Printing

Photo Print Quality of Digital Presses

Posted: May 5, 2014

SpencerLab Digital Color Laboratory (www.spencerlab.com), the premier consulting, test, and analysis organization for the digital imaging industry, released a white paper summarizing the results of an independent comparative photographic image print quality study targeting the photo book market. The study covered a range of print output from several of the latest digital presses as well as conventional photo processing. The complete white paper is freely available at www.spencerlab.com.

The SpencerLab division of Spencer & Associates Publishing, Ltd. was commissioned by Xerox Corporation to ascertain the competitive benefits of the image print quality improvements incorporated into the iGen4 in this highly competitive, rapidly evolving field.

Endeavoring to analyze the best consumer-representative prints from each system, SpencerLab designed and carefully implemented a thorough research methodology. It involved on-site supervised printing of more than four dozen different images representing the range of key consumer attributes on a pair of vendor-recommended sites for each model of digital press. The print quality of each attribute was analyzed on vendor-approved matte and glossy media in a controlled viewing environment.

Conventional photo processing (silver halide, or AgX) reestablished its reputation as the benchmark to beat via the Fujifilm Frontier 570, but not in all rated attributes. Among the tested digital presses, the 4-color Xerox iGen4 indeed emerged as overall best, barely edging out the 6-color HP Indigo Press 5500 in a weighted average analysis, although the two machines' output differed in individual attributes. While overall ratings were somewhat lower, the test prints from both the 4-color Kodak NexPress S3000 and the HP Indigo 7000 would still be acceptable for the current photo book market.

''Digital presses are growing rapidly as a cost-effective, high-quality alternative to conventional processing in the photographic reproduction market, and the Xerox iGen4 has emerged as one of the most significant'' says David Spencer, president and CEO of Spencer & Associates. ''We found that prints from all of these digital presses would be acceptable in the consumer photo book market; the 4-color iGen4 edged out our previous overall best, the six-color Indigo 5500.''

The comparative photographic image print quality analysis was performed by a team of experienced SpencerLab staff, applying consumer photo preferences gleaned from well over 1,600 participants in two dozen focus group events on three continents over the last six years. The detailed analyses focussed on the attributes of color realism (foliage, sky and water, and fleshtones), richness, sharpness, smoothness, and neutral grays within the modest differences among the range of test prints.

The Xerox iGen4 photo print quality was highlighted by very impressive Sharpness and Neutral Gray rendition, and exceptional Realism of both Foliage and Sky & Water colors. Compared to the very high quality standard set by conventional photo processing, the iGen4 provides competitive output quality at a much lower cost-per-print. 

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