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Printer Hardware

Fall 2005 Photo Printer Buyers Guide 189

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the and-knowing-is-half-the-battle dept.
lfescalante writes "DesignTechnica has some great tips on what to look for when buying a Photo Printer. From the article: 'Some of the best printers offer 9600 x 2400 DPI and over 50 levels of gradation. Another important specification for inkjet printers is ink drop size, typically measured in picoliters. The smaller the number, the more ink per square inch can be placed on the paper. The more ink, the more accurate and lifelike the color of the print.'"
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Fall 2005 Photo Printer Buyers Guide

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  • And ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Alranor (472986) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:44AM (#14042597)
    The most important specification for /. readers:

    Is it supported on Linux? :)

    You can check at linuxprinting.org [linuxprinting.org]
  • So (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:45AM (#14042599)
    No real news to post then?

    Seriously, I would hope most Slashdot readers are capable of finding a good photo printer on their own. Those that need a little help can probably find a better source of information than this dry, four page advert.
    • Re:So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mustafap (452510) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:48AM (#14042616) Homepage
      Personally, I think the best source of photo printing is at a photo lab. If a photo is worth printing out, do it properly, so it gets printed with inks that wont fade with time. And certainly in my case, it's still cheaper. Home photo printers are a costly gimick.
      • by Pieroxy (222434)
        While I completely agree with you for mass printing, there are cases where photo printer is so much more convenient that it outweight all the drawbacks (quality and price).

        Not mentionning that modern inks (at least EPSON ones) don't fade with time as much as they used to. They are actually pretty good in that regard.

        But when you're in a rush, doing tests, or just printing the one picture of the day, photo printers are the right tool for the job.
      • Re:So (Score:5, Informative)

        by caveat (26803) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:58AM (#14043016)
        Just for the record, a lab print isn't ink-based, at least at the shop I go to - they use one of these suckers [cymbolic.com] (maybe not that exact brand/model, but you get the point) to "paint" the image onto genuine light-sensitive color photo paper that's processed the old-fashioned way with chemicals. $1.99 for an 8x10, $2.99 for an 11x14. They look a hell of a lot better than any photo print I've ever seen, including dyesubs, and they last and last. When I do a print for my small photography side business, I do it this way...the client is almost always amazed with the result, and asks me what kind of printer I use, they just have to get one for themselves. I tell them "trade secret" :)

        If you just have to use your printer, I'd suggest Ilford GALERIE Classic [ilford.com] paper; it has an encapsulation system that soaks up the ink and mostly protects it from fading, It's pricey (enough so that there's NO economic advantage over a lab print) and takes a full day to dry out, but it is as close to perfect as you're gonna get from an inkjet. When I do prints for my own consumption, I ususally go this route for the convenience.
      • by OzPeter (195038)
        I agree that you can't beat a decent lab for print price and quality. I am sure I saw something recently on /. that suggested that the price per print you could get from a typical lab was such that there was no economic advantage of printing at home.

        My problem is the lab that I am now about to stop using can't following fscking instructions, or even bill me correctly for the work I have had done for me. Morons.

        Of course real photos are made with precious metals in dark rooms with lots of environmentally u
      • Using a photo lab is certainly a good option for a lot of people, especially with "point & shoot" casual photographs. You can get some very good photos and prints that way.

        However I might spend half a day or more working on a promising photo in the digital darkroom. I have gotten some excellent results from images that were technically bad but had good artistic qualities, and I rarely find a photo that won't benefit from some tweaking with the unsharp mask and the histogram. But to do this kind of wor

        • by RDW (41497)
          This is certainly true for typical consumer labs. However, if you can find a (reasonably priced!) pro-oriented lab that provides you with an ICC profile for the printer and paper they use, and you have a full colour-managed workflow with a properly profiled monitor, excellent results should be possible. There's a good guide to this approach here:

          http://www.drycreekphoto.com/Frontier/using_printe r_profiles.htm [drycreekphoto.com]

          Most of this workflow is also applicable to home printing, but you'll need to profile your printer
          • Thanks for the link about printer profiles. I'll put it to good use later today.

            Several months ago, I spent some effort in calibrating my software with my printer and my monitor, and got to where things were almost good enough that I could reduce my test prints to "proof of concept" kinds of things. After a lot of head scratching, I realized that I don't have sufficient control over the ambient lighting in the room to make it work. There was no way that I could be sure that what I was seeing on the screen

            • by OzPeter (195038)
              There's an easy fix to this .. shoot, develop and print B&W No colour correction needed ;-)

      • Personally, I think the best source of photo printing is at a photo lab. If a photo is worth printing out, do it properly, so it gets printed with inks that wont fade with time. And certainly in my case, it's still cheaper. Home photo printers are a costly gimick. *(gimmick)

        Ok, many of the items in the posted article are inaccurate or misleading at best. But that aside, let's address your issue.

        Chemical print longevity on average falls far behind what is capable of Ink Jet technologies.

        Epson introduced arch
    • Re:So (Score:5, Insightful)

      by iangoldby (552781) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:20AM (#14042763) Homepage
      When you're out shopping, the higher the resolution, the smaller the dots...

      No, higher resolution does not necessarily mean smaller drops. Smaller drop size means smaller drops.

      The best way to gauge any printer's photo capabilities is looking at sample prints at the store

      Except that these are often highly tweaked images and are sometimes even printed from a demo application that doesn't even use the usual printer driver.

      or on printer company websites.

      Huh? Am I supposed to judge from an image on the website, or should I download a sample and print it out? (It reminds me of a TV ad trying to demonstrate how much better the colours are on their TV...)

      Another important specification for inkjet printers is ink drop size, typically measured in picoliters. The smaller the number, the more ink per square inch can be placed on the paper.

      No, the smaller the drop size, the more dots are needed to lay down an equivalent amount of ink.

      I stopped reading at this point.
      • I have *never* seen any photo printer give the same quality as the sample prints they hand out in stores.

        Not even close, in fact. I suspect they're not just using custom drivers, but custom ink and paper too.

      • Just to play devil's advocate...

        >> When you're out shopping, the higher the resolution, the smaller the dots...

        > No, higher resolution does not necessarily mean smaller drops. Smaller drop size means smaller drops.

        They said dots, not drops. Higher resolution does mean smaller dots. Smaller drops means you can produce different shades of color within each dot.

        A common mistake when printer shopping is comparing just DPI. (Not to say the parent poster has done this.) On a monitor, your DPI is around
      • Re:So (Score:3, Informative)

        by mysticgoat (582871)

        I stopped reading at this point.

        That's too bad, but I appreciate your honesty. It helps in assessing how much weight should be given to your comments. :-)

        Printers that use small drops have more nozzles, and with more nozzles, they can use more sophisticated dithering patterns for color gradations. I use a Canon 9900, which has a nominal resolution 4800x2400 dpi, but each of those "dots" can be built up from overlayments of 8 different inks in a large number of different combinations. Printers with 9600

        • Any printer filling in a uniform, moderately light area with a sparse pattern of dark ink will produce dots that are visible (and annoying) to any person capable of focussing closer than about 5 inches.
          • Any printer filling in a uniform, moderately light area with a sparse pattern of dark ink will produce dots that are visible (and annoying) to any person capable of focussing closer than about 5 inches.

            While this is true, I don't see its relevance in a discussion of photorealistic printing quality. The only times I've ever run into anything close to what you describe is when shooting documents for OCR conversion to digital form-- which is "photo" work, but isn't intended to be "realistic" (distortions ar

  • by Greger47 (516305) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:47AM (#14042611)
    Another important specification for inkjet printers is ink drop size, typically measured in picoliters. The smaller the number, the more ink per square inch can be placed on the paper.

    Gimme a printer with a couple of litres per drop and I'll place down some serious ink!

    /greger

  • by mcgroarty (633843) <brian...mcgroarty@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:51AM (#14042619) Homepage
    The HP printers have three things going for them: First, they're cheap. Second, the printhead is on the cartridge, so a clog means a lost cartridge, not a lost printer or making a flush kit to force Windex through your print head. Third, the HP printers still look great in draft/high-speed mode. Some inkjets look like old color dot matrix printers in high-speed mode.

    The big downside is drivers. UGH, HP drivers! They crash at random, require you to be an administrator to run the scanning software, add 20-30 seconds to your login time, and do weird things when other HP software is installed. (For example, installing my HP DVD burner software caused my HP printer driver's launcher to launch an explorer window pointing to the directory with the printer software install every single login. This, on a fresh install with nothing but the HP DVD software installed after XP.)

    On the Mac side, people with Tiger and HP printer-scanner-copiers are -still- waiting for a promised update to enable HP-supported scanning, or are giving up and using ports of open source scanning software.

    The HP PSCs are comparatively painless with Linux and *BSD, but check out some of the other options if you'll be using Windows or Mac OS on the same machine.

    • by Overzeetop (214511) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:18AM (#14042751) Journal
      You obviously have never expeienced the hell that is the Epson Status Monitor which must run in order to use a consumer epson photo printer. If anything should go wrong, the system will hang (print system, not the OS). And if you've ever had to reinstall a driver due to a bug...oh, you're in for some fun. You see, the uninstall doesn't actually uninstall everything, and a full removal requires both manual tracking down of all the epson driver bits (search for E_ in the entire system directory), and editing the registry.

      In addition it makes them almost impossible to use with a network print server. Any fault - paper out, ink low, etc - causes the job to hang, and fixing the problem results in the first burst of data getting printed, while the print server stays locked up tight as a drum. To get the system working again generally requires either a reboot or manually killing the entire print spooler service and manually restarting it. Even worse, if you clear the error and do not power down the printserver and the printer, the first burst of information will make it through to the printer, and then the printer will hang. No big deal? Well, since the first few lines of ink get put down, it effectively ruins whatever media you're using. For something on bond it's merely annoying. For an 8x10 glossy print or a printable CD or DVD, you've just thrown away $.25 to $2.00 (or more for a DL DVD) in media. Of course, as a bonus, your required power cycle results in wasting a slug of $$$ ink to the startup cycle.

      Sadly, I stick with Epson because the output is just so damned good, and I really like the CD/DVD printing feature. Sort of like having a beautiful but high maintenance girlfriend who's a tiger in the sack - you learn to walk on eggshells, but with every great performance you convice yourself it's worth it.
      • I've had Epsons in the past, none at current. Do they have a removable print mechanism yet? I was really happy with the output and the price, but the frequent clogs were horrible. Any time I didn't print for a few weeks, I had to flush it out to avoid stuck nozzles.

        I was no fan of their drivers, but thankfully either they or MS offered a version of the drivers wtihout the "helper" (ink salesman) apps.

        • No, they still clog if you let them sit for more than a few days to a week. I made up a small "rainbow" image in pshop (about 8"x1") and printed it to a file. I just copy that file to the printer on bond paper once every three or four days and it seems to keep things clear. I do the same with my 24" HP designjet plotter, as I don't use the color heads very often (the rainbow is 2" wide, and it prints on a 6" sheet, which is the smallest size for the roll-feed cutter). At one point I had them on the sched
          • Turn off your printer. I routinely go for weeks between prints, and I've only had the nozzles clog once -- I had neglected to turn the printer off. When you turn it off, the printer "parks" the heads in an air-tight "container." Since the ink doesn't dry out, no clogs.

            Actually, I did have the nozzles clog one other time -- I had used cartridges that weren't Epson brand, a mistake I've never made again.
            • I've tried it both ways - on and off. The ink dries out anyway in about 2 weeks and causes clogs. I had one I'd left off for about two months during a move, and when it powered back up, about 2/3 of the jets were clogged. After wasting a full set of ink (empty, replace, empty) there were still 3-4 that would not print. That's when I decided to switch to the keep-alive print. Besides, everytime you power up, it runs a bit of ink through the heads (I believe that the startup routine has not chaged in the late
        • This is why I dumped Epson for Canon and haven't looked back. I have the advantages of Epson---cheap ink tanks without a print head built-in---with the advantages of HP---a print head that I can remove in ten seconds flat and soak in isopropyl alcohol to clean it if it ever gets clogged.

          Canon is a good example of a company that actually takes the time to design it right, IMHO.

      • by CodeShark (17400) <ellsworthpc@yahoo . c om> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:34AM (#14042856) Homepage
        Sort of like having a beautiful but high maintenance girlfriend who's a tiger in the sack - you learn to walk on eggshells, but with every great performance you convice yourself it's worth it.

        Um, no, been there done that.

        Fact is that with systems, printers, AND girlfriends, it is much better to keep shopping for low-maintenance, great performance.

        Oh, and by the way, of the three the third one requires more attention and TLC than the other two and deserves it as well. So get up from /. occasionally and take care of the lady as well...

        • I think the low maintenance, high performance lady is easier to find than the equivalent printer. At least I managed to get the former, but the latter seems to be all too elusive. ;-)
    • See my other comment on this thread.

      Dye-subs are maybe a little more expensive than inkjet but much better:

      True Photo look with a real clear coat print on top - not smear resistant - smear proof!
      No "drying out" of the cartridge (dye sub colors are dry to begin with).
      Regardless of dpi - much smoother look.
      99 years life of print.

      I tried the inkjets a few years back (the HP photoprinter, forget th model - but hell, I even hassled myself with syringes to refill those overpriced PoS cartridges) and I'm sure noth
      • Look at inkjets again. I've got an Epson R800. Photo life is estimated 80 years, and I can't see any dots in the image. We routinely print 8x10s and nobody has ever guessed that they weren't standard prints from a photo processor. I've never had ink smear, even when it's gotten water on it (I was very suprised by this). Dye sub printers do give a more "smooth" image than an ink jet, but at 1.5 pL per drop, you'de have to be using a jeweler's loupe to tell the difference.

        Dye sub printers use their own c
    • Canon have some annoying driver policies too... I have a Canon printer connected to my Windows machine, and had trouble accessing it from Macs over the network. The OS couldn't find drivers, even when I tried getting them from the CD. Was really quite annoying, because it's not an old printer (ip5000). Googling around, though, I did found this howto for how to pipe it through a virtual printer: http://iharder.sourceforge.net/macosx/winmacprint e r/ [sourceforge.net]. And it works, I guess. Overall it's a pretty good printer,
    • While HP Drivers for Windows and OSX might suck, if your running Linux, I've had nothing but success with a wide variety of HP printing products.
    • HP doesn't make quality software anymore if they ever did. Routinely when I activate Windows protection software called Steadfast, the HP software flips out and throws insane errors to dialogs, such as "File '.' not found".

      Their scanning software for an older all in one printer, would not display on the screen maximized if you had a resolution smaller than 1024x768, and there were no scroll bars even to see the rest.

      Their programmers have messed up, and I'm going to try to avoid HP now.
    • HP printers have these things going for them:
      They're cheap (as in junk); plan on having to replace it every couple of years with light use. They break just looking at them (in my experience)

      The printhead is on the cartridge, so it's expensive as hell when you run out of ink. And maybe even if you don't; in my experience HP carts clog all the damn time. I had to waste tons of ink running cleaning cycles, and I had to throw away carts with ink in them because I couldn't get them clean even with hot water/w
      • I honestly wouldn't refill an ink cartridge on a photo printer. Droplet size is very important for good quality photos. When you refull a canon cartridge, you will likely not get the same quality as you would from a canon cartridge.

        Anyway, the Canon cartridges ar between $10 and $15 CAD. That's not too expensive compared to $60 CAD for an HP cartridge.
  • by LarsWestergren (9033) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:52AM (#14042626) Homepage Journal
    Ok, having your own photo printer is conventient, and as geeks we love our tech toys of course, but remember that these days you can have your digital images printed professionally at photo labs VERY cheap.

    The prints will last longer, and cost per page is probably going to be the same or even lower, as the printer manufacturers keep jacking up the price for new ink cartriges and use ever more draconian tech and/or EULA measures to prevent cheap no-name replacements/refills.
    • by RandoX (828285) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:03AM (#14042681)
      Because some [usatoday.com] places refuse to print your work if it looks too good.
      • And most places don't. Heck at CVS it's a complete self-service kiosk. You print what you want, bring it to the counter and pay.
      • Well, sure, this could be an issue. But let's be honest:

        Your work isn't that good.

      • Walmart.com provides a release form [walmart.com] that you print out and sign. That seems like a pretty reasonable compromise: if you're willing to sign a release stating that you're the artist, then they're willing to print it.

        Of course, this sidesteps the whole stupid issue of whether a photo that I wholly commissioned and paid for is my property or owned by the photographer. Never in a million years will I concede that the results of work I paid for are not mine to do with as I please.

    • I was just about to say the same thing. I got a bunch of 7"x5" prints at Boots (the biggest chemist (drugstore) chain in the UK) for 15p each, that's about a quarter. Four large photo-quality prints for a dollar, 7 for just over a quid, no-one needs it to be cheaper than that.
    • Exactly, I have a pair of pro-photo quality epson printers, one is a large format. I cant even dust off my printer for the price of a 8X10, 25X7and 5 wallets printer at costco. and they NEVER refuse to print them if you send them through costco online and put in a "business sounding" name. No pro photo lab can touch their price on digital prints and home printing is obscenely expensive compared to it.

      It's to the point that I'm going to sell my printers on ebay (except the R300 I love printing on CD's) an
    • There are multiple reasons for having your own printer and printing yourself:

      1. Lifetime of home printed is better than chemistry online.
      2. Large formats like 8x10" / DIN A4 etc is much cheaper at home (especially with refill inks)
      3. You can get way better colors at home with a Scanner, an IT-8 target, and some software (I use ProfilePrism). I have custom profiles for different ink/paper combos, and I get way better colors than the sRGB crap used online.

      I agree that 10x15cm / 4x6" are cheaper online, but th

    • With commercial photo labs you have big brother watching to make sure that none of your pictures can be misinterpreted, resulting in an unexpected visit by the local police. That remind me....I wonder if any of these printers use tracking dots.
  • Why? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by squoozer (730327) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:52AM (#14042627)

    Unless you are into printing up your home made porn why would you print photographs at home? I always used to think it was a good idea price wise (even when I worked for a online photo printing outfit) as print shops didn't really cater for digital images and prices were stupid. The real print shops quickly got their act together and made home printing totally uneconomical. I admit there is a break even point where very large prints are cheaper to do yourself but only if you don't take into account the thousands spent on buying a large format printer. These printer manufacturer must be laughing all the way to the bank.

    • This is why. (Score:4, Informative)

      by OS24Ever (245667) * <trekkie@nomorestars.com> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:06AM (#14042700) Homepage Journal
      I need 2 4x6's. Sure, they're $0.14 online, but add $4.95 in shipping and off you go.

      I use Mpix.com for all my large printing needs. They are actually exposing the digital exposure to Kodak film paper which can be common among some people. Their price and service can't be beat either. 8x10s for $2.

      However if I need a 4x6, or a 8x10, a home printer is a decent deal. I recently picked up the Kodak 1400 [kodak.com] dye sub printer for just this reason. There was a $100 rebate so it's a $343 printer, and the paper size of 8x14 lets me print 4 4x6s, 2 5x7s, 2 6x8s, or one 8x10 or 8x12 per page. I won't be printing out a 'major event' like my son's 2nd birthday portrait or the disaster that was the attempt at my [fotki.com]daughters 4th birthday portrait [fotki.com] because I usually want a ton of wallets, a good amount of 4x6s, and 5x7s and 8x10s for the grandparents, my desk, what not.

      But for quick and easy home prints, a decent (but not outrageous) printer works for me. I've got a bad taste in my mouth for inkjet because the Canon S9000 I got when I got my first digital SLR in 2002 fades pretty badly unless you frame it. It doesn't stand up to my 'fridge test' where you print it, take a magnet, and pin it to the fridge for all eternity.

      Fotki.com and the Kodak Easyshare Gallery have so far withstood that test rather well. However Kodak keeps making me sign a release form for every order for copyright reasons. Mpix does not, because there is no copyright displayed on my images. Apple has the same issue in iPhoto, but Kodak is their print engine. Fotki has been on the fridge for over a year now with no fading, next to a S9000 4x6 that is about as faded as it gets.
      • Or go to wal-mart and get them in one hour without shipping charges, for i think 18 cents per print. The quality is as good as anywhere.
      • I admit that if you want a very small number of photographs every now and then (say 2 or 3 a month) then online printing isn't worth it because, as you point out, shipping costs swamp the printing costs. I would argue, however, that most people aren't in that situation. If you print a fair number of photographs in one go (traditially a films worth) then online printing is cheaper. If you print one or two a year then online may well still be cheaper simply because you didn't need to buy the printer. It's a t

      • Re:This is why. (Score:2, Informative)

        by Evro (18923)
        I need 2 4x6's. Sure, they're $0.14 online, but add $4.95 in shipping and off you go.

        With Wal-Mart, Target, and CVS, you can upload the pics and then go pick them up in-store and not pay shipping. Or you can just go there with your memory card or CD and use the kiosk. Sure, it's like 29 cents/print instead of 14 cents, but for 2 pics the price difference isn't that much.
      • Re:This is why. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Idarubicin (579475)
        I need 2 4x6's. Sure, they're $0.14 online, but add $4.95 in shipping and off you go.

        Some other people have already observed that you can go to Wal-Mart or the local photo shop with a memory card and avoid the shipping costs. (Many will let you submit photos online for in-person pickup, too.)

        Still, even if you're out in the boonies and you can't easily or conveniently have the printing done locally, you might still be better off with the online services and paying the delivery charges.

        Figure $100 for

      • 4x6's are 17 cents at the local supermarket (actually 10 cents when on sale, like right now). 5x7's are 99 cents, 8x10's $2.49. I can probably match the price on the bigger prints, but no way on the 4x6's.

        Any photo that I want to print bigger than 4x6, it's probably because I want to frame it. If I want to frame it, I probably want it to last a long time while being exposed to sunlight and airborne pollutants. That calls for chemical photofinishing. So whether it's price-competitive or not, I probably
    • I suppose that's why there's no mention of running costs in the article. Given the controversy over the price of ink, I would have expected to see some indication of the cost per print in a review. But they wouldn't want to upset their advertisers.
  • by jcupitt65 (68879) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @08:57AM (#14042657)
    A good tip I heard from a printer designer was to ignore the DPI figure, as long as it's more than about 600. It (usually) means how precisely the printer can place dots. It does not say much about the detail or grain you'll see in the print. For that, you need to know the dot size. Of course there's a trade off: smaller dots means (other factors being equal) longer print times, since you have to squirt more dots to get the same level of ink density.

    Higher end printers have several shades of grey ink as well as black. This can add a lot of the apparent smoothness of prints, especially if you are going to be printing any black and white photos.

    Metamerism is also very important. Print a black and white photo and look at it under tungsten and in daylight. It should stay looking black and white! You'll find some will look red in tungsten and greenish in daylight.

    Finally, look at color management. Does the driver let you use your own profiles, or is it more of a point and shoot thing?

    • by Shanep (68243) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:30AM (#14042826) Homepage
      A good tip I heard from a printer designer was to ignore the DPI figure, as long as it's more than about 600. It (usually) means how precisely the printer can place dots.

      There is another issue, with so called photo printers. I don't know if this still holds true, so it would be good if someone could confirm this.

      With older technology printers, dots per inch is actually meaningful. It literally accounted for the number of non overlapping dots, each of which could be considered a pixel. However with these new bubble jet and ink jet type printers, they need to spit many very small ink dots into the area which makes up a printed pixel, so as to build up a single pixel of varying colour through the use of dithering.

      Fair enough right? Whatever needs to be done to make those images look great?

      Well unfortunately, these photo printer makers are using deceptive marketing. Because a "dot" in their definition of dpi DOES NOT equate in a meaningful manner to a pixel, instead their "dot" refers to each of the smaller dither dots.

      This is why for a long time, ink and bubble jets of 600dpi looked like crap against a 300dpi laser print out, where edge smoothness and text mattered.

      9600dpi, 2400dpi, whatever. Don't bother telling me because it is now a meaningless figure. You could make a printer with a real dpi of 150, but made up of 9600dpi dither dots and it is still going to look like a 150dpi print out. But the brochure says 9600dpi, not 150dpi. This is an exageration btw, to make the point. The best thing to do is look at actual print outs and decide on quality with your own eyes, because manufacturer quoted numbers in this regard are pretty much useless when the most important metric is undisclosed and remains so because it would hurt sales.
      • Yes, you're right. For inkjets ... it means pretty much zip. It's just a figure produced by marketing departments. Epson used to be very guilty of doing this, maybe they're better now.

        Another tip a printer designer told me :) don't think of DPI, think of PPPI, or Pixels Per Printed Inch. Try sending a photo to the printer at higher and higher resolution. At what point do you stop seeing a quality improvement?

        For the large format inkjets I used to work with (rated at 600 x 1200 DPI), image quality maxe

      • by mpapet (761907) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @10:06AM (#14043078) Homepage
        As a former product manager at an imaging OEM I can confirm that everyone should completely ignore "DPI" specs.

        What they also fail to mention is the paper requirements in order to produce a photo-quality image. It's got to hold a heck of a lot of ink, so there's very few papers capable of holding/controlling that much ink.

        A better predictor of "photo quality" is the number of inks.

        The other thing to watch out on is what the borderless performance really is. I work with a Canon that won't do borderless on plain paper, so if I have a document with tiny margins, it generally screws it up.

        At this point, I don't see a reason why it's really necessary when most photo processors do it arguably better, but on real photo paper that is much less resistant to fading.

      • > 9600dpi, 2400dpi, whatever.

        It's a good thing, then, that the FCC has limited the maximum DPI to 56600. (53000 in some areas.)

      • Reminds me of the time when they started inflating CDROM speeds, and you could no longer rely on the number behind the X. "36X CDROM??? Well we have 100X hahahahah!!!!!"
    • Yes, the DPI number is technically meaningless (some might say mostly harmless). What people really want is not DOTS per inch, but PIXELS per inch. Unfortunatly, that's not a number that is usually advertised, instead they give the deceptive dots per inch.

      First, let's look at the pixels... A standard consumer P/S and low end professional DSLR camera would take images at around 6MP (Nikon D70), a high end professional would be closer to 12MP (Nikon D2X)

      The 12MP D2X can take images at 4288 x 2848. Scaled land
  • by merc (115854) <slashdot@upt.org> on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:01AM (#14042671) Homepage
    Another important specification for inkjet printers is ink drop size, typically measured in picoliters. The smaller the number, the more ink per square inch can be placed on the paper. ... and the better the secretly embedded printer's serial number may be hidden on your document.

    *blinks*
  • I own the HP Photosmart 8450, the print quality is truly astounding.
    It's an 8 colour (9 inks, two are black in seperate cartridges) printer.
    It can do upto A4 size, prints on the glossy photo quality stuff are excellent. (I have a bunch of photos from holidays printed out on A4 and 10x15cm photo paper, HP premium plus photo paper glossy).. the grey shading also is very impressive.. ever notice the problems with lots of printers and grey colours? This doesn't have those problems. (it has grey a grey ink car
  • I wanted someone to tell me "buy this one if you want speed, this one if you want value, this one if you want quality, this one if you want large prints, and this one if you want a good all-rounder". Give me opinions, dammit, I don't have time to form my own! I'm a consumer, for crying out loud!
    • ... eg what I want is something that will do A4 (or ideally A3), edge-to-edge, high quality. I'm not worried about speed, and not particularly worried about cost per page... Someone tell me what to buy!
  • Longetivity? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by russianspy (523929) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:10AM (#14042719)
    I am amazed that nobody mentioned anything about how long the prints are expected to last. That beautiful photo you're printing as a gift - will is still look the same 5 years from now? 10 years? 20 years?
  • I've not had a printer of any kind online at home since 2000, and, I've had no need of one. In the 80's, once a year, a big PC mag edition of new printers would come out all shinny and new, but, really, today I don't see the need for a printer at home. The cost of ink alone makes it more cost effective to have photos done at a shop and there's the added benefit of top of the line tech.

    There was a divide in the late 90's when older users felt the need to print out material in order to study it. Remember th

    • Interesting. I find that my hard copies don't run out of battery after a couple of hours, and that labeling CDs and DVDs looks much better when printed instead of scribbled with a sharpie.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @09:14AM (#14042735)
    From TFA:
    No matter if you choose inkjet or "dye sub" printers, crisp detail and smooth color gradation are the keys to good prints. When you get your photos back from the lab, they're shiny and smooth (without lines or dots). Getting this quality at home depends on several factors including printer resolution, i.e., how many dots per inch (DPI) of ink the printer lays on the paper as well as paper quality......


    But I would never use inkjet, well anywhere. On photos because it would always smear and generally give out crappy results (you can see the intermittent lines). Plus it looks god-awful on regular paper and that ink cartridge dries out if you don't tend to regularly use it every few weeks.

    Except for the cheap paper bit, dye-sub doesn't have these problems and even a lower resolution looks better because it' more blended in. My dye-sub puts on a clear coat too so it has that professional look from the photo lab, not the cheapo inkjet look. And I can only print on photo paper with my dye-sub so the quality is kinda always forced on me:) but I don't mind. The cartridges aren't with ink so it can't dry out (the color layers are on a plastic and heat transferred to the paper).

    I use a Hiti printer (Hi-touch Imaging) which only focuses on these printers but they are good. I don't know if it supports linux but it's stand-alone anyway. Plus I find the price of consumables reasonable - fifty 4x6s and a dyesub cartridge bundled together for under 20 bucks.

    But whatever company somebody goes with, avoid inkjet! Plus my photos have a life of 99 years - I don't think the same can be said for inkjet (imagine that stored in someplace moderately humid).
    • Well, I think Epson would probably disagree with you on the longevity. I probably would, too, as I've had high end dye sub output look like the poster in the window of a beach popsicle stand in just a year or two (you know - all cyan with a touch of yellow here and there...not a hint of magenta to be found). The longevity figures are all artifically created, and DS mfrs are no more trustworthy than inkjet companies. Epson claims 108 (color) to 200 (b&w) years with their new pigment based inks. No, I do
  • My Dad just told me that he probably wont buy a photo printer because the cost per print is roughly 30 cents per picture, whereas a store can do it for much cheaper at around 20 cents.
    Unless, of course you don't want to go through the hassle of stepping outside of your house.
  • A buyers guide without comparisons isn't really all that useful. I'd like to know which machines have relative top quality and take separate cartridges for each color.
  • "the smaller the number, the more ink per square inch can be placed on the paper. The more ink, the more accurate and lifelike the color of the print"

    This is completely backwards. Smaller drops means more accurate placement, and the size of each drop likely has no effect on total ink dispensed since that's completely up to the controller that's spitting them out.

  • "Another important specification for inkjet printers is ink drop size, typically measured in picoliters. The smaller the number, the more ink per square inch can be placed on the paper."

    Huh? I'm pretty sure I've spilled some pretty big drops of ink, measured in centiliters onto the paper, and there was a LOT more ink per square inch than my inkjet gets on the paper.

  • What for? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KlausBreuer (105581) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @10:06AM (#14043079) Homepage
    And? What do I need a color photo printer for?
    Sure sounds ghastly coming from a computer freak like me, but, heck, chaps: I got myself an age-old Hp Laserprinter, complete with lots of RAM and PostScripting, 600 dpi, flat paper storage, for about $200. Works like a charm, hooks up simply to my parallel port (but can hook into my network).
    It's all I ever need for printing.

    I print lots of photos. Either over the net, or by simply walking to a small Photo-Shop. They will print me any digital image at any size, in excellent quality, on paper, cups, shirts... and quite a bit cheaper (and better!) than I could manage with my own printer.

    Why would I want a color printer?
  • by Generic Guy (678542) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @10:11AM (#14043119)

    One of the things I didn't see addresses was how 'waterproof' the ink stuck to the paper. My sister has one of those HP portable photo printers, and I thought it did OK printing. She seems to like it. A few weeks later, I sneezed on a photo it had printed, and the ink literally blew off. Now there is a blank spot where her face should've been.

    It makes me wonder how long they can last with sweaty hand or in humid climates, even with moderate handling. There is still the fading issue with a number of these photo printers, too.

    • r, I sneezed on a photo it had printed, and the ink literally blew off. Now there is a blank spot where her face should've been.

      Sure...you "sneezed" on the picture of your sister.
  • Or can anyone else actually feel money being pulled from their pocket everytime they print out full page color anything? There must be a better way to do this than spitting out so much ink. Ugh.
  • Photo schmoto... most photo printing folks probably also print some documents in black and white and considering the price of photo inks, people might consider getting a cheap mono laser. After recently studying the market, I learned that Samsung has for a few years now made some very compact and best of all cheap laser printers with Linux official support.

    (and no, I'm not affiliated with Samsung in any way or form)

  • why is shelf life of a print imp ?
    Isnt that the point of digital - you print another on demand ?

    Maybe the software can print an invisible number on the print, and when you want another copy, you look at the print with a special lens and enter the number in your software and get another copy

    Anyway, as soon as the morons* figure out that 5x7 lcds with magnets can be made and sold by the gazillion, prints will be pretty passe

    morons = people who don't understand that design and gui are worth paying for , ie ipo
  • by yeOldeSkeptic (547343) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @11:38AM (#14043945)

    I have two inkjet printers: a real cheap Epson Stylus 43SX and an Epson Stylus Photo R310. I use the 43SX for cheap color prints on ordinary paper and the R310 for photos.

    I have succeeded in installing the 43SX under Linux and and currently in the process of installing the R310 so it will run under Linux too. I have used the Epson R310 under Win2000 and the results are satisfactory.

    When printing to glossy paper the R310 prints look better than the prints I get from professional photo labs. Perhaps because I tend to tweak the colors and levels from my digicam using photoshop.

    According to my experience:

    • Print out a sample print from your digital camera and then adjust your monitor gamma so it will match the printer output. Now you can tweak the colors and levels ever so slightly and what you see on your monitor will be very close to the actual printer output.
    • If your camera has manual exposure controls, underexpose your shots slightly. You can always adjust the levels later with Gimp or Photoshop.
    • If you are going to visit the Philippines, there is a shop along Quirino Avenue where they modify your printer so it will accept a bulk inkflow system. They will remove the original Epson cartridges and attach ink cartridges that are connected to bottles containing printer ink. While your friends back in the states are complaining about the high cost of printer ink, you will giggle with delight as you pour ink into your bulk inflow system at a cost of only 20 dollars per liter per color!

      And I kid you not.

  • "The more ink, the more accurate and lifelike the color of the print."
    Ha, more like the more ink the more likely you are to end up with a sopping wet unusable piece of paper.

    Dye sublimation for life baby!
  • I mean, if you're just going to print the damn things out anyway, why not just get a film camera and develop them? They'll even put it on a CD for you if you absolutely must look at them on a computer screen.
    • 1. instant gratification, see the results NOW.
      2. can distribute copies to friends/family at almost zero cost
      3. Easy to edit, splice, crop without all those funny filters, darkroom, papers and messy chemicals
      4. don't have to pay for bad pictures

      that said, I've been a photographer for over 30 years and have enjoyed developing my own photos, but now that I'm living with a pile of other folks don't have money or time or space for film photography
      • Then why print them out? Maybe it's the technophile in me, but I abhor taking something that's perfectly good in its digital form, has all the advantages of existing digitally, and then using perfectly good trees because you need something "real." If digital stuff isn't real, what do I spend all day doing? Making things that don't exist?

        I can't justify having a printer just for digital photos, especially considering
        1) I can order prints online, either within iPhoto or from another service
        2) I have a gall [menalto.com]

  • by sacrilicious (316896) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @01:01PM (#14044821) Homepage
    Another important specification for inkjet printers is ink drop size, typically measured in picoliters. The smaller the number, the more ink per square inch can be placed on the paper. The more ink, the more accurate and lifelike the color of the print.

    The above makes no sense to me.

    The smaller the drop size, the more ink can be placed on the paper? So I can make a floor wetter with a small bucket than with a big one?

    And the more ink, the better the print? So presumably I could make any given print better by re-running the same paper through twice?

    While apparently intended to be illuminating, I find the article's statements above (assuming they're true) to be like explaining digestion by saying "the act of chewing food causes the absorption of nutrients into the bloodstream"... true, but too many steps left out for comprehension. No explanation would have been better than their non-sensical one. They should have either given a better explanation, or just left it at "the smaller the number, the better the print."

  • by zakezuke (229119) on Wednesday November 16, 2005 @03:26PM (#14046144)
    There are those of us who bought into Epsons to do CD printing... and well... their sub $300 printers are rather high maintance creatures. My experence with the r200 was not pleasent at all, and they only have one AIO printer that prints on CDs... and it's not cheap.

    http://pixma.webpal.info/ [webpal.info]

    Fortunatly most of the Canon Pixmas can print on CDs as well, just the feature is disabled for the North American market and it's not shipped with a CD tray. You can e-bay a tray... canon wasn't hip to places like partsnow selling them so you are dependent on people importing them independently. You can make your own or hack one from an old epson tray.

    While I prefer the Epsons for flat out photo quality, colors that look good out of the box on most media without tweeking, and the ink's tendancy to wick less.... their low end printers clog if you look at them funny, they don't have anything resembling a frame, and diaper replacement can not be done without breaking plastic nor can you reassemble it without a jig. Not that there are not ways to extend the life of epsons... just my experence was I spent more time mucking with the printer than printing, and I prefer buying hardware either outlasts the warranty or at the very least can be maintained.

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