Musings on Photography

HP Z3100 – Part the 2nd

Posted in hp z3100 by Paul Butzi on September 13, 2007

Not too much time spent with the printer today; most of my time has been spent on other things. (IMPORTANT CAVEAT: I have only had the Z3100 running for about 30 hours now, and some 20 of those hours have been spent on things which, while important (like sleep), are entirely unrelated to the HP Z3100. Some of what I write at this point is wrong. Until several months from now, I will not even know which bits are wrong. You have been warned.)

Several interesting observations, in random order:

1. The prints on the HP Instant Dry Super Incredibly Glossy Plasticky Stuff are incredibly sharp. Razor sharp, scalpel sharp. Sharp like those little glass chip thingies the ophthalmic surgeons use. If I were to print on this stuff regularly I would have to modify my sharpening habits considerably. This stuff also takes a really wicked curl from the roll. I’ve never seen prints roll this tightly, except maybe for single weight glossy fiber based Kodabromide fixed in Kodak Rapid Fix with the hardener added.

2. The Epson 9600 I have is natively a 360 pixel/inch device. The HP Z3100 is natively a 300 pixel/inch device. This should not be interpreted to mean that the Epson 9600 can lay down more detail than the HP Z3100 – in fact, from my observations from the few head to head prints I’ve made the opposite is true. I expect there is some rational explanation for this having to do with how many picoliters/drop each printer does, and the dot gain of the inks, and so on.

3. As a result of this, I expect that I will need to adjust my workflow in many minor ways (e.g. when I resample an image to be printed, I will resample it to 360 ppi for the Epson, and 300ppi for the HP). I expect other changes as well. ALL of my workflow for the last four years has been slowly, incrementally tuned in ways subtle and not so subtle for the Epson. It is going to take, I think, longer than I expected to get fully up to speed on the Z3100, not because of some defect with the z3100 but because it is different from the 9600. Just figuring out the new sharpening drill is going to take a while. Yikes.

4. The HP Z3100 prints show no metamerism, or at least none that I can detect in the very simple tests I’ve done so far. This is a vast improvement over the 9600. A quick check with a version of my test print done on an Epson 7800 shows very slight metamerism. This was a very simple and not very sensitive test, consisting of comparing prints inside under halogen light and outside in direct sunlight and open shadow. See caveat above. Given this vast improvement, I expect that one of this winter’s projects will be to select a paper I like best for toned B&W printing, and reprint the entire portfolio of Pacific Coast work.

5. The HP Z3100 can use either a USB cable, or use an RJ-45 terminated cable to connect to an ethernet. I have used the latter option. As a result, I can, from any machine on my network, check ink levels, look at job accounting (e.g. how much ink did that print take?), and so on using the very nice web interface to the printer’s adminstrative stuff. This is an excellent feature that should be included in EVERY printer. Among other things, sharing the printer between multiple computers is trivial, the printer’s location is no longer constrained by the need to be proximate to the computer that’s printing to it, and so on.

6. Having spent a little while comparing two head to head prints, one done on the Epson 9600 and one done on the HP Z3100, I observed that the longer I looked, the more differences I found. That’s just with two prints, side by side. Any reasonably complete comparison of the two printers will require making LOTS of comparison prints, and then spending LOTS of time comparing them, and making careful notes. There are a lot of variables, here. Anyone who is expecting that by Tuesday next week I will release a comprehensive statement of relative quality is going to be disappointed.

7. As I observed yesterday, what you tell the printer about the paper you’re profiling makes quite a bit of difference in the achievable gamut for that profile/paper combo. Interestingly, it’s not that case that as you zero in on the right description of the paper, the gamut everywhere grows larger. Instead, different parts of the gamut change in size and shape. There is no maximally sized gamut that is the superset of all the smaller gamuts you get with other settings. So it may well make sense to have a several different paper descriptions that vary in, say, ink load, and you would choose the best of these gamuts for each individual print to be made – one profile for prints where highlights are important, one where shadows are important, etc. This is an extraordinary surprise to me, and I am still trying to wrap my head around it. I have much to learn about this.

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  1. […] Read More…(Part 2) […]

  2. Ed Richards said, on September 14, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    > This stuff also takes a really wicked curl from the roll.

    Now you have a better feel for why I was reticent to get a roll paper printer after using HP paper on the 130. Their satin, which is very nice paper, has this same curl, and you can press it under bricks for a week and it still curls.

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