"The Epson Stylus Photo
The Best Digital Darkroom Output Device Yet"
By Larry Berman
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| There have been many milestones in the
digital evolution of photography. Affordable cameras with multi-million
pixel resolution and storage devices with gigabytes of capacity have
done their part in bringing us closer to using digital output as the
norm. Until recently, the one thing that had been lacking for both
digital and traditional photographers was a true photographic quality
printer that was both affordable and offered stable, long lasting
prints. Although inkjet manufacturers have produced many photo realistic
printers, few could really match the quality, let alone the longevity,
of a traditional silver halide photographic print.
| In early 2000, Epson revolutionized the
printing industry with the introduction of two new inkjet printers, the
Epson Stylus Photo 870 and the 1270, both of which could produce print
quality equal to, or exceeding, the quality of all but the best
traditional prints. Perhaps more importantly, these two printers used
new inks and papers that could produce prints with a life of 20+ years.
| Now Epson has continued the revolution by
giving us the Stylus Photo 2000P (and the larger format 7500 and 9500
printers). These printers are capable of producing prints of museum
quality, which Epson states, have a lightfastness of over 200 years.
The Epson Stylus Photo 2000P
| The cost of the 2000P and its consumables
are higher than the 1270, but when compared to the cost of traditional
custom printing, the new Epson printer is quite affordable for the
serious photographer. The estimated consumable cost of ink and paper is
approximately $4.00 for an 8x10 print, and the 2000P will print edge to
edge up to 13 x 44 inches. It even comes with a roll paper holder.
| Four new papers have been released to date,
with others on the way. The current Epson papers for the 2000P include a
Premium Semigloss Photo Paper and a Premium Luster Photo Paper (which
gives photo-realistic prints), as well as an Archival Matte Paper and a
Watercolor Paper for more artistic expressions.
| The quality and longevity of these prints,
which rivals or exceeds almost all traditional printing processes, was
accomplished by Epson's research into ways to micro encapsulate pigment
based inks (as opposed to traditional dye based inks) in a resin, so
they could be deposited through Epson's MicroPiezo nozzles. The new
pigment based inks, in conjunction with newly formulated papers from
Epson, are much more stable over time, which accounts for their
| With the computer, photo editing software,
and these new Epson printers, photographers can now retain as much
control or more than had been possible with traditional darkroom
techniques. Although there is some trial-and-error involved in obtaining
a print that is outstanding, with a consistent workflow there is more
predictability over the final image than ever before.
| Working with a Master
| David W. Kelley is an award winning nature
and wildlife photographer who has experimented with many kinds of
output. He finds that the immediacy of a digital darkroom allows him to
optimize his images in a way that traditional chemical processes would
never allow. As an artist who sells his prints to clients around the
word from his web site: www.DavidWKelley.com,
both image quality and archival characteristics of his output devices
are of utmost importance.
| Before purchasing the 2000P, David had made
hundreds of beautifully crafted prints with the Epson 1270. What follows
is an overview of the way an experienced digital artist creates high
quality photographic ink jet prints, with some observations on how the
2000p differs from earlier Epson printers.
| David scans his 35mm slides with the Nikon
LS 2000 scanner (which has a resolution of 2700 ppi.), to an output
resolution of 300 ppi at a target print size of 8x10 inches. For
example, if you are making an 8x10 print, you need a digital file of
2400 by 3000 pixels. Working in eight-bit RGB (red, green, blue) color
space will give you a file size of approximately 20 megabytes. An 11x14
print would require double this number, or approximately 40-megabyte
files. If David needs to make a larger print, he uses interpolation
software to supply the missing pixels.
| Photoshop, as well as other image editing
software, allows a modest sized original file to be resized while
maintaining the desired resolution. It offers several methods of
re-sampling an image to a new larger size, however, the "bicubic"
method will give the best results. David uses a Photoshop plug-in called
Genuine Fractals by Altimara. He scans for 300 ppi and an 8x10 inch
output size and then saves the file with GF's lossless compression. When
he needs a print larger than the original 8x10, he'll reopen the GF file
and the dialog box allows him to specify any resolution and any size
| David finds that scanning film is a craft -
not a science. Each image is unique and requires trial and error to
obtain an ideal scan. He spends a fair amount of time with each image
during the scanning process in order to obtain a scan as close as
possible to what he has in mind for the image. The primary adjustments
at this stage include cropping, setting the desired output size and
resolution, adjusting levels and curves, contrast, brightness, and basic
color correction. In addition, several scanners now offer software
technology to remove dust and scratches during the scanning process
(Nikon calls this Digital ICE), thus saving time in the image editing
stage. Also, a color space must be selected as well as bit depth. Since
David is primarily interested is fine art printing with Epson's
printers, he is working in the RGB color space, which is what the
| Once the images have been scanned into
Photoshop, David does his final adjustments to levels and curves. He
will occasionally clone out distracting elements in a scene, such as a
stray branch or a bright spot in the background, and then almost always
adjusts Hue/Saturation by increasing saturation between 10 and 15. This
is where he has found the biggest difference between the Epson 1270 and
the newer 2000P. The pigment-based inks of the newer printer do not seem
to be quite as saturated as the dye inks of the 1270. To compensate for
this, he found that increasing the saturation even further for output to
the 2000P is necessary. An example of this is his print of the
"Great Egret Landing." This image was originally scanned and
optimized for output with the1270. The first prints made with the 2000P
(on Archival Mat Paper) from the original scan were disappointing. They
lacked the deep and vivid color of the 1270 prints. He compensated by
opening the original scan and increasing overall saturation by 10 and
made additional small adjustments to green and blue. After these
adjustments were made, the resulting print was stunning. An 11x14 of
this image won "Best of Show" at the Indiana State Fair.
Adjusting the original scan and increasing
overall saturation resulted in this outstanding print
which won best in show at the Indiana State Fair.
| Most recently David has been using the
Premium Semigloss Paper developed for use with the 2000P, whereas, with
the 1270, he tended to prefer the look of prints on Epson's Heavy Weight
Mat paper. He feels the combination of the 2000P and Epson's Semigloss
paper produce prints that are very similar in look, feel, and texture to
traditional silver-halide prints done on Fuji's Crystal Archive paper.
The Epson prints will last twice as long however, with a stated
colorfastness rating of 200 years.
| To see more of David W. Kelley's photographic
work visit his web site: http://DavidWKelley.com.
| Epson has revolutionized photographic
printing by providing photographers with a choice of low cost printers
with output quality rivaling the best of the traditional printing
methods. The complete digital darkroom, with its convenience, superior
quality, control, and archival printing, is now a possibility for any
serious photographer. The Epson 2000P is the best of the moderately
priced photographic quality inkjet printer available today.
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