photokina Special Coverage; Fine Art Printers

While HP did show a number of consumer-oriented printers, perhaps the most interest was generated by their new HP Designjet Z2100 and Z3100 models. Both use HP Vivera pigment ink technology (introduced with the HP Photosmart Pro B9180) and have built-in color management with an embedded spectrophotometer. According to HP, the use of the Vivera pigmented inks yields 200+ years light fastness on a wide variety of HP media. There are also 11 new HP media, bringing the choices to more than 30. The printers come in two models, in 24 and 44" sizes, making four in all. The Z2100 is an eight-ink printer, and the Z3100 is a 12-ink model. Both allow for making matte and glossy prints without the need to switch between matte black and photo black inks.

The ability to create custom ICC profiles right in the printer with the built-in spectrophotometer is quite an interesting turn of events. A demo at the HP stand showed how custom profile sets could be created in less than 20 minutes as the printer created color patches, which were then read by the built-in spectrophotometer on the fly. The resultant profile could then be saved and assigned when needed. A debate among competitors about creating profiles from what they dub as "wet ink" will be settled when the units become available for test.

HP Designjet Z3100

HP, like other companies, see the growing demand for fine art black and white printing, so they have done much work to produce what they dub "true gray neutrality" in the ink sets. This includes the significant reduction of metamerism and the production of a higher optical density. Their Z3100 also includes a gloss enhancer in the 12-ink set, which reduces or eliminates any bronzing effect with certain papers. When units become available we will be sure to test these claims.

Estimated US MSRP for the HP Designjet Z2100 24" model is $3395, and the 44" model is $5595. Estimated US MSRP for the HP Designjet Z3100 24" model is $4095, and the 44" model is $6295.

The Z3100 will be available in early 2007, while the Z2100 should be available by the time you read this.

Epson Stylus Pro 3800

Epson's Stylus Pro 3800
Epson's new Stylus Pro 3800 is a fairly compact printer, at least for the output size of from 4x6 to 17x22" paper. The 3800 uses Epson's UltraChrome K3 pigment ink and at about $1295, is aimed right at the portrait, wedding, and photo fine art user. This eight-ink printer improves on workflow and ink savings by being the first Epson wide format printer that does not require you to switch inks when changing from glossy to matte or fine art papers. Unlike the much, much larger 4800, the unit does not support roll paper printing; however, alternate feed slots do allow for the use of quite thick cut sheet media.