Piezography: Ansel Adams and the inkjet print

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No, this isn't a thread about "WWAD" (What would Ansel do). I'm well aware that St. Ansel embraced new technologies, sought maximum control over prints, etc. etc. So let's not make this a would-he-or-wouldn't-he discussion; it's safe to say he'd at least experiment.

Instead, my query is about piezography, the quadtone ink-and-software kit for b&w printing on Epson printers (www.piezography.com). Quoting from George DeWolfe’s review in the new issue of View Camera, "I've been a black-and-white printer for over 35 years. I studied with Ansel Adams and Minor White, and I know what a beautiful print is. . . . Piezography has changed the way I work, and it has changed the way I see. It has allowed me to expand my vision into subtle tonalities I didn’t know existed. . . . If Ansel were alive, he'd be into [Piezography] big time. Big time."

Strong words. More praises from DeWolfe: "Piezography . . . has, overnight, changed the history of photography. It is the answer to traditional photography's toxic chemical heritage and is environmentally safe and sustainable. The print is as aesthetically beautiful as silver, and as archival. . . . Piezography with the [Epson] 7000 pushes us beyond what we have known as the best in black-and-white photography." (Read the full review on p. 58-59 of the July/August issue of View Camera.)

"Changed the history of photography overnight"! Is Piezo really that good? I’m curious to hear whether any frequenters of this forum are using/have tried Piezography (perchance even with the Epson 7000?) and/or have at least studied large Piezographic prints up close, in person (i.e., not on the company's website). Thoughts, comments?

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-- Micah (MicahMarty@aol.com), July 09, 2001


Some months back I obtained a small piezography sample print from Jon Cone. The effect is quite intriguing, and I can imagine that at some point in the reasonably near future the process will be refined to a point where I may want to investigate further.

IMO it's a different medium which shows promise of being beautiful in its own way, and as such is worth paying attention to. But it's no *substitute* for a good silver-gelatin contact print - not even close. It's just a completely different effect.

-- Oren Grad (orengrad@world.std.com), July 09, 2001.

First of all, note that I know nothing about piezography.

However...the properly-processed silver print, platinum/palladium prints etc have a good track record for longevity, while so far as I know piezography has no track record, just claims.

Photography has been full of claims of archival stability that have proven to be untrue; E-3, E-4 and C-22 come to mind offhand. Much color photography of an entire generation has faded away. Epson recently continued that tradition when their "archival" print material quickly turned green.

Something to consider.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), July 10, 2001.

Fwiw, I see that George DeWolfe's apparently-similar article for Camera Arts (sister magazine to ViewCamera) is downloadable as a PDF file from Piezo's website, http://www.piezography.com/exhibition-printing.html


-- Micah (MicahMarty@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

The only fair comparison is side by side prints of the same subject and have photographers compare them without knowing which is which and see what is chosen. Claims are not proof. Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

Just finished looking at the prints, they both are stark contrast without subtle tones of any kind, at least on my monitor, which is what I am saying, the only fair comparison is side by side. The companys website photo's would never convince me to try it. Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

I dunno. I've been printing for 35 years too, and the inkjet B&W that I've seen so far, and produced myself, impresses me about as much as a badly done bromoil smudge.
Having said that, I haven't tried quadtone inks, because they just don't seem to be readily available on this side of the pond.
I'm willing to be convinced that they are capable of good results, in the same way that bi-tone halftone printing is miles better than a standard B&W halftone reproduction - and yet..... it's still not quite a silver print is it?

-- Pete Andrews (p.l.andrews@bham.ac.uk), July 10, 2001.

Recently I too a Piezography print made on the Epson 7000 to Tomas Lopez at the University of MIami. Tom I believe is the Chair of the Fine Art department although it may be Art History Department.

Tom looked at the print almost had a heart attack. He stated that it was incredible. He had never seen such a tonal range aside from platinum.

The process has promise, but as with any medium I have seen unbelieveably awful silver prints and as such I am sure there are awful platinum and Piezography prints.

I have seen George DeWolff's prints in person. They are truly lovely. But so are John Sexton's silver prints.

Another medium, with it's own set of issues, both positive and negative.


-- Mike Kravit (mkravi@kravit.net), July 10, 2001.

Hi, it's me, Micah, the initial poster again. With all due respect to the above posters who want to speculate about Piezograph prints without having seen them, allow me to note that I specifically asked to hear from frequenters of this forum who have studied Piezograph prints *in person* ("not on the company's website," I said, computer screens being completely worthless for conveying print quality). Frankly, the only in-person experience posted here so far (the "heart attack" one) sounds like a pretty good endorsement. Anyone else with "in person" experience?

The archivality issue raised by John Hicks is a consideration, but I don't know if it would be a deciding factor for a lot of photographers, especially if Wilhelm Research or the like say that Piezos are likely to last as long as toned b&w silver prints. Then too, I suppose it's a different thread but the importance of archivality to collectors/buyers in an era where pressing the "Send to Printer" button produces an identical print could make an interesting discussion topic. For example, I'm guessing that Piezo prints are at least as archival as color LightJet prints or Ciba/Ilfochromes, even though the latter substrates were employed in most of the photographs that have set price records (six-figures) in the contemporary photography market (Gursky, Sherman, Tillmans, etc.).

Perhaps what I'm getting at (albeit very indirectly!) is the difference between buyers' priorities and sellers (photographers') wishes. Once the archivality is likely to exceed the buyer's lifespan, is the buyer more concerned about the appearance of *the image* or whether the photograph is likely to start fading in 150 years instead of 200 years? Hmmmm.

I struggle with these creator vs. buyer issues all the time, because I know that what's important to me as a photographer isn't necessarily important to my audience. It was tremendously liberating for me, for example, when I asked Howard Bond last spring why he retired his 11x14 camera and he said, "Because neither I nor anyone I showed them to could tell the difference between my 11x14 contact prints and my 11x14 enlargements from 8x10 negatives." (Granted, I still shoot some 11x14, but with a different perspective than before.) I know some will respond to this viewer-centric perspective with "Audience, shmaudience, I shoot only to please myself," but there are at least as many others here who are photographing for various viewers and audiences, whether they be buyers, collectors, gallery hoppers, book buyers, or magazine subscribers. It was to the latter group (i.e., those with an audience or constituency outside their own heads), especially those who work in black-and-white, to whom I suppose I was addressing this thread.


-- Micah (MicahMarty@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

I have been printing PiezographyBW on an Epson 1160 for about a year. I do not do have a darkroom and have never done my own B&W printing. I just do not have the space or time. Having a lab print a real quality B&W print for me has always been a problem. I did a workshop 2 years ago with George DeWolfe and he had several Piezo prints to show everyone. They were beautiful. That is when I decided to try it. I must say that the Piezo prints are very beautiful. I have compared Lab prints with my Piezo prints of the same subject and the Piezo prints are much better in my opinion. I do know that someone that is good in the darkroom can make a print as good or better than a Piezo. For me the technology is wonderfull. It does not take up much space. It is faster and for me very rewarding. As far as print life goes only time will tell. I have also been printing color on the Epson 2000P. I do believe that this technolgy will go beyond any darkroom printing. When done properly prints are as good as any color printing method there is. Done properly there is no GREEN print and the prints are beautiful. I do believe that print life will be longer than any other method out there. Inkjet printing will be a new and intersting way to try printing. It will never replace traditional printing. It is kind of like buying a new kind of camera and learning how to use it. It's fun! Scott Squires www.scottsquires.com

-- Scott Squires (ssqu@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

hi guys. i've seen, and made, many quadtone prints. on the positive side, their tonal range is amazing-- right up there with the best platinum printing, especially the smoothness of the midtones and quartertones. i've had a lot of difficulty getting rich, silky blacks with the quadtone process though-- they blacks tend to block up badly from about zone 7.5 on down.

but, with that said, there is another, really fundamental problem that i see with push-button printing. while the IMAGE can be really beautiful on an epson print, the actual PRINT itself can never hold its own as a work of art, because it is made by a machine with no human effort. yes, yes, i know, the photoshop work took massive human effort, and photoshop is a craft that requires just as much skill as darkroom printing. but what that means is that the photoshopped image might be a work of art, but the PRINT you make on an epson printer is still nothing more than a fifty-cent machine reproduction that has no more value than a postcard.

and, yes, you can sign them and number them and include a "certificate of authenticity" and do all kinds of other tricks to make it LOOK like they are works of art, but fundamentally a machine-made print lacks any intrinsic value as a work of art.

one reason that ansel's prints are so valuable is that he made them all himself, by hand. there might be a killer beautiful print of Moonrise Hernandez out there, made by someone else (for example, George DeWolf might have gotten ahold of the neg and made a print just as good as any of Ansel's), and if that print did exist, it would not be worth anything. nor would an epson print of Moonrise that was scanned flawlessly from an ansel original. the reason is that ansel's prints are handmade-- in other words, they are works of art. epson prints will never reach that level, however perfect and beautiful the images are.

just my $.02...

~chris jordan


-- chris jordan [www.chrisjordanphoto.com] (cjordan@yarmuth.com), July 10, 2001.

Wow - you mean Ansel didn't use an enlarger..? How did he do that then. Did he generate his own light, god that he is?

And does it matter who did the printing? or does it have to be the photographer himself?

Or does it only become art if the manipulation is done in the 1-2 minutes the print is being made? Using what 50c or $1 worth of paper, a few more pennies worth of chemicals and a about 5c worth of electricity... gee that's an awful lot of technology there too.

Just as much human skill goes into making a great digital print (and I have seen some) as into a silver or platinum print. It's just that there are very few people out there with that level of skill.

Tim A

-- Tim Atherton (tim@picturedesk.org), July 10, 2001.

If a handmade print of the "Moonrise" negative laboriously printed by George DeWolfe (or, more likely, John Sexton) is indistinguishable from a handmade print by Ansel, why is the former "worthless" and the latter extremely valuable? Probably because you're actually paying for the artist's name (and time) rather than the quality of the physical object (quality which is, to repeat, identical between the two options given). But that brings us precisely to why people like Andreas Gursky can sell computer-printed photographs for $150,000-plus (far higher than Moonrises go for) even when they didn't do ANY of the work involved in creating the print: because buyers care more about the name of the creator (and the conception of the image) than about the actual quality of the object (cf. "vintage prints"--I don't know any photographers who think their prints were better 10 or 20 years earlier, yet any famous photographer's older prints almost invariably sell for more than recent ones do).

I'm playing devil's advocate here--as a b&w darkroom veteran I like to think all that toil is worth SOMETHING--but I'm also asking whether perhaps some of the old categories no longer apply in an era when even experts with a microscope cannot tell the difference between various prints of an artist's work. I think a lot of us in this forum think (or at least hope) there will always be a discerning public willing to pay a bit more for handmade darkroom silver prints. I just wonder if developments like Piezography (i.e., developments which make possible prints approaching the appearance of silver and platinum prints) are more likely to increase the size of that connoisseur public or drastically reduce it.


-- Micah (MicahMarty@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

While I believe the final print is what most of us are after and judge photographers by, getting there is half the fun. That is why we are using LF gear in the first place. The digital prints can be stunning and are only getting better. They still have a way to go to match the life expectancy of Platinum and Carbon though. As for judging them on a computer screen... a waste of time. No matter how good your printing is on the computer screen it is at the mercy of the equipment. Your exquisite print looks like crap on a cheap and uncalibrated screen. You can't really judge them this way, you have to see the prints one on one.

If it works for you then use it. I have yet to see a digital print that matches an excellent contact print. Some of us use larger formats not only for the contact prints but because the equipment, with all its 'limitations', just fits how we work & see the world. The satisfaction in the whole process is embodied in our final prints. This can be had with a digital setup as well but I think the mindset is a bit different as you work through the computer.

Many in the future will combine both traditional, alternative and new processes to get their minds image on film and on the walls of the exhibit halls. For me it all comes down to one thing... does the print work?

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), July 10, 2001.

Micah - Very interesting post. I attended the Calumet Master classes workshop Three weeks ago for the Dan Burkholder Enlarged Digital Negs. workshop. George Dewolfs Images were hanging on the wall of the gallery with examples from other Master Photographers past and present.( Adams, Westons, Strand )you name them, their images were there for us to see. George Dewolf was running his workshop the following week. Micah THE IMAGES WERE O-U-T S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G. I took every opportunity to look at his work up close and personal ( and I do Mean close ) each day of the workshop I had never seen anything like them before. I have been a black & White printer for 32 years,I've seen a lot of good and bad work these were very very impressive. Also a fellow classmate from England who was taking Dewolfs workshop the following week showed me some of his work also, ( IN INK ) we traded images. It has change my hole out look about the printing process. I have been tring to made prints on my epson 1280, I am waiting for Cone to make solfware and inks for my printer in black & white, and when that happens I'll give you one hint as to what I'm going to do. It's the IMAGE that counts not whether It's silver or Ink. In respones to the ink or silver question of your post Ink has been around alot longer than silver-THINK ABOUT THAT folks.

-- Richard A. Johnson (rjohnso2@dcccnet.dccc.edu), July 10, 2001.

At one of the recent Atget exhibits in New York I saw an Iris print hanging among Atget's original albumen prints and a few modern prints from the Chicago Albumen Works. The Iris print was a great print, but it didn't look like an albumen print--more like a really nice gum bichromate print. I think the difference came from the effect of spraying ink on paper, as opposed to emulsion floated on a surface. The ink just had different reflective properties and produced a different kind of line.

Inkjet processes might be very good processes and could even have excellent archival properties, but I don't see one process replacing another, just as silver is not a replacement for platinum, gum bichromate, Vandyke, or cyanotype. I would suspect that most of us would not see one type of BW paper as a reasonable substitute for another type of BW paper, let alone a particular inkjet process for all traditional processes. They each have their own look.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), July 10, 2001.

Readers who live on the left coast should think about attending the "West Coast Piezography Summit 2001" at West Coast Imaging in Oakhurst, CA, on August 4. Look at www.westcoastimaging.com for details.

I have been using Piezography on an Epson 1160 for a couple of months. I can easily make superior prints to my "wet" darkroom work (but I don't claim to have any great skill at "wet" work).

I look forward to seeing some "master" Piezography prints.

My next project, to create "high value" prints of great "artistic" merit, is to produce prints using only fluids and materials from my own body. No mere $.05 worth of ink, $1.00 of chemicals, or $.25 of paper. These prints will be worth $MILLIONS! (Of course, they will be banned from display in New York, but that can only add to the value.)

-- Michael Chmilar (chmilar@acm.org), July 10, 2001.

The idea of digital B&W printing is intriguing, but even if potential image quality and permanence of Piezography prints has matched silver, there are still a lot of issues for someone, like myself, who has no experience with digital photography.

For example, what capital outlay is required to get started? I'm not sure what equipment is needed, but presumably (1) a scanner (I know that I can have scans made, but the cost is really high); (2) a computer capable of handling the image editing (I have a PC, of course, but I don't know whether it has the required processing speed and memory), (3) Photoshop (costs as much or more than a good used enlarger); (4) a printer that can be dedicated to B&W printing; (5) the Piezography kit. My impression is that the initial investment here could go into the many thousands of dollars. In contrast, my initial investment to set up a wet darkroom was under $1000.

Then there is the question of obsolescence. When I bought my enlarger, I figured that it was an investment in a piece of equipment that would last for many years, maybe decades. My impression is that digitally-based photographers replace expensive equipment and software virtually constantly. Given the rapid improvement of digital hardware and software, there is also always the conundrum of whether to buy now or wait for the improvements that are bound to come in six months (probably at lower cost). Looking at the list above, this might be particularly applicable to the decision to purchase a film scanner--I gather that affordable scanners (especially for larger film formats) are currently the weak link in the home digital imaging chain. But that means that if I took the "digital plunge" now, I would have to spend $80 or so per scan while waiting for affordable, high-quality scanners to come on market.

Finally (unless there are other problems I haven't thought of), there is the issue of the learning curve. It's hard to know what is really involved because all the information I have found on Piezography seems to assume a working knowledge of digital imaging. But it looks like I need to learn how to do scans, Photoshop, basic inkjet printing, and the particulars of Piezography.

It's all a bit daunting. I would really like to try digital printing, but it looks like the startup costs (in terms of both dollars and time) are prohibitive. I'd love to hear from anyone who has taken this on that it is simpler, easier, and cheaper than it appears.

-- Chris Patti (cmpatti@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

Chris Jordan, you have a great argument. We are in the early stages of inkjet printing, where the printer is being used as a printing press. Why don't we take our "best" andhave it printed as a quality laser-scanned offset lithograph. Everyone is feeling their way through this and, yes, I don't think pushing a button 50 times to get 50 prints is the best use of a desktop printer. Still, each "print" has a smuch validity to me as what we do in the darkroom.

The conventional photograph, no matter how glorious it can be, is also just a photo-mechanical reproduction. A series of the same image is no more real because we struggled to get each one the best we could-and many are trying to replicate images here for "series." (Including at times I imagine bulk processing prints.) The best marriage of digital and traditional I know of is the LensWork Quarterly Special Editions-a scanned master print that is then contact printed on fiber base paper, selenium toned, etc. To me, 10 of those have no less value than 10 prints done "all handmade" under the enlarger. I know this is counter to what photography has been fighting for all these many years, but it is the way I see it. A single painting is different from 10 drypoints that were indiviudally inked and pulled is MUCH different from printing the same negative over and over-only stopping for a series.

If we wish to replicate a photograph with inkjet printing that is fine and most of my work is stuck there. Instead, think in terms of ink on paper and explore it for what it can create. Then, we'll stop arguing about photograph vs. inkjet. Note: I just received some 11x14 photographs from a friend that blew me away in quality. I can't equal them on my injet printer bu

-- David Stein (DFStein@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

Chris Patti raises some great points about cost and obsolescence. I know I could only justify the expense of Piezo if I were selling prints, and even then I would let a service bureau absorb the capital costs, not me ($100K+ for the drum scanner, $4K for the Epson 7000, $2500 for the Piezo kit, plus paper, ink, RAM, etc.). Otherwise, as Chris P. suggests, it could be a bottomless pit--you buy the top-of-the-line printer and a few months later there's one that's twice as fast, with higher resolution, etc. Yes, the cost per print might be higher if I pay a service bureau to make the prints than if I owned the equipment, but then too they can amortize the capital costs over a larger pool of clients than I can (and I suspect my personal "cost per print" calculations might not fully account for hidden costs like saving up for the next printer I'd have to buy).

For proofing, file, and pre-press needs I'm plenty happy with contact prints and my enlarger; low tech, low investment. But if I were selling prints in any quantity and didn't want to spend a lot of time fussing over them (in the darkroom or on the computer) AND didn't want to invest my life savings in soon-to-be-obsolete digital gear, I'd pay a service bureau (like westcoastimaging.com) to both scan my negs and print them.


-- Micah (MicahMarty@aol.com), July 10, 2001.

To all - I saw and was wondering the same thing as West Coast Imaging offers these prints. One factor that makes be balk is the price, equal or more than what the best custom printers will charge for traditional (from my limited experience anyway). Also there appears to be a maximum size on these prints, maybe 20 some inches on one dimention.

However ... one advantage of this process, and for all the digital stuff, is that the dust isn't an issue. It's exceedingly difficult, short of having a micro chip clean room set up, to get dust free negatives, and the dust ALWAYS migrates to the place to where it can do the most damage. I've had no experience with print spotting, but suspect it is a last ditch, less than perfect, effort to save a print.

So I'm thinking these P. prints maybe worth checking out for my negs that are flawed with dust.

And has anyone tried B&W printed onto fuji crystal archive via a light jet printer? Would this be a viable option for the right image?



-- todd tiffan (newhope@4dv.net), July 10, 2001.

my main problem with this concept ( and i use computers for advertising work extensively) is the sad loss of the evolution of the printing process. I went to the chicago museum of art and held a moonrise printed in the 80's in one hand and a moonrise printed in the 40's or 50's in the other---what an educational experience. all this will be lost, not only for the viewer but also for the photographer who never advances the quality of a particular image past the initial printing or the pressing of a button. how sad

-- mark lindsey (lindseygraves@msn.com), July 10, 2001.

Spotting isn't that hard, and when done well, it isn't easy to detect.

Even St. Ansel wrote of spotting as a normal procedure--just part of putting the last touches on a print.

Speaking of St. Ansel, he does write with considerable enthusiasm in _The Negative_ about the possibility of enhancing highlight and shadow detail using the digital drum scanning technique employed at that time for printing his later books, and he also is quite positive about duotone lithography, at least as a method of mass production. One thing he mentions, which might be of value to inkjet users is the importance of matching the reflectivity of the ink to the reflectivity of the paper.

-- David A. Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), July 10, 2001.

Correction: That's _The Print_, not _The Negative_.

-- David A. Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), July 10, 2001.

I've been a silver printer for years and have recently gotten into quadtone printing. I started with PiezographyBW on an Epson 1160 and was astounded with the image quality and potential of the technology.

After a few months of being impressed, however, I started seeing some of the defects of the technology and set off on my own to see what I could do to get a product that was more to my liking. I've started modifying the inksets, writing and distributing Photoshop adjustment curves to control the inks, fade testing the products, and working on the color issues, not to mention the cost issues.

Here are some of the pros and cons I see, and some of my observations of quadtone printing:

On the plus side, the most obvious advantage is the ease with which a print can be made. This, of course, is also a weakness in that it may cheapen the prints.

One reason I find the image quality so nice is that the technology allows shoulder-less and toe-less prints. You can get a brilliance that you'd need to use bleaching to achieve in a silver print.

The computer technology, of course, allows fantastic control over the image. Even though I prefer "straight" landscape shots, even the traditional burning and dodging can be done with a precision that was impossible with analog printing. The pros and cons of the computer, of course, is a topic that would result in an endless thread. Suffice it to say here that of the many ways of achieving a digital B&W output that I've tried, the quadtone print is the most satisfying and affordable, and probably the highest quality.

The bottom line to the image quality issue is that I can almost always produce a print with the inkjet printing systems that will be preferred by viewers over the analog (darkroom) system print.

On the cost front, Piezo can be expensive, but I've found that MIS inks can produce just as good quality with no software cost and much cheaper ink costs. With the MIS inks, you use the Epson driver and Photoshop controls.

One of the most common negatives heard among Piezo users is that the color of the Piezo inks is too warm and/or green. That was my first negative reaction, but has now been solved with the variable-tone approach that I have published and distributed for free. (See my website, below, for an explanation.) I first made a variable-tone version of the Piezo inks, and now MIS is going to sell and support a version of the variable-tone inkset that will allow us to print either warm or cold-tone prints, or even split-tone prints -- all with a single inkset.

The lack of strong blacks is also a common complaint. However, most of us have found that with the right papers the blacks are fine. I use Epson Archival Matte, which is inexpensive (see, for example, atlex.com) and gives a look that is, especially under glass, very compatible with my silver prints (when the cold version of the variable-tone inks are used).

As a practical matter, even though the blacks are not as dark as the silver print blacks, I've found that under glass and in normal viewing circumstances the stronger reflections off the air-dried silver prints often gives the much flatter-surfaced Archival Matte quadtone print the advantage.

The inkjet prints are not as "archival" as a good, fiber-based silver print. I use this term to include light-fastness, which is the real issue. Inks fade when exposed to light and/or other substances. On the other hand, the MIS and Piezo quads are pigment-based (as opposed to the more common dye-based inks) and should last a very long time. MIS pigmented inks have been tested by RIT to 50 years, and that test was limited by the yellow of their color inkset. The black-only quad should last much longer.

As a practical matter, fading in normal display is not the problem. What is a problem is that the quadtone prints tend to warm up over time. The pigments are apparently coated carbon particles, and the warm native color of the carbon starts to show through. The good news is that I've fade tested a method of dealing with the warming that shows promise.

So, having gone on too long already, the bottom line is that my darkroom is now much more of an ink mixing room than silver printing room. Once you see how good these prints are, you might just find you're hooked.

Paul, http://www.PaulRoark.com

-- Paul Roark (paul.roark@verizon.net), July 10, 2001.

I would love to start working with the Piezography system, but when will it be available for the Epson 890/1280/2000P? Is the MIS system better or worse than the Cone Edition products?


-- Andy Biggs (abiggs@tvmcapital.com), July 10, 2001.

I came kicking and screaming into digital photography as an old pro who looked upon it as another "computer game" but tonight I'm eating crow while I am making MIS Quadtone inkjet prints to be sold tomorrow. I've seen the Cone prints and made my own MIS prints and I now believe that the difference is not great enough to justify the substantial price gap. I believe that the price will come down and the selections of ink and paper will rapidly multiply, don't be surprised if Epson doesn't see the market and introduce their own Quads and dedicated B&W printers. I'm using Epson's 1160 printer (out of production but still available), MIS Quadtones with their refillable cartridges, and a variety of papers mostly available from MIS. Final observation, getting up to speed in PHOTOSHOP took me quite a while especially black & white image acquisition and manipulation. There are plenty of pitfalls and idiosyncrasies just within PHOTOSHOP.

Best regards, C. W. Dean Practicing Professional Photography since 1972 Photography Samples: http://www.erols.com/cwdean/home.htm

-- C. W. Dean (cwdean@erols.com), July 10, 2001.

I'm writing Photoshop image adjustment curves to control the MIS variable-tone inks for Jerry Olson's (and others') 1280. Some of you know Jerry from the Piezo and Epson-Inkjet (Leben) lists. You may also have seen some of his work in the June Shutterbug. Jerry is a Brooks Institute-trained, 30 year professional photographer, now semi- retired, who has switched to quadtone printing. He has used Piezo inks and software extensively, but was not happy with the warm tone of that inkset. He then used my variable-tone modification of the Piezo inkset to get cold tones, and he is now using the variable-tone MIS inks with his Epson 1280. His comments on the latest versions of my curves for the MIS variable-tone inkset and 1280 were as follows:

>The [prints made using the] Neutral 10 and cool 11 [curves] >are better than the last ones in the prints I made. >I don't know if you could improve on them any more. >Cold tone Piezo Quality at MIS prices. >Quite an accomplishment.

With the variable-tone inksets Photoshop adjustment curves control whether the tone of the print is warm, neutral or cold. One simply selects the appropriate curve and applies it before printing the file.

(In general, the trick to controlling quads is to partition the inks so that only the lightest ink goes into the highlights, then the darker inks start to take over as appropriate. PiezographyBW software does this and Photoshop adjustment curves can also do it. With the variable-tone inksets a toner ink is added to give control over the tone of the print.)

I've finished the adjustment curves to control the MIS variable-tone inkset for the 1160 and 3000, which are the printers I have. MIS will, I assume, have this system on its website soon. I also have curves for the 1160 and the Piezo-based variable-tone inkset (which Cone Editions does not support, but I distribute the curves and instructions -- for free). Once these curves are written, anyone can use the saved curves files easily.

On modern Epsons the quality of the MIS variable-tone inks are equal to what one would get with the Piezo system. The standard MIS inks with proper adjustment curves should also be essentially equal. The quality of the adjustment curves is really the issue.

The 3000 does have a larger dot and dither pattern than the newer printers. However, the highlights are still virtually dotless when good adjustment curves are used with quads. (There is no comparison to the big dots one sees with a color inkset on the 3000.)

On the other hand, if one looks closely, there are some areas where some graininess can be seen in prints made with the 3000 and the Epson driver. But, for 16x20s the 3000 is the inexpensive way to go, and at that size the dots at their worst are still smaller than the grain in my medium format, Tmax 100 16x20s. (If you print large format Tech Pan negatives, you might want to get an Epson 7000.)

The inkjet technology and quad inksets have definitely reached the point where even picky printers can be very satisfied -- even blown away -- by the quality of their images. It's time to jump on the train.

Paul, http://www.PaulRoark.com

-- Paul Roark (paul.roark@verizon.net), July 11, 2001.

I spent a little time with George in Maine last summer and saw some of his prints. They were very impressive. However, it might be well to remember that George is an excellent printer period. Just as I don't make prints that look like John Sexton's, despite the fact that we use the same equipment, I suspect that my quad prints wouldn't necessarily look like George's just because I used the same equipment he uses. To me, what George's prints showed is that in the right hands, and given enough time and money, a very beautiful black and white print can be made on an ink jet printer. In other words, the system isn't inherently inferior any more.

-- Brian Ellis (bellis60@earthlinlink.net), July 11, 2001.

Paul, I'm just curious about which RIT test for the MIS inks you're referring to. Is this a published test? I read an interesting paper the other day, a thesis actually, based on a series of tests done by the IPI which concluded that it was too early to make accurate accelerated aging tests of ink jet prints. They were working along with a team of ANSI/ISO researchers to develop a set of standards to begin accurate testing...they concluded that until there was a set of lab standards, that there were too many variables associated with the types of aging tests now.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), July 11, 2001.


Here is the URL for the MIS RIT test results.


I think that it is very early in the process of predicting the display life of inkjet (or any) medium through accelerated fade testing. However, I'd guess that RIT does as good a job as any at the current time. I'm sure standards and test procedures will improve, however.

I made my own simple tester with a florescent light, and my comparative results correlate fairly well with the published results and with the "south window" tests that are often conducted by inkjet printers. While none of these tests give me any confidence that an ink and paper combination will look good for any number of years, they do seem to produce comparative results that relate to the real world. That is, when I put two test strips in my tester and look at the results after 100 or more hours, the results of what I see look like what I've seen when the same combination was put in the sun, and the results correlate with what others report. So, I use those results to try and find the best combination of inks and papers. However, to make the jump from such a test to saying a display print will be good for X years, is a leap of faith that I'm certainly not going to take.

What I fully intend to do, however, is take the Epson "200 year" life 2000P pigments, make a test strip with them, and simply publish the raw scans of that test strip along side test strips of other pigments after they have been in my fade tester. This way people can see for themselves how lightfast (relatively at least) the "third party" (non- OEM) inkset might be.

Paul, http://www.PaulRoark.com

-- Paul Roark (paul.roark@verizon.net), July 11, 2001.

Thanks Paul, I'll check that out in a bit...here's a link to a group that studies indoor air pollution in museums (I have a bit of an interest in this), go down to the part about Papers and Technical Notes, and you'll see a pdf file for Barbara Vogt's paper "Stability Issues and Test Methods for Ink Jet Materials".


I have included the whole site here because there's alot of worthwhile info on here for those of you who may be interested...

There's also been a bit of discussion in the past few years on the conservation online lists, both the conservators/preservation lists about testing as well...as I understand it, the ANSI/ISO group has split into several areas to study setting up new standards. There's some concern that the tests now are based against the standards for traditional photo materials, and that new stds. have to be set up for inkjets.... There is also more dealing with environmental pollutants over just light fading. You may find this paper interesting because the Epson 2000 is one of the test printers. For another look at accelerated tests (based on papers) here's another good site:


While this site deals with paper, alkalinity etc., the discussion about accelerated testing may be useful.

Incidentally, about the best digital prints I've seen yet have come off of Fuji Pictrography units. I've seen both b&w and color prints that looked just as good, if not better than traditional prints..although I'm in a different field than you all are in...i.e. not fine-art. We jsut got a traveling NARA exhibit of over 100 prints from their collection, some famous ones too, Dorothea Lange, Danny Lyons, Lewis Hine etc. These are called "digital prints" although they look to me like they came off a Lambda printer, or a Lightjet...I need to find out what they are, because they look great.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), July 11, 2001.

A note for those who protest about buying expensive computers and software, only to have them become obsolete immediately:

Your computer and software are not obsolete as long as they perform the task you require of them. If a faster CPU comes out, yours does not cease to function. If a new version of Photoshop is released, your version does not refuse to launch.

I've seen small companies that run payrolls on an old 80286 computer running DOS. It does the job that is asked of it. No need to mess with it. If the computer dies, you can replace it for less than $10!

If you have a requirement that current hardware/software cannot meet (not enough memory, too slow, printer or scanner resolution too low, etc.), then you should wait. If a current system meets all of your requirements, then why wait?

If your system is sufficient, the only reasons to upgrade are: you are willing to pay the price for that little extra speed; some component has failed; you are doing something new, which requires a more capable machine; some new "feature" will make your life so much more pleasant that you just can't refuse.

The people who constantly upgrade are doing it because they have some fetish about owning the latest and fastest. You do not have to join in this dick-measuring contest.

Finally, if there is one weak link in your process, ie. you want high-quality scans but can't afford a scanner that meets your needs, that's when you look to the service bureaux. They regularly buy the best equipment, and amortize the cost across their customers.

For example, you could set up a digital workflow as follows: a computer with enough RAM, CPU speed, disk space to make you happy (if you can settle for one or two notches below the state-of-the-art, you can save a lot of money); a flatbed scanner; an Epson inkjet; maybe a piezography printer; photoshop. When you have that exceptional image, pay for a drum scan. When you want to print to a wide-format printer (or get a lightjet print, ...) send it to a service bureau.

-- Michael Chmilar (chmilar@acm.org), July 11, 2001.

Michael, don't you think your response is a bit ironic seeing how people are jumping to this new and expensive technology (considering most of them probably have traditional printing equipment already or access to it) only because it is "new" and "digital". Don't get me wrong, this technology is great and I use it extensively for advertising work, but I don't really see any advantages to it for fine art work. To spend all this time and money (if you are not already digitally equipped) just to achieve "almost" or "at least as good"(time will tell), just seems a bit silly to me.

-- mark lindsey (lindseygraves@msn.com), July 11, 2001.

Well...there's two sides to the coin, as usual...I really despise consumerism ( getting the latest thing just because you want it...) but, alot of people who upgrade are worried about being left behind. Running payroll, or basic word processing functions is different than imaging, and especially "archiving"...you can sit on outdated equipment as long as you want if it works for you, but you better have backups if there isn't a clear path to the new technology....

The other side is that, yeah, if it lives up to what you bought it for, why run out to get the new thing, or the next new thing, or the next next...

Which reminds me of the digital slr we have that cost twice as much as the D1, but has half the resolution....it still does a great job. Are we going to get another, no...because this does what we need...only it's not supported anymore and the way it's running now, we have to import files through photoshop 4, save them, and then on to 5.5...and I have yet to meet or make contact with another pro/studio using one of them....all in about 5 years time.

But, that's the price of progress...end of philosophical look...my real problem is that there is no defined standard to ink jet lifespan, whether it is a dye based or pigment based ink. People will fuss over the pros & cons of fiber based v.s. RC prints forever, and then jump on the bandwagon fullforce for inkjets believing manufacturers claims (which, hey, may pan out alright in the end...) I'm open minded about usage, but there is an irony to it in a way....it may be my cynicism, but I like to see all the test methods spelled out...not some final figure. I have used materials that were recommended as good in acclerated tests, only to discover over the course of a few years, that this isn't really so....things change outside of a lab alot....and when it comes down to pollutants in the typical office/ home air...good luck...there's everything from the ozone produced by copier machines, and inkjet printers, to foramldehyde in carpets & furniture, and peroxide from oil based paints and car exhaust, and household cleaners and everything else under the sun...not to mention the stuff that comes of us by just handling prints....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), July 11, 2001.

I guess the best way to go is to look at it is on a case by case basis and weigh all the positives and negatives---then make the best choice that you can.

I remember in school being pressured by some dealer reps to purchase a digital large format back---"you have to make a seperate exposure for each color (rgb) and its about $30,000, but you have to have it to compete in today's market!!", yeah right, I really needed that.

good talking to you...

-- mark lindsey (lindseygraves@msn.com), July 11, 2001.

This is epecially for Chris and for the comments of Micheal. Getting a System, a scanner, computer, printer, and software, and getting it all to work together While you learn to operate it and at the same time learn Photoshop and all your other software to where you have an ability to manipulate your images in any way you can imagine is an ordeal.

From day one when you plunk down your cash for your system and software to when you become master of your equipment and images, it will not only be an arduous learning curve in digital manipulation but for many days and sometime weeks on end, outright torture.

When I first purchased my system, the OS didn't really work, or rather it worked half the time, and crashed the other half. My scanner wouldn't talk to my computer, my computer wouldn't talk to my printer, and when I could get them to talk, they would talk for awhile and then crash. I changed the OS along with countless visits on site for all the problems and glitches by the manufacturers techs(get 3 yrs onsite no matter what!!!), and slowly but surely after a year or so, I could turn on my computer do something and turn it off. My software which was all name stuff, would cause crashes, and of course when I would call the software outfits to problem solve the crashes caused by their bugs that they neglected to tell me about when I bought their stuff, they of course told me it was not their fault but the fault of the hardware I was 'usin, and hang up.

I paid everybody good money my system and software and nobody would own up to anything. Their were countless days when I had to get nasty, yell, act ugly, to get results. The all time low for me was when the manufacturer of my system starting sending out techs on 'on site' calls who had to be walked through a problem on the telephone by another more experience tech at headquarters. I had such an individual show up and mess up my system worse than when she started working on it.

Speaking of learning curves, after all the weeks or months of reading the one or two inch thick manuals of some of these 'top notch' programs, they would come out the next improved version with just enough to put you behind with what everybody else is capable of doing or improved color profiles and such. All this stuff had bugs in them, and some of the good stuff from previous versions would be missing from the upgrades! Micheal, you know as well as I do that you upgrade for flexibility, capability, and also because the upgrades have the bugs elinated. I don't buy upgrades just to spend money although many people probably do.

Chris, every time you get new software and/or upgrades, be prepared for system crashes, losing your sound, a problem with you printer, and on and on. You'll eventually find your way through this maze of bugs, crashes, arrogant and/or obnoxious customer support, 2hr phone calls for help, and everything else you have to go through. You'll get good at using your system, you'll become a master of photoshop, you'll get all your stuff working just right and if you're smart, you'll just freeze you system at that point and refuse to make another change.

I haven't added any hardware or software to my system for quite some time, and it's because everytime you do you will encounter some of the above mentioned headaches. The trouble with digital is that everybody hypes what the hardware and software can do, but you don't find out about the bugs and incompatabilities until you buy the stuff. Yes I will call to check out something and I have several times been mislead and lied to about whether or not something I was considering buying would get along with my system.

The above stuff that I've mentioned has not really been discussed in detail here and I think it should be addressed. This is what separates digital from traditional Photography, the bugs, the quirks, the difficulty in getting tech support, the hype and sometimes outright con games and many of things we simply wouldn't tolerate from a regular photo dealer.

Finally, a good portion of Photoshop is straight out of traditional photography, paiting, and many other traditional art forms. A lot of what is digital, CAME OUT OF THE ART OF PHOTOGRAPHY and as such, digital is an outgrowth of photograhy so it would be crazy to talk of how digital is going to replace traditional photograhy. When are folks going to start letting digital stand or fall on its own terms instead of claiming that some advance in digital is going to wipe out or replace something else? I did digital for years and still pland to do so, but I've just moved up to 8x10. Why? Becasue of the alternative processes and a wish to indulge myself in the rich experience of contact printing.

Sometimes I think some folks yodel some digital advance and then yodel how it's going to kill off the photographic this or that as some kind of roundabout way to gain credability.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), July 12, 2001.

Some of the most beautiful photographic reproductions I have ever seen were conventional quadtone lithographs produced by a master printer. Gorgeous tonality and hair-sharp. The inkjets I've seen haven't got there yet, but if that's what they're aiming for, I have no complaints.

Mind you, although the lithographs were beautiful pictures, they were recognisably different from conventional photographic prints when it came to surface texture and 'look'. I don't see why both can't co-exist, just as the art print world has a huge spectrum of different printing methods.

DK: pictrography prints are a dye-transfer technology. I would be surprised if the dyes were as long-lasting as the pigments used in the various archival inkjet inks, but I don't know. I've had quite a few pictrography prints made recently, and they are excellent. About the only downside is the limited maximum size (30x40 cm round here) and my local lab's slightly bizarre pricing structure.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), July 12, 2001.

Struan, you're right about the Pictro prints, we've been looking at the smaller machine for a few years, and were actually pretty close to getting one a year or so ago...that's another story though.

Don't get me wrong here, I'm not saying they have the lifespan of cibachrome or anything, but I would feel more comfortable selling prints to patrons off of one one of those, than say an inkjet printer. We also looked into dye sub printers about the same time, including a few Kodak models, this would have been around 1996-2000 or so. At this time, inkjets were a different beast really. The dye sub printers realistically had a lifespan in line with the average c-print, about a 6-10 yr. range. That would be under heavy, bad use...

My thinking is based under not assuming anything will last forever, and assigning a "lifespan" to a material. If it's going to be used in an exhibit for a couple of years, and then tossed...so be it. I just become suspicious of the use of the word "archival"...because it's more of a marketing word than anything. There are standards in photography for certain materials and institutional uses...residual fixer, paper quality etc. But, even here they do not use the word "archival"....I could sell a Kraft envelope as an archival film folder, even though it wouldn't pass any of these standards....this kind of marketing goes on all the time...

But like I said, I'm not talking about fine art printmaking here...to me, I go for the negs/ct's first...use prints for access....and now use digital in the same way. I would rather stick with the tried & true, but in a way I feel like we're being railroaded into digital, like it or not. We'd be stupid to sit and wait for things to settle out....as a final note, we do use inkjet printers (wide format HPs, Epson 3000 etc.) for most of our signage & exhibit graphics nowadays. We have a silkscreen operation as well, and used to screen print everything and use cibachromes & b/w rc prints for all our images...there is a loss of detail with the inkjets, but at the same time they're a little more versatile and definitely more friendly to work with. But when I make an inkjet for an exhibit...and we're really just starting out here, I'm hoping that it will survive the year or so it will be on display...if it craps out, we'll just print another & replace it...this is all in-house though...not selling to some patron, or using for a long term use...I wouldn't feel comfortable with that yet.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), July 12, 2001.

We have one of the Kodak dye-subs which we bought about seven years ago to produce non-dithered output for scientific journals who like to scan originals. It's softer than the pictrography output and the colour gamut is quite a bit smaller - greens in particular block up rather easily. It does the niche job we bought it for very well, but there are better options these days. With the ultra-life coating the prints have lasted very well, but one set hanging in a corridor went red overnight when a new linoleum floor was laid :-(

I think the key with conventional photographic materials is that - RC bronzing aside - it is fairly well known what sort of problems are likely to crop up and what is likely to cause them. That makes it relatively easy to design an accellerated ageing test. As the Epson orange-shift fiasco showed, with new media there are new rules, and with a couple of hundred years to play with very subtle interactions can become significant.

That said, for years people have talked in awed tones about how wonderfully stable carbon and other pigment prints are. It seems slightly bizarre now to see many of the same people finding reasons why laying pigments onto paper with an inkjet nozzle is somehow inferior to transferring them from a textured gelatin layer.

I'm waiting for the "Sultan of Brunei" special edition from Epson, which sprays crushed rubies, emeralds and lapis lazuli onto slabs of polished Carrara marble. If nothing else, the print buyer will have good reason to keep it safe.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), July 12, 2001.

That's so true about some of those early processes...but I think the problem is in knowing exactly what is in the inks...understandably there are alot of propietary ink formulas out there....like this one link above, the tech sheet said it was a "hybrid dye-based pigmented ink". Your story about linoleum sounds familiar...I've seen properly processed RC prints turn orange practically overnight in a similar situation...the problem is in the emulsion laying on the surface exposed....at least you can tone a print with sulfide or selenium toner to combat this...an inkjet you're sort of at the mercy of the air quality...if you read the fine print of some of these tests, like the current one in PC world, you see the stringent conditions that the projected lifespan entails. Sometimes I wonder if the average consumer realizes that the supposed "200 year" LE means that it will be stored & displayed within a specific temp/humidity range, sealed in an aluminum frame with a UV protected glass, and displayed under certain lux levels of light...

I've always liked the pictro prints because they've been around for a while now...the machines & materials have been in production for close to 10 years now, which makes them sort of old fashioned almost. The basic machine (8x10) starts at around $10k, so it's not like the average consumer is going to buy one...but I have seen them in studios in our area, as well as in other agencies. Our color lab has stopped making cibachromes, and for the past year every print we've gotten has been on this material...and they look great. I've seen b&w's that were profiled well, and look just like b&w's...but speaking of dye subs, I saw a promo shot the other day of an old Lewis Hine image from another insitution and it was a dye sub...the print took me back for a minute, because it had a tonality very close to the old Portriga Speed, and I thought what rc paper is this?? I turned it over and saw it was a dye sub print...this same institution offers a series of inkjet prints for sale on their website, with a disclaimer that essentially says they won't last, but they are a cheap alternative to a traditional print. Which I think is a very reasonable offer to make to patrons without telling them that it is an archival substitute.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), July 12, 2001.

To extend my comments regarding "if your computer suits your needs, it is not obsolete", I think the same philosophy applies this way: If you use a traditional printing process and it suits your needs, why change to digital? If digital provides no advantage over your wet darkroom/platinum/etc. printing, it is probably not worth the expense and bother.

Commercial photographers are always looking for ways to improve their efficiency. The lure of digital is that it can be cheaper and faster to deliver a quality product to the client. (From some of the stories above, maybe not.)

Among fine art photogs, there is wide range of philosophies. Some specifically want to use a traditional process (for various reasons: a sense of craftsmanship, or tradition, or they know exactly what kind of result they will achieve); others are interested in exploring new techniques, "pushing the boundaries", etc. (again for various reasons: a sense of adventure, or trying to improve quality, or lowering costs, or getting better control over the image, etc).

Neither approach is right or wrong. However, you can debate endlessly about them.

I am pursuing the digital route, for my own reasons. I am not going to claim that it is superior to traditional techniques. I can't make any resounding claims that digital is "nearly as good"/"as good as"/"better than" traditional, but this doesn't stop me from going out and making photos and enjoying the process of making prints. I am taking Charles Cramer and Bill Atkinsons' Digital Printing Class (using LightJet) this very weekend, and I'm going to have fun at it, dammit!

-- Michael Chmilar (chmilar@acm.org), July 12, 2001.

Micheal, what you say sounds good, and makes perfect sense. I agree with everything you say, but what I would have wished for and I hope anyone who is considering going digital would in fact talk to, is a guide or mentor that can steer you away from the hype, misinformation, lies, deceptive ads, companies that throw hardware and software out there without adequate support and towards the stuff that works supported by people who are willing to fix their stuff when it goes wrong with no hassles.

Digital is GREAT, WHEN it workS right! But for digital to work, everything HAS to work TOGETHER! The perception which the makers of digital hardware and software make no effort to change, is that if you're considering digital, all you have to do is buy this or that and hook it up, and you are running. The CD burner that I now swear by originally gave me serious problems. I called several times and when they realized that I was going to be a pain in the ass until they solved my problems they told me that their software didn't really work and recommended another companies software! I bought that software and didn't have another problem! You know I would have loved to have known this about this CD burner before I bought it.

Your whole system is made up of several pieces of hardware and countless software programs that have to get along with each other and when don't talk to each other you can spend days or weeks trying to fix your system, which is time you could've been spending on manipulating your images.

I don't really disagree with your thoughts about digital but I do hold the manufacturers of digital hardware and software accountable for putting out products that are not ready for the market. Whether it works or not, they shove it on the market and figure that we'll pay for the fixes(upgrades), that should have been in the original product.

You would think when it came to digital and electronics, that there would be a quest for excellence, a long term loyalty toward the product, and a commitment toward courtesy when dealing with the people who bought your product, but I find this attitude scarce in the digital world. Anybody who has anything to do with this forum who say for the sake of argument, had a camera that would quit working three to four times during the exposure of a single roll of film and the camera did this on a regular basis simply wouldn't tolerate it or an indifferent attitude from the manufacturer or dealer who sold you that piece of equipment. You'd put them straight and quick! Too many People who produce digital hardware and software don't feel the same way.

The point I'm trying to make is that digital is useful, but that are are lot of hassles and I don't believe digital is easier or faster than traditional photography when you consider the downtime involved when your scanner, or computer, or printer is on the blink.

I had to ship my system back to the manufacturer twice and for those two individual problems it took six weeks. You know what I did for those six weeks? I went out and shot with my cameras. My cameras and strobes and meters and so on, almost always work. One of my fathers cameras that I have works, and has worked for 25yrs without skipping a beat. There is NO REASON on earth that digital can't be like this!

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), July 12, 2001.

So, what happens if you lose power?? Sorry, I'm not trying to be a smart*** here....in an ideal world digital could be as you described, but one problem is in that we are really in the dark ages here....there's a bit of comfort in knowing that with a large format transparency or even a neg, or a contact print you can still get the basic info. you need without power....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), July 12, 2001.

With all the discussion as to digital and traditional darkroom methods, there is one area where digital is so far superior to any, and I mean ANY... traditional darkroom.

Computers and pixellography are the greatest time wasting devices ever invented. Better than a traditional darkroom. Even if you are one of the very anal Zone System testers who spends years testing before trying to make a 'real print. Buy a computer, photoshop, scanners & printers, get the papers to try & all the inksets around and you can spend years testing, trying to get the damn things calibrated & do it over and over again after the systems crash every now & then.

Traditional photography can't even come close, and that includes putting an 8x10 into the hands of an idiot while forcing them to mix their own Amidol to contact print on Azo.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), July 12, 2001.

An electronic camera can lose power, a mechanical camera can stop working, and I've got both. I've got 6 cameras and one of 'em stops working about once every ten years.

That idiot with the 8x10 is a lot better off than the idiot who got 'sweetalked' into buying the wrong digital hardware or software.

It's the old Richard Pryor joke over and over again. 'Are you gonna believe me or your lyin eyes'.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), July 12, 2001.

What is your goal? I invested heavly into digital printing, not capture, last fall and would never look back! I am a commercial photographer and being able to work on an image in PS is such a tremendous improvement over conventional darkroom work that there is no comparison. If your goal is to produce hand crafted contact prints, this is not the "work-flow" for you, but if your goal is like mine, to work professionally as an imagemaker there is no other process that enables such a variety of creative input in an image as a PS system. A digital workflow is not efficient making a "straight" print from a negative, that is not my "goal" so I am not bemoning the difference between PS and a darkroom. I have read many posts on this subject and have noticed there is alot of confusion as to what the final "goal" of the photographer is. Commercial, Fine Art, hand crafted prints??? an so on... Why make the comparison when the digital system is just another process the creative mind can use to it's own end.

-- Malcolm Matusky (malcolm@malcolmm.com), July 14, 2001.

If you refer to my posts, then I suggest that you reread them because you misrepresent what I had to say. I have several goals, 35mm shooting, MF shooting, and now 8x10 shooting, producing photomechanical prints, and digital capture and output.

Nobody is bemoaning anything except the shoddy workmanship, indifference, arrogance, misrepresentations, and lies that I have encountered too many times when buying digital hardware and software. It doesn't make any difference what you're goal is if you're left to pursue it with equipment that doesn't work, or works badly.

When I consider a piece of equipment whether it's digital or anything else, and I call you up about that equipment, I expect you to tell me the truth, if you don't then you've lied. You mention printing as one of your 'goals', what are you gonna do if you get a printer that doesn't print, or prints badly? You get it fixed, or replaced, and when you call about that printer you expect those people on the other end of the line to be respectful and prompt in fixing or replacing the equipment you paid good money for.

There is great digital equipment out there, but you have you head in the sand if you don't realize there is also lousy equipment out there made by people who don't care.

You have confused the issues, I've got digital among other things, and I love using it, the idea of using digital in not my complaint. You can diminish or belittle what I'm saying by implying that I'm crying about it, but whether you like what I've said or not, it's the truth. Digital being in its infancy, has to have the con men, the market hype, ridiculous claims, and people who don't take pride in workmanship, to fall by the wayside in order to grow.

Everything I've had to say, is with the poster in mind who is considering getting into to digital, and suggests reasoned choices with a mentor looking over his or her shoulder making it a much easier road than the one I followed when I got into digital. If this isn't reasonable to you, then you're on another agenda.

-- Jonathan Brewer (lifestories@earthlink.net), July 14, 2001.

I agree with many of Jonathan's comments, and I believe that his warnings are valid. It sounds like he has endured are great deal of frustration, and that is often the case with computers. It doesn't only happen in digital imaging, but with all hardware and software.

Frustrating problems are more likely to happen with digital imaging because more variables come into play: in addition to the basic computer and software, you also have scanners, cameras, printers, etc. With each addition, there are chances for conflicts and incompatibilities. Also, digital imaging stresses your system more than other applications, such as word processing.

So, I second Jonathan's advice to find a mentor. If that is not possible, look for classes/courses/seminars on the subject (hopefully they will not be "sales pitches"). Sales people should not be believed; manufacturers claims are inherently suspicious.

Forums such as this one are invaluable. Experienced people are answering questions, giving advice, and debate on controversial topics. I have learned a lot here. I hope I can help others.

For a personal example, I recently wanted to learn how to make high-quality color prints from my 4x5 transparencies. I am particularly interested in digital, because I want a high degree of control and I do not set up a darkroom. From this forum and other web-surfing, I discovered that many methods are available, from Iris and other inkjet processes to the LightJet.

In the end, I decided to explore the LightJet, and found that a class is taught in Santa Clara, CA (at Calypso Imaging) by Bill Atkinson and Charles Cramer, both of whom produce beautiful prints (I had seen their prints in person, already, and knew they were printed via LightJet).

After the weekend class, I am able to prepare my own prints for the LightJet. If I had not taken the class, I would probably spend many months "floundering", trying to figure out how to get good results. Fortunately, Charlie and Bill have done the hard work, and are gracious enough to teach others. (I highly recommend this class to anyone who wants to learn digital printing.)

This type of experience makes working in digital a pleasure, rather than a nightmare. (Okay, we'll still get disk crashes, system freezes, software/hardware conflicts, etc. You can minimize some of the risks by saving often, and making backups.)

As to B&W printing, I am still exploring. I have a Piezo setup, but I haven't learned to systematically make great prints with it yet. Hopefully, a greater body of experience will grow through these forums to help us all.

At the West Coast Imaging Piezography Summit, I am hoping for two things: To see examples of great prints that inspire me to make great prints, and to interact with other Piezo users to advance towards that goal.

-- Michael Chmilar (chmilar@acm.org), July 16, 2001.

There is a new forum that is devoted to all methods of printing B&W from digital files. It's attracted most of the best posters for that issue from the other scattered lists. If you are interested in digital B&W, check it out.

The new forum is at:


-- Paul Roark (paul.roark@verizon.net), August 17, 2001.

I know this is a post to an old thread, but bear with me.

This past weekend, I visited a friend of mine who recently purchased an Epson 1160/Jon Cone Piezography BW combination. Being a curiuos person, I really wanted to know what prints would look like from Tango drum scans of a few of my Tri-X 4x5 negs. Here is what I learned.

After spending a few hours of selective dodging and burning in Photoshop, and some time doing selective sharpening, I had an image that I would feel comfortable with. Our first print of the image was a small 8x10 print, and my first reaction to this print was "uh oh, too much banding". However, I looked at the image and noticed a huge dynamic range from white to black. Hmmmmm. Promising.

Since I noticed some banding, we decided to clean the heads of the printer before we went any further.

Reprint of 8x10 size. Hmmmm. Badning non-existent. Very promising image, indeed. This is when it hit me. My emotional reaction was very similar to when I first saw a platinum print. Very crisp. However, the blacks weren't deep enough for me. Maybe I am stuck on silver prints. I dunno.

Anyway, after 30 minutes of changing our over-aggressive sparpening in Photosop, and some more dodging and burning, we printed a 10x17 image. I really like this print. Tonal qualities are exactly what I want. The continuous tone of the print makes me forget that it came from an inkjet printer. Wow. I like it so much, I am getting it framed today as a gift for my brother for Christmas.

What strikes me as a huge positive with this system, is that I do the dodging/burning/sharpening, etc. once. Being a perfectionist, I only have to do this one time, and then I have an image that I will be happy with for some time.

-- abiggs@tvmcapital.com (abiggs@tvmcapital.com), December 18, 2001.

Over the last few months I have been using both the piezography software and inks and other inks, printing a selection of my 4x5 black and white negatives, which I have scanned using an Agfa Duoscan HiD.

I'll get to the point ; I would actively dissuade anyone from the expense and hassle of piezography. It is very poor value for money, the inks regularly clog the printer nozzles, the technical support which is touted on the web site is non-existent, the tone of the prints is an unpleasant warm brown, very far removed from the selenium toned effect many would wish to have for their prints, and most importantly, it is not as good quality as other, much better value options currently on the market. In my view, the claims that they make are vastly overstated and little more than marketing hype. I simply do not believe their claim that they can get the Epson printers to print at greater than 1140 dpi - or if they can, their technical service department has never bothered to answer any of my queries on this. Much of the ink is wasted on cleaning clogs from the printer nozzles - incredibly frustrating!

I have found my best option to be to use the Lyson quadblack cool inkset. It does not clog and produces results which are far superior both technically and aesthetically to piezography, IMHO. I have absolutely no affiliation to Lyson, by the way.

Through much trial and error, I have found that the best approach is to scan a 4x5 negative either at original size at 2000 lpi (maximum resolution), or at 150% size at 1333 lpi. Both of these scans produce a 290 mb file. After some limited work in Photoshop, I can either print this size, or configure a print file for a larger size while keeping the resolution the same (i.e. interpolation). An A3 sized print will have a print file of between 650 - 850 mb in size, which does take about 10 - 15 minutes cpu processing time, and about 10 minutes printing time, but the quality is really excellent - close to exhibition quality. I do feel that I have at last found a viable high quality printing technique that I can control myself from exposure right through to final print.

I regard the money I spent on the piezography software as an expensive mistake. Having a high quality digital printing setup can be better achieved through other options.

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), December 18, 2001.


I believe that your experience with Piezography is not typical. Many believe that it is the best, albeit not the easiest to use or least expensive, digital printing platform for B&W. With regard to your specific comments:

Piezography inks are not subject to the metamerism found in dye based inks nor dye/pigment inks. Metamerism is the tendency for an ink system to appear different under varying light conditions. For example, Piezography prints do not change dramatically under tungsten, fluorescent and incandescent light sources. The same cannot be said for ink systems produced by Epson, Lyson, MIS and others.

Certain papers alter the perception of tone because of the paper color. For example, the inks print silvery neutral on Somerset Velvet. Using specially coated paper such as Somerset Enhanced will cause the inks to warm moderately as well as print with greater dynamic range. Hahnemuhle papers offer deep blacks and only slight warming. Concorde Rag creates a warm look reminiscent of Platinum printing.

The inks used in the Piezography system are carbon black pigment inks. Pigment inks are much more archival than dye or dye/pigment based inks, but they can cause clogging of the inkjets (especially if used infrequently). And yes, Piezography inks are not quite as cold tone as many would like. So you are correct about the clogging cold- tone issues, but you can’t have everything if you want archival prints. Hopefully these issues will eventually be adressed.

The Piezography system (unlike Lyson) is more than just ink, it is a software print driver that takes over control of the Epson printer and prints at a higher resolution. The reason that Epson doesn't do this themselves is that, the higher the print resolution, the more obvious are print problems (banding, herring-bone patterns, etc.) that are caused by imprecision in the paper transport mechanism of the printer. The Piezography system uses different print drivers for different printers, because the highest resolution can only be used on the printers with the best paper transport mechanism (such as the Epson 7000). Cone estimates that about 1 in 3 Epson printers have to be returned for exchange because they do not work well with the high resolution Piezography system. Fortunately, Epson has a liberal warranty policy during the first year of ownership. So, whether or not you believe it, Piezography does print at a higher resolution.

My experience with Piezography is that they have excellent customer support. You can examine their support options at the following web page: http://www.piezography.com/ts/index.html The best part of the technical support web page is the Users Discussion List where you can ask questions and get answers from other users as well as Cone support staff (and Cone himself). A message archive search function is available.

Whether or not you can actually see the difference at normal viewing distances between the Lyson inks (using a normal print driver) vs. the Piezography inks and drivers, and whether the cost difference is worth it, is of course something only you can answer. Some people have experimented with the Lyson inks using the Piezography drivers because of the cost difference in the inks. There have been some new developments with the introduction of the PiezographyBW Pro24 system, and other new Piezography solutions are promised in 2002. Unfortunately, like much of the digital world, the very highest quality solutions are not cheap, and usually become obsolete every few years. This is not problem for digital printing labs, because their equipment only lasts a few years anyway due to constant use, but is problematic for the individual photographer.

Lastly, if you want to sell your Piezography software and any remaining inks, try eBay or the Piezography Users Discussion List. They seem to sell pretty quickly.

-- Michael Feldman (mfeldman@qwest.net), December 18, 2001.

"I simply do not believe their claim that they can get the Epson printers to print at greater than 1140 dpi - or if they can, their technical service department has never bothered to answer any of my queries on this."

That bit is pretty simple - the Epson printers print at 720 dpi. 1440 dpi = 2 passes; 2160 dpi (Peizo. driver) = 3 passes; 2880 = 4 passes. Thats why the registration and transport system is important and the better bilt printers are better.

-- Tim Atherton (tim@kairosphoto.com), December 18, 2001.

"Piezography inks are not subject to the metamerism found in dye based inks nor dye/pigment inks. Metamerism is the tendency for an ink system to appear different under varying light conditions. For example, Piezography prints do not change dramatically under tungsten, fluorescent and incandescent light sources. The same cannot be said for ink systems produced by Epson, Lyson, MIS and others.

The inks used in the Piezography system are carbon black pigment inks. Pigment inks are much more archival than dye or dye/pigment based inks." The same can be said for the MIS pigment Quadtone inks. The MIS VM Quadtone inks also offer cooler tones and are as light fast.

-- Tim Atherton (tim@kairosphoto.com), December 18, 2001.

Thanks, Michael and Tim, for your comments.

On the printer resolution, I have never been able to get the piezography software to make its four passes, despite multiple different configuration attempts, and I have never received a single reply to my various queries to Cone technical support on their web site. Eventually I gave up.

Re metamerism ; Michael's comments on the effects on different papers are interesting, although I do think that this is a very subjective area, where people will have different tastes and preferences. I have mainly been using a heavy matte white textured paper (Lyson soft fine art), on which the piezography inks do come across as very brown and warm.

-- fw (finneganswake@altavista.net), December 19, 2001.

I am not sure if you are still interested in pursuing this, but if you ask a question on the Piezography Users Discussion List at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/piezography3000/ someone (either a Piezography support person or a user) will probably answer it. Despite the group name, this is for all PiezographyBW users, not just for Epson 3000. Also, there are frequent updates to the Piezography software available for download from their website.

-- Michael Feldman (mfeldman@qwest.net), December 19, 2001.

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