Sometimes I'm reluctant to put up a new post here on TOP simply because the comments to the previous posts seem so vital and lively, and I'm learning from them and enjoying them so much that it seems a shame to move on. That's been the case in the "which is easier" post just below this one, as well as Ctein's post from Friday—in fact, in all the posts since I returned. Some very interesting comments. Thanks to all.
In the post just before this one, though, it's worthwhile to mention that I wasn't asking which was better, or faster, or gave better results, or even which sort of printing or prints people prefer, but only which was easier.
To me, color darkroom printing was relatively easy, even though it was tedious. Of course, part of the reason I think so is that I mostly used semi-professional or pro-level systems that were kept in calibration by others—two of the darkrooms I worked in had full-sized, $10,000+ Hope color processing machines, not to mention color-correct viewing booths. And I was good at judging color. I wasn't the one who had to mix the chemicals, or clean the machines, or run the test sheets. I just fed exposed paper in one end, waited a while, and a dry print came out the other end.
(The thing I hated? That the prints weren't going to last. Being lazy, I only want to have to do something once.)
I also wanted to say that I really don't think digital printing is very easy. Granted, part of what influences that opinion is that I spent two+ years in a Vulcan death-grip battle with successive HP B9180s that did everything possible to thwart me short of sneaking up on me in the night and suffocating me with pillows. But still, the journey to digital printing mastery seems long, and the opportunities for bugs and SNAFUs many.
I think "richardplondon" (that's Richard P. from London, not a guy named Rich Plondon) put it best in the Featured Comments when he said that if you expect digital printing to be easy, that's when it will bite you in the katuschka; you've got to respect it and work at it. Or words to that effect. Maybe it's relatively easy to do digital printing in a casual or cursory way, but I don't think it's very easy to do it well.
My fundamental insecurity with computers might also be coming into play here. My attitude towwards computers is that if they are doing what they're supposed to be doing, it's magic, and nobody touch anything. And if they're not doing what they're supposed to be doing, it's possible to get there from here but damned if I know how. My default attitude when it comes to computers is not quiet confidence of eventual mastery—it's kneejerk, slightly neurotic pessimism.
At any rate, it's been more than a year since "my"* last B9180 was decommissioned, and, just two days ago, a large box labeled "Pixma Pro 1" arrived from Canon. I'm very excited about this, and anxious to get started, but unfortunately it's going to be at least a month before I can even open the box—and that's if I work hard. TOP needs a bigger office; the shortage of space in my office is so critical that there isn't a place to set down a plate. Setting up a printer in here is simply out of the question. And we're still working toward recarpeting the living room, which is the only place in the whole house the printer can go.
But as I (eventually) get the Pixma Pro 1 up and running, and hopefully singing and dancing and producing magnificent prints the likes of which the world has not yet seen, I'll be writing about it not from the perspective of an expert, but from the perspective of an ordinary schlub who is mildly technophobic and not natively fluent in computerese—and feeling more than a little anxious about the myriad potential pitfalls and pratfalls of the journey. If that also describes your feelings toward higher-end printers, maybe you'll be happy to come along for the ride—even if only to enjoy the occasional dose of Schadenfreude.
*They were possessed, all right, but not by me.
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Timprov: "(For reference, I'm one of those code-writing know-nothings.) [This refers to something I said in the Comments section: 'There's no way to quantify or specify a person's general computer knowledge. I've heard people claim great competence who can barely open a folder, and I've known people who say they know nothing who can write code.' —MJ.]
"I decided to pick up printing around the time of Ctein's beginners articles at the end of last year [Part I, Part II, and Part III] and partly because of them. I bought an Epson 4900 and expected I'd be spending several months getting up to speed with it. I was more than a little shocked when it took me about three days to be producing prints of reasonably comparable quality to those of Ctein's inkjets that we have around here. I didn't even have to custom profile the thing.
"Now maybe I got a cherry, and maybe I'm talented at this. Probably some of each is true. But I think the largest contributing factor is that it just isn't very hard. Instead of fighting with printing, I've spent the last six months working to bring my post-processing and photography skills up to the level of my printer. In that sense, it's been the best purchase I've made in a long time.
"It didn't seem to me to require much computer skill at all, but that might be the cherry model talking. Much more key was editorial skill—being able to see what I didn't like in a print, figuring out what to do to change it, and figuring out how to implement that. That's also a lot more fun."
Featured Comment by Graham Dew: "I like most things about working digitally; the instant feedback, the accurate metering and focussing, the ease of editing. But over the past decade nothing has been more exasperating than trying to produce decent prints at home. I have had a dedicated B&W printer and several colour printers and have been able to achieve good results, but never without a lot of effort, and never settling on a stable, reliable combination of hardware, software and process. I have neither the time nor the money to sink into any more home printers, and for the past couple of years have been sending my images off to a lab. The prints are always good, much cheaper than doing it myself, and always make me feel happy that I didn't have to go through the grief that used to come from desktop printing.
"I've blogged about this in the past in a post called 'The Misery of Printing.' It has been one of my most-read posts—we are not alone!"
Question from Dave Stewart [see the Comments Section for Dave's full comment]: "Any particular reason for choosing this printer?"
Mike replies: Not really. Just trying to guess at the best product for me. I've long been leery of Epsons because of head-clog problems with early ones, even though I have no take on whether those problems carry on down to the present day or not, and the Pro-1 has multiple B&W inks and I still continually pine for B&W, which I like better than color. I really have no idea if the Canon is any good or any better than its competitors, but you gotta start somewhere.