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Author Topic: Need new B/W printer: is the HP 9180 good enough?  (Read 2142 times)
Per Ofverbeck
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« on: December 15, 2006, 03:58:28 PM »
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Iīm afraid Iīm about to pose one of these infamous "unanswerable" questions here, but I have to get some more info and opinions.

First I have to describe my background: I am an old darkroom worker who has now completely defected to digital.  The most difficult part of that was to get B/W prints that were the equal (or better) of my old silver prints.  I bought an Epson 2100 when it was introduced, and with the regular driver I didnīt even come close; metamerism ruined the show unless I camouflaged it by toning the images to a ridiculous degree.  

Then I discovered Roy Harringtonīs Quad Tone RIP, and the problem was instantly solved.  Only, the ink waste through Epsonīs frequent cleaning cycles plus the arrogance ot those chipped cartridges bugged me no end.  I should add that I donīt particularly like matte media; I use Epson Premium Semigloss and Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss.  There is bronzing, but that doesnīt bother me much: with glossy prints (both silver and inks) one automatically finds a looking angle that eliminates glare, and thus hides the bronzing as well.  

I do print colour too, but I see it as far less demanding than B/W.

Now, with the Epson clogs getting more and more frequent, I feel itīs time to get another printer, and at present I see two possible candidates (the Canon ipf5000 is out due to its physical size):  either the HP B9180 or (with extreme reluctance) the Epson SP 3800.  Waiting for the smaller Canon expected in the spring is a possibility, of course, but Iīd much prefer to replace that aging 2100 sooner than that.

I would love to get the HP and turn my back on Epsonīs methods of maximizing ink waste, also to save a substantial sum on the printer itself, only I am uncertain if I will be able to get the B/W quality I get now from it.  I understand the chances of a QTR version for non-Epson printers are slim, and while the HP does have a black-inks-only mode, it seems it cannot be used with glossy media (doh!), and B/W with all inks seems to be somewhat metameric.

So far, I havenīt been able to see this printer in the flesh, even less to see any carefully made B/W print from it.  I have read most of the rewiews on the web (Iīve Googled extensively), but most of them arenīt specific enough about B/W quality. So I have to ask here:

1) Is there a workaround so black-inks-only can be used with glossy prints, and if so, will banding or other problems mar the results?

2) Would B/W with all inks be good enough to REALLY stand up to being exhibited beside a good silver print?

If I canīt trust the HP to deliver what Iīm after, Iīm afraid Iīll have to put up with Epson and get the 3800 after all (Iīve seen it and its output, and Iīm convinced it can deliver).  Only, Iīd rather not, if thereīs another way...
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Per Ofverbeck
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DarkPenguin
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« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2006, 04:13:43 PM »
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If I remember correctly Mike Johnston over at the online photographer has a 9180 and is going to do a review for B+W photographer mag.

You might want to email him.

(As an aside I've painlessly achieved the best B+W prints I've ever done with the 9180.  But that isn't saying much.)
« Last Edit: December 15, 2006, 04:16:06 PM by DarkPenguin » Logged
Gary Ferguson
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« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2006, 04:51:16 PM »
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Per, I've wrestled with this one for the last five years or more. I've tried black ink only printing, Piezographic dedicated printers, Imageprint RIPs, and bureau prints from my digital files using all sorts of exotic papers.

The conclusion I've come to is that digital black and white prints are just different from silver prints. Better in some respects (deeper blacks, better tonal control), worse in others (I've never fully matched the majesty of an air dried, gloss, fibre based paper), but always different. After thirty years of traditional silver work I closed my darkroom, I occasionally regret the decision but I try not to chase the standards of the silver process and instead focus on digital's real and unique black and white strengths.
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Per Ofverbeck
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2006, 04:01:44 AM »
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Dark Penguin, Iīm eagerly waiting for Mike Johnstonīs verdict; after all he did plead for good B/W printers a couple of years ago, and also wrote about an earlier HP that was said to excel in monochrome mode.  He should indeed be the one to answer my question in a thorough way.

Iīm slightly disappointed with Vince Oliverīs review: it starts ambitiously, but ends prematurely.  Possibly heīll reopen it when he gets more supplies, and time.


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Per, I've wrestled with this one for the last five years or more. I've tried black ink only printing, Piezographic dedicated printers, Imageprint RIPs, and bureau prints from my digital files using all sorts of exotic papers.

The conclusion I've come to is that digital black and white prints are just different from silver prints. Better in some respects (deeper blacks, better tonal control), worse in others (I've never fully matched the majesty of an air dried, gloss, fibre based paper), but always different. After thirty years of traditional silver work I closed my darkroom, I occasionally regret the decision but I try not to chase the standards of the silver process and instead focus on digital's real and unique black and white strengths.
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Gary, I agree totally.  Iīm afraid I gave the wrong impression when I wrote about "displaying beside a good silver print": I didnīt mean that I wanted them to look indistinguishable (some digital enthusiasts seem to live for the moment when they can trick someone to mistake an inkprint for a silver one; thatīs just not on my agenda...  ).

Working within the mediumīs own limits, using its strengths is what itīs all about.  A good QTR print shares the dynamic range, richness, and the clean tones of a good silver print, but it doesnīt really LOOK like one: the image stays on the surface instead of permeating an emulsion layer in an almost three-dimensional way.  I can live with that, just like I could live with the grain of 35 mm film.  Only, I just canīt accept a medium that shifts randomly between slight magentas and slight greens without me being able to control it as a serious vehicle for my images.
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Per Ofverbeck
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"In a world without walls or fences, who needs Windows or Gates?"
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