Any ARCHIVABLE LF ink jet printers that can equal darkroom print? : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have been quite impressed by dye based LF ink jet printers today. In my opinion their quality is almost equal to that of a good darkroom print..however, these printers use dye based inks. The problem with these inks is of course they fade very fast, less than 2 years on average, compared to 30+ years in the darkroom. The pigmented (UV) inks, which have very acceptable archivable life, seem to have a much smaller color gammut than their dye based cousins. This makes there prints look inferior vs. the dye based prints.

Digital prints made in the darkroom by a LJ5000 or a Chromera printer make excellent prints with tradional darkroom color gammut. However their cost and space requirements are extraordinary for the average user.

I have looked at archivable prints from Epson 9500 and HP5000. In my opinion they do look inferior to darkroom quality prints. Has anyone seen a LF archivable ink jet printer that can truly rival darkroom quality prints? I would be printing color landscapes. Any input is very much appreciated.

-- Bill Glickman (, December 30, 2000


Bill -

A couple of years ago I saw some Iris prints that had been made from photographs. They were breathtaking. As good as a good photographic print? I'm not sure, since the photographic print wasn't available. But the Iris was absolutely beautiful.

Epson is coming out with the P2000 soon (Maybe it's already out - check the site at for info on their printers. They can send you samples for your approval.). Anyway, that printer is supposed to offer a combination of papers and inks that will produce output that is supposed to last 80 or more years.

A lot is happening in this end of the industry, and it's moving at a pretty rapid pace the past year or two. Inks and papers are getting a lot of attention from the manufacturers as the longevity issues loomed so large for so long.

Of course, you don't have to own your own printer - especially since the lowest priced Iris is in the neighborhood of $45K or so. The Epson model, though, should be less than $10K - with comparable results.

Check out Cone Editions (New York), Nash Editions (Manhattan Beach), and others to have your printing done for you. They have the expertise and the equipment.



-- Alan Agardi (, December 30, 2000.

I visited the Atget exhibits at the ICP and Museum of the City of New York last week, and interestingly, among mostly original Agtet albumin prints and a few Chicago Albumen Works Atget reprints from the 1970s (as well as a few modern prints by other photographers to show affinities with Atget), there was one Iris print from an Atget negative.

Out of context, the Iris print would have looked like a nice print, but it didn't come close to resembling the surface, texture, deep tonal range, and sharp line of an albumen print. Presumably, only an extraordinarily competent printer would be permitted to handle an Atget negative for a major exhibition like this, so I am assuming this is as good as it gets. A critic friend (also a LF photographer) who was with me speculated it might just be the difference between having an emulsion surface and inks that are partially absorbed by the paper, producing something more visually akin to a gum bichromate print.

-- David Goldfarb (, December 30, 2000.

Take a look at John Cones system "piezography" - John is a master Iris/Giclee printer who has moved into the new inkjet/Epson area of expertise.

I haven't used it, but have seen amazing prints from this system. Like all skills, it takes some mastering to become an expert/craftsman/artist. I have heard mainly good praise from those who use it. It uses carbon pigment inks, which are very long lasting on archival papers (testing still ongoing) And remember, this is a rapidly developing area, as consumer level printers improve by leaps and bounds every few months.

Currently this is for B&W only - but he is now working on a colour version. All coming from someone who is both a master Iris printer, as well as someone who has been developing the technology since 1980.

Tim A

-- tim atherton (, December 30, 2000.

Hey guys, what I am looking for is a LF (42") wide ink jet printer... some of the ones mentioned above were very much smaller. I do no B&W work.

There is a company in CT, I think, called IT, they refurbish Iris printers and turn them into high end ink jets, anyone aware of them? They are sending me samples next week...we shall see, I will report back when I get them..

-- Bill Glickman (, December 30, 2000.

The Epson P2000 has been out for a while now. It uses the same pigment inks as the larger P7500 and P9500 (although the larger format printers use individual ink cartridges rather than the all-in- one color cartridge of the P2000.

I believe there was some issue with either the papers or inks for the Epson pigment printers as Epson was suppose to reformulate are re- release some of these supplies for these printers.

Epson isn't the only one with pigment inks. They also exist for high- end wide format inkjet printers from Roland, HP and others. Check out for info on the archieval nature of inkjet prints with different papers and ink sets.

I saw matt prints from these Epson printers at PhotoExpo East. Looked pretty nice, however there wasn't a glossy print in sight nor a direct comparison with a photographic print. My guess is that these printers aren't at their best on glossy paper stock. This is something I want to check out in more detail. A number of people have also reported problems with very noticable metamerism with the Epson pigment inks.

From what I've heard, as an overall industry trend, the R&D money being spent in color output technology is heavily skewed towards inkjet technologies.

-- Larry Huppert (, December 31, 2000. wrote... My guess is that these printers aren't at their best on glossy paper stock.

This is very true.. and the pigmented inks in my experience look even worse on high gloss vs. the dye based ink. The Epson 2000 as well as the Epson 1270 &870, which are not considered LF printers have had their fair share of problems with color shifts. The 1270 and 870 are vulnerable to expsoure to ozone, while the 2000 can sometimes produce a green shift based on the paper being used. These problems are well documented on many web sites. Epson almost ignores the problems and makes a few side comments on their web site, but heavy users report otherwise on many independent web sites.

I think you are right as per R&D seems to me, the next windfall in this field is when UV inks can rival the full color gammut of darkroom papers. I wonder how feasable this is, and how long it will take for it to become reality?

-- Bill Glickman (, December 31, 2000.

Bill, Check out the Roland 8-color variable-dot printers. They produce true 1440X1440 pigment prints up to 50" wide and their new black ink is REALLY black. The glossy and matte prints I saw at PhotoExpoNY last fall were visually superior to the large format Epson output. This might be the large format pigment printer I've been waiting for, but it ain't cheap at about $20K.

-- Carlos Loret de Mola (, December 31, 2000.

Although it's not a wide format printer, does anyone have any comments regarding the image quality, stability, gamut and color quality of dye sub printers such as the Olympus P-400?

-- Larry Huppert (, January 01, 2001.

 >Has anyone seen a LF archivable ink jet printer that can truly 
rival >darkroom quality prints?

Iris or Giclee prints are pigment based inkjet outputs are some of the best prints I have ever seen. I've seen excellent Giclees by Ed Burtynsky. He is a Canadian Fine Art photographer in Toronto who owns a lab called Toronto Image Works. He gets to use his lab's Iris printer for his industrial colour landscapes. The colour are high in saturation and the gradation is brilliant. The images are printed on watercolour paper and its very sharp. B&W Giclee look very good as well. However you have to work with the lab because the printer and drum scanner are too expensive for home darkroom users. It might be a good idea to wait until the technology gets better and cheaper.

-- David Payumo (, January 03, 2001.

For the record, Iris (or giclee if you prefer the fifi term) are dye and NOT pigment prints. And watercolor paper subdues sharpness with its inherent matte texture. Nonetheless, Iris prints can be quite beautiful and look awfully sharp, but you should know what you're looking at and they may not be as archival as you may require.

-- Carlos Loret de Mola (, January 07, 2001.

In response to Carlos' post above...there are several companies making PIGMENTED inks for use specificaly for the Iris, Epson 9000 and Roland large format printers...and while these inks have a somewhat "flat" color gamut when compared to dye based inks, they work beautifully for B&W prints.

Also...there are coated watercolor paper stocks that react with the dyes or pigmented inks, reducing the ink absorbtion, dot gain and help in holding the image sharpness.

-- Tony Novak-Clifford (, January 08, 2001.

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