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Thread: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

  1. #1

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    Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    I've got a Canon Pixma Pro-100, but it uses dye inks, which so far I've found do not have enough UV blocking to print usable digital negatives--I find it's impossible to make prints without color in the highlights. I had an Epson 3880 which worked great for printing negatives, but had tons of problems and eventually died after a few years.

    I'm mainly looking to make digital negatives for contact printing cyanotypes and pt/pd and am hoping to spend <$500 USD or so since this printer will only be for digital negatives. The new Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 uses pigment inks and looks great, but it's $900 and unproven for use with digital negatives (I can't find any reviews that mention using it for that purpose). The new Epsons (p700, p900) also look great but are $799 and $1199 or so and are backordered. Ideally I'd prefer to avoid Epson given my woes with the 3880, but I would not rule out Epson completely.

    What pigment-based printers would you recommend for this purpose? Thank you!

  2. #2

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    It seems that Epson printers are the "defacto standard" for crafting digital negatives. All the software that I'm aware of are based on Epson, except Jon Cone's system. Most other techniques for the making of digital negatives are, also, based on Epson. Not saying a Canon pigment printer can't be used, but you might be on your own requiring much experimentation. Yeah, the newer Epson printers are dreadfully expensive and I understand your hesitation after your 3880 experience. FWIW, I had a similar experience with my 3880 (died after only a few years use!), but my R2880 (which I had for awhile before the 3880) is still going strong and produces beautiful digital negatives that I use for pt/pd printing. Have you given any thought to going with a used Epson? I know buying a used printer can be sketchy, but if you're careful you should be ok.

  3. #3

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    Quote Originally Posted by Justin K View Post
    . . . I had an Epson 3880 which worked great for printing negatives, but had tons of problems and eventually died after a few years.
    What were some of the problems that you encountered. I have a 3880, use it only once and a while (every few months), and have had no problems with it. Might it could be that you got a lemon?

    I'd probably go with the P series. My knowledge is dated on this, but it was only the 3800 (and those that followed) that were able to produce nice digital negatives. Other printers, like those that followed the 4000 series (4800, 4900, etc), had an artifact that showed up in continuous tone digital negatives. (It could not be seen in prints.) And that doesn't even take into account the CLOGGING ISSUES that the 4000 series printers had.

    Consider, you need a highly refined, pigment-based technology, and you don't want a problem machine. That combination comes at a cost.

  4. #4

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    Quote Originally Posted by Alan9940 View Post
    All the software that I'm aware of are based on Epson, except Jon Cone's system.
    The Piezography system is only for Epson printers. See https://shop.inkjetmall.com/Shop-By-Printer.

    Perhaps you mean that the Piezography processes (for digital negatives and regular printing) bypass the usual Epson OEM software in favor of the Quadtone RIP. In that sense, yes, but some might argue that they deliver substantial improvements in exchange.

    Considering how much we expect from printers, the prices strike me as rather modest. Apparently the business model is to basically give the printers away at or below cost and rely on materials (ink and paper) for a revenue stream.

    Given the pace of innovation, it's no surprise that they only last a few product cycles before needing repair or replacement IE upgrade. I presume that people who run commercial printing shops consider all of this when buying or leasing a large unit along with a service contract

  5. #5

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    Here is another option to consider http://www.robgalbraith.com/content_...=7-10053-10768
    z3200 is not a small printer and is discontinued but still can be found at a very low price used
    Never clogs
    Frugal on inks
    Inks don't go bad with age if purchased in HP original sealed packages. And can be found dirt-cheap too.
    Printheads are user-replaceable and do not cost a fortune
    Runs for ages and is mostly issue free
    Delivers excellent and absolutely neutral B&W prints
    Does not require ink swap between glossy and matte media
    Has an onboard spectro-photometer and profiling software for paper-specific profiling
    Can do digital negatives and regular prints with no alterations to printer or software.
    The digital negatives preset acts as just another paper type for the printer

  6. #6

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Lee View Post

    Perhaps you mean that the Piezography processes (for digital negatives and regular printing) bypass the usual Epson OEM software in favor of the Quadtone RIP. In that sense, yes, but some might argue that they deliver substantial improvements in exchange.
    Yes, and that his system uses his inks. Other software solutions use the OEM ink.

  7. #7

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    I've got the z3200 and messed around with the silver negative profiles - it seems to work well for contact prints, but I'm not sure I ever spent enough time to really dial it all in with regard to tone curves. Didn't notice any dots in the contact prints I made.

  8. #8
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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    I use a 3880 with Piezo inks and I think I'm ready to move up to a p7000 because of various headaches. I've tried making negs with my Canon Pro-1000 and it easily blocks 100%, but I haven't dialed in the tones yet. Overall, I think Quadtone Rip is the best way to go, so I'd stick with Epson. Maybe check with the Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/groups/digitalnegatives for advice on specific printers.

    -CB

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    If you do decide on Epson, OEM ink, QTR, and don't have any desire to dial in the correct tone curves (though it's not that hard; just requires time), you may want to take a look at the QuickCurve-DN product over on bwmastery.com. This software provides a really good start curve, then dials it in through a linearization process. If you're going to do pt/pd printing from your digital negs, then you could forego all the "technicalities" and follow the process posted on Bostick & Sullivan's website. Over the years, I've used Mark Nelson's Precision Digital Negatives system (very precise and quite powerful, if you really want to dig in), Richard Boutwell's QCDN (bwmastery.com), and Bostick & Sullivan's process. All generate very usable digital negatives for pt/pd printing. I've only dabbled with crafting digital negs for silver printing and never achieved anything I was satisfied with.

  10. #10

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    Re: Best "inexpensive" pigment-based printers for digital negatives in 2020?

    Just wanted to thank you all for the very helpful replies. Now I have a bunch more research to do. Someone on Facebook mentioned that they *are* able to create effective digital negatives with the Canon Pro-100 (with OEM ink), so it might not be the printer's (or the ink's) fault after all, but I've yet to verify that. Thanks again!

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