View Full Version : more about printing big and 4 x 5

2-Jun-2004, 20:08
This isn't exactly a new question, but I'd like to hear some more thoughts.... I have been working with 4 x 5 " film, mostly black and white, developing myself and printing as well. I want to get away from darkrooms and chemicals for a while, and also do some color work, but still want to have the beautiful resolution of 4 x 5" and printed big, 20 x 24". From the little research I've done, I can't get this with a digital camera, unless i'm willing to spend $30,000 for a digital back for my Hasselblad. And there doesn't seem to be a good scanning option except for expensive drum scanners. So it seems to me, again from the little research i've done, that I should shoot 4 x 5" color film, pay to have it scanned on a drum scanner (anyone know how much this will cost?), make any changes in photo shop, and then pay to have it printed --- unless someone can suggest a good printer for large images.

any thoughts...?

David A. Goldfarb
2-Jun-2004, 20:15
Check out www.westcoastimaging.com for prices and process recommendations. They do excellent work at a fair price. I recommend the new Chromira prints.

John Hollenberg
2-Jun-2004, 21:09
Have you compared the Chromira prints to lightjet prints (e.g., from Calypso Imaging)? I am interested in any differences between the two printers. I imagine that the results are fairly similar but haven't done a test myself yet.


Jeff Moore
2-Jun-2004, 21:28
Drum scans are going to cost you quite a bit. One option you might want to keep an eye out for is a used dedicated 4x5 film scanner. I use a Polaroid SprintScan 45 Ultra, which I purchased new a few years ago. They show up on Ebay from time to time. Just out of curiosity, I just took a peek and there are currently two up for auction (one is the earlier model SprintScan 45, the other is the later model SprintScan 45 Ultra). I print 24" wide prints from my 4x5 negs scanned on the 45 Ultra and I am extremely happy with the results. These scans are not equal to a high-quality drum scan, but there is, in my opinion, not that much difference. For comparison purposes, I had a couple of my 4x5 transparencies scanned at a local service bureau. These scans cost me $80 each. I made 24" wide prints from each of these scans and also from my own scans on the Polaroid, and honestly, I could tell very little difference. Certainly not enough for me to justify purchasing my own drum scanner or continually pay $80 per scan to a service bureau.

As far as a good printer for large images, you can't do better than the newest Epson large-format printers, the 7600 and 9600. You mentioned that you do mostly b/w, but some color as well. With a good RIP, such as ImagePrint, you can get wonderful color prints, as well as pretty good b/w. However, I believe to get the absolute best b/w prints, you are better off having a printer dedicated solely to b/w printing, with dedicated quadtone inks. There are several options, but in my opinion the current state-of-the-art for digital b/w printing consist of the following setup: Epson 7600/9600 printer; StudioPrint RIP; and Jon Cone's PiezoTone inks. There are others who share this opinion. If you want more in-depth info on this setup, Google search "Amadou Diallo." This is the setup he uses, and he has posted a couple of very in-depth user reviews on the "Luminous Landscape" website, and also for "Photo Techniques" magazine (not sure if this is available online).

It's not inexpensive and the learning curve is fairly steep, but if you want to do your own large-format digital b/w printing, this is the best way to go, in my opinion.

John Cook
3-Jun-2004, 04:49
I have spent a lifetime in advertising, horsing around with color prints. They are expensive, the color fades in sunlight, and they now come printed on a plastic base which is "iffy" for wall art.

I am too old, poor and stupid to venture very far into the new and complicated medium of digital imaging, which seems to be both expensive and much too quickly obsolete.

My solution to those images which cry out for color, such as autumn foliage and tossed garden salads, has been hand coloring my matte black & white prints.

The oldest and arguably best source of handoloring supplies is Marshall's. Here is twelve pages of their stuff at B&H:


Somewhere in all this stuff is a videotape which I recommend for the beginner. It really shows how simple the process can be. And perhaps how much of the enormous product line you don't really need.

chris jordan
3-Jun-2004, 09:00
LF, here's my suggestion: Get your originals drum scanned by Bob Cornelis at Colorfolio.com-- he's one of the best scanner operators in the country, has the best scanner (a Tango), and his scans are competitively priced. Then get yourself an Epson 7600. That will allow you to make spectacular archival 20x24" prints inexpensively, on a variety of papers, at the highest resolution of any color printing process (they are noticeably sharper than prints made on Crystal Archive paper by a Lightjet or the newer machine). This is currently the highest-quality color photographic printing method available, and is being used by the highest-end fine-art printing studios such as Nash Editions. I've been printing my own work for several years this way, so I know my way around all the roadblocks. If you need help with the particulars, feel free to e-mail me off-list.



d burdeny
3-Jun-2004, 14:45

How well does the Epson 7600 output B&W images, and what dpi does it require for optimum resolution? Iím currently outputting all of my work through a lightjet printer up here in Vancouver, and Iím waiting for the day I donít have to have someone else print my images. If the 7600 could out-perform a lightjet print (print quality/$ per print), Iíd eagerly pick one up. Also, what do you figure your material costs are for a 20x24Ē print?

Michael Chmilar
3-Jun-2004, 15:20
If you are testing the waters, here is one approach to consider.

Before you buy any equipment, choose an image, and get a scan and prints made by West Coast Imaging (http://www.westcoastimaging), Calypso (http://www.calypsoinc.com), or one of the other recommended service bureaux that are discussed on this site.

For the scan, you want to choose a bureau that uses the Heidelberg Tango drum scanner (or an equivalent quality ICG or Fuji scanner).

You can have the same image printed on Fuji Crystal Archive using the Lightjet or Chromira, and also on an Epson 9600. Then you can directly compare the two media, and decide which you prefer.

Most bureaux offer a scan/photoshop/print package, where they also do some Photoshop adjustments to your image. For a flat fee, they will do some basic levels and color balance adjustments, and deliver a fairly "straight" color print. They return the scan data on a CD, and the finished prints. This will cost you less than buying any equipment, and it will show you what the current "state of the art" is in color imaging.

After this, if you like the results, you can decide where your money is best spent, and whether to acquire equipment, or pay the service bureau.

Personally, my cost balance is to: Pay for Tango scans; do my own Photoshop work; get prints made at a service bureau.

Owning your own Tango, Lightjet, or Chromira is not cost effective. The Epson printers are at the price/performance point now where it makes sense to own one, if your usage is heavy enough. The scanners you can buy cheaply do not compete too well with the high-end drum scanners for delivering clean, high resolution scans.

QT Luong
3-Jun-2004, 18:57
20x24 is not very large a print. I would suspect that at this printing size 4x5 scans from a relatively inexpensive flatbed such as the Epson 4870 would not be that different from scans from a hi-end scanner. Where drum scanners shine is really for 35mm :-) Also, did your research include viewing prints made with a $5000 dDCS Pro/n ? l wouldn't be surprised if the difference between that and 4x5 was minimal at the size you are envisionning.

Bruce Watson
6-Jun-2004, 12:25
For drum scanning 4x5 film, if you are going to do 50 or more a year and aren't afraid of a few learning curves (no more difficult than learning how to use a view camera), then I advise considering a used drum scanner. An excellent scanner with all the trimmings can be had for USD 5k or less. If you are a stickler for quality, drum scanning is unbeatable IMHO.

On the other hand, if you are sure your output size will stay at 20x24 or below, consider a consumer flatbed scanner like the Epson 4870, as QT Luong suggests.

For printing, you can always send it out if you don't mind the delays and loss of control. If you want to bring it in-house, clearly inkjet is the way to go - look at the Epson 7600 and 9600 printers.

Something to note: It is possible to use color inks to print B&W, with some loss of quality compared to using B&W inks. Otherwise, to print both Color and B&W, you'll want two printers, each with the appropriate inks. Ink change over is a pain, and quite expensive, in the larger printers.

Something else to consider: You could buy a smaller printer (say, Epson 2200) to use as a proofing printer. When you get an image the way you want it, send it out for printing at the larger size. Doing some printing on your own will help you come to terms with the medium much more quickly and therefore perhaps get you better results when you do send stuff out for printing on larger printers.

For all this, clearly, YMMV.

Doug Dolde
1-Jul-2004, 22:15
I have been using the Tango - Lightjet or Chromira workflow with great results. For relatively low volume I feel this is pretty cost effective for the quality one gets.

I've tried owning a drum scanner (Screen 1030i) and just had a hell of a time with the mounting process so gave it up. I recently had a test scan done by Creo on the iQsmart2 flatbed to compare it with a Tango scan. The Creo scan was done at 3600 dpi, 8 bit compared to the Tango at 2400 dpi, 8 bit. Both were Kami mounted. To my surprise the Creo scan is actually better. This may be due to the higher dpi but at any rate I am impressed. This is still a ~$10-12K purchase but it sure blows away the Imacons and will do 4x5, 8x10 and maybe 11x14. Unfortunately the iQamart2 does not output a 16 bit file; you need the iQsmart3 for that. Still, I plan to buy one sometime soon.