As more photographers go digital, they're purchasing large-format printers for their wedding, portrait, and fine-art businesses at a dizzying pace. SP&D asked a number of stand-out commercial, wedding, and portrait photographers to tell us why they invested their time, money-and floor space-in one of these super-sized devices.
With hundreds of printers on the market, we limited our review to models that accept media from 17- to 63-inches wide. The prices noted are for general reference and may vary due to rebates or other factors.
Canon imagePROGRAF W6200 (www.usa.canon.com)
With a 1''-wide print head, Canon's 6-color, 24''-wide pigment printer can output a 24''x36'' print at 1200x1200 dpi in just seven minutes with exquisite detail, sharpness, and color. It has full-bleed capability and can accept roll or sheet media. The 44'' imagePROGRAF W8200Pg printer also uses Canon's pigment inks and 1'' print head. Also from Canon: a dye-ink based 36'' imagePROGRAF W7200. (Price range for printers: $3,000- $7,500)
Tim Stahl, of Stahl Photographics (www.stahlphotographics.com), based in San Diego, California, has been a commercial/advertising photographer for 20 years, shooting fully digitally for the past two years. For his wide-ranging clients and projects, he shoots with his Phase One digital back or his Canon 10D, then prints on his W6200 (for signage and fine art) or his W7200 (for pre-press proofing).© Tim Stahl
Says Stahl, "The printers are easy to configure, economical, super-fast, and built like tanks. The ink sets are vibrant and the prints are durable." For optimum output he uses the Canon Graphic RIP and calibrates with GretagMacbeth's Eye-One Match software. He prefers Canon Premium Super Gloss, Canon Premium Semi-Gloss, and Heavy Coated Stock for his posters; Canon Polyethylene Indoor Banner material for convention use and signage; and Canon Front Print Backlit film for light boxes at restaurants and casinos.© Tobias Morgan
Epson Stylus Pro 9600 (www.epson.com)
The Epson Stylus Pro 7600 (24'') and 9600 (44'') printers feature a 4-picoliter droplet size, and are available with 7-color Epson UltraChrome Inks and 6-color Epson Dye Inks. Epson's 7-color UltraChrome set has received longevity ratings on many substrates estimated at over 100 years before noticeable fading. The Stylus Pro 10600 offers fast, high-quality output with individual 500ml ink tanks in a six-color configuration and the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 (17") features eight ink cartridge slots, so the UltraChrome matte black and photo black cartridges can be loaded simultaneously. (Price range for printers: $1,800 - $8,000)
Tobias Morgan (www.tmsphoto.com), of TMS Studios, Verona, New Jersey, has specialized in children's portraiture and wedding photography for 16 years and shot digitally for more than four years. Tobias gives his Epson 9600 a constant workout. His photo competition prints are made on Epson's Glossy Paper Photo Weight, which he laminates and mounts. His favorite 'E' surface paper is Ilford's Galerie Pearl, in roll form, and he likes LexJet's gloss canvas.
"I've had the 9600 for nearly two years. I purchased it to have more control over my work. With a calibrated and profiled monitor-he uses Monaco's Profiler Gold software with an X-Rite DTP-41UV AutoScan Spectrophoto-meter-what I see is what I get all the time. I never make a second print. After I purchased my 9600, my lab sent me a letter asking what was the matter; did they do anything wrong? I said nope, Epson did something right!"© Christopher Makos
Hewlitt Packard DesignJet 5500 (www.hp.com/go/designjet)
The DesignJet 5500, 42" and 60" versions, both offer user-switchable dye and pigment ink sets. The new DesignJet 130 series uses HP's 6-color dye-based, fade-resistant inks and prints on roll or sheet media up to 24'' wide. Equipped with a print tray that holds thick paper (up to 300gsm), it comes with Mac and PC built-in drivers. Some HP media has been independently tested on the DesignJet 130 to last more than 70 years before noticeable fading. (Price range for printers: $1,300 - $16,000)
Christopher Makos (www.christophermakos.com), of Makostudio, a portrait and fine-art photographer based in New York City, has been in business for 25 years, shooting with the Fujifilm FinePix S2 Pro for the past five years and outputting on an HP5500 with HP UV inks for three years. Says Makos, "The HP5500 is a cash machine; whatever I make on it, people want to purchase." Makos prints virtually all his work on Hahnemühle's Photo Rag (308 gsm weight) in sheet and roll form. "It is the best paper for the way the HP lays down ink on paper."
A recent series of his images combines photographs with words-some even misspelled (above)-to express a range of emotions about today's world.