.

One more thing - my first MD-1300 started making ugly grinding noises, failed to grab the paper, etc. ALPS replaced it within a week - can't beat that for service.

Charles D. Miller , February 13, 1999; 04:05 P.M.

This is a correction to a regrettable error in my previous comment. The problem I was experiencing with printing the color blue was not a fault of the ALPS MD-1300 printer!

The problem was that I did not understand how to use PhotoShop properly. For comparison, the simpler program PhotoDeleuxe 2.0 does not cause any color mangling problems with the ALPS printer!

The ALPS MD-1300 and the PhotoDeluxe 2.0 program which comes with it perform very well together. This combination reads and prints PhotoCD images and produce a better color balance than those produced normally by PhotoShop 4 from Photo CDs.

All of the following comments apply to a Wintel PhotoShop 4.01 system. They probably apply to a Wintel PhotoShop 5 system. They are probably less relevant for MAC users.

The PhotoShop / Kodak-CMS conversion of the PCD image to either LAB or RGB mode within PhotoShop is flawed, in my opinion. The simpler ADOBE PhotoDeluxe program produces a notably better RGB image than PhotoShop! Now I regularly use PhotoDeluxe 2.0 to convert and save images from PhotoCDs onto the fixed drive.

When there is something which only PhotoShop can do, I edit the PhotoDeluxe file with Photoshop, and never perform a mode change. Then I save a PhotoShop file of the image on the fixed disk. These procedural precautions happily produce "unmangled" image files.

I can print the above images from either PhotoDeluxe 2.0 or from PhotoShop. However, there is an additional complication with PhotoShop. Photoshop doesn't come with a "Printing Ink" selection to match dye-sub printers! Read that sentence again. Dye-sub printers have a CMY color space, not a CMYK color space. Also, the offset press concept of dot gain has little relevance for dye-sub printers.

So if you want to correctly print from PhotoShop to a dye-sub printer like the ALP MD-1300, you have to create a specific "printing ink" profile for it. I am still experimenting with this. The ALPS printer driver for the MD-1300 in dye sub mode uses a specific Windows color management file which is available for download from the ALPS WEB site. If you are doing things correctly, the ALPS printer should need relatively "help" from PhotoShop. "No help" is very much preferable to the wrong help.

My only complaint with ALPS is that while they promote their printers for photographic quality prints, their technical support seems limited to "Are you sure it is plugged in?" type responses.

The ALPS MD-1300 printer is an excellent 600 dpi printer for home darkroom use, but ALL of the books and comments I have seen so far fail to solve either the KODAK PhotoCD to PhotoShop color-mangling issue or the PhotoShop to dye-sub color-mangling issue. By the way, I did download and install all of the recommended KODAK CMS stuff, months ago.

By the way, PhotoShop is a wonderful program which I truly love. But the remendous flexibility and precision of Photoshop requires rational inputs at all stages.

Am I the only one dreaming that somewhere there should exist a PhotoShop "printing ink" profile suited for dye sub printers like the ALPS AND OTHERS? Does anyone know what PhotoShop profile is used for the KODAK desktop dye-sub printers or any others?

Charles D. Miller , February 13, 1999; 04:12 P.M.

---Please see my RETRACTION of this below.

I've been using an ALPS MD-1300 for about six months, and it is very impressive except with deeply saturated blues, which it prints as slightly green cobalt blue or else purplish. Light blue and most all other colors are pretty. I agree with the generally very positive comments on this printer, except that after months of tweaking, I can't get a decent rendition of royal blue or a darker blue IN THE SAME IMAGE with other natural colors. If there is a fix for this, this is a really nice printer for photographers, IMO. If there is not a fix, it is my opinion that photographers should not buy an MD-1300 as part of a digital darkroom.

But, am I missing something here, folks?

---Please see my RETRACTION of this below.

Julian Svedosh , February 17, 1999; 08:24 P.M.

I've recently been looking into ALPS vs. Epson options. Several comments.

1) It does appear that ALPS has solved the fade problem that plagues ink jets like Epson. The thermal transfer process behind dye sub printing produces extremely stable results -- particularly when used in conjunction with their "overcoat".

2) The dye sub feature is standard on the MD-1300, which claims 1200 dpi. It is an upgrade option on the MD-5000, which claims 2400 dpi. With dye sub, I can't tell the difference between the two densities. Given that the 1300 is available for $300+ and the 5000 with dye sub for $500+, I don't think the 5000 makes sense for most people.

3) The one exception to the cost benefit of the 1300 is for users who print lots of stuff that's primarily monotone. The 1300 has one cartridge for black ink and a single one for all other colors. So when one color is done, you have to throw the whole cartridge out. Still, the $200 price difference will cover a lot of cartridges.

4) The ALPS line will print A size paper (8.5x11). Nothing larger in photo quality. The Epson will give you B size prints (11x17) for a comparable initial cost, and much cheaper operating costs. True, the dye sub process has much less intrinsic grain than the Epson dot print, and the Epson inks are water based and will fade in time (3-5 years in light, according to Epson). But if you can live with the dot quality of the Epson, you may find it more effective to reprint your CD every 3 years. You won't get dye sub quality, but you will get larger prints.

The obvious answer is either for Epson to deliver archival inks or for ALPS to give us a larger format. Any marketing guys out there who can deliver?

For those who want more technical info on archival materials and print longevity, check out the info at www.wilhelm-research.com

Charles D. Miller , February 18, 1999; 08:00 P.M.

Here is yet another correction to my previous comments about ADOBE PhotoShop and the ALPS MD-1300 printer.

The PhotoShop File > Color Settings > Printing Inks menu allows the selection of "Tektronix Phaser II PX/PXi" .

It turns out that the Tektronix Phaser II is also a dye sub printer, and that this setting works very well indeed for the ALPS MD-1300 in the dye-sub mode.

Too bad, but neither ADOBE nor ALPS came anywhere near helping me with this problem.

George Gaspari , April 24, 1999; 07:35 A.M.

I have a HP720 inkjet printer w/ PhotoRETII. It's basically a inkjet that works with a color layering system that improves halftones. Using HP Deluxe Photo paper, I could fool almost everyone. Its output is comparable to Kodak ImageMagic, and at a fraction of the cost. The printer itself is cheap, around $250 in the US, and the paper costs around $.80 per letter-sized sheet. Definitely a good solution for the average man. Also it's a fairly versatile printer, so you wouldn't commit your bucks on a photo-only printer. The only drawback: it's a PPA printer - that means it works with specialized HP drivers, that are only available to Windows and Mac OS - Linux guys will have to settle for a nonsupported driver that only produces black-and-white output.

Dan Georgescu , May 08, 1999; 10:57 P.M.

Regarding the HP720 inkjet printer w/ PhotoRETII using HP Deluxe Photo paper SOLUTION (!). The results have nothing to do with photo quality printing. I really cant understand how one can fool anybody with these printers. Same comment for HP 890C w/ Kodak Image Enhancements

David Kim , May 31, 1999; 06:01 A.M.

I've had both the HP 722 and the Epson Stylus Photo EX. The Epson easily handles halftones better then the HP. It is most noticable (in my experience) in pictures of the sky during sunset. The Epson is as close to Photgraphic quality as I've seen from an ink jet.

Apparently the Fujix 4000 has the best digital output, but I haven't seen the output myself ro form an opinion.

Tony Torres , June 25, 1999; 09:27 A.M.

Let me tell you the Epson 740 color stylus is the best printer I have experience. Dye printer sucks to me, they do give out good quality photos but come on who is going to spend $3000 bucks for a printer when the print are not archival. I print all my prints at 1440 dpi and they come out with photographic quality prints they look as close a looking at a picture they have this technology called Micro Piezo which is awesome when it comes to printing at 1440 dpi. Believe me I will give a few more years for Epson to come up with a ink jet printer that will print as good as a dye or even better.

Mani Varadarajan , July 26, 1999; 01:51 P.M.

I have been playing around with an Epson Stylus Photo 700 for the last few days at work (we're between projects right now). It has been a royal pain to get something printed that matches the image on the monitor. Yes, I did calibrate my gamma, and the original image was scanned into Photoshop at 270 dpi.

There were two problems. First, you have to tweak the outputcolors in the ``Advanced Settings'' part of the Printer Setup.(See this link for more information.) Even after doing this, however, I didn't get anthing close to what I wanted. Too much magenta, no yellow. The problem was that I had to reset the printer nozzles by pressing a particular button on the printer. This wasn't very intuitive, but after doing this and tweaking the color output in the driver settings, I finally got a nice looking print.

You *can* distinguish the output from a conventional printup close. However, at normal viewing distances, it really is hard to tell.

Leo Macdonald , September 04, 1999; 06:24 A.M.

I have recently purchased an EPSON 1200 wide carriage injet printer, results are fantastic. Continious tone, great detail & no pixels. Good speed & large size output are great features of this unit. I had used the Epson Stylus II before which I was pleased with but the 1200 blows it away. I used a test file I shot with a Kodak 265 among many other printing methods, various inkjets, dyesubs, laser prints & digital slide. The best was from the Epson 1200. Once I saw this print I immediately orderd the 1200. I use glossy paper which I purchase at $.30/sheet.

Fred Emmert , September 22, 1999; 04:02 P.M.

Regarding the Hewlett-Packard "Photo Smart" printers, they have now been discontinued and are being offered at very low close out prices, usually through Office Depot or others at about $100.00. The quality of prints is very high, but there are two things to consider: 1) as the unit is obsolete, supplies may soon be hard to find, particularly ink cartridges, and 2) its a rather large, heavy unit by today's standards so you need a fairly large, strong surface to put it on. But, for top quality at lowest dollar, its hard to beat!

Victor Grubsky , October 06, 1999; 01:05 A.M.

I just got a new Alps MD-1300. To test it, I printed out one of my wildlife photos at 8x10 (max. size) in dye sub mode on Alps photographic paper. I followed a suggestion from somebody in this discussion group and set the ink calibration in Photoshop similar to Textronix II. Printing at 300 dpi took ~25 min. The outcome was very good. No pixels visible, no streaks, great colors. Unlike many people in this group, I was especially impressed by how close the printed colors were to those on the monitor (I only had to fiddle a little bit with the brightness, reducing it in Photoshop by 15 points). By the way, I was using a Power Mac G3. I think Macs are usually better in color reproduction on the monitor than PC's...

Norman Koren , October 24, 1999; 02:24 P.M.

I've been using the HP Photosmart printer for over a year with excellent results, but lately I've grown frustrated with its maximum 8 1/2 X 11 inch size. I've avoided Epson printers because their inks are not as lightfast as HP's. But I've recently learned that several independent vendors are supplying inks, some pigment-based, for the $499 Epson Stylus Photo 1200 printer, which prints up to 13 X 19 inches-- large enough for my scanned 35mm images. Some relevant websites:


I'm considering buying the Epson 1200, and I would appreciate comments from anyone with experience with these new inks. How do they look? What are the color management issues (colors are apparently somewhat different from standard Epson inks)? Are there any problems with ink jet clogging? What kinds of paper work best? Have any good articles been published?

These new inks could be a really important breakthrough, and deserve urgent attention.

-- Norman Koren

Barrett Benton , November 09, 1999; 02:15 P.M.

I've owned an Epson Stylus Photo 1200 for a little over a month, working with negatives and slides scanned with a Minolta QuickScan 35 Plus. The prints I've made so far (up to 11x17"; haven't tried 13x19" yet) have been mightily impressive - I had planned to use the 1200 principally for portfolio and work prints (no regular access to a darkroom - raise your hand if you're in a similar situation), but I wouldn't be ashamed to use the printer for a need-to-be-quick-about-it presentation or small exhibit. The two minor caveats I would raise to prospective buyers of the 1200 are: 1) On account of the 1200 being so recently brought to market, archival-quality color inks aren't yet available for it. Several companies - including Epson itself - are working on such inks (Quadtone inks are already available for the 1200, I've been told); 2) Generally speaking, the bigger the file size, the better the print, especially if we're talking 13x19". Whether you scan your own or use an outside service, those image files add up - even a 6gb drive starts to shrink precipitously after an enthusiastic weekend of work. Thinking ahead, I went out and bought a CD burner the same day I bought the Epson. A reasonably fast computer also helps, since printing out large image files takes a little while, even for a PIII or G4.

As far as paper goes - there's so much out there, and so much more coming to market, that I can't say which is the greatest, which is positively awful, etc. Aside from Epson's own Photo paper, I've tried Luminos' Gallery Gloss 11x17 paper with excellent results. A colleague, who also owns an Epson 1200, is quite enthusiastic about Pictorico's papers and films.

All in all, a hearty thumbs-up for the Epson 1200.

Joshua Daniels , December 02, 1999; 11:47 A.M.

I have been following this page with considerable interest. For the past couple of months I have been experimenting with an HP PhotoSmart scanner and the Epson 1200 and Photo EX. I have also been working with a colleague using a similar setup, each of us racing to test out new ideas, papers, techniques. The colleague is printing multi-exposure images, with an eye toward getting the most expressive colors; I've been after the most photographic (in distinction from "photo-realistic) results.

First, I will echo the comments that many other have made regarding how far inkjet printing has come. Moreover, having done a fairly extensive survey of material on the Web (the best of it is on or linked through Singapore Digital Darkroom, http://www.magix.com.sg/Users2/kltham/), there seems to be overwhelming testimony from both enthusiastic amateurs to seasoned pros on the excellent quality of the Epson printer. There can be, however, a very steep learning curve toward getting the great results some people claim. Not the least significant aspect is gaining facility in PhotoShop, the tool of choice for most digital darkroom applications.

Another is the vexing array of color management, device synchronization (making sure the scanner, monitor, and printer are all, more or less "in tune), driver, and software configuration issues. I would say that from my reading and discussion thus far, these problems are so ubiquitous as to overshadow most of the others. For some folks, the path toward what they claim to be excellent and photographic results without a traditional darkroom is straightforward and smooth; others seem lost is spirals of endless tweaking and non-linear results. Most working with this technology/method acknowledge that most aspects from software to technique are evolving. Encouraging is the degree of interest and willingness to collaborate and share results (the Internet is an indispensable resource, especially in light of the poor-to-mediocre documentation of both the scanner and printer and the lack of good material dedicated to producing photographic results using PhotoShop in conjunction with an Epson printer and consumer-level scanner).

Disappointing is the lack well-documented workflow from software and hardware vendors as well as comparisons among the users of these products whose experiences, using seemingly identical equipment and settings, vary widely. In short, the controls to establish a base-line from which one can make reliable experiments simply aren't there. One has to read widely and experiment with setup, configuration, and workflow. Just as an example, one enthusiast says to use (applicable to Window 98) the Color Management setting in the Epson driver; another says use ICM (when I use ICM, and follow all of his other suggestions, I get a color shift and generally darkening of the image). The HP scanner doesnt have an ICM profile. This means that the scanner is not calibrated to the monitor and printer.

My goal has been simple: work with a small number of images (color negative, slide, and black and white negative ) and try to produce a print from each that approaches or is equal or superior to the silver print (or slide original) of each. I have standardized on the Epson Photo Paper media, though I have tried the Epson film and some Lumijet paper as well (my colleague has tried a wide variety of papers - some quite beautiful). I have configured PhotoShop 5.02 RGB to use Adobe 1998 color space, gamma 2.2 (I'm using Windows), and I use the same RGB space for the profile. The Epson driver uses Custom Settings, Color Adjustment with Automatic selected. I have the paper set to Photo Paper, 1440 dpi. All other settings are defaultMy workflow is as follows: 1) scan the image using the Import command in PhotoShop (this launches the HP software); 2) using the histogram, I adjust the levels to shift out of range pixels into the scanners tonal range (this takes some trial and error to strike a balance between satisfying the histogram and keeping the image looking reasonable good); 3) once the scanned image appears in PhotoShop, I adjust the levels to bring them within the highlight and shadow ranges; 4) I check the histogram in PhotoShop, then go back into levels and fine tune; 5) I then make some small adjustments so the image looks "right" on the monitor; 6) I retouch the image using the "rubber stamp" tool; 7) I use the "unsharp mask" (usually with a threshold of 2-4 with the amount set to about 120%; 8) I resize the image and set resolution to a number which is a multiple of 1440 (ex: 240, 360, etc); I then print the image.

I have also scanned using a product called VueScan (Hamrick software). This produces a considerably different scan from the HP software and offers a wider range of pre-scan controls, but no preview of the image, so all tweaking must be done post-scan (not the best method for optimizing image quality). This software also allows for batch scanning, which may be convenient if you have a lot of images to digitize. Some observations: I have yet to produce an image that matches in general image quality any of the inexpensive but reasonably good quality color prints that I have (mostly minilab 4x6s). Not to say the inkjet is poor - it's not. In fact, when Ive gotten the color right its usually more accurate than the minilab print.

But there are a number of telltale signs that the inkjet images are not photographs. The most obvious are in the dynamic range of the print in general: low values tend to go dark and blotchy, high key areas tend to go paper white and do so in clusters so that they appear broken up. This can be controlled to some degree and, admittedly, some of this may be due to the HP PhotoSmart scanner, which, I hear (because HP doesn't publish this spec) has a dynamic range of 2.8 or so.

The most troubling characteristic are the transitions from shadow to mid-range tones. Often, there are noticeable printer artifacts in these regions, namely the appearance of less closely spaced together dots with concentrations of color that differ from either the darker or lighter main areas. For example, on fleshtones that are partly in shadow and partly in brighter light, one can see concentrations of dots near and at the transitional areas. These dots resemble the grain of film except that they are of somewhat different color form the adjacent areas.

There are also color shifts in the prints. For example, a relatively well balanced print with slightly warm fleshtones in the midrange area can also have a slight greenish tinge in the shadow areas. I've seen this is a number of prints of my different test images and this is very difficult if not impossible to correct.

Also, darker areas of the print seem to be physically thicker (which they are, since more ink has been applied there) and give the impression to these areas of the print of greater spatial dimensionality  a kind of 3D effect. This is perhaps the most telling giveaway of the inkjet technology. I have experimented in a limited way with black and white printing, and I have not tried the quadtone inks - mostly because I don't want to dedicate a printer to these inks (cleaning the printer head to go from one to another, I'm told, is dicey). I've gotten some nice results using the black and white produced by the color and black cartridges. For some reason, black and white images don't have as obvious digital artifacts as the color. But, the prints all have a color cast. For example, those done on some Adorama 11x17 paper have a very ugly greenish cast (avocado green comes to mind).

Yet, some of the black and white prints have a very beautiful quality. They can look subtly sepia-toned, and the dimensionality of the dark areas gives them a certain richness which is hard to describe but is, I believe, unique to the inkjet process. Black and white printing may turn out to be the most practical use of this technology for those seeking the closest match to photographic results.

I have to say that overall, I'm disappointed with my digital printing experience  though it has been extremely interesting and quite fun at times to be engaged in so experimental a process. Unfortunately, my results to date have not persuaded me to continue with - at least color - digital printing. Based on what I've heard and read from others, my relative lack of success could be due to some aspect of my system or software (I have a current PII with 128 MB RAM, PhotoShop 5.5, and the most up-to-date Epson and HP scanner drivers), though I strongly doubt this, or the limitation of the HP scanner (the images on screen do look very good - and the discrepancy between those, in terms of shadow and highlight detail and photo-realism - and the Epson prints points elsewhere). Or, perhaps my criteria is different from those who are very happy with the results. Those with whom I've corresponded have made various suggestions, and most, Im afraid, would disagree strongly with my conclusions. One is struck by the range of opinion and experiences. One recommendation was to use the Kodak PhotoCD as my source for digital printing (though I've heard that these scans are not well color balanced); another was to try a higher end scanner such as the Nikon CoolScan or Polaroid Sprint Scan 4000 - or better yet, take the leap to an Imacon.

I would like to balance the previous comment with the observation that inkjet printing seems to offer up a distinct aesthetic from silver printing that for many coexists happily along with a silver-based aesthetic. I have seen some very lovely inkjet prints done on older Epson printers, such as the Stylus 600, for example. While the prints had very evident dots and weren't close to photographic they nevertheless had a very appealing, one might say, pointillistic quality and very nice color.

I would very much like to see the best results that various people have obtained with the Epson and a consumer grade film scanner. I also would much like to hear from those who have had less than stellar results from the Epson printer as well as to learn about the techniques of those who feel pleased with the results, particular for portraiture. I know that people have quite wide-ranging criteria about what constitutes a "good" print let alone a good picture. For the purposes of trying out digital printing my goal  to reiterate - has been to try to match, as closely as possible, the fidelity of the original, insofar as it is represented by reasonable good, but not custom, silver print or - better yet - a slide. I have not come very close, but I can say that in some instances the results are fairly pleasing and, if not viewed too closely, reasonably photo-realistic - but emphatically not photographic. As stated, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but for me it is shows the limitations of digital consumer printing technology at this stage of its evolution, if the goal is to match silver-based printing. I want to emphasize that in my experience inkjet printing can work stunningly well for non-realistic subject matter - such as abstract or highly color-intensive originals with which the photographer is seeking interesting design qualities or expressive color rendition, rather than photographic fidelity. Ive seen some striking results with this kind of work. It's also very promising for black and white - and I'm eager to try the quadtone inks for this reason.

PS: I have used the new HP PhotoSmart 1100 printer (they're claiming 2400 dpi) and the resolution is excellent, but the results are a tad washed out. Unlike Epson, HP is trying to obtain photo quality from a 4 color cartridge. Nevertheless, this is a nice machine - very quiet, fast, and sturdy seeming.

Joshua Daniels  jdaniels@percon.com

Allyn Phillips , December 09, 1999; 10:07 P.M.

Forget Inkjet printers, NOT waterproof, will not stand the test of time. In a recent experiment at my company we printed 4 pages on photo quality paper. One from a HP color laser, one from an epson injet, another from an HP inkjet lastly from an ALPS MD 5000P. Hands down the ALPS dye sub printer is the quality (under a jewelers loop) winner, also the prints are water proof, real photo quality, and after 4 months in a sunny window, little or no fading. The laser and injets faded, the inkjets were almost completly faded, gone after 4 months.

George Hurchalla , December 15, 1999; 03:03 P.M.

One issue that I don't see discussed regarding inkjet printing is what would seem to be the excessive cost of inks, when using any of the under 500 dollar machines like the Epson 700 series and the 1200. I'm satisfied the issue of fading isn't what it used to be with the availability of acid-free papers and archival inks for the Epsons from a number of manufacturers. The favorable comments about the 1200 had me on the verge of getting one, but reading the comments about archival MIS inks on the tssphoto site gave me cause to wonder. They stated that you could get six full resolution 8.5 by 11 prints out of the Epson ink cartridges. With the MIS cartridges for the Epson printers going at 42 dollars or so - I don't know what the Epson cartridges go for but I would assume 25 to 30 dollars - this would seem to work out to the appalling amount of 5-7 dollars in ink per print. The cost of good glossy photo paper, just over a dollar, then becomes irrelevant. Is this figure of six prints per cartridge grossly under-rating the ink capacity? It seems hard to believe no one would have mentioned this if it was really that bad. I'm looking for maximum photo quality here, so I realize you could get many more using lesser settings. What is the experience of other people with photo prints-to-ink cartridge ratios for the Epson printers?

Jeff Measamer , January 18, 2000; 01:33 P.M.

We are currently printing images on an Epson Photo EX using the MIS archival inks, the previous poster seems to have gotten some bad information. It's not quite as expensive as some believe, we are currently printing a run of 11x15 full color images (actual image size 9 3/4 x 13 1/2)and getting 25-30 prints from each cartidge. We probably average $2 per page in ink cost, most of our images are approximately 30 mb scans and we are using 140 lb. Arches hot press for the current work. The artists we have worked with have been pleased with the work both on Arches and Concorde Rag (note the Concorde costs 3x as much). While not scientific I have had one of the images printed in June '99 hanging in my window (Houston, TX) and no signs of fading yet.

Preston Bannister , April 17, 2000; 04:10 P.M.

Just to be contrary, how often do you care about the archival quality of a printed color image?

I'd care a *lot* about the lifetime of the media on which image file is recorded (what is the lifetime of a CD, CD-R or CD-RW?). But for the printed image - well I can always print out another copy later - possibly on a better printer :).

Clearly if you are going posting your image on an outside wall in the sun, you have an issue. On the other hand some of our local fast-food joints appear to be selling blue food...

Bart Baldwin , April 18, 2000; 09:34 P.M.

    I have read several of the comments here and I find all of the different points of view interesting.  The one thing I do think is very exciting is the fact that Digital Photography is evolving into a very "respectable" format to express your art... or use as an alternative in your commercial applications... or just to show off the kids to friends and family.  I think it is worth reminding folks how far "Photo Quality" prints have come in just a few years. Especially in the low end market.

    I realize that most of the people who leave comments here and debate the usability and quality of today's printers are Pro or Simi-Pro, and that they are comparing the printers to high quality photography film and printing processes.  There are a few things that I would like to throw out there for your consideration.

  • First -  That the quality of the printed image has, in a large part, more to do with the quality of the digital image source than does the printer. For example, the digital camera used to take the original image can have a bigger effect on the final print than... a poor quality lens, bad film choice and mediocre processing all combined in film photography.  A poor quality camera can not be overcome with a good printer any more than in reverse. I think that people are often looking for a printer to "perform miracles".


  • Second -  Price...!!!  I personally have a very good camera (Olympus C-2000z) and I have been waiting for my budget to afford me a HP PhotoSmart 1100. Recently I bought an "El-Cheep-O" "Photo Quality" printer at (of all places) Wal-Mart. I choose a Lexmark Z11 because I read good reviews and.. well... it was CHEEP.... $69.95 I was HOPING that it would hold me over. BOY WAS I SURPRISED!!! I made several prints, up to 8"x10" and EVERYONE that I have shown them to can not believe that it came off of a printer... much less one that was so inexpensive. Oh yeah, and as for cost of print, as best as I can figure, one 8"x10" sheet of print on the high quality setting (1200 DPI) cost aprox. $2.25. Including the Premium Glossy Photo Paper from HP. Now, for MOST people that is less than they can have an "8"x10" print made at the local Photo-Mart. For an example, you get one 8"x10" off of  the "photo machine" at wal-mart for $6.95.  And in addition to the cost, they can have one in a matter of minutes without having to leave their house.


  • Third -  Archival...?  OK, so the print from an Inkjet doesn't last for 20 years. SO WHAT. The DIGITAL image file on a CD-ROM lasts for over 100 years.  It does not fade, crack, bleed, rip, tear or just disappear from sight.  Now that is a true archival photograph.


  • Finally -  What are the uses people are putting these printers to?  In other words, why are people using "digital images" today?  I think most would agree that the "Pro" photographer looks at final quality with a MUCH more discriminating eye than the average Joe... I believe that the photos printed on today's printers are considered by the average consumer as being just as good as anything they get from developing film.... At least that is the response I personally have seen.  Let's not forget that, thanks to APS (or Advantix) film, the standard for what is accepted as high quality has come way down from when 35mm set the standard.

    The new age of "Digital Photography" is giving photography a bit of a "rebirth".  For those of you who are old enough to remember, photography as a hobby used to have larger following than it does today.  It started to die out about 12-15 years ago and now, just try to find someone that know where to buy Developer or Fixer... much less know what it's used for (present company excluded I'm sure).  Thanks to the internet, photography as a hobby is alive and well, and getting bigger all the time.  And thanks to the new generation of inkjet printers, people are able to share their new found joy with friends and family that don't have a computer connected to the net.

Tony Torres , April 24, 2000; 09:19 A.M.

The Rochester Institute of Technology School of photography has been using a combination of a digital printer that is RA4 process its almost like the Fuji Pictrography. But this is run on a Kreonite machine its called the Sphera Printer. It uses photographic paper RA4 paper and exposes the paper on three color laser then the paper exposed is cut off automatically and then the person feeds it into the Kreonite machine and walla you have a print that was fix and edited on photoshop and then process on real photographic paper RA4 no more this iris crap or whatever output there is for digital media now you have an RA4 print that was done digitally and now it is back on normal color paper. Tony Torres from the Rochester Institute of Technology if you ever want to see this ingenious machine stop by the RIT campus and head to building 7B and ask for the ISM lab that is where I work. Hope you're eyes start to see that film and normal process paper will not be obsolite in photography.

Image Attachment: bull.jpg

Doug Johnson , May 28, 2000; 07:19 P.M.

The Epson 1270 and 870 printers seem to be another significant level up in the quality available to home, or inexpensive commerical, digial printing. Many people seem to feel that these printers are better than some of the lower end dye-sub printers out there.

I've seen the output, and it seems awfully impressive to me. I'd love to see comments about them, though, from people who really have extensive experience with digital printing at higher price ponts, and with more than the occassional traditional chemical/optical custom enlargement, away from the mini-labs.

With these new models, and their fade resistance (10-23 years depending upon paper choice), Epson seems to be getting there. The pull of being able to return to "darkroom work", but with color rather than black and white, and in a much more space and time efficient manner, is strong.

I'd also love it if Phil could revisit this area. He seems to have been otherwise occupied for some time -- you know, those pesky bits about advancing your career and all that, I imagine. But a whole lot seems to have evolved since he last contributed very much of his very valuable insight and perspective to digital photography. Especially on the home/low end commercial output side, things seem to be getting WAY better.

Tom DeMita , July 14, 2000; 11:54 A.M.

I just received a call from Hardwarebuyline. My Epson Stylus Photo 2000P has an ETA of July 23, 2000. ($755.00) I am currently using a HP Photo Smart 1100P. ($464.00) I was about to purchase the Epson 1270 when I luckily found out about the Epson 2000P. Although I was quite satisfied with the HP's quality, like most people, I was looking for something better. My only concern now,is should I have waited for yet another better photo printer to come out. ;>) I will test the Epson and Hp side by side and post the results.

Brent Whiteman , August 05, 2000; 03:42 P.M.

Like many things Phil seems to be getting a bit out of touch, or perhaps, as with some things, he never was quite in touch. In the case of ink-jets anyway they have certainly moved on a lot, even since the original Stylus Photo. I currently have an Epson 750 and I would have to say that 9 times out of ten I can get a better print/photograph out of a scanned negative/transparency that I could ever have done using traditional photographic methods.

Inkjets these days, especially Epson ones may be in both the 'small and cheap' category and 'big and expensive'. But in either case the certainly do provide a big bang for your buck.

With printers now such as the Epson 870/1270 producing photographic quality prints with a 10-25 year lifespan, and the new 2000P with a possible 200 year, or at least 100+ independently tested lifespan, I think the question of what equipment you use to produce photographic output is now becoming something of a mute point.

Anthony D , October 30, 2000; 09:16 P.M.

<br> Hello all, <br><br> I'm not a photography expert, but I am interested in the field and and came across this page. My first exposure to this was two years ago, when I got to use a Kodak DC210+ digital camera (~$500 in 1998) with an Epson Stylus Color 740 photo printer (~$200 in 1998). I have since been fascinated by the ability to print photos, and to edit photos. <br><br> Two important points to consider about color photo printers are: <blockquote>1. Since you've either used a digital camera or scanner to get the pictures into your computer, you'll always have them. So even if the printing technology isn't quite as good as you'd like right now, it's getting better all the time, and you can make prints later down the road. <br><br> 2. Since you can buy a 20 gigabyte hard drive for $125 or less as of today (October 2000), and a recordable CDrom drive for around $150, the storage for your photos on a computer is not even a consideration anymore. The space is there, and it's cheap. </blockquote> <br> -Anthony <br> <a href="http://NoDivisions.com" onMouseOver="window.status='Anthony\'s website';return true" onMouseOut="window.status=' ';return true">NoDivisions.com</a>

Mike Morgan , November 28, 2000; 07:14 P.M.

I have the Alps MD-5000 with Dye-Sublimation upgrade, and the Epson 1270. DO NOT BUY THE ALPS! It is a waste of money. I am much happier with the 1270. Suffice it to say that the Alp's superior specs (on the face) don't matter when you look at other problems (color matching, banding, reliability, media and ink availability, etc.) Email for details.

hank roberts , December 20, 2000; 06:37 P.M.

I was given an Alps MD-2100 several months ago, and have been printing using a Powerbook 180c, a 520c, and a Lombard. Source images from an Agfa SmartScan (300 dpi, a closeout), and from various picture-on-floppy and picture-on-CD-and-Net scans obtained with slide and print developing.

My comparisons are a QMS color laser at work and various Epson inkjets among friends and neighbors. So I am a novice at this -- the Alps came because I'd done some repairs for nonprofits via a friend and somewhere someone got a lot of new gear and this one floated my way.

I really like it. The colors can be saturated (there's a Photo setting) or not; it does plain black or grayscale so I can save ink. It's still expensive to run; I keep an original Deskjet for text and middle-aged DeskJet inkjet for transient color work.

Main thing about the Alps is, the ink really does seem to stay on the page and keeps its color, particularly on the dedicated paper which isn't too pricey.

It's a SCSI printer, which is handy in a variety of ways. And of course by now it's a dinosaur, replaced by newer models, but they seem to keep the supplies available at Alps online. The 'ink' is something like the old Selectric film 'ribbons' for this model, 3 colors plus black, separately replaceable.

It's better than "home computer print" quality, and for friends and family purposes or any business use I'd come up with, I can use the output without worrying about it lasting or looking bad in a year or two. I'd call it well worth watching for. Looking at the history of the past few years, I'm amazed the Alps line was unheard of in my experience -- they had this model out while the Epson and HP printers were still making blotchy short lived color prints! Maybe they didn't send them to reviewers.

Jeff Warner , January 27, 2001; 03:14 A.M.

Re: Joshua Daniels, December 2, 1999 posting:

I found your detailed post of 12/2/99 interesting, and thought my experiences might shed some light on (some of?) your issues with Epson inkjets.

I've been shooting for about 20 years now, and have been scanning negatives for only about 4 years. Only got my first digital camera 5 months ago... I use a Microtek 35T film scanner (1828dpi optical), Photoshop 5.5, and currently print using (only!) a 1st generation Epson Stylus Photo printer (740dpi, 6-ink), and use Epson Matte Heavyweight Photo paper. System is Mac OS9.

I am now very, very happy with the results I'm getting, after quite a bit (read: years...) of Photoshop self-learning, via many good books out there. Initially, my results were essentially as you described: color shifts, lack of fidelity to the original, etc. In the last year or so I've finally been getting the results I wanted; that is, prints that can easily go on a wall under glass, and look just as good as a 'wet' print. Using (only!) a 3-4 year old 1st generation photo printer, I must add that this is true only as long as you don't view the print from closer than about 4-5 inches (which, typically, you wouldn't). Luckily, an Epson 1270 is in my future, and that will all but get rid of this lingering resolution and tonality issue.

Firstly, using my PowerMac 8500, an AppleVision 1710 monitor, (horrible) Microtek scanning drivers/software, Adobe Photoshop 5.5, the Epson Stylus Photo printer, and, more importantly, the ColorSync software that is integrated into all modern Mac operating systems, I've had virtually identical output from screen to printer, with very little fussing about. There is a reason, I believe, that professional graphics users rely on the Mac for their work. Apple has gone to great lengths to ensure the color-matching integrity of input/output devices, and I think it works. Yes, I have indeed used both platforms extensively, although I don't know too much about the PC's built-in color management software (although I have heard from pros that it's more difficult to easily get consistently accurate output).

Secondly, monitor quality can be *very* important to this process. In addition to simply using Photoshop's gamma control to 'calibrate' the monitor, ideally you should be able to calibrate the monitor for different ambient light settings (adjusting for different 'white point' settings, essentially). If you've ever had the opportunity to do this on a monitor that supports it (read: a more expensive monitor), you know how important this aspect is. Depending on the monitor type, a little silverish card (or other implement) is held up to the monitor to match colors on the card to the screen. When you do this for sunny daylight vs. cloudy daylight vs. night incandescent or fluorescent desk lighting, you see just how much the apparent color shift of the monitor is with different ambient light sources. Change to the 'wrong' setting, and you'll see what I mean.

In any event, a couple of things came to mind that were absent in your discussion of relevant info to your process. First of all, if you have obvious color casts, something is *very* wrong with the scan (I'm sure you know this). I've found that the most difficult part of the entire process is getting a good scan; as you noted, scanner software and documentation is lacking, to say the least. Try, try again, the result you want is out there (assuming your scanner has the density range to capture your image properly; this is an important, and expensive, aspect).

Now, assuming that you have a good scan, one aspect of Photoshop that wasn't mentioned was hue/saturation control. Obviously a good scan shouldn't need too much fussing with hue (color casts aside...), however I've found the saturation control to be invaluable to matching color to originals (referring to transparencies here, as 'color matching to originals' doesn't strictly apply to color negatives, only to color prints from negatives, which are subject to their own initial interpretation). You obviously have a pretty good grasp of Photoshop and how to correct an image; my recent 'discovery' of the power of the saturation control compels me to include it, since you didn't mention it.

A couple of quickie notations to your post:

*Don't* use a Kodak PhotoCD; PhotoCD and color fidelity are mutually exclusive (there are several websites that discuss this in detail)!!!

If you have the money for a Polaroid Sprint Scan 4000, Microtek Artixscan 4000, or one of the just-announced high-res Nikon film scanners, buy one!

Lastly, Shutterbug magazine's 'Digital Help: Q&A for Digital Photography' section by David Brooks has been an *excellent* source of cutting edge digital photography and printing information, especially for those interested in producing 'fine art' quality prints.

I agree with you that the technology still has somewhere to go to get to true photographic quality, but most people don't view their prints through a lupe (although it may be fun to do so). It is all moving very fast, and the Epson 1270 printer in the hands of a knowledgeable user can print wonders...

Doug Dolde , May 16, 2001; 11:27 P.M.

I just bought a refurbished EPSON Stylus 1270 direct from Epson for $252. And while it was in transit my FUJI DS-300 broke ! Now I'm looking for a new digital camera.

Mike Morgan , August 22, 2001; 01:09 A.M.

The long and the short of it: Yeah, the ALPS MD-5000 has great resolution, and the dye-sub is very impressive, but the colors are usually off.

Click here for my amateur review of the ALPS MD-5000 with the dye sublimation upgrade.

Jeff Mallory , January 31, 2002; 01:03 A.M.

I've had an HP photosmart 1100 for the past two years for printing photos (Olympus 500 and 620 and now Canon D30). Using PIE Studio ( http://www.picmeta.com ) to control printing and printing on HP matte photopaper (~85cents/page) I've had great luck with color consistency, image brightness, "photographic" quality on 8x10 prints. One must manually select the type of paper (HP matte photographic or whatever) in the printer setup before printing and the print speed is not quick but the quality is very good. And it has CF and SmartMedia slots.

Graeme Pettit , April 29, 2002; 07:03 P.M.

I have recently purchased an Epson Stylus photo 1290 having viewed competition from Canon and HP. My purchase decision was based on the need to produce good quality A3 sized landscape and macro prints for framing and sale. My choice of the Epson over the other two considered was purely on price, there being little difference between them to percieve on printouts of the same couple of photos from my perspective, and with unaided eyesight.

I am pleased with the output, am happy to report that installation was a doddle using Windows XP, and output very fast using the USB connection (I needed to retain my old Lexmark printer for general letter and proof printing)

The Epson is a large unit, and takes up a lot of desk space. Cartridges are only 2/3 the price of the Lexmark, but I do not suspect that they will last overly long. The bundled 'quality images' are a waste of space, and if you like Adobe photoshop elements, you can have my copy! For a serious printer, I would have thought it would have had something a little more heavyweight, but that is just my opinion.

If you expect to install it straight out of the box you will be very disappointed....No USB, or other cable supplied with mine, and none stated as supplied in the instructions...worse still, absence of same not mentioned on the box so far as I can see.

Well, there it is, for what it is worth.....It prints off some very nice images, exceedingly well, and quickly in A3 size at max resolution...I didnt time them, but it was quicker than my Lexmark doing the same print in the smaller A4 size.....

Check out the competition, as these A3 printers are becoming more readily available at a reasonably affordable price....I paid £349 UK in March 2002, from PC World, but know I could have bought it cheaper over the web. I just like the ease of solving any problems, for which I'm prepared to pay that little extra. Happy hunting and Printing... Graeme Pettit

John Hanses , August 25, 2002; 03:01 A.M.

I recently went to a demonstration of the Epson Stylus Pro 7600 (24") and the 9600 (44"). You can now get fine art, large print quality on a reasonably priced machine. The quality of a 16x20 from a 35mm scan was unbeleivable! The only improvements to be made in the coming years will be speed. These machines output 16sqft / hour for photographic quality - that's approx 10 min for a 16x20. The prints are also archival to 100 yrs.. I print fine art prints up to 40x50" from 4x5 transparencies and would never have considered printing digitally till now. I could write for days on the subject but you can get more precise info @ Epson's site. Tangentially to this forum: Also, check out the Imacon Flextight Precision II & III scanners - still around $10K but scanning the quality of some drum scanners that cost 3 times as much!

Ofey Kalakar , September 22, 2002; 05:03 P.M.

The new Giclee printers are phenominal. If you have an opportunity to print selected digitized images using the Giclee process, it is well worth it.

Hans Andersson , October 24, 2002; 04:21 A.M.

Hi I have bought an Epson 950 and I'm very pleased with it. I use a Minolta Dimage Dual II scanner and allways scan with highest resulotion, I have make parts of 35 mm film on the 210.. roll paper in panoramic size with a size of 650mm loong, with a very good result. I am often little sad that I did not by the 2100 to have the A3 size. The only problem I have had is the printer sw Epson Photo Quicker that in the beginnig was very good, but now often stop after non to two prints and say it can not fint the file to print from, even when ith files stillis within the programe and is still possible to open within it. i have reinstaled the printer SW and the Photo Quicker, but still is the problem there. Regards Hans Andersson

Rodney Williams , December 25, 2002; 02:22 P.M.

Before buying an ink jet printer make sure that camera and printer are compatible. Inparticular check out HP printer site as there is a list of compatibilities and non such.

Dan Lindsay , January 11, 2003; 05:39 P.M.

The latest in inkjet printers, the Epson 2200, has finally made available a high quality printer to the masses. No longer do I have to send out for large prints. With quality papers and the archiaval dyes the 2200 meets or exceeds most photographers' requirements in a photo printer. It can go up to 13x44 inches. I highly recommend this printer,--currently priced at about US$700.

Michael Slater , March 15, 2003; 12:29 P.M.

I just purchased an Epson 2100 (Asian version of the 2200) and have been documenting my experiences with it. http://karavshin.org/blogs/black-coffee/archive/cat_epson_2100.html

Skip Gaede , May 02, 2003; 01:34 A.M.

I just successfully printed an 8" x 60" panoramic image on my Epson 785EPX printer. Because the process required some shenanigans, I thought I'd document it for posterity. Many of the Epson photo printers support roll paper. (Mine supposedly only supports 4" wide paper, but the holder for the paper had places to hold an 8.3 inch roll, and it worked!) According to the Epson web site, under Windows 2000 or XP, the print driver supports printing a document up to 129" long. On the same web page it also says the driver supports user defined paper sizes up to 44" long. The two statements, while seemingly contradictory, are compatible: You can, if your image is less than 44" wide, setup the paper length in the print driver to match the width of your print. You can then print the image in one step.

If the image is wider than 44", you need to break it up into smaller pieces and print all the pieces as a single job. I did it by putting vertical guides in my image at 11" intervals and saving the chunks as separate files. Using Adobe Acrobat, I then created a 6 page document in landscape format. I then sent the whole doument to the printer, which had been setup with an 11" paper length, no margins, banner mode, and save paper. The pages were output with no intervening whitespace.

Cost: I figure about $7.00 for the paper (Epson Premium Luster) and $3.00 for the (dye) ink. I priced the job at Boston Photo & Imaging, and it would have cost about $350 (but I could have gotten 5 prints, so the cost per print would only have been $70.00.)

I'm very pleased with the results. The printer cost $119.00.


Image Attachment: Indian Lake.jpg

V S , October 31, 2003; 02:38 P.M.

Dye-Subs ARE back !

There are a new , low cost dye -subs from Sony and Canon.

I just got Canon CP-200 for 180$. It produce phot lab qualty 6X4 and even put protective layer. cartrige of 36 cost $20-25 depending on store. Well, it is small and only 300dpi, but ,yes looks like real photo . No dithering of ink-jets, no worry about finger prints. cool.

I wish cost for printing be cheaper then ~60 cents as well as boosting resolution to 600 dpi and size to Letter can probbaly make it absolute winer.

So far 4X6 is what I normaly print and I use ink jet for bigger images, that is fine : when image is big it is framed and looked from distance ( no aparent ditehirng ), while 4X6 normaly observed closly.

Joe Orsak , June 02, 2005; 03:45 P.M.

Well.. this article has been around a while but I thought I'd add a VERY worthy inkjet printer to the listing here. Teh Canon i9900 (up to 13 x 19 full bleed) is one fantastic printer.

I originally purchased it as a backup for emergency prints and planned on continuing to send my shots out to the lab. However, the print quality was so great that I do all my printings now myself.

Tony Stokes , December 12, 2006; 02:00 P.M.

To say that this has been around awhile is the understatement of the year. In terms of digital printing this has been around 3 or 4 lifetimes for most printers. I had to laugh about the "Iris" printer. I work for a commercial offset printer and we had one of those printers, what a nightmare! We now use Epson Stylus Pro 7600 and are upgrading to an even bigger, newer Epson.

I have been using a Canon ip1500 printer for a few months now and it does a fine job. It is a $49.99 printer and for the family stuff it works great.

I'm new to this site and am getting some really useful information here but if someone wanted good information about printers they won't get it here.


Chris O , February 15, 2007; 04:28 P.M.

I am new to this field, and would very much appreciate it if people would give their opinions of which are the best printers currently available, both personal and professional. Thank you!

Dennis Walthers , March 07, 2007; 07:01 P.M.

Does anyone have experience using the Xerox Solid Ink printers? The new 8560mfp looks like a nice product. I don't think the image quaility is appropriate for photo pro but could be great for marketing materials and quick proofs.

We are looking at using the Free Printer program from FreePrinters.com. http://www.FreePrinters.com. Looks good and you just have to buy a base level of ink each month which we would do anyway. Includes free on-site service. I like it because it does not require a minimum number of prints and does not require a monthly report of usage.

let me know if you have any experience with either.

Douglas Munsinger , June 28, 2007; 04:18 P.M.

Best personal printer: Canon Pixma Pro9000

OK photo printer: HP Photo 8250 is pretty good up to 8-1/2" x 11".

Most HPs photo printers are pretty good, but Canon is in a different league. I personally do no like Epson's, though some people swear by them (I have ended up swearing AT them...).

Dennis Walthers , August 20, 2007; 01:42 P.M.

Great site and usefull information for the photo market. Please let you users know how they can get a high end business class color printer for free. Visit us at http://www.FreePrinters.com

ed letven , December 14, 2007; 12:03 A.M.

I have an Epson R1800 which my wife and I do not use regularly. So it dries up and we seem to always be cleaning the darned thing. Before we know it we've had few prints made and the carts are empty. We're going on vacation for several weeks. Does anyone know if there is a technique for resealing the cartridges and then reopening them after a few weeks? Just an idea I had. Of course we've had this problem with the Epson 820's and 200P as well.


James C. Williams , July 07, 2008; 01:39 P.M.

No new posts to this category in a while. I am considering buying a new printer, but not ready for a big leap in $. I want to print bigger than legal, but don't need 24". I do a LOT of B&W but only a little color. I am interested in the new HP B8850, since it has had rave reviews for B&W printing. Not so interested in Epson's new printers using gloss inks (Ultrachrome) -- adding resins seems like a clog waiting to happen. The price difference between the Epson 1400 and the B8850 is pretty substantial though. I am wondering if anyone can offer any advice on the choice between these two?

Thanks, James C. Williams

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