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Printer Science

Inkjet Photo Print Longevity Lacking 202

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 )
    Sounds like a good reason to keep my film cameras (a Pentax 645 and a Pentax MX)
    • Re:Old School (Score:5, Informative)

      by hexed_2050 ( 841538 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:53AM (#19407731)
      There is no good reason to keep your old film camera unless you can take a better picture on it personally.

      If you have a high quality digital camera that takes great quality pictures, you can send your digital files in to many online digital development stores. They will then develop your digital pictures using traditional methods, instead of just printing them using an inkjet printer like Joe Public.
      The key here is to buy quality cameras. Most cell phone based digital cameras will not take the quality of pictures that most people would be proud to actually get professionally developed; they may be cute and fit in your pocket/purse, but that's about the extent of it unless you're just taking pictures of your buddies in college while out drinking.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tezbobobo ( 879983 )
        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 ( I have never heard of a photoshop printing digital using 'traditional methods.'
        • Re:Old School (Score:5, Informative)

          by hexed_2050 ( 841538 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:14AM (#19407835)
          I have never heard of a photoshop printing digital using 'traditional methods.'

          I guess the word 'traditional' was a bit too generalized. By using the word 'traditional' I meant that they will print your picture out on proper paper that has a gelatin coating on the surface that protects the ink just like normal photographs when they are developed. The current inkjet photo paper does not offer this type of protection.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Idaho ( 12907 )

            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 o

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              "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
              • Actually, many professionals, myself included, prefer a smaller colour gamut. That is why though slide are crap to look at and slide film is tricky to master, many people prefer it. Also, one of the bonus' of SH is it can be used in space - digital cameras can't go there!
                • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                  by mrchaotica ( 681592 ) *

                  Also, one of the bonus' of SH is it can be used in space - digital cameras can't go there!

                  Wow, so NASA regularly conducts shuttle missions to change the film in the Hubble Space Telescope? I didn't know that!

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              "As opposed to squirting ink on a piece of glossy paper (dye-sub or inkjet printers).

              Compare apples to apples. Inkjet (bubblejet, whatever you fancy) does just that: a jet of ink onto the surface of a piece of paper. Comes with all of the problems we've been talking about. Dye-sub has been the choice for, oh, better than a decade now because it does not put the image on the surface of the paper, but rather into the fibers of a specially treated sheet of paper. By use of a high-temperature heating head, it

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Joe Decker ( 3806 )
          And as a production manager of a newspaper ( I have never heard of a photoshop printing digital using 'traditional methods.'

          I do it all the time, using labs that have the Cymbolic Sciences LightJet, or Chomira-type printers. These printers can really be thought of as digital enlargers, putting digitally controlled light onto traditional materials like Fuji Crystal Archive. Traditional chemistry to develop the result gives you an essentially "traditional print" from digital b

    • Re:Old School (Score:5, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:54AM (#19407739)
      So you're keeping your photos and negs in acid free paper in a nitrogen environment?

      This story kind of reminds my of reading about how the platinum & silver emulsion-on-glass negatives of photographers like Mathew Brady ended up as panes in greenhouses. <GACK!!>
    • There are professional ink jet printers that promise your pictures will last 100 years or more provided you use the right ink and the right paper. It is used for photo archiving - wich isn't such a bad idea because some paper snippets have have been around longer than the western civilization so a paper printout at the right quality certainly will last longer as any of my computers and harddisks - not to mention the brief lifespan of cds and dvds.

      The Epson Photo R1800 comes to mind (but there are no doubt o
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by stuktongue ( 140376 )
        I suggest you check out this site: []

        These guys seem to know their stuff, work with top-quality equipment, and provide a lot of information relevant to producing high-quality prints.

        Take it easy.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by vought ( 160908 )
          I suggest you check out this site: []

          Unfortunately, the owner and most of the staff are radical Christians with a massive persecution complex. Where they once hired good photographers to work for them, they now recruit from their local church - and the owner has threatened former clients and employees, in addition to "cost cutting techniques" like dumping used fixer into the town sewer system. He is not a nice person.

          The same information and expertise is out there at other bus
          • Okay, we're definitely getting off topic here, but you've piqued my curiosity with your statements. Do you have any pointers to information that substantiates your claims? I'd be interested in that, and it's probably only fair you post that if you're going to put such claims out there on a public forum. (Please note, I am not disputing what you're saying.)
          • Unfortunately, the owner and most of the staff are radical Christians with a massive persecution complex

            Your statement is quite misleading - and should be revised. You make it sound as if all "radical Christians" are involved in deceptive and illegal business practices - which is certainly NOT TRUE. I'd submit that they are not following their faith in their deeds - something their local church and community should be reprimanding them for.

            Bad business practices, which you are referencing, are

      • While I'm suggesting places to look for info on this, I'll also suggest A&I: []

        Take it easy.
      • Well come back in about 95 years and if I'm still around, I'll let you know about my little experiment.

        I'm using a Canon i9900 ink jet with Canon stock inks and either Canon or Hahnemule papers. They really good prints get slapped under glass (and not even spiffy expensive "UV" glass) and mounted in the usual fashion. Some of the rejects get stuck outside in my wood shop, exposed to moisture, sun, cold and Labrador Retrievers. The unmounted prints fade noticeably after a few months. The mounted ones (l

    • by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @08:10AM (#19409169)
      Or, and this is a crazy thought: don't rely on printed copies of digital photos.
      Just pass around the bits themselves, and back those bits up.

      I don't understand people's fascination with printing photos.
      And supposing you did really want a printed copy, who cares if it disappears?
      It costs almost nothing to make another.

      I've inherited stacks and stacks of family photos and slides - and I can't get them through the film scanner nearly fast enough. I worry far more about those physical boxes and their handling, than I value their ability to hold up over time compared to inkjet printing.
      • Probably for reasons similar to why people keep printing books. But despite that I would venture a guess that these days more family snapshots end up in an electronic album than a print album.

        Many pro photographers, myself included, will tell you that you have no idea how good a photo is until it is printed. While that isn't necessarily true for everything it tends to hold up pretty well because the resolution of electrified displays is relatively low. What looks like good focus when zoomed in on your compu
        • That's an interesting discussion... I would wager that even now, most digital files are not printed on paper. In fact, most digital files that are available to anyone but the photographer are on the web which, as you likely know, is a truly awful way to display a quality picture.

          It goes back to the age old question of what makes a good picture - composition and color with less of an emphasis on detail (which you can only easily get out of a print). Most people just glance at a picture. They either like o

      • Maybe if you were taking decent pictures you would care. I use professional film with german glass and the results are stunning with very little work on my part.
    • Re:Old School (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lord Apathy ( 584315 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @08:40AM (#19409339)

      No, not really. You see, unlike film, images digital images have the potential to last forever. It's a myth that film photographs will out last digital images. Who cares how long digital prints from a printer last? Ten years, a hundred years, the life time of a print is irrelevant. What matters is the life span of the original media; that be film or digital image. As long as you have that you can make prints.

      Now here is the kick in the balls. Film degrades. Sooner or later the physical film media will decay into dust. Be it a 100 years or a 1000 years, soon or later that negative will cease to exist. The chemical process of developing the image also speeds that up. You see when you expose a negative the developing solution you start a chemical reaction that starts the process. When you put the negative in the stop bath it is suppose to "stop" the developing process. Well it doesn't. What it does is slows it to a crawl. The image on the negative may last forever to a human but the development process is still going on. One day that image will fade from then negative. The same thing applies to physical prints made from film images.

      This is not true for digital images. They have the potential to last forever. As long as we have computers and networks we will always have the potential to view that image. That digital image has the potential to be as good 10 years, 100 years, even a billion years from now. Yeah, I know dvd degrade, harddrives go bad, and file formats will change. That maybe but physical digital media can be backed up and file formats can be converted. Film images can't. Once that image fades front the negative its gone.

      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        Problem with digital is it is too likely to end up with stuff in a format or medium that can no longer be understood by any of the viewers available.
    • Is why there aren't any photo printers out there that just use the Polaroid style of image development. Polaroids last nearly as long as traditionally developed photos, and loading a pack of polaroids into a small printer seems like it would be a whole lot easier than dealing with separate printer paper and ink. Of course, then you lose the "multifunction" portion of the printer, but you end up with much higher quality prints anyway, so who cares?
    • You don't think your traditional chemistry prints are in for that long a life, do you? If you've got standard color chemistry prints (e.g., Fuji Crystal Archive), you may very well be watching those prints slowly fade from exposure to UV light. This problem will accelerate over time as governments (like those in Australia and California) begin to require UV-emitting compact fluorescents in home lighting, very few people invest in UV-protecting glass.
      • Just to stomp on a favorite pet peeve - virtually glass is UV absorbing. In fact, if you want a UV "transparent" glass (for example, in a spectrophotometer), you pay out the nose for it. Google for UV glass absorption characteristics or similar.

    • by Zaatxe ( 939368 )
      Sounds like a good reason to keep my film cameras

      I thought like this some time ago too... but then I found out that where I live (a humid place of the world), negative films can least even less than CD-R's if not properly stored. And CD-R's can be backed up without loss in the content's quality.

      I also found out that the printing of the same negative a few years after it was taken doesn't reproduce the same results. I probably didn't store the negative film properly, but I didn't want to have to bother
  • by kevlarcoared ( 1079907 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @02:49AM (#19407699)
    Who ctually expects something they print on a inkjet to last forever? Most people keep a digital copy as it and can just print off another copy if needed.
    • Actually, the photos seem to last longer than the printers. I've seen quite a few pack up just because they weren't used for a while. Granted, this could probably be solved with nozzle cleaning (not the push-button-gui kind), etc., but given the difficulty in doing this, vs. buying a new printer...

      Next time, I'm going laser.
    • by skoda ( 211470 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @08:00AM (#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.
      • by dotgain ( 630123 )
        Pretty interesting analasys.
        I wonder how many people had cameras thirty years ago versus how many had some means of a digital retrieval system aside from the light-switches in their house.
      • 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 m

        • by yulek ( 202118 )
          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
  • No big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Diomidis Spinellis ( 661697 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:03AM (#19407785) Homepage
    The article starts by presenting the preservation of photo negatives in a storehouse at 0 degrees Celsius and 25% RH, and then moves on discussing the problems of preserving inkjet photos. Photos printed on inkjets come from digital images. It is the bits of these images we want to preserve, not the printed photos. The nice thing with digital photos, is that if the printed photo fades, you can print it again. I was scanning some 20-year old negatives over the weekend, and I realized that they were irreparably scratched and darkened. (And don't get me started on the color distortions of printed 30-year old photos). With my digital photos I am reasonably sure that in 20 years I'll be able to print them in the same, or probably better quality.

    The two real problems are:

    • Digital preservation []. Will my files survive 50 years of moving between storage media? Will I be able to view JPEG files in 50 years time?
    • People who print their photos on inkjet printers and then delete (or loose) the digital version of the image. This is happening more often as digital cameras are increasingly bought by less IT-savvy people.
    These are important problems. However, on balance I think that the benefits of digital preservation are more than the risks [].
    • Re:No big deal (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shmlco ( 594907 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:21AM (#19407871) Homepage
      "It is the bits of these images we want to preserve, not the printed photos."

      Agreed, but I have recorded CDRs that can no longer be read. Same for Iomega ZIP and JAZ disks (no drives). I have Apple DOS 5.25 floppies and 3.5 inch ProDos discs. Heck, I even have some tapes and an 8" floppy from a PDP-11. All containing "bits" that can no longer be retrieved by the average person.

      Will your grandson stumble one day on a DVD-R in your attic labeled "family photos", but have no way to retrieve them?
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ozmanjusri ( 601766 )
        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.

        Preserving digital information takes less effort than storing paper prints.

        • 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.

          It's obvious to us techies, but sadly "normal people" just burns their photos to CD-R and put in on the shelf, expecting it to still work when they next want to use it. Yes, it's stupid, but they don't realise that.

          I wrote an article [] on the subject a few years ag
        • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
          "Preserving digital information takes less effort than storing paper prints."
          Not really. The good old fashioned mk.1 shoe box works for at least 30 years. One of the benifits of traditonal prints is that they degrade and don't just fail. An old picture of your great grand father that is less then perfect is still of some use to you. A scan in IFF HAM stored on an AmigaOS 3.5" disk is probably a lot less useful to the average users.
        • Re:No big deal (Score:5, Interesting)

          by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @11:58AM (#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.
      • Heck, I even have some tapes and an 8" floppy from a PDP-11.

        If it's an RX02 floppy, bring it round []...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by VE3OGG ( 1034632 )

      Will my files survive 50 years of moving between storage media? Will I be able to view JPEG files in 50 years time?

      If you are worried about lossy compression and the uncertain nature of JPEG-licensing and popularity, might I suggest the open source alternative?

      PNG [] -- a lossless (or lossy, if you prefer to skimp on space) image format that is open source, and can handle a variety of effects (the big one that I can think of is transparency, but then that has little berring on photography).

      I made the switch to PNG about two years ago, and really haven't looked back. I just find working with them to be a lot simpler than J

      • JPEG and PNG are complementary to each other, they do not compete with each other. JPEG is a lossy format meant for photos, PNG is a lossless format for drawings with a limited number of colours. PNG was developed to replace GIF, which was once problematic with regards to a Unisys patent.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by jez9999 ( 618189 )
          PNG was developed to replace GIF

          Which phrase I think does it no justice. It has much improved functionality over GIF, not least being 24 bit colour with a variable alpha channel. This means it actually can *replace* JPEG (yeah I know its file sizes are bigger), whereas GIF can't (even with a big filesize) because of its puny 256 colours.
  • inks crap anyway (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tezbobobo ( 879983 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:12AM (#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.
    • There are pro photo printers by Epson and other companies that have very long life. Epson claims 108 years for color, 200 years for B&W. Their printers are pretty expensive, starting from $500 and I've seen a model going for $1500.
    • by mattkime ( 8466 )
      Photography troll?

      The vast majority of commercial photography has gone digital. Printing digitally has many speed and cost advantages over darkroom prints. The longevity of digital prints frequently exceeds that of darkroom prints.
      • Yes, that vast majority has gone digital. Yes it has speed and cost advantages. It loses out in diversity of development process. It loses out in resolution - I'm talking compared with medium and large format photography, though even 35mm has three times the effective resolution of digital. It loses out in the diversity of environments it may be used in. As for longevity, I can't imagine that there are digital prints older than a couple decades (though I do know Charles Babbage invented a printer). As for p
        • by mattkime ( 8466 )
          >>It loses out in diversity of development process.

          What does that mean? No, digital isn't a cyanotype, but then again silver process isn't a cyanotype either.

          >>It loses out in resolution - I'm talking compared with medium and large format photography

          Not if you scan your negs. I shoot 4x5 and print digitally.

          >>There is no way on God's good earth that anyone can reliably claim that digital prints outlive film development.

          Well, I guess you have your mind made up. Then there's no point in disc
    • I've emigrated away from where I was born. I send off photos to my relatives to stick on the wall, fridge, in an album whatever.

      I had used two printers a Canon i850, or an Epson R800 depending on if I was at home or my girlfriends home. They are meant to be equivalent spec. After a year I went back and visited my sister. She had put all my photos on her fridge. The old ones printed on the Canon had almost completely disappeared. The old R800 ones were as good as new.

      Just lasting 10 years is nice, that

  • At these prices (Score:5, Informative)

    by edwardpickman ( 965122 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:12AM (#19407831)
    The prints should be archival at the prices they charge. Ink is the biggest scam in computers today. The excuse that we never considered longevity is total BS the issue was how cheap can we make the ink and much can we charge for it to maximize the profits. The real point is they don't care. You can buy archival ink but it's even more expensive.
    • Yes and no, it is a scam, at least for the very low end printers, but there are much better products, but they do cost more. If you jump to a $300-700 price range on printers the inks steadily drop in price and the archive quality goes up by quite a few factors. At $300 you can expect about a hundred year lifespan of your photos if they are mounted behind glass. Around $400 you start seeing decent sun and water resistance. At $500 the life span jumps to somewhere around 200 years and the resistances imp
  • First thought: So does this affect the prints I get from Walgreens?

    I know persistent digital storage is the recommended solution, but it's not simple - CDs degrade given enough time, and my 3.5" floppy backups, if they're not all bad, aren't exactly accessible on Macs nowadays. And what comes after CDs? If I continue on the portable hard drive route, will that be a $300 investment in new HD technology every decade? Every 5 years? Just upload it all to Gmail?

    Second thought: []

    • One of the benefits of digital media is that you can transport the data from one medium to another so rather than just burning off a load of CDs and sticking them in the attic you need to make sure you back up your stuff to the most recent storage medium and keep the main copy on the device you use to make the backups.
      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        The problem is while analog prints degrade slowly if Joe Public leaves them wherever they are, digital stuff can effectively just vanish if Joe Public just leaves them wherever they are.

        While HDDs are getting bigger and bigger, who is going to educate Joe Public to keep migrating old archival data or even _converting_ the data so that it can continue to be accessible?

        Basically the "degradation curve" is still there, it just looks different. You lose stuff in chunks, rather than gradual fades of analog stuff
    • Well, I get my prints at Walmart, for $CDN 0.19 a picture. We leave then hanging on the wall, often in direct sunlight, and I've never seen any fading. I've seen some photos that other people have given me placed in the same location and they have experienced major fading. I have yet to ask them whether they are printed at home or elsewhere, but one of them looked like it was a picture from a portrait studio. I don't understand the hype with printing at home. You very rarely have to have a hard copy rig
  • Obviously. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by VE3OGG ( 1034632 ) <VE3OGG@rac . c a> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:34AM (#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.)

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      I have never understood people's desire to print their photos at home using current technology.

      Two reasons for me. One, instant availability. This is for the occasional small print, which I usually do on heavy glossy paper. But for larger quantities I do indeed order small prints on proper photographic paper through online services. Unfortunately, there's no developer in my neighborhood whose service would be faster than them.

      Reason two, reliable output. This is for larger prints, mostly I do 30x40cm/12x16", which I do on inexpensive 'office photo' type paper. After having tried a couple of online p

      • Do you have any more information on why they last better behind glass and how much longer (any sources)? I ask because we recently printed out a lot of photo's of our wedding and put them behind glass - I'd like to think this will last a reasonable amount of time though of course I have them backed up to DVD and HD...
    • by s31523 ( 926314 )

      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.

      Did you get fired? Seems like you would try to sell your products in the store, and show customers what a discount setup would produce in order to sell a better setup...

      • Maybe he was actually trying to tell the truth to the customer so that they would come back many times and buy many things, instead of buying one thing and being disappointed when they found out they were lied to, and decided never to go to that store again.
      • by TheLink ( 130905 )
        If I go to a restaurant and the waiter tells me what the cook isn't good at and recommends something that the cook is actually good at, that I'm likely to enjoy - given my stated constraints to the waiter (time, money, dietary preferences) I am more likely to return (and even recommend the restaurant to others).

        Whereas, if the waiter recommends something that leaves a bad taste in my mouth, what are the odds I'd come back, and what are the odds that I'd tell others to NOT go to that place?

        Of course, if I st
  • Costco Print dept? (Score:2, Informative)

    by SpzToid ( 869795 )
    Folks, I've heard from a photo pro being interviewed on the Geekspeak radio broadcast, that many pros run into each other at the Costco printing dept. I imagine other similar depts. do a similarly good job. Its outsourcing; but considering the volume and competitive market, who on earth wants to buy into the ink-jet printer/ink mafia if they can avoid it? And apparently with volume, these large depts. manage quality okay.

    Also, using clients such as Google's Picasa, its just as easy to 'print' to the photo
  • by prockcore ( 543967 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:46AM (#19408001)
    My kodak easyshare photo printer uses thermal dye transfer. I'd think those would last longer.. hell they're even waterproof.
  • Real Permanence? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NeverVotedBush ( 1041088 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @03:52AM (#19408019)
    The old silver-based processes last a pretty long time. Same for the copper-based before that. There is a shop nearby that resurrected some very old metal plates used by a photographer in the early 1800s I think to document Indian life - and they are beautiful. But what lasts is that the images are either etched metal or metal deposited on glass or imbedded in the gelatin coating on paper.

    But even conventional color film and photographs are just dyes and are subject to eventual fading. With black and white, you actually reduce silver halide to silver metal. It won't fade. But dyes are organic and will lose color as the dye molecules decompose.

    One way to make inkjet images last longer is to protect them from UV light. A guy I know printed two identical images and hung them in his office. One had no protective cover and the other had a glass cover. The glass protected the dyes from UV degredation and that print still looks great. The one with no cover glass has very much faded.

    People strive for some kind of lasting mark on society or evidence they existed and their lives mattered. The fact is that most evidence of any of us will eventually fade just the way it has for generations before us. Old fil got brittle, cracked, or was water damaged and stuck together. Old prints suffer similar fates. It's just by luck a that a lot of the old images have lasted.

    Digital images have an advantage in that they are lossless and the data can be copied from media to media to keep them current and readable. But it is a maintenance that if you don't do, you will eventually lose the image. You can use a film printer to output images to actual film just like you had taken the image with a regular camera but are limited by the film printer's resolution and now you are back to having a format that can't be copied losslessly.

    For lots of people, the only record they ever existed is either a headstone, or more commonly, just their skeletons. Might as well get used to the idea.
    • You are right dyes can fade, sometimes very quickly.

      But that's why a lot of newer printers have pigment based inks instead - these can last much longer, being rated to 200 years with the right paper. Even undersunlight these are supposed to last a long time, and the way pigment inks work it's more reasonable to expect they will do so.

      You can get good image permanence if you are willing to spend a little more on a good printer and ink.
  • I read about this in a magazine in about 1999, and I tested it by taking a sample print, stapling a sheet of black paper to one half of it then leaving it in a window for a few months.

    Three months later, the red component of the uncovered part had faded to almost nothing. I know red isn't used in inkjets, but nevertheless that was what it looked like.

    It's not so bad these days - I have many inkjet prints at home which are behind glass in the form of a photo frame, and I've had them for a few years now. I'
    • by OS24Ever ( 245667 ) * <> on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @05:03AM (#19408311) Homepage Journal
      I switched to a Kodak 1400 Dye-Sublimation printer and their tiny 4x6 dye sub printer about two years ago now. Before that sunk a lot of money into ink/paper for a Canon S9000.

      I do a non-scientific Fridge Test. That is, I do what most families do with their prints. The put a magnet, stick em to the fridge, and leave them.

      Within 45 days anything from my S9000 printer would fade, even more annoying if the magnet didn't move you'd get the magnet outline because underneath it was ok, but anything exposed to the air vanishes.

      On my Kodak 1400, and my Kodak Printer Dock 3 the same 'fridge test' has them still looking like new (i'll print a new one every six months and compare in regular light) and I've had several on my fridge for two years. To the best of my knoweldge Kodak (and other) DyeSub printers stand up just like silver halide based on what I've read on the web - take that FWIW. Silver Halide printing would last about 20 years exposed to the air.

      That being said, on the Canon S9000 if your print is under glass in a frame - it does not fade. I printed six 4x6s, three dyesub, and three Canon S9000. I put them in a 6 4x6 frame and they've been on my desk at the office now for 18 months. No fading on any of the images.

      I'm now all DyeSub. I have the Kodak 4x6 printer, a Mitsubishi 9550DW that I use for printing 4x6, 5x7, and 6x8 for my Photography business and my Kodak 1400 for printing 8x10s. I know the cost per page exactly, and don't have to guess. That's the other thing I hated about inkjets, you never really now when/why you run out of ink.

      I've not seen an inkjet that can 'out do' the printer at a lower cost. I'm very happy with the dyesubs.
      • Wish I had mod points. I wholly agree with what you've said. I purchased a dye sublimation printer for my photos and it's been fantastic. If you are in the market for a photo printer, the dye sublimation is the way to go.
  • archival inks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by misanthrope101 ( 253915 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @04:40AM (#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?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by sunspot55 ( 305580 )
      The article does a pretty good job of summing this up, but the quick version is this. There are two main types of inkjet colorants, pigments and dyes. Pigments are more costly, and have a slightly smaller gamut, but they can last longer than traditional film prints. Becuase of the cost, inkjet manufacturers have not been targeting the average consumer with these pigment based printer/ink combination. If you are willing to spend some money, you can get a pigment based printer that will last 100+ years.
    • I am not a pro, but I researched this a little before buying my photo printer. I think
      I would be considered in the "Pro-Am" category.

      Epson Ultrachrome pigment-based inks are fairly long lasting. I bought an Epson R800 []
      printer, which works with these inks, and I use it a lot. According to Welhelm, the prints should last 100+ if
      framed under glass. These are the photos I care about as I hope to sell prints someday soon. I don't want to take someone's money
      and have them disappointed when 3 years later, the
  • Try Hemp !!! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ShakaZ ( 1002825 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @04:41AM (#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...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:13AM (#19408621)
    You can use archival ink easily enough - all printer manufacturers produce a printer which uses pigmented inks. But they cost. This is a simple list of how printer manufacturers make their money:


    Canon.....High cost.......Medium cost
    Epson.....Low cost........High cost
    HP..........Medium cost...Medium cost

    So what I did was buy Epson printers - low cost for what you are getting, so the top spec ones are a good bargain. But the Epson ink is very overpriced. So I worked out how to get it cheaper. Here is another table, in GBP:

    Epson cartridges........15.0
    Cheaper cartridges...... 6.0
    Fill your own............. 1.60
    Continuous Ink supply.. 0.32

    So the answer is simple - buy Epson, get a CIS from e-bay, and fill with decent archival bulk OCP ink from Germany.

    • Lexmark

      I almost never print anything any more, but the wife and kids might print a page or two a day. We use a Lexmark multi-function that was given to us by a friend. We've used it for years and it continues to work great -- could you explain why the cost of machine and ink is so bad compared to the others?
  • by jettawu ( 1030820 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:17AM (#19408639)

    As the article's title says, somewhat alarmingly, "It isn't that images fade, it's that they can vanish."
    Doc: Great Scott. Let me see that photograph again of your brother. Just as I thought, this proves my theory, look at your brother.
    Marty: His head's gone, it's like it's been erased.
    Doc: Erased from existence.

    I couldn't resist
  • by DJoy ( 1112125 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @06:52AM (#19408795)

    The article is typical of some hack cranking out an article without understanding the technology or doing a shred of research.

    Firstly there are two main types of inkjet ink, there's dye and then pigment. The difference between them is like watercolour vs oil-paint. Dye inks will soak into the fibres of the paper and change the colour of the paper fibres, pigment inks are the colour, they sit atop the paper as little blobs of colour, like oil paint.

    The inkjet prints we've all seen fading are dye prints, which are prone to fading both by strong light, and by atmospheric contamination. They are also compounded by people buying third party inks and refills based upon the myth that they're "just as good". They might look bright an punchy when you print it, but two weeks later when it's fading maybe you'll realise why the big companies like HP, Canon and particularly Epson spend millions on ink research, and why their inks cost more.

    The Archival inkjet printers we see on sale today pretty much exclusively use pigment inks, which have their own set of problems to overcome ( gloss differential, bronzing & metamerism ). Pigment inks are very stable, and can include other elements like gloss and uv filtering coatings. A lifetime of 75 years can be expected, longer if stored away for archival purposes. B&W prints can last even longer ( it's often the yellow that's the first to fade ).

    Dye inks are becoming increasingly better in the longevity department too, the latest efforts from Epson have a much longer lifespan than previous dye inks.

    The article suggests there is no standardised testing, this is not entirely true, the slightest bit of research would have yielded the standardised tests developed by Henry Wilhelm at the Wilhelm Institute. Virtually all the major manufacturers ( Epson, HP, Canon, Hahnemuhle etc ), with the exception of Kodak who are a bit naughty here, use these same tests for their quoted longevity claims. It's as close to a "standard" as there will ever be, and is widely accepted in the industry.

    The best archival quality in wet-chemistry prints was considered to be Cibachrome, now refered to as Ilfochrome Classic. A good pigment inkjet will last as long or longer than a Cibachrome.

    • Right on! From my research the Epson investment in archival ink and paper research was a major consideration in my selection of their products.
    • About as un-researched as a typical /. reply...

      First off, watercolor and oil paint typically use the exact same pigments. One water based, one oil based. Watercolor can be used like oil paint, ever heard of gouache? Oil paint can be used like water color by thinning it down with paint thinner or other solvent. The absorption in to the paper is more about application options than how the pigment works.

      Inkjet dye vs pigment is similar. Dye works fine on glossy papers with much less absorption as well as backl
  • by v1 ( 525388 )
    inkjets have long been known for fading. You can pay a lot of money for higher grade ink carts for most printers, that are good for supposedly 10 years.

    A lot of the photography shops in my area push the issue really hard, how "digital prints can fade over time" of course recommending you bring your memory stick into them so they can print good photography prints instead. (gotta change with the times or die I suppose, chemical photography is going pro-only)

    My argument against this is simple... I can pay y
    • by Jhon ( 241832 ) *

      I can pay you $10 to develop a roll of 36 that will last 10 years and then require me to pay you another $10 to reprint them ten years from now, OR I can inkjet them here for about $1 and reprint them again in 2 years if necessary.

      You can print 36 prints off your inkjet for $1?

      Have you actually calculated the cost of printing out a full color 4x6 print (including ink)? I think you'll find it will cost you more than $1 for 36 -- closer to the $15+ mark.

      That said, I agree with your point that one of the m

  • image permanence (Score:3, Informative)

    by uncommontime ( 1111655 ) on Wednesday June 06, 2007 @08:55AM (#19409457) Homepage
    Ink jet print CAN last a long time, depending on what you use. Obviously if you're using a home desktop solution to print out your prints, they won't last very long, especially if you want to display them in any light. Supposedly Kodak came out with a solution [] not too long ago for the personal inkjet printer set, but I really don't think that those prints will last up to 100 years. Epson Ultrachrome K3 pigmented inks will last up to 100 years, depending on what stock you use. Papers with optical brightening agents (OBAs) will not last as long as virgin papers. For example, an Epson Premium Luster contains OBAs in order to make the paper "brighter" (i.e. it reflects more light off of its surface, it's not necessarily "whiter"). OBAs have a tendency to turn yellow over time, and that stock is only rated at about 70 years using the K3 inks. However, Epson's Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper, which has no OBAs, is rated to last 100 or more years using the K3 inks. The truth about it is, as long as you're using the manufacturer's ink (not a refill, because in my opinion, refills are worthless) and a manufacturer's paper, you'll get the desired results. That may not jive with a lot of people, they may not want to believe it, but it's definitely true. At least in this case, Epson has developed an extremely stable product, in the printer, the ink, and the paper. Here at RIT, there's something within my school called the Image Permanence Institute [] where they deal with this stuff day in and day out. I've actually never visited where they're at, but from what I hear, they can simulate putting around 100 years of light on any print to see the effects and rate a paper's or ink's permanence.
  • This is why no ancient photographs exist. We need to find a way to port our digital images to stone.
  • Who would want / need an inkjet print to last forever? Prints of any kind degrade over time. The great thing about digital copies is they remain in perfect condition as long as you keep them.

    Digital photos are much safer because of the ease of copying. The hard disc and CDs my first digital photos were stored on are now long gone - but the data is still there, on three PCs plus backup DVDs.

    I backup my photos and a couple of other bits and pieces onto both my work PC and my parent's PC every few months.
  • Yet another reason to not own an inkjet. Get yourself a nice color laser printer (laserjet 2605dn here). It will have postscript, so will talk to linux perfectly ( It's toner does not go bad if you don't print for a few months. You'll be able to print thousands of pages, even with the starter cartridges that come with the printer. It will print much faster. It will print on normal paper without bleeding. It will pay for itself very quickly (have you seen th
  • I'm a fairly recent convert to digital photography. I never considered for once using an inkjet -- got burned years ago by a series of Epson Stylus printers, and swore I'd never return to inkjet -- monochrome nor color.

    So, when I want hardcopies of my digital images, I send them to Adorama in NYC (Noritsu RGB laser printer / kodak Endura paper / traditional color chemistry)

    A few notes:

    For YEARS now, when you take film to be printed, that film is scanned, and what is printed is a low-rez scan of that film.

The party adjourned to a hot tub, yes. Fully clothed, I might add. -- IBM employee, testifying in California State Supreme Court