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    How to buy the best printer

    | Reviews | 22/12/2009 10:51am
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    What to look for when buying a printer for the first time

    Buying a printer for your photographs is a decision not to be taken lightly as you’ll want to get the most from your images when you print them out. With a baffling array of printers on the market to choose from, you could be forgiven for not knowing where to begin. Follow our handy hints and advice to make sure you get the best one.

    Buying a printer for your photographs is a decision not to be taken lightly as you’ll want to get the most from your images when you print them out. With a baffling array of printers on the market to choose from, you could be forgiven for not knowing where to begin. Follow our handy hints and advice to make sure you get the best one.

    Many digital photographers rely on internet printing services, from mass-market companies like Photobox to professional-quality outfits like Loxley Colour. But high resolution photo files equate to lengthy upload times, followed by an even longer wait for postal deliveries, and all control over the printing process is taken out of your hands.

    Apart from a few ‘postcard’ format printers, which still use dye-sublimation technology, inkjet printing is the order of the day and most manufacturers claim that their current models can rival or even surpass the quality of conventional silver halide printing. But photo printers are defi nitely not created equal, and there can be a surprisingly wide variance in the finer points.

    When buying a printer, it’s worth remembering that you’re also buying into a printing system that includes the manufacturer’s ink and photo paper supplies. Indeed, in many cases, a complete set of replacement ink cartridges will cost almost as much as the printer itself. It might be tempting to switch to lower priced, third-party ‘compatible’ ink cartridges and photo papers but, in our experience, the quality usually suffers noticeably for document printing, and horribly for photo output.

    We’ve also experienced much greater problems with nozzle blockages, resulting in light stripes printed across photos, when using inexpensive third-party inks. The chemistry between ink and paper is a surprisingly complex one.

    Whereas layers of different, translucent colours can be laid over each other in dye-sublimation printing, inkjet ink is opaque, so very small droplets of ink need to be laid next to each other on the page to build up complex colours and smooth graduations.

    This is why much higher print resolutions are required for inkjet printing compared with dye-sub printing, the droplets of ink being incredibly small and measuring only a few microns across. Premature fading can be caused by UV light, fluctuations in temperature and humidity, and gases in the air like ozone, nitrogen oxide and sulphur oxides.

    All of these factors are taken into account in the development of inks and papers, and how they work together, so that in most cases genuine supplies can create prints, which will last a lifetime, either in photo albums or framed behind glass. Independent tests have shown that, by comparison, prints created with cheap third-party inks and paper can start fading in just a few weeks.
     


    Posted on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 at 10:51 am under Reviews.

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