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Printer Science

Inkjet Photo Print Longevity Lacking 202

Posted by kdawson
from the ghosts-of-digital-photos-past dept.
Yet another Anonymous Coward writes to tell us about a piece up at the NYTimes on the (lack of) longevity of photos printed on inkjet printers. As the article's title says, somewhat alarmingly, "It isn't that images fade, it's that they can vanish." The problem is actually more nuanced than this; it's that no-one has a reliable and standardized way of testing inkjet prints for longevity. From the article: "The life of color inkjet prints has also been hindered by the origins of the technology, which was mainly intended for printing things like pie charts, said Nils Miller, a scientist at Hewlett-Packard. 'The initial emphasis was, how do we get bright colors on plain paper," Dr. Miller said. "Permanence was not really on the radar screen yet.'"
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Inkjet Photo Print Longevity Lacking

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  • Old School (Score:2, Interesting)

    by barista (587936) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @01:47AM (#19407693) Homepage
    Sounds like a good reason to keep my film cameras (a Pentax 645 and a Pentax MX)
  • Re:Old School (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tezbobobo (879983) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:07AM (#19407815) Homepage Journal
    I doesn't matter how good your photograph is if the paper it's printed on degrades, the ink fades or the DVD corrupts. I find that knowing the cost of photos with a film SLR causes one to tend to be a little more careful and lends itself more aptly to good photograph composition - that is good pictures are inherently more in the nature of film than digital.

    And as a production manager of a newspaper (http://thecatholicrecord.org) I have never heard of a photoshop printing digital using 'traditional methods.' It would require photographing a print which is just stupid - especially when ink developers claim 100yrs+ on their inks.
  • Re:No big deal (Score:1, Interesting)

    by rabblerabble (884373) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:10AM (#19407823)
    In 20 years, I would hope that I can print more than 20-30 high quality images without spending $40-50 on ink cartridges. Maybe the R&D departments should spend some time there... Of course, that would be in opposition to the corporate business plan (make as much money with as little effort as possible). Parent is on target though; I would add that cost effectiveness of prints is/should be a priority for most end users rather than the longevity of said prints. If it costs pennies to reprint an image, it will be trivial for someone to try to transpose images to a new format (if possible). But enough with my ramblings :)
  • inks crap anyway (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tezbobobo (879983) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:12AM (#19407827) Homepage Journal
    further to what I said before I wonder why anyone serious about photography would use ink except for drafts. I've developed onto some very nonstandard surface which I can imaging completely destoying my printer (even if they did fit in thickness wise). There are also beautiful emulsions which will print with metals rather than normal cololours. Iamgie a black and white sunset where the highlights are rendered in gold. Ink doesn't need to last 150 years +, because it is for home and amatuer use.
  • Obviously. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VE3OGG (1034632) <VE3OGG@@@rac...ca> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:34AM (#19407931)
    I have never understood people's desire to print their photos at home using current technology.

    First-of-all, the price-per-print is absolutely ludricrous. It used to be in the 1-2 CDN per print, and has come down, but not significantly. While gas and time may prove a factor for some, I just walk to the neighbourhood developer and get them developed that way (or keep them digital!).

    Secondly, the investment reeks of a fleecing. Upwards of a hundred dollars in ink? A packet of 20 sheets of paper for the better part of 10 dollars? A printer that will definitely break before it becomes obsolete? No thanks.

    For a period, I worked in a big-box computer store and any chance someone told me that they wanted to print from home, I tried to politely tell them that the technology was unproven, and that the pictures wouldn't last as long as the conventionally developed ones. That, combined with showing them what a discount setup would produce, and what an investment it would ultimately prove to be, would often turn them away from that direction.

    It is not that I object to home printing, nor do I have a vested interest in getting people to go to a developer. I am not a professional developer, or one of those photography buffs who insists on doing it in the "well, back in my day..." way. Rather, I see this whole "home printing" phenomeneon as a potential market that has been tapped using an inefficient tool not made for the task.

    Now some may point out those supposed "specialty" printers that Kodak, Canon or Hewlett-Packard manufacture, but these are also no different, other than usually fleecing you on the ink.

    And for those that would suggest using "off-brand" supplies, for most printing that is a fine suggestion, but in my experience (which, I will admit has not been considerable), the quality is sorely lacking in many of these products. THe paper is ill-suited to the task, and the ink is often "not quite as clear". ANd the price differential can be drastic, but if the product is noticably inferior, then what purpose does it serve?

    Just my 2c CND (which incidentally is rapidily approaching parity with the US dollar.)

  • by prockcore (543967) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:46AM (#19408001)
    My kodak easyshare photo printer uses thermal dye transfer. I'd think those would last longer.. hell they're even waterproof.
  • Re:No big deal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nagora (177841) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:38AM (#19408207)
    And, maybe even more critical: Will I be able to view/convert today's RAW files in 50 years time?

    Absolutely.

    Since Dave Coffin's dcraw [cybercom.net] utility is open-source (in fact, I think it's public domain) there is no reason why it would vanish in such a short time. You will be able to find a compiler somewhere since it's written in C.

    Now, if you were relying on the propriety closed-source software that came with the cameras you'd be in trouble, but Dave's software is generally better quality than that half-arsed crap anyway.

  • archival inks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by misanthrope101 (253915) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:40AM (#19408211)
    Don't some manufacturers sell/market archival ink, specifically meant to last 100+ years? What do the pros use? I've never owned a photo printer, because I don't print that much, and when I do I'd rather use an online service that (I assume, rightly or wrongly) has a much more expensive printer than I could buy in my price range. But the prints I've ordered were indistinguishable (by me) from "real" photos.

    Other than instant gratification, does home printing offer any advantages over commercial printing services? Is the quality of prints/paper reasonably comparable?

  • Try Hemp !!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShakaZ (1002825) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:41AM (#19408217)
    Strange thing we have so much trouble preventing paper & color degrading over time when centuries ago the problem has already been solved. Just look at all those books written on hemp that are still in great shape & with bright colours that give us insight over the knowledge of past human civilization. It's a shame we're in an era now where mindless consumerism and capitalism are so powerful that products we buy don't have to perform anymore as they did in the past and still cost more... examples of this are everywhere, tasteless fruit & vegetables, electronic devices that barely make it past the warranty date, products that cost more because they're better eventhough the new process to produce them costs less, new products that are pushed on the market in order to maintain royalties while not adding anything usefull or even being of lower quality or environmentally more dangerous, etc...
  • Re:No big deal (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gordonjcp (186804) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:20AM (#19408925) Homepage
    Digital preservation still doesn't solve the problem of preserving images on the 1000 year scale.

    A CNC mill, a few slabs of slate, and a bit of Perl. Drill your data into metamorphic rock.
  • by skoda (211470) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @07:00AM (#19409125) Homepage
    Everyone here with digital data from 30 years ago raise your hand.

    Everyone here with photographs from 30+ years ago raise your hand.

    We need photographs to last "forever" because they are more easily kept, more permanent, more durable than the digital originals.
  • Re:Old School (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Idaho (12907) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @07:36AM (#19409315)

    I have never heard of a photoshop printing digital using 'traditional methods.'


    "traditional" as in: using chemically processed paper and using chemicals to fixate the image. As opposed to squirting ink on a piece of glossy paper (dye-sub or inkjet printers).

    The difference being that machines that do the former will typically cost between $50,000 - $500,000, which is why nobody has them at home (well, that, and they're big...and use some rather nasty chemicals). But they produce superior and longer-lasting output.
  • by DrYak (748999) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @08:01AM (#19409499) Homepage

    Who expects digital to last forever?

    Effectively there's a small problem here :

    - The digital files have to be usable in the future. As said on specialised page, the current situation is rather strange with consumers having much more luck than professionals.
    Currently, most consumer camera use standart and open format (JPEG) for which there are supported by a wide number of code, some of which is open source (libJPEG). Even if the format is phased out in the future, you can still be sure that in 30 years you may find some specialised "archivist imaging software" that has JPEG import filters, recompiled to whatever platform we will use then (128bits x86 descendant, running CoyoteOS, Hurd unstable alpha or Microsoft Linux).
    The situation is not so good for professional-grade equipment which very often use proprietary format to store hi quality pictures (each different series from each different manufacturer use their own home-made format for "RAW" pictures). Very often those format are poorly documented, kept secret or protected from reverse-engineering by DCMA. They are near to no tool to handle them (appart from the software that came with the device). In 30 years, the knoledge about one peculiar format may very well be lost, and no more software could be found that can open it (and pretty much sure that, had that software be excavated from somewhere, the deprecated OS and hardware running it will be missing too).

    - The digital files have to be kept in shape. You can't just leave them on a medium and wait. Optical media may rot. Magnetic removable media such as floppy or tape is almost gone and you're not sure to find consumer readers in the future. HD may get bad track over time and data format may shift (how long will Windows keep FAT16 compatibility ?). Removable solid state is either subject to electromechanical incompatibility (still have SmartMedia reader ? Sure there will be arount in 30 years ?) or may malfunction (USB stick not responding after a lifetime of abuses).
    What one needs is to transfer the files to newer medium regularily and the check them for errors. Keeping files on the family's RAID server (which will get newer drivers over time as technology and capacity change) is a solution. Or uploading them on a website (whose technical staff will take care of the hardware refresh), if you can trust it enough.

    We need photographs to last "forever" because they are more easily kept, more permanent, more durable than the digital originals.


    Then you don't need some crappy made-for-home cheap technology. If you want to keep your prints forever, you should use some method known to withstand time. You should "burn" them on actual film (laser optical printer like used for film recording [wikipedia.org]) using chemically stable negative, and then keep the results in a temperature controlled safe.

  • Re:Old School (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @08:46AM (#19409923) Homepage
    "Silver-halide" prints are superior, only in certain terms. All ink jet prints use more colors than the three found in "Silver-halide" paper, and so have a larger color gamut. They can print much more deeply saturated colors. violets, yellows, and reds, in particular.

    True, ink jet print tend to be more easily damaged.

    I prefer Silver Halide for increasingly subjective reasons. For example, the fact that the colors are buried in the emulsions makes it harder for the Brain to have that "ah-ha" moment where it figures out its being tricked by a flat representations and raises the "Its just a piece of paper stupid" alert. Halide prints preserve the "suspension of reality" a bit better than ink jet, but Ink jet can print more colors, so It's a trade off best informed by purpose.

    AIK
  • Re:No big deal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @10:58AM (#19411859) Homepage

    Agreed, but I have recorded CDRs that can no longer be read. Same for Iomega ZIP and JAZ disks (no drives).

    So do I, but the data that was on them now occupies a tiny portion of the hard drives in my current computers. It's been copied onto half a dozen different backup formats, and I expect it'll migrate across a multitude more in the course of my life.

    That's fine while you are alive - but what happens after?
     
     

    Preserving digital information takes less effort than storing paper prints.

    When my grandmother had to be moved into a nursing home, my mom was cleaning out her house and found photograph albums from the 1950's. Preserving them had taken exactly zero effort, they were simply stored on a shelf. They required no hardware to view, there were no worries about changing formats, etc... etc... They simply sat waiting for fifty years.
     
    That's the key difference between physical and digital preservation. Digital preservation requires ongoing maintenance and attention (even if it does make multiple backups to be made much easier). Forget just once to copy those ZIP disks (before the drive dies forever), and the data is gone.
     
    Physical preservation requires much less attention, and will survive even decades of inattention. Even on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in a back bedroom of an un-airconditioned house - in Florida.

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