Home Buyer's Guide Printers
Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fine-Art Printers

The best inkjets for making gallery prints from your desktop

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Epson Stylus Pro 3880

In a world dominated by digital image files and social-media sharing, the physical photographic print is rarer—and more impressive—than ever. If you're going to print your work (which you should), pro-caliber inkjet printers are worth the investment. They deliver the best combination of high image quality, efficiency and low per-print price. Two manufacturers especially cater to the needs of discerning photographers: Canon and Epson. These companies offer a selection of truly pro-quality printers for the desktop. Here's a breakdown of their features and the technology that produces superlative prints.

For photographers who want to eke out every bit of print size possible, there's Epson's top-of-the-desktop-line Stylus Pro 3880. With a physical footprint about the same as most 13x19 printers, the 3880 can print up to 17x22. Nine UltraChrome K3 pigment inks in large individual cartridges work in conjunction with the AccuPhoto HD2 print-engine algorithm to deliver vivid, accurate colors across a wide range of tones and with smooth transitions and optimized ink blending. Advanced Black-And-White mode uses three black inks for neutral grayscale printing, and three separate paper paths (front, rear and top) make it easier to print on a variety of fine-art media, including especially thick papers. Estimated Street Price: $1,129.

When Canon's PIXMA PRO-1 hit the market last year, it made waves for its ability to produce beautiful black-and-white prints. Black-and-white printing is a challenge for inkjet printers, mainly because of the technological limitations of trying to approximate shades of gray using mostly color inks. The PIXMA PRO-1 includes 12 individual LUCIA pigment inks, of which five are grays and blacks, so only gray and black ink is used to deliver beautiful tonal range in black-and-white prints. The inks are also stored in very large tanks to help keep costs down, while more than 12,000 nozzles keep the print quality up. Print sheets up to 13x19, in color or black-and-white, at a maximum resolution of 4800x2400 dpi, for quality that rivals lab-made prints. Estimated Street Price: $999.

Epson Stylus Photo R3000
The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 is a wireless printer that uses nine UltraChrome K3 pigment inks. Pigment inks, as opposed to dye-based, are the ideal option for photographers who place a premium on archival permanence and longevity, as they're more durable and resistant to fading from exposure to light. The R3000 also incorporates auto-switching ink technology for seamlessly moving from glossy to matte paper. The normal procedure of replacing glossy ink with matte not only is time-consuming, but it also wastes expensive ink. Auto-switching means a more efficient and affordable workflow. Print sheets up to 13x19 and 13x44 on rolls. Tiny 2-picoliter ink droplets and 5760x1440 resolution produce smoother gradients for prints that approach the continuous-tone ideal. Estimated Street Price: $799.

Canon PIXMA PRO-10
The Canon PIXMA PRO-10 uses the same LUCIA pigment inks as the top-of-the-line PRO-1, but at a fraction of the price. The PRO-10 also prints up to 13x19, but it does so with two fewer inks in smaller cartridges. (The smaller the cartridge, the more frequently it will need to be replaced.) The PRO-10 uses 10 inks, three of which are black and gray for neutral grayscale printing, with a 4-picoliter drop size. The PRO-10 is also wireless-ready, so it can be positioned for printing well beyond your desktop—anywhere your wireless network can reach. Estimated Street Price: $699.


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