View Full Version : Where to start in B&W inkjet printing?
I feel like this shouldn't be a question I need to ask, yet, I don't see anything else current in the category... As I've been out of practice for well over a year, I'd like to start getting back into things...
With the purchase of a new computer and a new 4x5 camera, I think I'd like to get into printing.. Previously, I'd contact print and then pay a lab to enlarge if I wanted something bigger. I already have an Epson Perfection 2450, and with a new iMac in place I have the capability to scan and work larger files.. I just don't know what to output on.
When I last gave this serious thought, around the time I picked up the 2450, the Epson 1280 printer was the choice to beat.. I still see the 1280 being sold, but in the last two years surely there's been some serious ground gained.
I'd like to print 4x5 B&W prints and colour 645 both scanned with my current 2450, and have no issue if I have to turn to aftermarket inks. I also don't need to be the leading edge of technology, but I don't want to purchase somethign destined for the short list.
I'd like to keep expenditures to under $400, and the closer I come into $300 the better.
What's the vast majority of people using these days? Besides real enlargers, coz I don't have the space. ;)
Your 2450 should work o.k. with your 4x5 negatives but I'm not so sure about 645. That scanner isn't designed for smaller formats, it's not good for prints from 35mm negatives and 645 isn't all that much larger than 35mm. Apart from that, the printer you choose depends a lot on the size prints you want to make. If you're happy going no larger than 8x10 I've read that the Epson R200 (hope I've got that right) produces excellent results and sells for about $90. If you'll be enlarging beyond 8x10 you might investigate an Epson 2200 using Roy Harrington's RIP (www.harrington.com) for your b&w prints. The 2200 has been replaced by the 2400 but I think you can still buy a new 2200 and probably for not much more than $400 now that it's been replaced by the 2400. Or you can buy a used 2200 on ebay for about $400.
The main problem you have is your desire to make both color and b&w prints from the same printer and to spend no more than $300-$400 for the printer. It's pretty much impossible to make b&w prints from color inks without getting at least a slight color cast unless you also buy a RIP for use when printing b&w (though Roy Harrington's RIP makes that much more feasible than it used to be when RIPs started at $500 and went up from there). The lastest line of Epson photo printers (2400/4800 et al) have an advanced black and white feature that I'm told allows you to make neutral b&w prints out of the box but the 2400 costs a lot more than $400. If you're willing to start out printing only b&w then visit the MIS web site and look at the printers for which they sell quadtone inks (i.e. monochrome inks from which color prints can't be made), then check the prices of those printers. With quadtone inks you give up the ability to print color but it's a relatively inexpensive way to make excellent b&w prints from inexpensive printers.
[Warning: comments from an amateur]
What do you wish to accomplish that your lab couldn't do? Or is this change because you want the satisfaction of doing it yourself?
Whenever I can afford it, I pay a professional to do a job better than I can. I take no satisfaction from successfully developing film, scanning, photoshopping, or printing. Of course these are areas full of potential creativity, but they bore and/or aggravate me. The process I am interested in is complete once I have pressed the cable release. Then I let others do the dirty work. This also frees me from the latest-technology merry-go-round.
Firstly join these groups to get more info:
Your best bet is to use your 1280 with MIS UT2 B+W Inks.
Go to the bottom of this page and order the “Refill Kit with MIS UT2 Black & White Inks - 1270/1280/1290”
To drive the printer use QuadToneRip for $50.00. http://www.quadtonerip.com
QTR has about four paper profiles to print with.
Total cost is under $200.00
The above was/is my setup but I recently purchased an Epson 4800 for all my printing needs.
Why? Because for too long I've been dependant on one step that I had no control over. It was the one portion where I no longer had the capability to handle it on my own.
Although, on re-reading my post and the comments, it makes me wonder why I can't simply hand colour scans to a lab and have them do the printing in the end. Despite being a computer jock in my day job, and having grown up with this stuff, I really don't have the foggiest notion of what goes on in printing, etc.
Sounds like concentration on B&W printing might be the answer for this stage of the game. I hate to see my 645 even further relegated to the back of the closet, but I've always truly enjoyed B&W photography.. I'm willing to sacrifice for my art. Heh.
I'm going to do some research on RIP, as I said I don't have the slightest idea of what goes on here. I've never been on anything but the peripheral of inkjet printing, and the time I've spent removed makes it even more confusing.
So, in a nutshell, if I buy a printer compatible with Harrington's RIP (and use it), I've already taken a significant step in the potential for quality? They specifically mention the 1270/80 as well as the 21/2200 series..
Maybe a used 1270 from eBay is the way to start off.
A good letter-sized printer for B&W is the lowly and inexpensive >$100 Epson C86. Because it uses fewer inks than it's big photo brothers like the 2400, it will print a smooth B&W without plugging up the shadows. It works very nicely with textured papers that tend to absorb too much ink otherwise.
Otherwise, I would jump up to a Harrington RIP and perhaps a used Epson 2200 or 2400, although the ink costs are killer. The 1280 with MIS inks is also a good possibility.
As for scanning 645 on a Epson 2450, it will do for work prints and smaller sizes (8x10) but I doubt you will like it for larger, more serious work.
If you can live with 8.5 inch wide prints the newest Canon printers are excellent and cheap - under $200. I have an IP5200 that makes wonderful glossy prints - as nice as any output device I've seen - which is most all of them. The one picoliter dots make for excellent rendition of fine detail.
Sending it a neutral file as B&W returns a slightly eggplant colored print thats quite pleasing. Of course you can get variations easy enough by toning your file. You can do great color printing too. You'll have fewer known paper choices than with an Epson but that might be just fine depending on what you want to use.
I use mine for very light duty office printing as well - its fast and quiet and uses an additional black pigment ink for plain paper printing that looks nice.
Here's some B&W printing info you may find useful:
I bought one of the 'black only' samples, and it was certainly top quality. When my lab shuts down, I'll probably go with that method, it sounds the easiest.
Don't discount HP products. The HP Photosmart 8700 uses a 9 ink set and can produce beautiful b&w prints up to 13X19. It has a list price of $449 but can be found for less. Also might consider the HP Photosmart 8200 which uses a 6 ink set.
While I am not a big digital user, these might be worth a look and read.
In the $400 and under range you should do a bit of looking first and then decide. I would start with the Epson R800, if you can live with prints no larger than 8x10. This is Epson's entry level printer that uses their pigmented inks. An alternative is oneof the Canon printers using their new inks (called colorlife if I remember correctly) some of these printers actually come in at under 300. One caveat, I use Epson R800 printers for production printing of notecards and they do a beautiful job. I tried a Canon (believe it was the P6600) running it side-by-side with the R800 and, whileit looked good on its own, the images were not quite as vibrant as those from the Epson. The next step up from Epson, the R1800 will give you larger prints but is going to go over your 400 budget unless you find a sale or rebate or refurb. The 1280 is a very nice printer but I think you get more bang for yoru buck withi one of the other, mor erecent designs. YMMV though.
Some folks have good experience with HP printers and their output is very nice but there are also reports that they have mechanical and reliability problems. I have no direct knowledge of this, only what I get from those in the printing and paper industry.
As for your scanner, it is adequate for 4x5 and marginal for 6x4.5. Get a printer, make your scans and see if you are satisfied with the quality. If you aren't then the more current offerings from Epson or those from Microtek in the same price range aren't going to offer you enough of an improvement to make the expenditure worhtwhile. You will need to move up to a Microtek 1800f to see real improvement and that is more $$.
As a side note, we'd be happy to have you in one of our scanning workshops. One next month in Springfield, MA has one slot left and there will be two more coming up this summer in the Ohio and California ... dates coming soon. Finally, there is a half day scanning workshop at the View Camera Conference this year.
John, since you have experience with both the 4800 and the 1280 with quadtone, would you mind comparing their black and white output?
I only want to print up to 13x19 in b/w so if the 1280 is close to the 4800 I would rather go that route for now.
Eric: For whatever reason, popular support seems to rally behind the Epson products. Being that I'm already clueless in this field, I think I'm going to stick with the unofficial leader, for now.
Others: I did some more reading, and while I've forgotten almost everything already, I do know that the mid-priced Epson line (the R2xx and R3x, IIRC) seems to have some support in the products I should be learning about, as well as being realistically priced to try out and see how I can cope and learn.
Once I start with a budget unit, I can decide if I should invest it something larger or if I'm outclassed and need to stick with contact prints and lab fees. Sounds like once I get a basis int hings like calibration and profiles, using an outside lab to print won't be such an issue.
Thanks guys, I think some of the links here will be terriffically helpful, I've definatly got some research to do.
Gary L. Quay
I've seen B&W prints from the Epson 2400, and they are yummy. It was designed to remedy the Epson R800 / 1800 series' inability to do good matte (and to a lesser extent, B&W) photos. I have a R800, and it does spectacular glossy prints. It also uses archival pigments (K3), not inks or dyes (although, I really don't understand the difference. It's what I was told), as does the 2400. Since I do mostly matte work, just imagine my surprise. I'll be saving up to buy a 2400.
From what I've heard, the Epson pigment system is the standard for archival digital printing currently. I've seen Calls for Art that won't accept digital prints unless thay have the K3 system. No, I'm not a sales rep. It seems to be the consensus among the pro camera shops here in Portland, Oregon... Both of them.
the 2400 and bigger with the K3 inks are excellent - really good on matte/rag art papers, excellent on RC gloss/semi-gloss, but imo they are really starting to shine on the new coated cotton rag papers like Silver Rag (and possible the new DaVinci - I see a whole new crop of these coming out in the next while). A surface quite close to air dried FB Glossy/semi-glossy - but basically a pleasant surface with a cotton fibre base - not a plasticy feel and look that the current RC papers (both silver and ink) have. A real sense of depth to the image (it feels more to sit underneath the surface of the print rather than just on the top), excellent shadow detail and tonal range - DMax up to around 2.7. Also much tough than earlier papers - waterproof, surface doesn't scratch off. Also a nice feel and heft to the paper. These are giving me really rich prints
Silver Rag is being released in the next week. And if you go to PMA you should be able to see some samples...
I think these papers are really bringing ink printing into its own - I expect a few more from the major manufacturers in the next year.
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