Myron Kassaraba's weblog about digital photography on the web

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Happiness Is....

A camera that lets you capture the moments of your life with ease and beauty without getting in the way and may even help you be a better photographer by making the right decisions for you. The shutter lag problem that has plagued digital cameras for many years is coming close to being a non-issue in the most current generation of cameras. Here's a story abou two of them in the NYT.

Cameras That Reduce Shutter Lag to a Mere Asterisk. Two new cameras from Casio and Kyocera claim to minimize "shutter lag" - the delay between your finger's push
and the shutter's snap. By David Pogue. [
New York Times: Technology]

The other souce of happiness is great looking output, whether on a screen or in hardcopy. I finally pulled the trigger on a printer - the Canon i960 (small drop size, speed and consistently great user reviews were what got me) and I could not be happier. $185 from Amazon before a $30 rebate from Canon. This printer rocks. In my test. I shipped the same digital files to Ofoto, printed them at CVS at a Kodak PictureMaker, printed on several HP and Epson printers and the Canon blows them all away for image quality. The very best results I've gotten were with Canon's Picture Paper Pro (though the Picture Paper Plus is also quite good) using the supplied Easy-PhotoPrint application. The results I got printing from different applications was quite surprising. The Canon software definately works some magic in harmony with the capabilties of the printer and it is a pleasure to use. I've printed a load of 4x6's so far and tomorrow will pick up some 5x7 and 8x10 paper. I can see some bulk ink purchases in my future.....

This for me is a bit of a revelation. I knew inkjet prints were getting good but this has me re-thinking some things.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Mass Confusion............

Now that I have all of these great digital images, I've been testing different printing options. My initial focus was on both online fulfillment (Ofoto, PhotoWorks, Shutterfly, etc.) as well as print to retail (, Cameras Inc.) and print at retail (Ritz Fuji system, CVS Kodak PictureMaker, Polaroid kiosk, etc.). For the most part I found that the mail order guys have it down. They have timely turn-around and quite good quality. I was always "happy" with the resulting prints. My experience at retail has not resulted in the same level of happiness. In general, the prints I get back are not as pleasing as the mail order prints nor do they reflect what I used to get from those same shops when I used to drop my APS film off for developing.
This has led me to my current quest for a photo printer for home.The print samples I picked up at PMA were really amazing and I thought it might be time to take the plunge. I'm actually really excited about being able to make my own prints and the idea of a portable printer I could take to the lake is even more appealing. I set out to try as many of the printers as I could with a representative set of images that I had taken. Some shots around the house as well as a few special memories. My first comment is that any vendor that has to rely on the retail channels to sell their products is screwed. Trying to get "help" at a BestBuy is a joke. Trying to get them to help me actually get some print samples from some of these printers was beyond amusing from having these guys look at eachother like I had asked them to give up their cell phone to the amusement when the kid put Kodak Printer Dock paper (thermal) into the Epson PictureMate (inkjet) and then covered his fingers in ink when I handed him the print!

So I've done research online, read some magazines and forums and played with inkjet printers from Canon, Epson & HP (the folks at MicroCenter were both helpful and competent). I have a personal bias against dye sub prints. Can't really explain it - just don't like them. So here I am, someone who was the product manager for the first plain paper full-color printer sold (Howtek PixelMaster) and my head is spinning. Between drop size, ink type, paper type and features and functions, trying to actually select one of these devices is damn near impossible.

One of the biggest areas of confusion has to do with print life. Kodak says if you use their paper, it will last longer - even with a printer that uses dye-based inks but they have only tested with HP printers so they really don't know what will happen with Canon and Epson printers. I actually placed an order for an Epson RX600 all-in-one printer/scanner from then after sleeping on in, cancelled it. I am now leaning towards the Epson R800 but I'm going to let this decision incubate a little more. I've been trying to decide how much attention to pay to this print life issue. Is it worth almost $200 not to mention the more expensive ink and media? So what if some of the things I print fade? I can just reprint them. What about photos that I gift? The guys who seem to be the print life gurus are at Wilhelm Imaging Research and their site has some very useful information.

My non-scientific impressions are that the Epson photo printers have the best dynamic range/print gamut and sharpness, (even the 3 pico drops) and they dry instantly. I find the HP prints (I tested the 245 and the 7960) to be over saturated and hated the fact that they required drying time, the Canon had some nice looking output but their consumables just seemed out of line with the price of the Epson and HP inks and paper. The EPSON PictureMate is an impressive little printer but without a color preview screen the UI would drive me crazy. I'm also thinking that I want to print more pictures to frame so I'm leaning towards an 8x10 multi-function printer.

As I have said before, dropping your role of film off at the photo shop and making some simple decisions like one set or two, matte finish or glossy is pretty easy (though they even managed to make that overly complicated with "do you want CVS-brand or Kodak-brand processessing? one hour or back in two days? border or no border? Augh!). As this digital photography market continues to evolve, it will need to become much simpler for the avarage consumer to make purchasing decisions - if it doesn't, people will become paralyzed in digital mass confusion.
Any of your expereinces with photo printers you care to share would be appreciated.