Although I've endorsed specific products from time to time, I don't often come out in favor of one method of doing anything. My basic philosophy with regard to photography enthusiasts is that everyone is allowed to have fun with photography any old whichway they want to. If you like to make d.o.f. charts for all your lenses…if your goal is to collect profiles for every paper you can buy…if you cannot rest until you own every Photoshop book…if your thing is toy cameras…if you enjoy darkroom experiments designed to maximize film grain…if your life's work is shooting portraits of blond people…if you haunt flea markets looking for old Kodak Instamatic pictures for your huge and growing collection—I say, knock yourself out. (And lest you think any of these are unreasonable examples, I know of real people who pursue each and every one of these aspects of the photography hobby.) I don't advocate or condone hurting people or breaking laws. Beyond that, it's up to you—have fun, don't limit yourself, and don't feel beholden to conventional value judgments on what you personally prefer to do.

However, I really believe that if you're a serious photographic inkjet printmaker, you should use a pigment ink printer.

Again, you're free to interpret that key phrase, "serious printer," any way you please. If you're happy with your dye-based inkset and inkjet printer, no need to defend yourself to me—I'm happy to assume you know what you're doing and that only you know what's best for you. Walk on, bro. Live and let live.

But pigment inks have reached "mainstream" status. Their usability has improved greatly; their gamut is now more than acceptable; their early problems have been ameliorated by technical development; their advantages in terms of print life expectancy (LE) are undeniable; they look best (again, IMHO); and competition has provided end-users with an acceptable number of alternatives to choose from.

Here's a list of currently available pigment ink printers. I'm hoping if you see any mistakes or omissions, you'll let me know. I'll try to update this list with the number of inks each printer uses, too.

Epson R1800

UltraChrome K3 pigment
Stylus Photo R2400
(consumer, 13-inch wide, desktop, $760)
Stylus Pro 3800
(consumer/professional, 17-inch wide, desktop, $1,300)
Stylus Pro 4800
(consumer/professional, 17-inch wide, desktop, $1,655)
Stylus Pro 7800
(professional, 24-inch wide, stand-mounted, $3,000)
Stylus Pro 9800
(professional, 44-inch wide, stand-mounted, $5,000)

Inkset: UltraChrome pigment
Stylus Photo R1800
(consumer, 13-inch wide, desktop, $450)
Stylus Photo R800
(consumer, 8.5-inch wide, desktop, $365)

Canon iPF5000

Lucia pigment
imagePROGRAF iPF5000
(consumer/professional, 17-inch wide, desktop or stand-mounted, $1,400)
imagePROGRAF W6400
(professional, 24-inch wide, stand-mounted, $3,555)
image PROGRAF iPF8000
(professional, 44-inch wide, stand-mounted, $6,000)
image PROGRAF iPF9000
(professional, 60-inch wide, stand mounted, $15,075)

Pixma Pro 9500
(announced, not yet available, inkset not yet determined)

HP B9180

Vivera pigment
B9180 Photosmart Pro
(consumer/professional, 13-inch wide, desktop, $540)
Designjet Z2100 24 inch
(professional, 24-inch wide, stand-mounted, $3,283)
Designjet Z2100 44 inch
(professional, 44-inch wide, stand-mounted, $5,493)
Designjet Z3100 24 inch
(professional, 24-inch wide, stand-mounted, $4,300)
Designjet Z3100 44 inch
(professional, 44-inch wide, stand-mounted, $6,631)



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