Review, October 2004

and CANON (and other) Printer Info



by Neil Slade

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Read below- but also see this detailed FADING TEST

Part One

I've been doing photography and developing and printing my own photos for almost 35 years, and I am VERY excited that I can take, edit, and print better photographs easier and less expensively, without messing with pouring film chemicals by the gallon down the drain and breathing in all that stuff. I can do so much more efficiently, and at less environmental cost by digital manipulation and image improvement on the computer first, and printing much fewer trial pictures. I am no longer at the mercy of the photo lab, and have 1000% more control over my photographs. Hurray!! 

See the related (unfortunately needs a recent update-- soon!) page on Brain Photo Fun

HOWEVER, despite current claims of inkjet printer manufacturers claiming that you can crank out inkjet photos that will outlast regular film process photos- this needs to be taken with a couple of brain-grains of salt. An inkjet print or inkjet photo simply tacked onto your wall unprotected or taped to your refrigerator might not even make it to your next birthday much less 25 years as commercially promised.

If you are printing inkjet photos or prints with PERMANENCE in mind, the combination of printer and PAPER is very important. Certain papers have a much better record at keeping stable colors. Plain cheap Epson Glossy Photo Paper (not the premium stuff, we are talking about the $20 for 100 sheets at COSTCO) or more expensive Ilford Heavy Weight Glossy Paper (goes by different names) is at the present time, the best among a few other excellent choices. These days, most new inkjet photo printer inks are reasonably long lasting- advertised for 25 years or more if protected and printed on decent paper. Well, probably not THAT long, but long enough for most of us. I've now heard of a Costco selling their own brand of photo paper, heavier than the Epson Glossy Photo paper- and for most uses, it's probably going to work just fine. There is no testing of the light-fastness of this paper however.

See the section on papers below and the web link for complete information. Another definite help with any paper is to place wall hanging inkjet prints in a sealed frame (like any other photo) under glass where air circulation or strong sunlight won't get at it. Use of a photo album keeping the prints out of continual air and light will keep your prints looking good for an exceptionally long time.

The only real cure for true "archival" prints (needed for art prints or permanent exhibit) is to use a pigment ink system, only available on printers like the Epson 2200, which run about $700. Practically speaking however, if a print will last several years or more, that should be convenient enough-- if a new print is needed-- just print one up off the computer hard drive or CD-R. This year's newer printers that use the newer photo inks should produce prints that should last long enough for most of us. Put your print behind glass, in a photo book, or out of direct light- it'll probably be around a long time before you need to reprint, if ever. 


Part Two


Okay, this discussion comes up immediately when dealing with THIRD PARTY INK SUPPLIERS. Don't make the assumption that anything other than name brand ink will last a fraction of the life span predicted by $12 -$50 name brand ink cartridge makers. 

There are ENORMOUS variables in what constitutes print life. Conditions, ink itself, brand, paper, and how all of these interact. There is NO ONE ANSWER, and it is a bad assumption to make that if you use the printer's ink and paper, you will get the best results. Of course, that is what Canon, Epson, and HP would want you to believe. God bless them, they've made great at-home photo printing possible- but that's no excuse to gouge us for ink.

I used Epson Glossy Photo paper ($20 for 120 8.5 X 11" sheets at COSTCO) for years. I now use even less expensive KIRKLAND Heavy Glossy Photo paper- ITS BETTER! ($20 for 120 sheets at Costco)

I use third party CUSTOM FORMULA INK (not the generic off the shelf one-ink-fits-all from Office Depot), which costs about 1/6 - 1/20 the price of name brand ink depending on the packaging (4 oz bulk bottles cheaper, obviously). I keep my prints hung on the wall with scotch tape in a brightly sunlit room. I have yet to see and print fading or discoloration in 2 years of any of my s900 or i960 prints. Maybe in ten  years. I've been buying my ink at Inkgrabber for years, and they provide excellent customer service and sell G&G ink exclusively for Canon BCI-6 printers.

The Canon FORMULA is expected to last 25-27 years before ink degeneration- I would say this is very optimistic.

If you need DETAILED information on print life, then you need to do serious homework. Don't take mainstream media propaganda (PC magazine for example) as God's word. Think about WHO buys advertising in their magazine....Their own article on this subject was VERY limited in it's sensationalist testing. Start here instead:  

then read this: The MYTH of non-permanence of inkjet prints:

This is eye opening as well, regarding fading of inks FADING TEST Canon fades too, duh.

If you are printing PROFESSIONALLY and selling your prints-- DO YOUR HOMEWORK. In summary, Epson's with archival pigmented ink is the way to go to guarantee the longest life. Canon printers won't take pigmented inks (with one exception).

For the typical self-home user, however, Epson's have distinct DISADVANTAGES over Canon printers. See below.

If you are a home consumer use- use regular dyebase inks. They'll look better, printer cheaper, and last plenty long enough provided you don't put your prints in direct sunlight-  even REAL color lab photos won't last in the sun- duh.

There are four companies whom I have bought ink for my Canon printer at fair prices, and I've had excellent results with each. Each company offers some unique advantage for your situation, so look at them all, and see my detailed notes about INK below. 

I've spoken with the actual manufacturer who supplies these distributors with their inks- very honest, well informed people. I have no doubts- none- about the integrity of their products and their equivalent quality to name brand inks.

PIGMENT ARCHIVAL INKS: All consumer inkjet printers start off using DYE based inks. Archival PIGMENT inks are made, and offer better life-- at higher price. I personally don't use them. 

However, be aware, that feedback I've received from people using archival inks, is that in general they do not yet quite equal regular dye based inks in brilliance and accuracy- so that's the trade off. Do lots of homework if pigment inks interest you.




Real Life LIFE SPAN of



Yesterday I got an email about an article that appeared in PC World Magazine concerning the reduced life of prints made with third party ink....

First, why do they call it THIRD Party--  it would seem that a company other than the manufacturer of the printer would be the SECOND party :-)

Anyway, the article reflects findings by Wilhelm that tested prints put under intense accelerated light exposure. He sets the benchmark for LABORATORY testing of papers and ink. Generally a good STARTING POINT, but perhaps more important to scientists and professional sellers of photos than most of us.

It comes as no great surprise, that the prints using cheaper inks have a shorter life span--

Several important things to consider.

1) Example, a set of official Canon Inks will cost you six times what, for example, as set of G and G Inks (from
Inkgrabber- one source) will cost. That's $75 for a set of ink carts, versus about $16.  Wilhelm states right off the bat that the quality of prints are comparable to the OEM inks.

2) How many prints do you really need to last 25 years or more? Are some for short or temporary use? What percentage?

3) Are your prints subject to constant intense light, or looked at a couple times than put in an album or drawer, and hardly looked at again?

4) Do you have copies of all of your savable images permanently on a hard drive or disc?

In my case, and in my personal experience, I rarely leave a photo in the same place on a wall for more than a couple of years at most. And this is never in direct sunlight.

>>>>>In these cases, example on my office wall, I have dozens of prints, all printed with cheap ass MIS ink or Inkgrabber ink, that have been on my wall in indirect, but bright, light for four years or more. NO FADING noticeable. These are with Wilhelm's WORST rated inks. And I don't even put them in frames or behind glass. Scotch tape to wall. That's it.<<<<<<

This is despite that fact that Wilhelm claims seriously accelerated fading in HIS TESTS.  Good grief, its his job to TRY and make prints fade. In the real world, you will be hard pressed to make this occur.,aid,111767,00.asp

If one of these prints eventually fades, I make another. Simple. but it hasn't happened yet.

I would expect that if I were to put these prints under glass, sealed in a frame, they would last even longer than they do completely unprotected.

Would I buy a set of official $75 Canon inks just so I don't have to worry about this for 25 years? I don't think so.

Anybody needing a like new perfect copy of one of my pictures can simply go to my hard drive and print one, and if necessary use archival inks and papers. But that's something I am just not concerned with. And I think the need for this kind of thing is greatly overstated by anyone except those making art prints.

Take this into consideration-
1) Its Wilhelm's job his job to TRY and make prints fade. In the real world, you will be hard pressed to make this occur. Most of us are not leaving our prints up on the roof under the summer sun. Yes, his tests are accelerated to SIMULATE normal light conditions - but his results have not been borne out by my REAL non-simulated conditions. Sorry Wilhelm.

PC World Magazine makes their money running ads by companies like HP, Canon, and Epson, who make ALL of their printer revenue not on their printers, but their INK REFILLS. I would say that PC World is not going to give you much information that bites the hands that feed them. I am sure they were delighted to run the article below- but frankly, my real world experience makes this article mostly irrelevant.

3) If you are REALLY concerned with prints that your grandchildren, or your kids will look at far in the future-- print accordingly. Otherwise, don't drive yourself nuts and go broke at the same time.,aid,111767,00.asp

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