New Year, New Decade

New Opportunities.   Well, it’s a new year and a new decade and the state of the art of photographic imaging has changed in almost unimaginable ways from a scant 10 years ago.  Not just that digital capture has replaced film to a large degree, but the melding of technologies like the Internet, wireless voice and data, digital video, PDF delivery of complex documents, increased digital transmission speeds, and mobile viewing devices both large and small have changed the landscape forever.  Indeed, the entire communication process has been (and continues to be) altered in fundamental ways that will force rethinking of how we interact as humans, and especially how we create and consume information, both visual and aural.  This causes a great deal of pressure on all involved; pressure to learn new terms and methods—even languages, pressure to adapt to new ways of interacting with others, and pressure to pay for all those new toys…er tools!  And of course the brightest among us will learn to quickly master and merge the best of all these new methods and resources and create a compelling voice (and/or product) that others will want to follow and maybe even pay for.

Colorspaces.   It’s gotten much harder to truly master the digital imaging craft, partly because some if it is undeniably arcane.  Colorspaces, for example—the mathematical means of digitally describing how colors are mapped.  Many are familiar with the terms sRGB, Adobe RGB (1998), and ProPhoto RGB and understand how to implement these environments to best advantage, but if you’re still hazy about what these terms really mean or how they affect the way you process and work with images you might take a look at David Cardinal’s recent post on the subject.  While the quick and easy route is still JPEG/8-bit/sRGB, the result is a “baked in, ” permanently limited rendition of your work.  If you want to have more flexibility, expand your horizons, and capture more of what you see, you’ll need to explore other colorspaces.

Color printers.   Those who make prints are no doubt aware of Epson’s new Stylus Pro 4900 model.  To be sure, not everyone wants or needs a large, expensive printer that takes 17”x22” cut sheets (or rolls)—even one that uses the very latest printhead technology from Epson (same as in the 7900/9900 top-end models), and has an inkset with the widest color gamut of any consumer inkjet printer I know of.  But for a small cadre of photographers this has been the one they’ve been waiting for.  So does it deliver the goods?  By most accounts so far the answer is an emphatic yes!  See this review for a very complete rundown by Mark Segal on the Luminous-Landscape site.

Of course there are lots of reasons an Epson 4900 might not be your cup of tea.  It’s big, heavy, fairly expensive, and uses relatively large ink cartridges (which means you need to make a lot of prints to avoid having ink get stale and cause clogging problems).  And the Epson brand might not be your choice; both Canon and HP also make high quality photo inkjet printers with satisfied and dedicated followings.  After all, Epson’s not the only game in town, even though they’ve been in this particular niche for longer than just about anyone else and have a significant history of making excellent products.  I’ve used various models of Epson photo inkjets for many years, and that’s where my brand preference lies.

How about smaller, less expensive models?  Sticking with Epson, two fine choices would be the Stylus Pro 3880 or Stylus Photo R2880.  Both of these models use the UltraChrome K3™ with Vivid Magenta pigment ink set, a wide-gamut formulation just one step down from the top-end UltraChrome HDR inks.  The 3880 is a 17×22 inch printer (sheets only) while the R2880 will take paper up to 13×19 inches (plus rolls).  There are lots of other differences too of course, including price.  If you need the archival quality of pigment ink you can still get it in the Stylus Photo R1900, a 13×19 inch model with good color gamut and some of the best glossy printing of any Epson printer, and it will also print directly onto CD/DVDs.  Next rung down is the 1400, which uses high-quality 6-color dye ink, and is the least expensive Epson “photo” printer.  There’s a model for just about any budget.

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