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Author Topic: Inkjet or Digital C-type?  (Read 14598 times)
ChrisS
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« on: March 30, 2008, 03:15:50 PM »
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I'm trying to decide whether or not to buy an A3 inkjet pigment photo printer. A friend has his digital prints done as C-type by a commercial printer, and he thinks this is the way to go.

Which type of print offers the highest quality image? Is the range of papers for C-type as wide as for inkjet? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages?

Any advice much appreciated.

Thanks

Chris
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2008, 04:53:33 PM »
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A friend has his digital prints done as C-type by a commercial printer, and he thinks this is the way to go.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=185491\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I thought C-type prints were made through the traditional lab processes of using chemistry. In any case I think the benefit of digital is being able to do the darkroom work without the wet, smelly darkroom. [I lived in a darkroom for enough years to say that]

 I like the ability to use different paper surfaces, a "dry" darkroom aka the computer room, work on prints myself - tailor the colors to my liking, no back an forth trips to the lab and wonder if chemistry stocks become had to find and more importantly if my trusted lab is using fresh stock.

Side-rant: Went to the local camera store this weekend to price sheet film for a job, guy pulls down a box sitting on the shelf. that might of been fine ten years ago when he was replenishing it every other week, but today that film has probably been sitting un-refrigerated for quite a while. Same-thing with the Polaroid - Great! thanks guys

The only real way you can decide is to test and see if you like the results and don't mind going through the hassle of a commercial lab. What's lost one or two trips to the lab? I don't believe it's a quality issue today as much as it's a personal preference.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2008, 07:52:31 PM »
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C prints are not as archival as pigment ink, but aside from that it is largely an aesthetic or a convenience choice. I had an in house lab in my business making C prints for 30 years. I never liked the "look" of them and still don't when enlarged digitally. Its just personal taste though. I vastly prefer a first class ink print, but I have artist friends who think the exact opposite. I also like the control as one can do decent ink printing at home for a reasonable price.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2008, 07:54:09 PM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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Plekto
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2008, 12:31:24 AM »
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I never liked the "look" of them and still don't when enlarged digitally.

I think it's that they really are best with film processing.  Not too surprizing, really, since they did spend over 100 years refining the process until digital and home printing came along.  The thing is, though, that digitally scanning and then cramming it into a print...  not so good.  The most popular machines use a 2000*3000 internal scan, which is vastly inferior to a 4800DPI home scanner.  They no longer use an optical system, so enlargements are really it putting more filler and using computer smoothing routines instead of actually enlarging the raw data more.

There are a few better ones out there, but even those are at best only good for 35mm film and digital up to maybe 8-12mp.  The state of the art isn't nearly advanced enough to replace film, but we seem stuck with digital processing and crippled results for the next decade or so until technology (hopefully) gets good enough.  

If you're using digital, your own printer is usually the best.  Of course, that's anything from a $100 photo printer to a $5000+ huge drum printer.  But you control the output and there's no scanner inside the printer.  Data goes in, prints come out.  If you're using film, you just need a film scanner - which seem to be quite affordable used.

In any case, my rule of thumb is - for a photo album or something to just put on the fridge - say, 5*7 or smaller, the local lab usually will do a fine job for well under 50 cents a print.  For larger stuff, you'll save lots of money doing it yourself.
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NikoJorj
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2008, 04:13:06 AM »
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Which type of print offers the highest quality image? Is the range of papers for C-type as wide as for inkjet? What are the relative advantages and disadvantages?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=185491\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
By C type you mean chromogenic, something like Fuji Frontiers eg, don't you?

First, there's the "at home vs. let it done" debate : you'll have far more control over your prints at home... at the cost of a (not so steep) learning curve.
For not-so-small prints, where defects show up quite heavily, I think this parameter alone  can rule out any "walmart-type" printer (this include many photo shops alas) - so you'll only consider experienced and crafted printers, with related (read : quite expensive) costs for a custom service.

Big downside of chromogenic prints : it has only glossy and "luster" (read : ugly sanded ex-glossy, to my taste) type outputs (at least in 99% of printing shops?).
An inkjet has a huuuuge variety of paper to print on (so huge it's often not easy to decide which is best), with the (potentially decisive?) ability to print on "fine art" matte (watercolour-like) or baryta-like papers.

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In any case, my rule of thumb is - for a photo album or something to just put on the fridge - say, 5*7 or smaller, the local lab usually will do a fine job for well under 50 cents a print. For larger stuff, you'll save lots of money doing it yourself.
Sounds very wise to me too. Printing more than a dozen 4x6" prints on an inkjet is a bit tedious, I find...
« Last Edit: March 31, 2008, 04:15:27 AM by NikoJorj » Logged

Nicolas from Grenoble
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ChrisS
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2008, 04:30:08 AM »
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Thanks for your replies - they are really helpful.

I'm totally convinced that having my own printer will allow control throughout the process, and if all other factors are equal, that's reason enough to go down that route. I only have a low quality A4 photo printer at the moment, and will have to send processed images to the lab and wait to see the results. I guess with time I could learn to predict results, but I'm sure there will be a lot of disappointments (and wasted money) along the way...

Plekto - I didn't fully understand the process you describe (because I know so little about this - just what I read on-line, which talks briefly of lightjet technology used to expose the paper), but am clear that you're saying that beyond a certain point, Digital C-type won't produce as good quality as a good inkjet. I'm thinking to buy an Epson R2400 or HP B9180, and my camera is a Canon 350D (8 mp). If I were sending the files to be C-type printed by a high quality fine art lab, would you expect the results to be as good as I would get with the Epson? Maybe you've already made this clear, but I want to be sure.

Cheers

Chris
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Plekto
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« Reply #6 on: March 31, 2008, 12:38:31 PM »
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Plekto - I didn't fully understand the process you describe (because I know so little about this - just what I read on-line, which talks briefly of lightjet technology used to expose the paper), but am clear that you're saying that beyond a certain point, Digital C-type won't produce as good quality as a good inkjet. I'm thinking to buy an Epson R2400 or HP B9180, and my camera is a Canon 350D (8 mp). If I were sending the files to be C-type printed by a high quality fine art lab, would you expect the results to be as good as I would get with the Epson? Maybe you've already made this clear, but I want to be sure.

I've been researching this for a week or so myself, trying to get up to speed again for a pending purchase.

Here's what happens.

Film:
The lab inserts the film into the machine and it runs it through, typically taking a fixed 2000*3000 scan of the 35mm negative.  Then it essentially prints it exactly like a desktop 300 or 400dpi dye-sublimation printer - just very very quickly.

Of course this causes severe losses in quality, especially if it's larger than:
2000/400DPI = 5
3000/400DPI = 7.5

In addition, the scanner introduces its own dithering and anti-aliasing routines via the software it's running, which often makes it worse.  If it's being enlarged, the software   basically does a Photoshop trick and increases the size artificially *after* the 2000*3000 scan.  Which is why enlargements are so hit and miss.

The result - digital minilabs and the like are generally bad with film.

Now, the same minilab running digital won't do this - it bypasses the scanner, but you're still limited to their one paper and often the image isn't printed in raw format(unless you shoot raw only).  But digital is fine on digital.  I just can't deal with the $20 a print they sometimes want.  It's usurous, to be honest.

IMO, if you're shooting digital, there's zero reason other than convenience to not do larger prints at home. And if you're using film, especially medium format, you're essentially required to print at home, because sending it out to a place that does it the non-digital way is silly money.  

But sending something out to a "fine art lab" that does it the old-school way can produce better results by far that you can at home.  If it's something like for an exhibition or similar, or your career is being affected, yeah - you'll probably have to spend the money.  That's the advantage of film and also it's curse.  Getting it printed is slow and expensive now.  But that's often only a dozen or less a year for most people, so it's not so insane.   The rest, a home printer will more than suffice.

Oh - I'd recommend slide film if you're using film.  But that's a whole other topic
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ChrisS
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« Reply #7 on: March 31, 2008, 02:22:38 PM »
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Plekto - I need to sort out my 'dithering and anti-aliasing routines' (!), but your reply is really helpful. Apart from the technical quality of the print, the paper it's on is important to me, and I'm convinced that working the process from beginning to end with an inkjet will help improve not just the quality of the outcome, but my understanding of the whole process. Thanks for taking the trouble to respond so fully.
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ChrisJR
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« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2008, 03:58:34 AM »
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I just received my first set of prints using the Digital C-Type process and compared to various digital printers there are differences.

Compared to an Epson R1800, I much prefer the C-Type, the overall tonality and colours just seem nicer to me. Compared to an Epson 7600 they seem about equal but when comparing the c-type prints to the same subject from a Canon ipf6100, the 6100 does seem to have a slightly wider colour space. This could be down to colour management employed by the lab I use but as a student completing a degree in photography that loves traditional paper, the paper used in C-Type printing is absolutely beautiful.

For myself, being on a tight budget, not seeing huge differences between 7600 (have access to at a 7600 low cost but not the ipf6100) and C-Type prints, loving the traditional paper and the cost factor, I'll be using the C-Type process for my final exhibition.

The 6100 does offer a higher quality in terms of colour gamut, it's likely the 5100 will be equal to the 6100, but I personally don't have good experiences with Epson printers and HP's Z-series are too expensive.
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2008, 09:04:17 AM »
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I just received my first set of prints using the Digital C-Type process and compared to various digital printers there are differences.

Compared to an Epson R1800, I much prefer the C-Type, the overall tonality and colours just seem nicer to me. Compared to an Epson 7600 they seem about equal but when comparing the c-type prints to the same subject from a Canon ipf6100, the 6100 does seem to have a slightly wider colour space. This could be down to colour management employed by the lab I use but as a student completing a degree in photography that loves traditional paper, the paper used in C-Type printing is absolutely beautiful.

If you use custom printer profiles for the digital prints, the difference becomes much smaller. I've owned both the R1800 and 7600, and a custom profile makes the prints nearly indistinguishable when printed on the same paper.
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Mack's Work
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« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2008, 08:10:28 AM »
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I myself am not a pro as per say but do all my up to 8x11 inkjet printing at home on my Canon i960 printer , and I also calibrate the monitor every 15 days since I have low run volume and for large inkjet prints I go to Adorama for larger prints up
20x30: just my two cents
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lucien
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« Reply #11 on: June 17, 2008, 12:25:13 PM »
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I'm not sure what you're looking to print exactly, but many of the above posters have experiences contrary to mine. Being at a university photo dept, I have access to the latest and greatest large format inkjet printers, and believe me when I tell you that the results can be stunning when you take the time to do things properly.

But if you're starting with a truly excellent source, like a very good scan of a 4x5 transparency for example, the c-print blows inkjet out of the water.

It's time consuming, expensive, out of your direct control, and eye-wateringly beautiful when done correctly. I'm not convinced it's as nice as a direct optical c-print from an enlarger, but the ability to create exact editions is certainly a bonus. I was just given a print made by a friend that has a depth in it I could never hope to achieve on the Epsons.
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ChrisS
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« Reply #12 on: June 17, 2008, 12:47:35 PM »
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I'm not sure what you're looking to print exactly, but many of the above posters have experiences contrary to mine. Being at a university photo dept, I have access to the latest and greatest large format inkjet printers, and believe me when I tell you that the results can be stunning when you take the time to do things properly.

But if you're starting with a truly excellent source, like a very good scan of a 4x5 transparency for example, the c-print blows inkjet out of the water.

It's time consuming, expensive, out of your direct control, and eye-wateringly beautiful when done correctly. I'm not convinced it's as nice as a direct optical c-print from an enlarger, but the ability to create exact editions is certainly a bonus. I was just given a print made by a friend that has a depth in it I could never hope to achieve on the Epsons.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=202109\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

What you describe is pretty much what my friend, who suggested I use c-type, described for me. I recently bought an inkjet and am learning a lot from using it - but one day may try c-types myself.
Chris
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Geoff Wittig
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« Reply #13 on: July 01, 2008, 08:07:55 PM »
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I'm not sure what you're looking to print exactly, but many of the above posters have experiences contrary to mine. Being at a university photo dept, I have access to the latest and greatest large format inkjet printers, and believe me when I tell you that the results can be stunning when you take the time to do things properly.

But if you're starting with a truly excellent source, like a very good scan of a 4x5 transparency for example, the c-print blows inkjet out of the water.

It's time consuming, expensive, out of your direct control, and eye-wateringly beautiful when done correctly. I'm not convinced it's as nice as a direct optical c-print from an enlarger, but the ability to create exact editions is certainly a bonus. I was just given a print made by a friend that has a depth in it I could never hope to achieve on the Epsons.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=202109\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I would have to disagree based on my own personal experience. A C-print (or chromogenic print) is the standard darkroom chemistry color print. The source can be a traditional darkroom optical enlarger, or the color LED/laser of a big digital machine like the Lightjet. When carefully dialed in by a master printer the results can indeed be very nice. But...you are very limited in your choice of papers. If you care at all about color permanence, you're basically limiting yourself to Fuji's crystal archival paper, period. This is a perfectly nice gloss paper and carefully made prints can look wonderful. But its image permanence is nowhere near as good as what current pigment inkjet printers can offer; ditto for color gamut. I suspect the disparity in quality you are seeing has more to do with the skill of the printer than the technology per se.

Current pigment inkjet printers in the Epson 7880/HP Z3100/Canon i6100 class require some definite skill and experience to exploit; you can't expect to open the box and produce an instant masterpiece. But their color gamut on many papers substantially exceeds what any C-print can attain. Various combinations of inkset/paper/profile can produce an extraordinary range of effects from the same printer. With a bit (okay, a couple of years) of experimentation and practice I'm making prints with depth and presence exceeding anything I ever got from C-prints made by a custom lab. If your goal is to knock out a few hundred 4x6" prints, by all means have Costco make C-prints for you with a digital minilab or Fuji Frontier printer. But if you want to make a sublime 12x16" print of your best image, and you're willing to do some work, I don't think you can beat the output of the newer high end inkjets.

For what it's worth, color printing 'gurus' like Charles Cramer and Joseph Holmes put up with the almost mind-boggling complexity and labor-intensity of dye transfer printing because the results were visibly better than C-prints. Now Cramer, Holmes and other master printers have moved to pigment inkjet printing, because the process is more controllable and the results more consistently excellent.
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bob carnie
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« Reply #14 on: July 02, 2008, 08:16:45 AM »
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Hi There

I print with Lambda76 onto Fuji Crystal Archive,Cibachrome and Fibre Paper using wet chemicals, and as well use Epson 9600 and Cannon 9000 onto various papers, coated and uncoated.
As well still print on enlargers to mural sizes in Colour and Black & White.

For me it boils down to of what media works best with a series of images, and I push my clients to consider different options before any show/portfolio is started.

I decided to include as many *print options* in my workflow, so that I would not be biased to any paticular process or machine.

There seems to be a lot of claims on longevity of the image which I feel is an important issue, but I am not convinced that some of these claims are correct, but rather Manufacturers hopeful predictions, with there satisfaction that they will not be around the corporate office in thirty years to back up their bold predictions.

For me it's all about how the image looks on paper and how does it convey your creativitey.
I still love to see a beautifully rendered cibachrome, and I am also amazed at the quality of ink on uncoated rag paper.
Tri toning a digital fibre is as mindblowing as one done from a enlarger print.

Personal choice is what it is all about. Wait till  four colour B&W separated  films start landing on uncoated paper using colour carbon tissue. Its happening today and will become more prominent with the use of old and new processes.

Second Post on this forum and hope to make more.
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