Musings on Photography

Printer Comparisons

Posted in digital printing, hp z3100, z3100 by Paul Butzi on September 8, 2008

It’s taken me quite some time to get things here stable enough, but at long last I’m to the point where I can make prints on two of the printers I have access to currently, and compare them.

It seems like this should be an easy task. You fire up Photoshop, and you send off a print to printer A. Then, from the same file, you send off a print to printer B. And when both prints are done, you compare them side by side, and you note any differences.

But in the real world, it’s never this easy.

There’s the little matter of getting profiles that show off the paper being used to its best, on each printer. In a world bounded by truth and justice, this would be easy. In the admittedly inferior world that I inhabit, just figuring out what the best possible options for each printer are is a big problem. Options are often named similarly but don’t have the same real effect, so it’s not just a matter of matching names. It’s a big honking exploration of N dimensional space. For each printer.

And then there are all the OTHER issues. Sharpening – sharpen the same for both printers? Or do you optimize for each printer independently? Rendering intent? The list is tiresomely long.

But I have made a few simplifying assumptions, and I have beaten the profile thing into a lumpy mess on the floor, and I have just now made two prints – one on each printer. And I have taken the prints, and put them on the wall. The first thing I discovered is that the lighting isn’t quite the same on each print. So I will have to fix that with a more permanent solution that the cobbled up trick I currently am using.

But the bottom line is that the prints are ALMOST the same. They’re close enough that at first glance, they look the same. And then as you gaze in loving adoration at each in turn, the subtle differences start to become apparent.

This is good news. I have two printers, and they’re producing different results even though I have controlled all the variables I can think of. That result, in and of itself, is progress of a significant sort.

Now I just need some process to decide which is better. I think I can hear the sound of printers running non-stop, just in the near future of the next week or so.

I’m glad I ordered up a big pile of paper.

2 Responses

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  1. Mike said, on September 8, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    Why use two printers? I must assume the larger printer can print multiple images on a wide roll. It’s a matter of trimming, is it not? Don’t compare. View individually and see if the print is appealing on its own.

  2. Paul Butzi said, on September 8, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Why use two printers?

    Because I want to know which of the two different printers produces better prints.

    And I haven’t been able to figure out a way to decide other than to make prints on both printers and compare the prints.

    If someone has some insight that will lead me to an answer without so much work – I am eager to hear about it.

    It has nothing to do with size. It’s all about which printer can produce better prints, all other variables held constant.

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