Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Buyer's Guide 2006: Printers
Expect photos with better color and longer life from today's printers
Until recently, there were primarily two camps when it came to inks. If you wanted better color saturation and brilliance, you went with dye inks. Pigment inks were the way to go if you wanted better fade-resistance. Today's generation of both dye- and pigment-based printers, however, deliver great color and decades' worth of lightfastness.
Resolution And Ink Delivery
Just as resolution has steadily increased in digital cameras, so has the resolution in inkjet printers. When it comes to printers, however, those higher numbers don't automatically mean better quality.
Although some assume that a printer's dpi (dots per inch) is directly related to the resolution of a camera, they're two separate things. A higher-resolution camera affords you a bigger print, but a higher-resolution setting on a printer may only mean the use of more ink with no discernible gain in quality.
A printer resolution between 1440 and 2880 dpi is more than sufficient for a quality enlargement. This is because our eyes aren't sensitive enough to tell the difference between a print created at a resolution of 1440 dpi and another created with a setting of 5760 dpi. The biggest difference with a printer's maximum resolution setting is dramatically longer print times and a need to replace ink cartridges more frequently.
But what has become more important to print quality is ink droplet size. Smaller droplets of four picoliters or less mean that a printer can better control how ink is delivered to the paper surface. Such fine control of droplet sizes improves the printer's ability to render subtle transitions of color and tone. For example, the color and tonality of a fabric in a photograph can change from highlight to shadow; texture also will change. A printer that delivers inks with smaller droplets can better reproduce those subtle differences on paper.
Another way in which inks have changed is that many photo-quality printers include individual cartridges. When inkjet printers were introduced, they often used two cartridges—one for black and the other for cyan, magenta and yellow inks. As technology has improved, however, ink counts have increased, and they have been enclosed in their own cartridges. This provides a cost savings by not requiring you to throw out an entire cartridge when only one ink has been depleted.
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