I'm pleased (no, really, actually pleased, which is not an easy feeling to elicit from a jaded equipment reviewer) to report that the HP B9180 is on the way—I just received confirmation this morning.

I'll be writing a two-part review of the $699 pigment-ink printer for the English Black & White Photography magazine. The first part will cover the development and features of the printer, a general user report, and color printmaking; the second article will focus exclusively on the unit's black-and-white printing capabilities.

The B9180 has the potential to be a minor milestone in photography. One of the new generation of wide-gamut pigment-ink printers, it's the so-called "wide-format" or "wide-carriage" prosumer version of HP's new Z-Series (say it the European way, "zed series") professional printers, which are the culmination of an historically huge R&D investment. According to Henry Wilhelm of Wilhelm Imaging Research, the leading independent laboratory for color print permanence, it provides print permanence as good as, or better than, any other print medium in the history of color photography. And it's an accessibly-priced product, shrewdly judged to fit into an optimal slot in the market. Just based on the specs, it's going to be suitable for anybody from well-heeled casual photo-buffs all the way up to semi-pros and serious artists and even the odd pro or three. Clearly, HP intends it to be better than any cheaper printer and cheaper than any better printer. To me it just seems to have promise as a serious printmaker's tool. On both counts, we'll see.

Having high expectations is, of course, a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's true, I'm predisposed to like it; on the other hand, I'm far more susceptible to being disappointed than if I were to come to it with no particular hopes in mind. I think I have the experience as a reviewer to balance my appraisal anyway. As ever, my strategy is just to be honest with you, so you can see for yourself where I'm coming from and adjust your judgment accordingly.

Although I won't be posting the complete reviews here, I'll post a series of informal updates as I go along, to keep you apprised of my investigations. This is gonna be fun.



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