Q: I'm ready to move up to a 13x19-inch photo printer and I wonder if I should get one that uses pigments? Those machines, like Epson's new R2000 or the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II, are more expensive than others that use regular inks, like the Epson R1900 or the Pixma Pro9000 Mark II. Is it worth paying more to be able to use pigments for photo printing?
Answer: Well, there are several reasons why some of the printers employing fade-resistant pigment-based inks are more expensive than others that use dye-based inks. Check the specs for the new Epson Stylus Photo R2000, for example. Aside from the different types of inks, the R2000 benefits from new technology. That includes a superior AMC print head with more accurate dot placement and reduced maintenance, plus wireless 802.11n and Ethernet support.
Pigments are more fade resistant than dyes but, as discussed in a moment, some of the machines using dye-based inks can provide impressive print permanence. To maximize fade-resistance when displaying photos, be sure to frame them using a matt and glass, preferably glass with a UV filter. (c) Peter K. Burian
The difference in specs is not always as great. Compare the two PIXMA machines, for example: the Pro9000 Mk II (which uses dyes) and the Pro9500 Mk II (which uses pigments). The most important benefit provided by the latter is its inkset: ten vs. eight for superior quality in both colour and monochrome printing.
Whether you should pay more for a machine that uses pigments also depends on your needs in regards to print permanence. Pigments are more lightfast than dyes, as a general rule, but the cost of ink is higher. On the other hand, new dye technologies make the Epson R1900 quite competitive with printers using pigments. Its prints should last over 100 years on display under glass when framed and matted, according to Wilhelm Research. The difference in on-display print permanence is more significant with the PIXMA machines: 100+ years for the Pro9500 II vs. 50 years for the Pro9000 II.
While the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 (which prints using eight pigments) will satisfy pros and galleries, the more affordable R2000 (which prints using six pigments) targets photo enthusiasts. It includes some of the useful features of the R3000 but not all of the latest technology and it's not as impressive in black and white printing. If you primarily make colour prints, however, the R2000 should be a fine choice.
Frankly, few photo enthusiasts display their photos for much longer than 20 years. Hence, I would recommend buying the machine with the speed, features and print quality that meet your expectations. Also check out the Epson Stylus R3000. This is a brand new model with numerous features for great convenience and versatility as well as the latest technology for superb prints in both color and monochrome.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Peter Burian teaches two terrific online photo courses at BetterPhoto's digital photography school online - Mastering the Digital Camera and Photography and Mastering the Canon EOS Digital Rebels. Also check out Peter's Pro BetterPholio website: www.peterkburian.com.