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Thread: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

  1. #1
    aero
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    Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Hi All,

    Just wanted to say hi - I'm new to the board, though an art photog for some time...

    I thought I'd weigh in with a recent finding. It should have been obvious, really - but last week I moved from a 17inch flat panel to a 30 inch (Apple) and it has made a huge difference in the quality of my large prints. I can see the effects of my edits so much clearer - it's already saved me $$ in wasted paper on bad prints.

    I was wondering - does anyone have experience comparing Lightjet prints to the best output of an Epson 3800? I have 15 prints to make (17x22) for a show and have been noticing that the 3800 output, while good, just isn't like my old silver gel prints. I've tried Hahnemule and Epson Exhibition paper... Good stuff, but still not the same. The light doesn't hit it the same way.

    All the best,
    -Dan

  2. #2
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Dan,

    Your inquiry is very timely.

    We have a pro lab that has Noritsu and Durst photographic printers. The term Lighjet derives from one of the earlier printers, an OCE Lightjet. As far as I know, these printers aren't made any more. Most of the larger prints you see are from Durst Theta 51 and Lambdas. All these machines use laser imagers to draw an image on regular silver halide (AgX) photographic paper, which is then developed in RA4 chemistry. Many of the pro papers have been reformulated to take advantage of the narrower spectrum of laser light vs. visible white light spectrum. Some printers like the Chromira and Durst Epsilon/Theta 76 are LED printers. In our opinion (and experience) laser is far superior to LED.

    We also have two Epson 9600 printers which we run through an Image Print RIP. We've been unhappy about the quality of these printers (especially in comparison to our Durst) for a long while now. The inkjet keeps falling short in gamut and tonal accuracy even though we have good profiles and have tweaked Image Print. So, we're trying to decide between an Epson 9880 and HP Z3100 to replace one of our printers since we've heard good things about both models.

    I had our vendor who also does their own fine art edition printing run some tests using a stanard test target and one of my M8 images (see attached). The image was processed though C1 with my custom M8 profile (made with i1 XT) on a calibrated Eizo monitor. It should print perfectly. The rules that I set out for the test were that there could be no correction done to the image, only using the correct output profile through the native print drivers from CS3.

    The results weren't bad. At first I thought that the gamut was better in both the Epson and the HP. The Epson had more vivid reds and the HP had better DMax and neutrals. Overall, the Epson looked flat and "digital" and the HP was closer to my intended image. Then I printed the image on the 9600. It was almost the same as the 9880! No great leaps and bounds improvements. This was a bit of a surprise to us.

    Then the real test began. I ran a photographic print on Kodak Endura E surface (lustre) paper to compare. Wow! The photographic print looked stunning by comparison. Sharper, dead-on match to my on-screen image, snappier, and just much more appealing overall. The inkjet prints all looked like the picutre was taken through a dirty window - they had a haze over them. The photographic print looked like reality. I also noticed that the flowers' colors got lost in the ink prints. The different shades bled together. The other thing is that all the details like the grass turned to mush. On the photo print each blade of grass was clearly defined.

    Understand that we have been making a lot of prints for a lot of clients for a very long time (35 years). I've been involved in digital imaging since 1991. Operator error really isn't the issue here.

    While I think that inkjet printing has its place, I don't think that ink prints are at the same level as photographic ones. Sure, you have many more paper options with inkjet, but I think that photographic still has the quality edge. While I'm on a roll... (my head, at least among this crowd ) when did 17x22 become a standard size? 16x20, 20x30 = standard sizes. 10x13, 13x19, 17x22... not easy to find a frame... I'll leave it at that.

    Needless to say, before we endevoured on this test, our vendor who is trying to sell us one of these fine machines told me that I shouldn't compare the inkjet output to our photographic prints and I shouldn't get my hopes up. "After all, is it really fair to compare a $7,000 printer to a $250,000 one?" he said. My point exactly.

    David
    The lab guy (today)

  3. #3
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Quote Originally Posted by dfarkas View Post
    ...Then I printed the image on the 9600. It was almost the same as the 9880! No great leaps and bounds improvements. This was a bit of a surprise to us...
    Dan, it is a surprise to me as well because I had a 9600 that I replaced with my current 9800 — and I found a huge difference in quality: the 9800 prints on glossy-type paper are much richer, with much deeper, more satisfying blacks; it's a huge, day-and-night difference that hits you in the face immediately. I'm talking about large B&W prints made with ImagePrint on Luster paper. With my 9600 I felt that I had to have the prints laminated to get the type of blacks I wanted, but no longer with the 9800. Indeed, the 9600 prints look like they have "a haze over them", as you say, compared to the 9800 prints.

    If you are talking about prints with Matte Black ink on matte papers, then the difference is likely to be minimal. But if you are talking about prints with Photo Black ink on glossy-type papers then the difference has to be huge. But if you are really talking about the latter then I simply cannot understand how you would not see the huge difference; and if that is the case I would have a hard time believing that the prints from the $25,000 printer must be better than those from the $7,000 printer.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
    Last edited by Mitch Alland; 11th March 2008 at 19:41.

  4. #4
    aero
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    David, thanks so much for the intricate description - I have a better understanding for what I'm looking at now. Seems like a good plan to treat my 3800 as a way to proof my images before having them photographically printed.

    To be honest, I'm coming to realize that my expectations for print output are much higher than my equipment and skill at profiling can deliver. I don't want to be a digital print specialist, just a photographer. It's time to defer this to the pros.

    17x22 isn't a set size - I hear ya there It's what Epson's Exhibition Paper comes in the largest size. Framing will likely be 16x20 in the end with matte.

    Mitch: Matte prints are actually quite acceptable from the 3800. Sadly, they are only a tiny fraction of what I print. Maybe when I start working on a little more pastel and "brighter" imagery - right now, I feel dark.

    All the best,
    -Dan

  5. #5
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    I have a 23x58 Lambda in B&W. All I can say is that I think my 9800 print of the same file looks better.

    —Mitch/Bangkok
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    I had the good (bad) fortune to see the prints David is talking about. The truth is that both the Epson and HP prints looked good, different from each other, but good... until they were compared to the photographic print. Then they both suffered dramatically, especially the reds and greens which comprise a large portion of the referenced image. I kind of think that this is one of those ignorance is bliss things. If you aren't comparing the images side by side you may be happy. Once you do, it's off to the lab for those special prints.

  7. #7
    aero
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Laser has me excited about output... Are there other photographic papers that can be used with modern laser light prints? I've seen the Fuji papers, but am wondering if I can use my old stash of Agfa or perhaps something similar?

    I'm heading up to Calypso on Tuesday - fingers crossed!

    -Dan

    Quote Originally Posted by David K View Post
    I had the good (bad) fortune to see the prints David is talking about. The truth is that both the Epson and HP prints looked good, different from each other, but good... until they were compared to the photographic print. Then they both suffered dramatically, especially the reds and greens which comprise a large portion of the referenced image. I kind of think that this is one of those ignorance is bliss things. If you aren't comparing the images side by side you may be happy. Once you do, it's off to the lab for those special prints.

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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Quote Originally Posted by aero View Post
    Laser has me excited about output... Are there other photographic papers that can be used with modern laser light prints? I've seen the Fuji papers, but am wondering if I can use my old stash of Agfa or perhaps something similar?

    I'm heading up to Calypso on Tuesday - fingers crossed!

    -Dan
    Dan,

    My guess would be no, you can't use your paper. These machines are roll-feed only. You'll generally only see Kodak Professional Enudra and Fuji Crystal Archive paper being run through.

    My personal taste is for the Kodak Endura. Fuji paper is thin physically and produces somewhat flat color in my opinion. I prefer the Kodak richness of tone and great dmax.

    YMMV.

    Good luck.

    David

  9. #9
    aero
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Hi David,

    Ouch - only one good paper choice (Endura)?? I might need to look at a DeVere digital enlarger somewhere then... I wonder if anyone in San Francisco offers services for enlarging with this setup? Then I could use whatever papers I want!

    -D

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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Dan,

    I actually never heard of a DeVere enlarger before so I checked out their page. It apparently uses an 8MP LCD panel for exposure. The resolution is not constant - as you make a larger print the output resolution drops. Our Theta is a constant 400ppi no matter what size you print.

    Also, I don't see how this system is calibrated. On our Durst, we print a test target which we feed into an X-Rite densitometer/spectrophotometer. This creates a linearization curve for the paper which allows us to print perfectly neutral B&W on color paper using color lasers. I'm not sure this result could be achieved with this DeVere system. It appears to be a "home-built" kind of thing.

    As far as paper goes, the Endura is very, very good and comes in different surfaces: glossy F, lustre E, metallic (very cool) and matte N (which I don't recommend). Before drawing judgement I'd have some prints made.

    For more info regarding Endura paper:

    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/profe...24.14.24&lc=en

    For more info regarding Durst Theta 51:

    http://www.durst.it/stage1/index.php...=1&produktId=6

    David

  11. #11
    aero
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Hey David,

    Thanks for looking it up - I wasn't aware that larger prints suffered quality issues on the DeVere. I sure wish you were located in San Francisco, it'd be nice to work with you.

    I have a sample of the Endura being printed in glossy, luster and matte for tuesday - will report and see how it stacks up. I'm just praying this works.

    -D

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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Quote Originally Posted by aero View Post
    Hey David,

    I sure wish you were located in San Francisco, it'd be nice to work with you.
    We do work for photographers all over the country. Wonderful things - the Internet and carriers like DHL, UPS and FedEx.

    David

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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    I've gotten some amazing prints from Dale Labs especially some work they've done for me on their metallic paper. I doubt a web image can communicate the beauty of these prints but maybe David can explain a little bit more about them. For those who've never done it... treat yourself to something special. Just make sure you've picked the right image to do it with. Anything with light reflected off water is simply amazing.

  14. #14
    aero
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    How are prints shipped via Fedex? I received some large prints last year via UPS and they were curled over themselves in a shipping tube (thus the image was scratched) and the curl caused a small headache to mount. I'm game for a shipped print - just curious how it's done!

    ...and now I'm really curious about the metallic prints. I have a water shot that could use some sparkle

    All the best,
    -Dan

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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    We ship prints in flat boxes, not in tubes. Each print is packed between cardboards with tissue paper, then packed in a shipping box. We almost never have any damaged prints this way. It does cost us a lot more to do this (which is why most places do the tube thing), but we find that the print holds up much better and we have no returns due to damage. We do this for a single print or for 30.

    For example, we just shipped out 22 20x30 prints mounted on 3/16" gatorboard, plus 500 8x12 metallic prints to the WPPI show for a wedding seminar. No damage. If anyone got a chance to see the Leica booth at PMA this year, we printed and mounted all the elnargements for the booth. Also did the all the prints for them for PhotoPlus in NYC. And Leica ONLY uses UPS. If UPS can't damage prints, then nobody can!

    The metallic paper is really cool. The paper base is actually silver, not white. Images have an irredescent look to them when printed on it. The most common question we get about metallic prints is, "Wow. Can I get this paper for my inkjet printer?" Of course, the answer to that is "no." Nothing like metallic exists for inkject.

    David

  16. #16
    aero
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    David, et al,

    I'm a little confused by the "Summary and Conclusion" statement at Eric Chan's website: http://people.csail.mit.edu/ericchan...00/gamuts.html

    Quote: "If you use sRGB or Adobe RGB as your working space (e.g., in Photoshop), then you won't be able to access all the colors the 3800 is capable of printing. These missing colors are usually the light yellows and the mid-to-dark greens and red/magentas. Use a wider space such as ProPhoto RGB to unlock these colors and make full use of your printer and paper's gamut!"

    I've been advised by several pro shops (most recently the excellent Dale's!) to use sRGB for my photos, as this is more than most monitors and printers can handle anyway. Is this website wrong or am I missing something obvious?

    Whatever the color gamut one chooses, it seems like an artist should be prepared to choose a paper type depending on the image at hand. Images that are intended for displaying in the same show, then, might require a lot of work if one intends to present them on the same paper for consistency... ?

    Thanks, and sorry for all the newb questions.

    -Dan
    Last edited by aero; 23rd March 2008 at 23:47.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    We discuss this in detail on our printing workshop, but the simplistic (and not fully complete) answer is this: The light-jet style laser printers that use traditional silver paper have small gamuts, and sRGB contains almost all of the colors they can render. They look more saturated because the chemical process of the paper enhances saturation. IOW, you get a traditional wet-print from C-41 negative film rendering from an sRGB file.

    By contrast, ink-jet printers have significantly larger gamuts, Epson K3 being larger than most others, able to replicate colors that sit outside of Adobe RGB (mostly in the high yellows and blues). Ink-jets can produce a print that has greater total tonal range and in fact a significantly greater amount of colors (gamut). However, that total range is still represented by viewing a reflective print, so the prints often look "flatter" and/or less saturated than a comparable light-jet print; light-jet gets into its blacks and paper whites over far less range than inkjet.

    Additionally, the traditional silver paper can have a glossier appearance that increases the perception of both sharpness and saturation. The big however is that once you mount any of these prints behind glass of plexi, the total "gloss" component is pretty much identical... Another big however is when it comes to printing B&W, the inkjet with it's much longer tonal range does a significantly better job of rendering a traditional B&W print look than a lightjet can. The light-jet looks like a B&W printed traditionally on color paper...

    Simplest answer is that you need to know how to process for and print properly from an inkjet to get the most out of it...

    Cheers,
    Jack
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  18. #18
    Mitch Alland
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Jack, I think you're spot-on: at least what you say matches my experience as I stated in a posting above, where I said that Epson K3 B&W prints are better in terms of dynamic range and dMax than Lambda prints.

    —Mitch/Windhoek
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    We discuss this in detail on our printing workshop, but the simplistic (and not fully complete) answer is this: The light-jet style laser printers that use traditional silver paper have small gamuts, and sRGB contains almost all of the colors they can render. They look more saturated because the chemical process of the paper enhances saturation. IOW, you get a traditional wet-print from C-41 negative film rendering from an sRGB file.

    By contrast, ink-jet printers have significantly larger gamuts, Epson K3 being larger than most others, able to replicate colors that sit outside of Adobe RGB (mostly in the high yellows and blues). Ink-jets can produce a print that has greater total tonal range and in fact a significantly greater amount of colors (gamut). However, that total range is still represented by viewing a reflective print, so the prints often look "flatter" and/or less saturated than a comparable light-jet print; light-jet gets into its blacks and paper whites over far less range than inkjet.

    Additionally, the traditional silver paper can have a glossier appearance that increases the perception of both sharpness and saturation. The big however is that once you mount any of these prints behind glass of plexi, the total "gloss" component is pretty much identical... Another big however is when it comes to printing B&W, the inkjet with it's much longer tonal range does a significantly better job of rendering a traditional B&W print look than a lightjet can. The light-jet looks like a B&W printed traditionally on color paper...

    Simplest answer is that you need to know how to process for and print properly from an inkjet to get the most out of it...

    Cheers,

    Jack,

    I saw you at the Leica booth at PMA (albeit very briefly). Did you happen to look at any of the mounted 20x30s hanging around the booth? There were some B&W prints shot by Andrew Niessen and some color shots by Costa Manos and Justin Stailey of Leica. Our lab produced those "lightjet" prints. In fact, we print all the trade show sample prints for Leica.

    I'd be curious to hear what your opinion of the the PMA prints was.

    And, moreover, I'd be game for a print-off with any forum member, including yourself. Call it a "Pepsi challenge if you will... Any takers?

    David

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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Hi David:

    I don't specifically recall the prints you had on display, but let me be clear: I have seen many Lambda/Lightjet prints and they are impressive, no debate about it!

    My only points above is that they do have a smaller gamut than inkjet, and they do NOT do B&W very well, at least by comparison to inkjet. But for MOST color output, especially landscape and people, they are tough to beat.

    I think the more stimulating discussion is why this might be... Bottom line is it means that for color output, large gamuts and excessive DR may not be the end-all for prints. What I suspect is that most viewers may simply prefer the added "punch" of the more saturated "candy-gloss" colors the light-jets put out...

    Or maybe it's because it better matches what we're used to seeing on our computer monitors???

    What is interesting however, is that several experienced photographers are showing preference for lesser-saturated, longer tonal range color prints now... I don't think it's a majority yet, but seems to be an ever-increasing number...

    The other thing to note is when one starts comparing the same inkjet and lightjet prints side-by-side, you notice the extra or extended shadow detail and longer tonality in the highlights of the inkjet. Again, I'm not convinced this makes it a "better" color print, just that it is noticeable. However, the better shadow detail and longer highlight tonality I'm convinced is what makes the inket B&W look better.

    Cheers,
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

  21. #21
    hgmoore
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    ...
    Or maybe it's because it better matches what we're used to seeing on our computer monitors???
    ...
    Jack, This line in your post has made the light bulb in my head turn on.

    I stopped by a small framing shop/gallery here in Anderson the other day, and they had some of both print types on display. The ink jet prints were a little more subtle, but the detail difference in tonal ranges very much favored them. Both color and BW. And you are right, the grey scale prints are fantastic.

    Viewing an Escher print is a good analogy. Every time I returned to look at the inket versions, I saw more details, Escher prints have the same effect for me. (at normal viewing distance for my eyesight of ~ 2-3' for these)

    Now I have to find the $$ for an Epson 3800. Might have to settle for an HP B9180, but I do need to start doing my own prints.

    harvey

  22. #22
    aero
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    Re: Big monitor, so much better... Lightjet?

    Well, it's been a long road - but I'm coming closer to seeing visually what I've been reading in this wonderful forum. I'm waiting for some laser prints to come - but one thing is clear: printing an image is (as it has always been) a highly technical skill. Digital makes things much easier, but I am still left with many decisions in order to make my prints the best they can be; it is still often about setup and trial/error. I'll report my first findings in a week or so when all the prints come in - for now, the learning continues - just wanted to say thanks to everyone for the great info and assistance.

    Best,
    -Dan

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