Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs


 

Printing Insights #031

HP Designjet 30/90/130 Experience Report



A review diary by Uwe Steinmueller

 
 
 
The diary always has the latest entry on top
 

 
7/26/2005 Using the DJ 90r now
 

We are now using the Designjet 90r. The designjet 90 can print photos up to 18x24" and starts at about $1000. Otherwise it works very much like the DJ30 and DJ130. Also ImagePrint (see below) works on the DJ90 as well.

Installation:

  • Installation guide is much improved (we needed about 10 minutes for the installation)
  • Perform printhead allignment
  • For some pitfalls doing the color calibration remain
    • Do not use a USB hub while calibrating
    • Make sure Internet Explorer is your default browser

Single sheet feeding with the DJ90/DJ130 is way more reliable as you can pre-feed the paper by pressing the "OK" button. Be sure to keep the paper parallel while the printer pulls in the paper.

 

 
7/1/2005 Soft Gloss or Satin?
 

There has beeen some confusion about the difference between:

  • HP Premium Plus Soft Gloss Photo Paper

and

  • HP Premium Plus Sating Photo Paper

First Wilhem listed only the Satin paper and lately only the Soft Gloss variant. As we understand these papers are actually identical.

Fortunately Wilhem now lists the paper under all its names (too many long names :-) ).

 

 
6/19/2005 ImagePrint 6.0 for Designjet 30/90/130
 

Can you make excellent B&W prints on the Designjet 30/90/130?

Yes, if you use ImagePrint 6.0.

We always relied for our B&W prints on ImagePrint. We are very pleased what B&W prints IP 6 can produce on a printer with just one black. Check out our IP6 review.

 

 
6/15/2005 Cost per Print Data by HP
 

HP published a document (PDF) which outline the cost per print with 2 different sample images. The calculation takes the cost of the print heads into account.

I would like to see these data from all printer manufacturers. They should even agree to use the same pictures.

Note: The data reflect list price (without Tax). This means in practice that the real price can be often quite a bit lower.

 

 
4/2/2005 Paper Feeding Problems
 

There are reports (second by own experience) that the DJ30/130 has a couple of flaws with paper feeding:

  • Using Premium Photo Plus Satin paper from role leaves roller marks
  • Feeding this paper from the tray and single feed from the front is not reliable

Please read the more detailed discussion at Yahoo Groups: HP DesignJet Printers.

There seems an answer to this question. The HP specs state that the front trays and the rolls should only work with papers up to 40 lbs (and the Satin paper is 76.1 lb).

Read the original HP specs here.

Now that the specs are fine we can only find that this is a flawed design as the the heavy papers make the HP DJ 30/130 interesting. If you follow the specs then only sheet paper can be used for rear feeding. Remember HP also lists rolls of the Satin paper for this printer.

 

 
3/21/2005 Printing at the right PPI?
 
The Designjet printers work at a native 600 PPI (not the same as the DPI of the inkjet output). You may get better results upsizing yourself to 600 PPI because otherwise the printer driver will do anyhow. This will create huge files on your disks. For Windows users there is a way better solution at a bargain price: Qimage. Qimage has very good upsizing algorithms built-in and also allows final "smart" sharpening. You leave the image at the cameras native size, sharpen your images without artifacts or halos and Qimage will upsize them automatically to the printers native PPI. We printed the same file from PS and Qimage (with slight "smart" sharpening) and got clearly better results.
 

 
3/20/2005 Not very good feeding for Letter sized papers
 
The feeding for letter sized papers is a far cry from perfect. It needs sometimes some manual help. Read in the Designjet Yahoo group how to handle the situation.
 

 
3/4/2005 Printing a portfolio on the DJ 30
 

We are currently printing a portfolio on the DJ 30 using the Premium Photo Plus Satin 13x19" paper. So far we like the results a lot. Most of our portfolio prints are from this photo collection.

Note: As other users also found out: the DJ 30 stays warm on the top of the right side. This seems to be normal with this printer.

 

 
2/21/2005 Colorbyte announced Imageprint for DJ 30, 90 & 130 at PMA 2005
 
We hope to have soon a version of IP for the DJ 30.
 

 
2/19/2005 HP Designjet 90 printer announced
 

Today at PMA 2005 the Designjet 90 Printer was announced (prints up to 18x24").

Download the HP fact sheet from here.

 

 
2/8/2005 Jim Collum compares Epson 7600 and HP30 prints
 

We asked our friend Jim Collum to compare two prints from the HP DJ30 and the Epson 7600:

Both prints showed this test file at 15" height (25MB Mac SIT file):

  • DJ30 with HP drivers, HP stock profiles and Photo Plus Satin paper
  • Epson 7600 with Epson Premium SemiMatte paper, Epson drivers & our own custom profiles

Here is Jim's analysis:

"I’m always in search of the perfect print medium. I suspect this will be a never ending search, although for B/W, platinum on water color paper and Ilford galerie silver paper come close. Dye transfer and 4 color carbon pigment were two traditional (analog) processes that resulted in excellent color and subtle tonal variations. Unfortunately, both are very time consuming, and require extensive darkroom work.

I started off with digital printing with a 4 color Epson 3000 printer (17x22”). It was the start, but still not what I was used to in the darkroom (I printed mostly Cibachrome). Shortly after, I purchased an Epson 9500, and was happy enough with it to consider selling the prints that came off of it. There was still a metamerism issue, as well as not-so-subtle transitions in the highlights.

The release of the Epson 9600/7600 cured the transition problem. Using light magenta, cyan and black allowed for much smoother highlights. The metamerism was much less, probably on par with the Cibachrome process (yes, metamerism existed before digital). There were still some issues though (needing two printers if you wanted to easily print both on glossy paper and fine art paper), but the world was a very happy place for photographic printers. There were still some issues with B/W printing and color shifts there, but software soon resolved that (ImagePrint RIP and Roy Harrington’s Quad Tone Rip).

Espon pretty much owned the fine art photographic printing market, with those printers (7600 and 9600). Recently, they tied up their hold by releasing the Epson 4000. But a market tied up by one company isn’t always a good thing (even if the products are excellent). Consumables (ink and paper) can become very expensive.

Hewlett-Packard is hoping on fixing that.

They have recently released a 24” printer that’s priced to compete with the Epson 4000 (a 17” printer). Uwe has already gone into printer specifics, so I will focus on print quality.

The first thing you notice when looking at an Epson print and HP print side-by-side, is that the HP has a *much* blacker black. I took readings using a reflection densitometer, and came up with a Dmax of 2.21 for the HP, and 1.87 for the Epson. I’m printing on the HP photo matte paper, and Epson Professional SemiMatte (250gm). Readings on the Glossy papers would be higher for both. As a point of reference, the deepest black I can get using Platinum/Palladium is about 1.50.

I scanned parts of both prints using an Epson 4870 flatbed scanner at 4800dpi. At this resolution, the information you’re seeing on the print is interpolated by the printer/print driver. If you look at the source file (even though it’s printed at 360 dpi), you won’t see that level of detail.


Epson Shadow


HP Shadow

Some general observations about the scans. The Epson print is sharper than the HP print. It's not that noticeable in the full size prints. I suspect that is due to the deeper black of the HP print giving it a higher contrast. There also appears to be better detail in the shadows on the Epson. This is something that is noticeable in the print, but not drastically so. I suspect this can be compensated for with some additional fine tuning of the profile. The reds on the HP have more punch to them, but the greens seem a bit too cyan for my liking. Again, maybe some fine tuning of the profile will help.

The paper itself is interesting. The HP paper feels like there’s a cloth/fabric backing on the paper. It is thicker and much less prone to curling. The HP paper is a bit warmer in tone than the Epson.

The ink/paper combination from HP has been tested for fading, and it seems will satisfy most fine art photographer’s need for long lasting prints. Both Epson and HP still last longer than equivalent photo based lightjet prints (as well as Cibachrome). I did find, however, that the HP ink/paper combination was not waterproof. The ink quickly ran when sprinkled with light rain. The Epson print held up just fine.

From a photographer’s perspective, the HP 130 printer is an excellent alternative to the Epson 7600/4000 line. I don’t feel the difference is enough for me to dump my Epson 7600, but if you are looking to buy either and Epson 4000 or 7600, you need to look into this printer first. The punch of the blacks in the HP prints are something to behold."

 

 
2/6/2005 DJ30 and B/W
 

We don't think that you can produce good B/W prints with just the drivers for the DJ30. We compared it to excellent B/W from the small Photosmart 8450 that sports 3 dedicated gray colors for B/W (but only does Letter sized prints).

We hope to get a RIP soon that may do much better for B/W.

 

 
2/2/2005 Paper Feeding Issues
 
We had a few miss fed paper sheets if we use single paper feeding from the front. Also if we have 5x7 paper loaded it may feed more than one sheet. Then sometimes we need to hit the manual feed button that paper is properly feeded.
 

 
1/30/2005 Drying Time
 
The prints need some time till they dry (I would say at least an hour). During that period they are very prone to damage and also picking up dust. Epson prints are nearly dry when the come out of the printer.
 

 
1/26/2005 A Note by Charles Cramer
 

We are very happy that Charles Cramer added a very personal comment to our diary. As we mentioned we value his opinion very much as he is a a true master printer.

Charles Cramer wrote:

"Note for Uwe Steinmuller for Digital Outback Photo about the HP Designjet 130

Uwe has asked me to comment on the HP Designjet 130, and I’m delighted to share my excitement about this printer. HP is making a concerted effort to reach the “fine art” market, and has partnered with the Ansel Adams Gallery to help spread the word about their newest printers. In the spirit of full disclosure, HP gave me one of these printers, since I teach workshops for the AA Gallery. But, I am under no obligations to HP. It just turns out that this printer produces the finest prints I’ve seen (so far…!)

The key is the really incredible black that the HP dyes and papers produce. I’ve measured various prints, from Epson to dye transfers, and here are the results. (L* is now used instead of density, and basically can be considered as percentage reflectance—the lower the number, the better). These numbers represent the blackest black these processes can provide:

L* 10 Epson Premium Lustre
L*6 Ilfochrome (Classic)
L*5 Lightjet print on Fuji Crystal Archive Matte
L*4 Dye Transfer Color print
L*4 Selenium-toned Ilford Multigrade FB
L*3 HP Designjet 130 on HP Premium Plus Satin
L*2 HP Designjet 130 on HP Premium Plus Glossy

Having a blacker black increases the dynamic range of the print, producing a more brilliant and more realistic-looking print. In many images, it makes a big difference. The HP printer produces the blackest black I’ve ever seen.

I have gradually shifted most of my print-making from my Epson 9600 to this HP Designjet 130. Over the last 8 months, it has performed well, with little clogging or banding. To my eyes, it also has a finer and smoother dot pattern than the Epson. The one problem that every 130 seems to have is with the optional roll paper adapter. This will handle 24” paper in rolls, and feeds paper through the back of the printer. It works, but leaves slight tracks where the rubber rollers pinched the paper. This can be hidden with a busy image, but shows up distressingly on smooth areas, especially with the glossy paper. As a workaround, I cut up the paper from the rolls, and feed it through the front manual feed avoiding any roller marks. For archival prints, you’re limited in paper choices---I like the Premium Plus Satin. No more bronzing or gloss differential."

 
 

 
1/23/2005 Getting Started with the HP Designjet 30 (130)
 

What about longevity?

This is the first HP printer we have in for review. Up until now we only looked into Epson printers. Why that? The answer is pretty easy. We know that HP and Canon can make excellent printers, But Epson was clearly the dominating force to care about print longevity. Now it seems that the giant HP also takes longevity very serious.

Charles Cramer was the first who introduced us to the HP130. Charlie is a master photographer and printer (used Dye Transfer, Lightjet, Epson 9600 and HP 130) and pays attention to all the fine details. Means if he finds the HP DJ 130 interesting we listen.

Epson is going the way of pigmented inks to reach the goal of longevity. But this comes with the price of a more limited color gamut than dye ink based solutions and is also limited in the black level you can reach. It is also known that Epson mainly rules on matte papers while their glossy print show quite a bit of bronzing. HP stays with dye inks (improved formulas?) and uses swellable media papers that protect the inks from outside influences.

In the end Wilhelm Imaging Research predicts that the HP Designjet 30/130 prints on the HP Photo Plus Glossy and Satin papers could last 80 years or longer.

We know these are all prediction but so are also the data shown for the Epson Ultrachrome inks. A good paper to read is this HP document "Inkjet Photo Prints: Here to Stay" (of course HP biased but still with substance).

All this is reason enough to have a closer look at the HP Designjet 30/130 printers. The Designjet 30 can print up to 13x19" and costs about $700 (a clear competitor to the Epson 2200). The Designjet 130 can print up to 24" wide and starts at $1300 (competes with the Epson 4000).

Exciting and frustrating times?

We think these are exciting times as we can do now our own prints in a small office that needed 4-5 years ago a huge Lightjet printer with its own building.

Why is printing often still frustrating? Clearly we are still in the early times of high end inkjet printing and nothing is as perfect as we would like to see:

  • B/W printing
  • Glossy and matte media
  • Bugs
  • Calibration and profiling issues

Overall these are amazing times although making good prints takes a long experience and costs a lot of wasted ink and paper.

Out initial feeling is that the HP Designjet is worth to be explored.

Installation

We find the installation document could be much better with larger pictures. Have look at the documentation on the CD which uses animations to show the essential steps. Epson printers have the print heads fixed integrated into the printer while the HP DJ 30 uses extra heads (the HP consumer printers have the heads built in to the ink cartridges). Installing the heads means also an extra step. If you know how this extra step is very easy. As said we did not find the installation sheet that helpful.


Print heads

The ink cartridges are pretty well sized and have more volume for the inks that are used up most (black, light cyan, light magenta and yellow). Very good idea.


Ink cartridges

The panel on the front shows status information and how much ink is used:


Operations panel

Note: The HP DJ 30 needs a lot of space for a 13x19" printer.

Color Management

We find that HP takes color management of their HP DJ 30/130 very serious. The color management is actually a two step process:

a) Paper type printer calibration

b) Profiling

Color Calibration

The color calibration is a great idea. The printer prints a target, checks it and optimizes settings for a certain paper type and stores the data in the printer's flash memory. Even without the calibration the printer works quite well. You should calibrate the printer when:

  • Using a new paper type the first time
  • After switching heads
  • Every 2 weeks (we hope this is a too aggressive schedule)

But on our road to color calibrations we had to overcome some problems:

1. It won't work through a USB hub (HP service helped us here very efficiently)

2. Somehow HP software designers got the idea to assume that every Windows user has the Internet Explorer as its default browser (what were they thinking?). We did not. If not then you are out of luck to use the software. Solution: Make IE you main browser. (HP service could not help directly but brought us on the right track).

For the next problem you have to understand that you calibrate the printer for certain HP paper groups (not really down to the single different papers).

To understand which paper belongs to which group read here. We also don't want to repeat all the details of that process but show the excellent article by Neil Snape.

3. But even if you understand all this there is a major glitch. The printer won't do proper calibration of the Photo Plus Glossy paper. Fortunately there is a known workaround. You calibrate the printer for the Photo Plus Satin paper and use this setting in the driver settings.

How to use the HP 30/130 from Photoshop is also described by Neil Snape here.

Is the calibration worth it?

So far we think clearly yes. Before the calibration we got great prints but this image showed a color cast in the marked region:


Death Valley Dunes

After calibration this color cast was gone.

Profiles

The HP DJ 30/130 comes with many HP stock profiles and they are really good.

First print results

So far we don't have a lot of experience. But what we see looks very good so far. Including the prints we have seen at Charlie Cramer's studio we think that the HP DJ 30/130 is a strong solution for glossy media.

  • We like the gloss and satin surface quite a bit
  • Blacks are excellent and deeper than the Epson UltraChrome inks can produce
  • Some gloss differential (also called bronzing) but a lot less than on the Epson printers with gloss media

We have some open issues though and will follow up on them:

  • The printer smells very strong in our small room. Have to see where it is related to the burn in process or not (interestingly the smaller HP 8450 consumer printer does not have that problem)
  • We see roller marks on the paper. But it seems that this is healed by the printer heat on the actual picture area.

HP 130/30 resources

This is a diary and more to come.....

 

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