A3 colour photo printers

Introduction

With most camera manufacturers winding down the production of 35mm cameras and concentrating on their digital counterparts, you could say that traditional photography is dead – at least for the prosumer market, where digital SLRs such as Nikon’s D50 and Canon’s EOS 350D have really taken hold.

What many people expected is that prints would also go the way of the dodo, and in the comfort of our hi-tech homes, we’d view our snaps on our TV screens or computer monitors. While that does happen, it turns out that people still love owning real prints and the home-printer market is an exciting, vibrant place. High-street stores have jumped on the bandwagon and many one-hour photo boutiques now offer cheap digital prints that look every bit as good as their photographic cousins.

Chances are that professional photographers, if they’re not already shooting digitally, are scanning slides and negatives so they can tinker and fine-tune them in Photoshop or one of the new digital workflow applications such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (currently in beta) or Apple’s superb Aperture. These guys don’t want the bog-standard four-by-six prints churned out by the spotty kid at the one-hour photo store,
they want the digital equivalent of custom hand prints that can be exhibited or placed in a portfolio.

The high-quality, A3 market is an important one because it covers not just photographers, but also designers wanting to proof magazine spreads, architecture firms hoping to win clients with glossy 3D renders of new building designs, and anyone who needs to produce high-quality, short-run posters.

There is a huge range of output devices to suit every budget out there. Once upon a time dye-sublimation printing was the only game in town, producing high-quality results that inkjet and laser printers could only dream of. But in recent years those technologies have caught up with, and many cases surpassed, the quality and advantages of dye-subs. Sublimation printers are now, more often than not, relegated to photo kiosks and postcard-sized mobile photo printers.

For speed, colour accuracy, fine detail and flexibility, the A3 market now belongs firmly to inkjet printers and, to a lesser extent, colour laser printers. However, to demonstrate that not all printers are born equal, we looked at a sampling of devices from the major printer manufacturers and compared them performing a variety of tasks. The good news is that every printer did an excellent job, but the devil, as they say, is in the detail.

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