It would be great if I had one of each printer ever manufactured, but I don't. So, I'm asking for help. There are hopefully plenty of folks out on the Net who would be willing to do a print for me so I can fade them and get a comparison of inks across various manufacturers. The data would be extremely valuable to everyone involved, and hopefully would give the Inkjet printer manufacturers the signal that we are testing their inks, and they need to improve them in order to stay competitive.
Here are my minimum requirements at this point. I think all these points need to be met in order to maximize the accuracy and value of the tests.
Each volunteer must:
I think these are the absolute minimum requirements to get a test of any sort of value. If this sounds good to you, email me and let me know the brand/model of printer you will be willing to perform this test on.
The "targeting" issue is very important to me. If you are hesitant that your Photoshop skills may not allow you to do this well, I have developed a "ringaround" file that will let you print an 8x10 that has a range of gamma and saturation values to make it very easy to find the one that most closely matches my original. You could even just send the ringaround to me, and I'll send you my best guess at the targeting.
My biggest problem now is choosing the standard paper to use. I really want to use Ilford based on my testing to date, but some Epson users are hesitant to use Ilford because there have been complaints about "bronzing" due to too much ink building up on the paper. Ilford's site has a workaround where they suggest upping the black point (using the black output slider in Levels) to prevent too much ink from getting to the paper. I also understand that the Epson printer drivers provide for some tweaking that might help the problem. In my experience with the HP DeskJet 722c, tweaking in Photoshop is usually preferable to tweaking in the drivers. Comments on this issue would be very much appreciated since I see this as the only remaining obstacle to vigorously persuing this test.
As an added bonus to this test, I hope to send a set of extra prints to one of the folks who has done some of the printer comparisons. I think they will find these "targeted" prints more useful in determining the capabilities of various printers.
These were my original volunteer ideas. They may be too ambitious since I've received absolutely no feedback (well, ok 2 or three people, though I don't believe they had seen the following ideas).
Since I don't own one of each printer that exists, I figure I could use some help from folks on the 'net. Those who have various printers that I haven't tested are welcome to help me out. I haven't figured out or tested a strategy for using other people's help, but I do have a few ideas:
I have a .psd file that can be printed from PhotoShop, but you will probably need to do a little tweaking to get density and saturation that is similar to what I've been doing. I can send you one of my prints so you can try to match it. I think this part of the process is pretty important. It may also be possible to have you print the photo with no tweaking, then send it to me, and I'll make my best guess as to how much tweaking is required, and send a new .psd file to see if I was close. Tweaking for each paper would be nice, but I think it's too much of a time and materials waster. I'm trying to do the best I can on a reasonable budget. Maybe if there is a very close tie for first, and the initial prints look very different, this would be needed.
I'd like to shoot for a set of no fewer than 6 papers at a time. This will give us a great batch of data all at once and minimize the time spent doing this. Volunteers will have to buy their own paper (I bought mine). I estimate this cost at around $60 for 6 different papers, maybe more (some can be had as free samples, and more manufacturers are starting to trickle in with free samples of their paper for me to test). I figure this will eliminate anyone who's not as serious about this as I am. As I start getting dependable volunteers, I'll start sending them paper that I have left over from other tests (seems silly to waste it). I am very serious about finding out how other printer's inks perform. After all, I will be in the market for a new printer sometime in the future....
If you mail me your final prints, I will do the sunlight exposures and scans. This should help with consistency, and it will offload the already very generous volunteers from doing the hardest part (although in my mind, the most interesting). I'd be willing to send back the prints after the test is completed so you can see the results first-hand. If you want to do all the work, I'm in no position to complain. I'll even host your web page if needed. Of course, you'll have to take the bullet when an irate paper or printer manufacturer loses their cool!
I will have to limit how many active volunteers I have at one time. I only have so much window space. The seasons may also render my favorite window useless as the sun drops lower and lower. We'll have to see how that turns out.
At this time, I am most interested in volunteers with different makes of printer from my own: Canon, Lexmark, Epson, ALPS, LightJet 5000 (that's not an inkjet!), etc.... The HP PhotoSmart printers would also be interesting since I understand they are significantly different from the DeskJets. I've noticed that a lot of HP's DeskJet printers use the same ink cartridges, so testing across a specific manufacturer's line will probably need to take into account ink cartridge model numbers.
So, if this sounds like a fun way to spend a day or two, email me and let me know what make/model of printer you can do testing with. I'll start building a volunteer list, and select from that list as time permits.<- Back to Fade Testing.