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Elizabeth Cunningham Exclusive: Beyond Cameras - Output for the Pros

Ilford Photo’s marketing director Howard Hopwood (r.), at the Ilford Photo stand at photokina with the company’s Peter Elton (l.).
Elizabeth Cunningham

Cologne , Germany — Would've, could've, should've gone to SGIA/DPI taking place concurrently in Las Vegas to see the big professional/commercial output devices, but all pro output is not large format. Many devices share the same front-ends, media, color management, etc. There was plenty of pro software, equipment, and media at photokina. As lines continue to blur, the question arises: what do you consider pro output?

We can start with Frontline, the new sweetheart of front-end software. Who uses it? Fujifilm, Noritsu, Agfa d-lab, Durst Theta/Lambda, and Kis/Photo Me.

Then we can go to Caldera Graphics, the French darling of RIP choices. It's Ripping time is now 4-5 times faster. It even handles white ink workflow. Its VisualRIP+ is gaining in popularity among digital printers for Scan-to-Print, Scan-to-PDF and File-to-Print for desktop users. This is a multi-tasking client/server solution for processing and large format printing. It processes data from all platforms including a TIFF-IT RIP engine. VisualRIP+ has tiling and nesting features and task automation with workflow. It interfaces with major printer manufacturers including Durst, Seiko, Zünd, Mutoh, and Gandinnovations, definitely commercial equipment, but some can be found in specialty photo labs.

What Goes Around, Comes Around

Sorting out of the two Ilford companies can be confusing. Visitors marveled at their large and impressive exhibit designed to bring the Ilford brand back after being in limbo for almost two years. Last year Oji Paper Co., the huge Japanese paper company that owns trees, purchased the Swiss part of Ilford.

They are keeping the Ilford name, but technically it's Oji Ilford USA . This is the color part, but not exclusively. The monochrome division, in Mobberley , England was sold to Harman Technologies. Harman licenses the Ilford name from Oji to brand its monochrome products, but is also in color competition with Oji Ilford.

First , let's clarify what Oji Ilford does and how we trade writers differentiate between the two very separate companies so as not to confuse you. How about Ilford for the Swiss and Ilford Photo for the Brits? It's difficult to imagine that anyone who knows Ilford will refer to the British products as Harman color, even though Harman was the name of Ilford's founder.

In Switzerland , Ilford produces inkjet media (including a lot of OEM), and photo Ilfotrans, Ilfoflex, and Ilfoclear silver halide products. The company has divorced their ink business with the exception of OEM sales of their famous dyes and colorants. What about silver halide paper? Previously , Konica produced the Ilford branded RA paper, but Dai Nippon Screen purchased the Konica coating alleys. In speaking with top management at Ilford, they are working on sourcing silver halide paper, because up until two years ago Ilford sold a lot of wide RA4 rolls to big photo labs. Perhaps Ilford Oji could coat its own RA4 paper in Switzerland where Oji invested $10 million in upgrading their coating facilities.

Now back to Ilford Photo, a name we can all use when we refer to their monochrome products. With Kodak and Agfa out of B&W, Ilford Photo is the primary game in town, and should be able to wrap up the U.S. and foreign markets. Of course Ilford wants the camera film business for whatever life it has left.

B&W purists will be happy to know that Ilford Photo has even resurrected fiber-based paper, and according to Duggal Color Productions, NYC, it can be processed traditionally in B&W chemistry.

Now we come to the competition to Ilford (Swiss) and additional confusion. Ilford Photo is going after the photo/art market coating their Multigrade FP for color inkjet, however, in referring to this product you must call it Harman Technologies' color paper. Are you all still with me? As Howard Hopwood , marketing director, says, "This is the first inkjet media to be born from technology, science and expertise founded in traditional photographic product. There is no product around like it." Just scan those museum works of art with the Cruse, archive the images and send them to your favorite prolab for quality output.

What's so unique about this Harman color inkjet paper is that it's coated with Baryta. Back in the 1960s , Baryta-coated paper was used for proofing and known for the finest color, but it had never made the transition to inkjet until now. Traditionally , Baryta was applied to the fiber photographic paper base prior to coating with the emulsion layers. Its advantages include great detail, extended tonal range, whiter whites, deeper blacks and excellent archival layers. Harman is currently coating up to 44-inches, but could coat 60-inches wide. The paper is compatible with dye-and-pigment-based inks and comes in gloss FB Gel, matt FB MP, Gloss RC and Pearl RC.

A Shining Product

The latest Cruse scanning camera was a bright light. This is not your old two-side lights-copy stand configuration. Hermann Cruse has designed special silicon lights that travel across the artwork. Tri-linear RGB CCD sensors move across in a single pass. He has eliminated reflections due to the angle of the light source, the size of the lens diameter and the amount of power. Cruse uses a special small diameter lens. In viewing a Monet copy, you had to touch it in order to know that it wasn't paint on canvas.

Is Dye-sub Going Inkjet?

Dye-sublimation is popular now. The majority of printers incorporated into digital print kiosks are dye-sub. HP is the only major supplier that didn't go the dye-sub route. Dye-sub is gaining momentum in the large format display arena, but like true solvent-based ink, it may have a limited lifespan. Kurt Freund , whose Imaging Power Systems' Agenos brand dye-sub kiosks are manufactured-to-order gives dye-sub two to three years. Others say that inkjet will begin to replace dye-sub next year. We'll see.

Dr. Richard Piock , managing director of Durst Phototechnik Ag says that Durst will not produce a dye-sub printer but suggests that their cationic inks will be as good as dye-sub on printing fabrics, without transfer paper, pre-coated media, odor, intensive labor, and heat finishing. You will also have a stable finished print, environmentally safe, and can be used on any media, from tile to velour.

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