One of more tedious products I get to review is the mono laser-printer. Sure, mono lasers were integral to the birth and boom of the Mac and desktop publishing. But I find it difficult to get excited by them anymore – until this one. The Xanté FilmMaker 4 is a different kind of laser printer. It brings the highest-quality mono printing ever seen to the office. But this isn’t really an office printer, it’s designed to be a graphics printer through and through.
The difference between the FilmMaker and other lasers is that it is designed from the ground up for graphics. Therefore it includes the capability to print on a range of paper sizes, and media – including polyester film up to 13-x-35.5-inches.
The ability to print directly to film makes this ideal for small design, repro or print shops. While it’s unsuitable for four-colour printing, it can handle single ink and duo-tone jobs easily. You can, in theory, print four-colour separations, but the margin of error is too great for high-quality work. Though for jobs where image quality is less important it will do fine.
Not any old laser printer can output on film. For instance, film shrinks as the fuser heats it. This can cause problems, unless the printer has the ability to adjust to fit, which of course the FilmMaker does. It prints a test page so you can measure this shrinking or lengthening of the printed image. Then you simply tell the printer your results, and – presto – your images are the correct size.
The FilmMaker can also adjust the density of the toner for different media. For instance, if printing on film it would be advisable to step up the amount of toner used. This thickens the letters slightly, which allows for the burnout effect when the plates are made from the film. These features are fiddly and a pain to use, but they are essential to the film-making process. Of course, the FilmMaker can do more than just film separations. Its mono output is second to none. The 2,400-x-2,400dpi resolution results in crisp lettering and smooth gradients. If you have a densitometer, you can calibrate the output easily to get accurate greyscale reproduction.
The FilmMaker is unlike any other mono laser-printer I’ve seen. The kind of quality you get from the FilmMaker comes at a price, and at £4,299 it’s more expensive than some colour models. However, the unique ability to print onto film makes it worth the price tag. In fact, it could pay for itself pretty quickly if you do a lot of single-plate printing. The FilmMaker’s output is as good as mono printing gets. Its speed, quality and unique features make it the only choice for desktop-film printing.
This review appeared in the Expo 2001 issue