May 15, 2014

The Mayday superPAC Can Save Your Future — With Your Help

April 19, 2014

The Results of a Refined Solution

January 31, 2014

More Lessons After Further Research

December 28, 2013

A Great Camera with a Serious Problem for Many Longer Lens Uses

March 18, 2012

My Proposal to Reclaim American Democracy from the Influence of Powerful Monied Interests

December 1, 2010

My Test Results

July 25, 2010

NEW VIDEO INTERVIEW which I recently did for has been posted at:

Check it out!

January 24, 2010


May 3, 2009 (May 6: Update and major addendum)


April 20, 2009


My quality control perceptions and expectations are widespread.

April 9, 2009 — ADDENDUM APRIL 24, 2009


Lessons learned while moving from 4x5 film to medium format digital capture

April 5, 2009


Mainly written in early March, 2008
Completed July 8, 2008
Updated, Appended and Published April 5, 2009

March 30, 2009 (Updates, July 2, May 12 and April 17, 2009)

Focus Blending Takes Quantum Leap — New Helicon Focus Versions

I just spent four months helping with the development of the best focus blending capability ever. Read about it here.

April 6, 2008

Have We Already Passed Earth's Warming Limits?

Dr. Hansen apparently now agrees with my take on where the safe upper limit on greenhouse gasses is -- i.e. well behind us.

Where we are and what we can do about it.

December 10, 2007

Speech by Al Gore at his Acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize

Oslo, Norway

October 12, 2007

AL WINS! (again)

Seriously, Al Gore's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize for his tremendous commitment to educating the people of the world about the consequences of our unsustainable mistreatment of the sky is another major turning point in the effort to prevent the unfolding global catastrophe from taking us to a place we don't want to be. We should all be very proud of him, and do our best to help.

September 14, 2007

Summer 2007 -- Stunning Record Loss of Arctic Sea Ice!

On Friday the 17th of August, 2007, a news report on NPR revealed that the extent of the Arctic sea ice had, surprisingly, just reached a new all-time low extent (area), a full six weeks ahead of the expected seasonal minimum, meaning that the low ice extent for 2007 would be a record low by a wide margin.

But today, the European Space Agency has reported that the Arctic sea ice has reached an extent of approximately only 3 Million square kilometers, down from a previous low of about 4 Million square kilometers in 2005 and 2006! And the peak loss is yet to come. This sudden and catastrophic loss of sea ice is yet another example of climate change spiraling forward rapidly, far beyond the expectations of climate scientists and glaciologists. This reduction in a single year is ten times the average annual reduction over the last 10 years.

The absence of the Earth's vast, white mirror on the top of the planet during the sunny summer is more and more causing utterly vast amounts of solar heat to be absorbed and retained by the Earth's surface and lower atmosphere that should be bouncing back harmlessly into space. The weather in the temperate latitudes depends in large extent on the weather in the Arctic and the weather in the Tropics, and the interchange of heat between the two. Our own weather is being broken, and fast.

The Northwest Passage is now fully open, for the first time in history.

This means that the volume of the Arctic sea ice is now only about 33 to 40% of what it was on this date in 1979.

So here is a useful tip for today: if you are a PG&E customer (Northern California utility), sign up for their new ClimateSmart program, which allows them to take your money (on average only $5/month) and to purchase offsets in a tightly verified way, to make your house carbon neutral. This works out to a very low price of just $11/ton.

Look for your ClimateSmart mailing (you should have just received it) or go to and sign up!

This program, and other CO2 offset programs do not mean that we won't still have to convert our entire power grid to carbon neutral generation, and to replace our natural gas and heating oil with biogas, conservation, etc., but it does help to offset our emissions by reducing other emissions that are cheaper to eliminate than our own. We need to do both.

Since PG&E is the first utility in the nation to offer this program, the rest do not offer anything like it. If yours is among them, please write to them to encourage them to follow PG&E's lead on climate issues.

August 28, 2007

Making It Visible

Please take a minute to watch this fabulous video spot that does something we've been needing for a long time. Black Balloon. And many thanks to Tommy Lee Jones.

August 15, 2007

UPDATE August 30, 2007 -- Movies of Eight 3D Gamut Comparisons Added

EPSON's Next Generation

The world leaders in print quality go super wide, while introducing lots of improved technology.

August 1, 2007


On today's installment of Fresh Air, on National Public Radio, the climatologist Kerry Emanuel, professor at MIT's Deparment of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, gave a very succinct explanation of how it is that human-induced atmospheric changes are indeed responsible for the major upswing in the power of hurricanes. Listen from this page:

Certain climate change skeptics, most notably one climatologist from Colorado, whom Fox Noise is very fond of putting on the air as often as possible, have argued that the recent upswing in hurricanes is due to a natural cycle. As it turns out, there is no such cycle, and the downturn in hurricane intensiity that occurred during most of the second half of the 20th century was caused primarily by the very same human-caused global dimming from particulate pollution which is described in detail in the incredible NOVA installment "Dimming the Sun" aired in April, 2006 and available on DVD from WGBH.

This is vital information in the climate debate, or what's left of it, because it also runs counter to the arguments of those who believe in the theory of the Danish scientist who believes that because the record of planetary average temperatures matches the record of sunspot activity level more closely (according to some sources) than it matches the concentration of CO2, that humans are essentially off the hook. The observations which Kerry Emanuel refers to, explain very well what has been observed with respect to hurricane formation and touches on the key points of this critical element of the collective wisdom of the climatologists.

June 4, 2007


A new study conducted by NASA, authored by 48 scientists, warns that the so-called tipping points for the Earth's climate are much closer than previously thought. The critical thresholds for atmospheric CO2 levels may be "much lower than 450 ppm", meaning that we may already be beyond the critical points, or may reach them within just a few years.

Follow the links to pages 2 and 3.

There are many reasons why we are in much greater trouble with respect to the climate than is readily apparent. First, we are all aware of the large and growing extent to which humanity has increased CO2 levels (roughly 270 ppm to 383 ppm) and that we have similarly increased concentrations of methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) dramatically, as well as the concentrations of many artificial greenhouse gasses.

Secondly, we are all aware that the rate of our own emissions is increasing and will increase more steeply in the not-so-distant future, as, for one thing, China continues to start the construction one new coal-fired power plant, on average, about every five days.

Thirdly, we see rapidly increasing awareness of the problem, and lots of talk and some action regarding the elimination of human additions of fossil carbon into the sky. It remains, however, highly unlikely that we could see reductions of as much as 90% in human fossil carbon emissions by 2050, however vital this goal may be.

So against this backdrop, we need to see the many reasons for urgent concern that I alluded to above:

1) We have set in motion a massive melting of the gigantic, white mirror on top of the planet which has for many millions of years been reflecting back into space nearly all of the sunlight which falls upon it during the summer half of each year. As each year goes by, the ice melts more, on average, and nearly half of the floating Arctic Ocean ice cap is already gone in late summer, compared to its extent as recently as 1979. According to the U.S. Navy, the ice is now about 7 feet thick, whereas it used to be about 10 feet thick. The areal extent of the ice has also fallen by roughly 20%, for a total volume loss of roughly 44%. Everyone acknowledges that the rest is going fast. This constitutes a massive, positive feedback loop, which we have set in motion and we can assume we may be unable to stop, even if we were to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero tomorrow. And of course, we won't be doing that. The arctic ice cap and the extensive snowy tundra lands of the arctic have never been pushed toward such a melting for at least a few million years.

2) We have also set in motion a massive melting of the huge regions of arctic permafrost across Siberia and Alaska in particular. The permafrost is an ancient accumulation of organic matter, which not only contains vast amounts of methane, but which, when melted will decay and enter the atmosphere as both CO2 and methane. The permafrost is likewise old, and constitutes a huge carbon sink that serves to keep the planet from warming greatly. Keep in mind that in the Earth's long history, climate has varied a lot, though over vastly longer time scales than the time scale of human civilization. If one goes back more than 100 million years, the average temperature on Earth was as much as 55 degrees F hotter than today, and the coolest place on Earth, Antarctica (Gondwanaland at the time), was so warm that temperate forests grew there. Our carbon sinks are vital features of the planet, because their continued existence prevents the planet from experiencing violent climate changes that our civilization is totally unable to cope with. The melting permafrost now includes an area of western Siberia the size of France and Germany combined. The long-frozen peat ground is turning into a gigantic, methane-belching soggy bog, and it is expected that all of the Earth's permafrost will be melted, at the rate we're going, by 2050. And that the amount of fossil carbon that it will add to the sky on our behalf is equal to the entire existing greenhouse blanket of the planet, exclusive of water vapor. This alone would drive the fossil carbon to levels equivalent to 750 ppm of CO2, roughly.

3) We have also set in motion a number of other massive natural positive feedback loops, which include: the loss of tropical forests, the loss of ancient peat deposits in the tropics to fires caused by deforestation, and, through our massive carbonation of the oceans, we have already reached a point where it is expected that the efficacy of the sea at scrubbing some of our fossil carbon emissions is going to fall, failing to keep up with future fossil carbon emissions to the same degree in which it has half kept up with our past fossil carbon emissions. And that is not to mention the extreme threat to the seas, which this carbonation and resultant falling pH presents. The pH has already fallen by one tenth of a unit, and early research shows that just one more tenth of a pH unit of fall will result in the widespread loss of calcium-shell-forming creatures' ability to survive. This includes coral, plankton, crustaceans, etc., and all the life forms which depend on them (that's nearly all life in the sea). We are currently on track to reduce the pH by three more tenths of a unit by the end of this century.

4) It turns out that there are massive deposits of methane hydrates in certain places in several oceans of the world. The magnitude of these deposits is said to be on the order of 100X the quantity of all fossil fuels remaining on Earth. And these deposits are fragile and subject to causing massive methane releases when disturbed by seismic events, volcanism, and/or warming. The Arctic Ocean is relatively shallow, is warming rapidly, and contains such methane hydrate deposits. Pray that we don't disturb any of them. Climatologists believe that in the fossil record they can see evidence of very sudden global temperature increases of as much as 12 degrees F, with no other known explanation except that a large methane hydrate release occurred. At least the life of methane in the atmosphere is only a few decades, unlike CO2, which lasts many times longer.

5) It is also true, that because the Earth has a large amount of thermal buffering, in the form of oceans covering 70 percent of its surface, that when the climate balance, or "forcing" is altered fundamentally, as we have been doing at a substantial level for a few decades now (and possibly at a significant level for over 10,000 years), the overall effects of the new greenhouse balance are not felt fully for between 30 and 50 years. In other words, if we could instantly stabilize atmospheric carbon (CO2 and methane mainly) at current levels, the planet would continue to warm for another 50 years or so, even without any positive feedback loops in effect.

6) As we have been polluting the sky so as to warm the planet, we have also been polluting the sky so as to cool it. Particulate emissions are now understood to have had planetary cooling effects probably equal to more than 60 percent of the warming effects we have caused! Our greenhouse pollution has been about 2.5X more powerful than we have been able to tell, because our cooling has been masking our warming. This means a couple of things. First, it means that the true effectiveness of CO2 and methane at warming the planet is much greater than climate models have generally assumed, and second, it means that in the future, our cooling will increasingly fail to keep pace with our warming, again causing warming to accelerate relative to past experience. The particulate emissions are so bad for our lungs and cardiovascular systems, and so destructive of rainfall patterns, that we cannot allow them to continue unabated, and indeed U.S. and European emissions, which are now thought to have been either a principle cause or the principle cause of the droughts of sub-Saharan Africa during the 1970s and 80s, have already been largely abated.

So, are you beginning to get the picture? We have used up our grace period. We are way, way further along with warming the planet than we can tell by looking at today's weather. We are pushing the planetary system over a cliff, the planet is picking up speed, and where it will end, if we can't stop it from continuing to fall over, is a place that you don't want to be. The current worst-case scenario I have heard, from British climatologist Peter Cox, is for 18 degrees F warming by the end of this century, and increasing most rapidly at that point, well on its way to 25 degrees F average increase -- or even hotter. This kind of rapid shift would mean the end of human civilization and almost certainly the end of our species altogether. One eventual consequence of this extent of warming is the seas turning largely anaerobic, with resulting huge emissions of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) from anaerobic bacteria in the ocean, which in turn poisons life on land directly and destroys most of the ozone layer, further insuring the end of most life on land. Recent science holds many unfortunate surprises regarding the consequences of our continued rape of the planet.

With increases of the CO2 concentration to just over 750 ppm, and sufficient time for the climate to stabilize thereafter, widespread melting of nearly the entire Antarctic ice sheet may ensue. Melting of nearly all of the land ice on Earth would raise sea levels by nearly 300 feet. Not only would every coastal city be completely obliterated, but a large percentage of the major inland cities of the world would be underwater as well. Of course there would be little food, hardly any life as we know it in the sea, and so on. No thank you.

So when you hear that once again, this year is the hottest year on record (yes, 2007) don't think for a minute that some modestly altered business-as-usual approach is going to do the trick. And don't buy another gas-guzzling car. In fact, don't buy any car until there is one that you like which is both ultra-efficient and which can run on biofuels and/or renewable electricity. We are in far deeper trouble than most people realize.

What does this mean? For one thing, the talk you hear about addressing climate change by cutting way back on fossil carbon emissions, e.g. 80 or even 90% in the U.S. by 2050, is not even close to being the complete remedy for the incredible threats we face, as the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Greenland Ice Sheet perch precariously at the edge of collapse from the increasingly rapid and unpredictable warming we have unleashed. Losing them would mean a sea level increase of over 40 feet, and we could very easily see this happen within the next few decades. Don't be fooled by the misleading opening statement of the IPCC on their prediction for sea level rise for this century -- what you didn't hear in most news stories about their recent reports is that their charter forbids them from "speculation", therefore they simply left out the prospect of melting land ice from their prediction altogether! Many glaciologists are very worried.

What I hope to point out, is that in order to actually get a grip on this crisis, we will have to not only make drastic and rapid changes to free ourselves of our addictions to fossil fuels, but we will also have to create and use methods to remove CO2 from the sky which is already there. As unlikely as this seems, it turns out to be -- probably -- possible.

Go to this page:

then click the Listen link in the top left, to hear the most recent interview with Dr. Klaus Lackner, a PhD physicist at Columbia University, about his project to scrub CO2 from the sky, with a realistic goal of getting the cost down to just $30 per ton (that's cheap). It would add just 25 cents to the cost of a gallon of gasoline, for example. I think we could afford $100 a ton to save ourselves, don't you? The dirty energy companies might even be all for it, since it could allow them to remain in business.

And write to your Representative and Senators and ask them to get with it, and start talking not just of putting the brakes on our rate of increase in atmospheric CO2, but also about bringing CO2 back down to a level that will help to tame the massive shifts which we have set in motion and which will continue to push us off the cliff, even if we push the brakes all the way to the floor.

If we melt it all, the Gulf of Mexico will nearly reach the southern tip of Illinois.

If we melt it all, the city of Fresno, California will be beachfront property.

Beijing. Paris. Rome. All gone. But L.A., the central Bay Area, Seattle, New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia, Miami, London, Copenhagen, Shanghai, Tokyo, Rio, etc., etc. will all be even longer gone.

And the sea level catastrophes will be a fraction of the impacts we will suffer.

I mention the possibility of actually melting nearly all of the land ice in Antarctica because research conducted by Robert M. DeConto and David Pollard strongly suggests to me that because they have concluded that the most likely trigger of the widespread formation of the Antarctic ice sheets was very slowly falling CO2 levels, about 34 million years ago, and that the point of the trigger was about 750 ppm, and that the current climate condition is one of warm austral summers (meaning the trigger now could be a climate which has settled in at less than 750 ppm of CO2), and because we are rapidly heading for CO2 levels greatly exceeding that level, that it is entirely possible that we could basically melt it all.

Our only hope to deal with this mess is to first see clearly how much trouble we are in. All avenues need to be explored. We must start working systematically toward a total solution. Today. It will not be easy, but a half-way solution will prove totally unacceptable.

--Joseph Holmes

March 26, 2007

A long article based on an interview of myself by Peter Eastway, Publisher of Better Photography magazine in Australia, has just been published.
Better Photography

Oct 27, 2006 (Update Nov 3, 2006)

A long article of mine on the issues behind California's Prop 87, has been moved to this page.

Sep 14, 2006

A long article which I authored recently, has just been published in Australia's "Better Photoshop Techniques" magazine, Issue 7. In twenty pages of text and illustrations I discuss ten of my favorite tips for solving imaging problems. I also have the cover photo and am featured on the cover as well.

August 16, 2006

After many months of work in preparation, today I have announced, here on my Profiles page, the following:

1) The DCam Series — Five new RGB working spaces which I have designed specifically for use with digital camera captures, in a series of gamut volumes and shapes to meet every digital capture need: DCam 1, DCam 2, DCam 3, DCam 4 and DCam 5, J. Holmes.

2) Nine brand-new and improved sets of 29 chroma variants for each of nine master profiles, including all seven of my own and the two most popular professional working spaces: Adobe RGB (1998) and ProPhoto RGB. For unparalleled control over image color in an RGB workflow.

3) My new online store hosted by Kagi for 24/7 profile set purchase

4) All new and greatly expanded web pages full of information on RGB spaces and related issues

Jump to to read all about it!

February 10, 2006

It will be my pleasure to be guest instructor at the Fourth Annual Photography and Fine Art Printing Summit with Alain Briot and Uwe Steinmueller from November 10th to 13th, 2006, in Page, Arizona. Please visit Alain's page or my workshops page for more info on this and my other workshops, including my Ansel Adams Workshop at Mono Lake from October 16th to 19th, 2006.

May 10, 2005 (minor revisions 5-11-05)

(See supplemental notes at the end 11-13-05 and 2-10-06)

Major News for the Digital Printmaking Community:
EPSON 9800, EPSON 7800, EPSON 4800

From Joseph Holmes

New EPSON Printers and Inkset Announced Today, Tuesday, May 10, 2005

I have just made, for an exhibit to open Thursday, May 19th at the Ordover Gallery in Solana Beach, California, the most beautiful set of color prints that I've ever made, using a new EPSON 44" printer and the new inkset announced today. When considering all aspects of the resulting prints, I have no doubt that this is the best system ever for making color prints.

For some thirty years, I have done everything I could to make the finest color prints possible, so it is of no minor consequence to me that the technologies behind the best digital printing systems keep improving. As of today, the public can begin to learn about the wonderful new pro printers and eight-color inkset that EPSON will soon begin shipping to eager photographers and others.

The last new series of printers, the Stylus Color Pro 9600, 7600 and 4000, all used a seven-color inkset called UltraChrome. The new printers, the 9800, 7800 and 4800 (maintaining the same form factor as the previous three printers) use the new and greatly improved eight color UltraChrome K3 inkset. This new inkset adds a third neutral ink, called Light Light Black, and uses nearly all-new pigments to totally revamp and in many ways improve upon the original UltraChrome inkset, which itself was a major quality advance in several respects.

At the same time, the driver tables, which the user accesses by picking No Color Adjustment and a particular paper choice in the EPSON driver, are hugely improved from those in the older driver. The gray neutrality is more than ten times better, and the tonal linearity is significantly improved, so that traditional ICC profile making processes work much better than they did with the previous systems.

The new inkset has numerous advantages, including:

1) A greatly improved pattern of surface gloss which includes the black having the highest gloss, by a small amount, of any neutral color, with no tone reversals in the surface reflectance pattern (given sufficient drying time between head passes, which is user-adjustable, and which works correctly at default settings).

2) A hugely improved Dmax, when using the best available settings in the driver (not necessarily the default settings for a given paper, which will yield a more modest but substantial improvement over the prior inkset). The best Dmax I was able to get from my 9600 on Premium Luster Photo Paper (250) was 2.09 dry, but with the new inkset, I am able to achieve 2.45 dry in color mode! The dry L* value is 3.3! This is a superb black. Only dye-based inkjet printing systems, dye-sublimation printers, and the old dye transfer system are capable of even higher Dmax values, as far as I know. Specially processed Cibachrome, optimized for Dmax (such as I used to make) achieved a Dmax of 2.30. Most digitally exposed chromogenic output (LightJet or Chromira) does not reach any higher than about 2.30 and often less. Reportedly Ansel Adams' best printed Dmax on selenium-toned papers was about 2.30 or less. EPSON's official claim is for a Dmax of 2.30 (L* of 4.1). This claim is limited by the standard driver settings, which are conservative and can be readily overridden.

3) The gamut volume appears from 3D comparisons in ColorThink to be roughly five to eight percent bigger, give or take a few percent. This means an average increase of radius of just two to three percent. The gamut shape has changed though, in a way that favors actual image content more often than it hurts it and the change in gamut radius is quite non-uniform. I have yet to see a single image of mine be significantly challenged by the gamut of this inkset. Some dark, rich blues in a small region of my standard blue-gamut busting image "Eagle Lake..." are a little damaged in some soft proofs for K3 on Luster, but not in others from different profiles (gamut boundary info in profiles tends to be a bit imprecise, so gamut warnings and soft proof limits are not perfectly accurate). That's the worst problem I've seen and I've seen a lot of cases of improvement. The magenta ink is much warmer in hue and a few percent higher in chroma, being about the same hue as a typical lithographic magenta, and the cyan is further toward blue and also a few percent higher in chroma. The yellow is unchanged except for a very small increase in chroma. One of the net effects of these changes is that the warm colors' gamut, which was often the most limiting area in my pictures is improved noticeably, many of the greens are improved quite a bit, and the purply-blue to magenta-red gamut is decreased up to a maximum of 10 to 12%, through a range of about 60 degrees of hue, in the central lightnesses, although that hue range also improves a bit in some of the darkest colors, and is unchanged in others. In the 3D models from two profiles that I've built, the lighter colors have increased for the most part, while some of the darker colors have decreased a little, except near black, but these comparisons can be misleading, and a better way to see is to do comparison soft proofs with your own images using profiles for each system, with the rendering intent set to RelCol with Black Pt. Compensation on, unless the Perceptual tables in your profiles are particularly good (cause minimal color shifting). The most accurate way to tell is to print, but it's slow to put together a full assessment that way. So far, every picture I've printed (including sixteen varied favorites for my next exhibit, ten of them 24 x 30s, has either had no change or been benefitted by the changes to the gamut, and every image has looked more brilliant because of the improved Dmax and surface gloss.

4) The color of the neutral inks is a mildly warm shade, more neutral than the prior neutrals and a very good choice for the roles that these inks must play, especially in black & white printing. The three neutrals, Black, Light Black and Light Light Black, are used together for a moderately aggressive GCR (gray component replacement) in color images, which improves the light fading properties of the more neutral colors of any color image by replacing color inks of equivalent density with neutral inks which are inherently more fade-resistant among other benefits. Most importantly, these three neutrals make the new Advanced Black & White mode feasible. In this mode, a color image is automatically converted into grayscale (or a grayscale image is used directly) and printed through one of several basic tables at different degrees of lightness. The ink used to form the image is overwhelmingly the three neutrals, however, the color inks are used as needed to impart subtle coloration in whichever degree the user wishes, from very slight to something on the order of a strong sepia, but in any hue. This approach to tunable, fine black & white printing is what I have long regarded as essentially the best possible approach in an 8-color system intended for dual, color/B&W use, and is capable of stunningly beautiful black & white as well as color. Furthermore, the Wilhelm Imaging Research display permanence ratings of black & white prints made with the Advanced Black & White mode will be far better than those from the older UltraChrome inkset and driver, which came in between 76 years and over 200 years depending on the paper, behind plain glass. UV-protected results, without protective spray, ranged up to 300 years for the old inkset. It looks as though the new WIR results exceed 200 years behind plain glass on some if not most or all EPSON papers tested already, with the tests not having been completed, meaning that the average numbers will still improve (information is just beginning to appear). I'm hoping for ratings of 300+ for most papers, and it seems we are likely to get them, at least for UV-protected results. Serious black & white!

5) Metameric color shifting with both the color and Advanced Black & White modes is said to be much improved over prior results, and I certainly haven't noticed any problem in this area.

6) The display permanence ratings of the color prints are looking like they will be the same or a little better than those from the original UltraChrome inkset (e.g. 165 years for Luster behind UV-filtering plex or UV-filtering glass). Improvements would derive from the improved neutrals rendition (somewhat more GCR).

7) My initial experience suggests that the humectant load which should be removed from barrier-type papers ("RC" papers like Premium Luster) after printing is reduced somewhat, however, curing is still probably an important processing step to avoid the possibility of eventual fogging of the inside of glass or plex by prints on barrier-type papers. I have been curing all of my prints for over a year now. This is an issue with all inkjet printing systems except the Iris, which uses continuous flow to (try to!) prevent nozzle clogging, and which therefore doesn't need to add the nearly non-evaporating humectant chemicals to the inks. I use a clean sheet of 32 x 40" Light Impressions Renaissance non-buffered, archival paper over the print for one day of curing prior to matting, shipping, and/or framing of my prints. I weight the paper down with strips of 4-ply museum board, three or four layers deep to insure good contact between the plain paper and the print, starting this process 15 minutes after the print is finished printing. If the prints are the same size, quite a few can be stacked up on the same worktable. This is not an issue when printing on rag papers, because the humectant has a large volume of paper into which to move in those cases.

The new printers are a major step forward as well:

1) The print head is now 1" tall, double the prior printing swath width, so print times are cut approximately in half at any given quality level. I find that unlike the 9600, I can now work comfortably with the 2880 x 1440 dpi driver option. A print measuring 27 x 33" using 2880 dpi and uni-directional printing (High Speed turned off for best quality) takes just under 50 minutes.

2) The image structure is incredibly fine. The image smoothness is incredibly fine. I have not done all possible comparisons, but at 2880 Uni-D, the 9800 is far superior to the 9600 at 1440 Uni-D in terms of resolvable detail and smoothness of the image. Dots are now almost invisible under a 4X loupe, let alone to the naked eye. The Cyan and Magenta inks are only used in the darkest areas of the image, with Light Cyan and Light Magenta dominating in area by a very large margin. Despite this, the rate at which the inks are consumed is surprisingly equal between the colors, although Light Magenta still runs out first. Black, Magenta and Cyan run out last. The Light Black and Light Light Black help to keep the ink consumption even.

3) The ink cartridges are split into two groups of four, one at each end of the machine. They are recessed into the machine so they don't stick out and get walked into, nor do they interfere with the removal of large prints. The ink cartridge technology is totally new, using two connections instead of one between the printer and the cartridge. The system is now pressurized and the ink is withdrawn from a point below center, with a central point being used to pressurize the cartridge. This may be due to the need to move more ink further, faster, than earlier designs have required. The cartridges are, amazingly, the same size as the old 110 ml cartridges, but they hold either 110 or 220 mls! The ink may also have a higher pigment load, and this may result in more printable area per milliliter of ink, but this remains to be seen. From left to right, the color sequence is: Light Light Black, Light Magenta, Light Cyan, Light Black, then on the right end Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow. KCMY is the standard sequence for most lithographic printing, by the way.

4) The printer (9800 at least) has two waste ink cartridges instead of one (one at each end). The one on the right fills up first, and the EPSON Utility application shows you how much capacity remains in each. This way it's much less likely that you'll be stuck, unable to print because your waste cartridge has filled up and you don't have a spare on hand. After the initial charging of the system, they fill up very slowly, presumably at about the same rate as they did in the older system.

5) The new inkset has a Matte Black option, as before, but this time, when you change from Photo Black (for printing on photographic-style, glossier papers) to Matte Black (for printing on "fine art" rag-style papers), it's only necessary to waste some of the black ink, instead of wasting all the colors of ink. So changing blacks is much more practical. I have yet to test the Matte black ink to see how high I can get the Dmax on any rag papers, but I am anxiously anticipating the best rag paper results ever. (note: This preliminary info about the swapping of the black inks was incorrect. The swap consumes a total of 90ml of ink, and it is some of each ink. See the supplementary note at the end of this paper for more info on this.)

6) The printer has a new kind of fully automatic nozzle check capability. It's slower than the manual check, where you make a quick print on a small sheet of paper (I use 8.5 x 11" plain laser printer paper), but you can either initiate it by hand, or set it to run at the start of every job (you probably won't want to do that). The printer prints out a checkerboard-like pattern of small rectangles, each of which is printed entirely by one nozzle. It then uses the sensor which is mounted in the head to see if any of the rectangles are missing. If so, it runs a cleaning cycle and repeats the process. As soon as the darker four colors are finished, it moves on to the lighter four colors. If any nozzle is clogged, it goes back to square one and starts over. Note that the more expensive 10000 and 10600 printers use an even better (but more expensive to make) system which employs a laser to check that each nozzle is firing.

7) The printer has the ability to automatically "align" the print heads (standard, user-performable head alignments are actually timing adjustments for the various colors of ink which cause them all to fire at just the right time for best register between the colors). The Auto Head Alignment works by printing out a set of targets in the central 9 inches, roughly, of whichever roll paper you may have in the machine (don't do this test on plain paper). The sensor reads the apparent brightness of the printed patches and can tell which adjustment is the best and sets it for you, for each color and droplet size. No more need to use a loupe and mark a page and then enter in the best values.

8) The screening technology has been overhauled for color, to accommodate the improved precision of the new print head. The screening for the Advanced Black & White mode is of course all new and does an amazing job of creating consistent coloration throughout the tone scale and superb smoothness on photographic papers (e.g. Premium Luster). Smooth results on rag papers are much easier to achieve.

9) After use, the machine goes totally silent, and it uses only 0.7 watts when off. The reported idle power consumption is up to 15 watts, but I doubt if it's anywhere near that high. If so, better to leave it off when not in use. The world is increasingly full of little power-sucking "vampires" which sit there doing nothing but using up a few watts continuously (cell phone chargers, power supplies of many other kinds, instant-on TVs, cable boxes, DVD players, etc.), and making electricity is having drastically destructive consequences to the planetary atmosphere, so it's no small matter that the power-wasting habits of these billions of devices are being reformed aggressively as a result of governmental mandates around the world. I do everything I can in my life to use less electricity and we all should. In America, making electricity does even more to damage the global climate than our portly transportation sector by roughly twenty-five percent. Coal is the number one culprit within the power sector.

10) In response to an earlier request of mine, new software provided with the printer for performing several new functions, can be set to alert the user with an alarm of some sort on the Mac's speakers (I wanted the printer to ding the way Toast does when a print is about to be finished so I can come and catch it just after it's cut off the roll). I haven't been able to test this yet because of an installation glitsch with the software, but yahoo anyway!

11) The annoying tendency of the two or three little metal clips across the front which seem to fall out every time you bump into them will be gone, with a redesigned method of keeping roll paper from curling under the printer, above the stand's cross bar.

12) The printer has an all-new LCD and control panel, which is a good redesign and combines some buttons. The software interface is very quick and easy to learn, and the error messages are more explicit. Note that various kinds of error messages, such as the paper skew warning, can be manually overridden by pushing the Pause button.

13) The printer has a new and much faster processor inside to boot up more quickly, among other quicker processes. The longer it's been since you've used the printer, the more likely it is that the printer will perform a perfunctory nozzle cleaning (without paper) as a part of the startup procedure.

14) The printer has USB 2 and FireWire 400 built in, with a 10/100 BaseT Ethernet card option.

15) The prices for the 9800 and 7800 are the same as for the 9600 and 7600. The 4800 is $200 more than the 4000, which is still available, but I don't know for how long.


The problems of inkjet systems are getting to be hard to find! One wonders what will come next to improve upon these amazingly good products. Maybe somebody will figure out how to have the printer apply a protective coating, giving yet more physical robustness (resistance to abrasion, water droplets, etc.) as well as even better light fading performance. Or maybe some genius will figure out how to avoid the humectant issue entirely with barrier papers. We shall see!

I really think that after all these decades of dreaming about ultimately fine realizations of my photographic visions of the best of nature, that it has finally come to pass. From now on, I'll be making all of my prints on a 9800 or two, rather than on my 10000 and my 9600. Contact me if you are in Northern California and are in the market for the 10000. I've now sold the 9600.

Supplementary note, November 13, 2005

When I performed a black ink swap — matte black (MK) for photo black (PK) — the result was that 90mls of ink were consumed and it was some of each of the eight inks. At street prices this amounts to about $40 worth of ink, and the cost would be the same again to switch back. The switching process takes about 13 minutes, if none of your cartridges are nearly empty. If they are, then you'll have to put in new cartridges before you begin so the system can be sure you won't run out during the swap. After swapping in the MK ink, I printed a standard full black (normal driver settings) on a sheet of EPSON Velvet Fine Art, which typically yields the blackest blacks of any rag paper that I know of, and the measured Dmax with my densitometer was 1.68, meaning that it was extremely similar if not identical to the black that you can get from the MK ink when using it in the original UltraChrome printers. No improvement. By comparison, a Hahnemühle PhotoRag black printed with EPSON's dye inkset measured 1.98 with my densitometer. Although this result yields stunning prints, the light fading behavior of this combination is disastrous (perhaps a two- or three-year rating, compared with roughly a century with the two pigmented UltraChrome inksets, depending on UV filtration and paper type, etc.).

When reflection density measurements are made on papers with a fairly glossy surface, including papers like EPSON's Premium Luster, Premium Semi-Matte, and Premium Glossy, the surface reflection from the paper is not measured because the instrument does not see it — the surface reflection is relatively specular and the surface light bounces away from the sensor. When such measurements are made from "fine art", aka matte or rag papers, including PhotoRag, Velvet Fine Art, Enhanced Matte, and many others, the surface reflection is so diffuse that it is always included in the measurement, i.e. the instrument sees the light reflected from the surface instead of missing it. For this reason, a Dmax of 1.98 on a matte paper is roughly visually equivalent to a Dmax on photo papers of 2.50. Similarly a Dmax of 1.68 on matte paper is roughly visually equivalent to 2.00 on photo paper. Those comparisons are valid for a fairly diffuse lighting condition. If the lighting is perfect gallery lighting with spotlights in an otherwise dark room, the measured Dmax would more closely reflect the actual appearance of matte versus photo-type papers so a photo paper with a black of 2.50 Dmax would look darker than a 1.98 Dmax on a matte paper instead of looking about equally dark.

Just to complicate matters, if the measurements of density are made with an instrument (densitometer or spectrophotometer) which is fitted with a polarizing filter, then surface reflections are largely eliminated, so the differences in measured Dmax between the two paper families would be much less than I have described.

Hopefully EPSON will pull a non-toxic-components, high Dmax, matte black ink out of the ether of chemical possibilities before long. Prints with a completely matte surface and very black blacks tend to create the wonderful illusion of looking out of an open window. Just don't be touching the dark areas because they mar very easily.

Note on Ink Consumption, February 10, 2006

I just checked out the ink consumption for printing four of my images on Premium Luster Photo Paper (250), which one can find by printing a test report from the LCD menu of the printer (Test Print > Job Information) and it varied between 2.02 and 2.60 ml per square foot printed, total, for all eight inks combined. At the best discount prices available for ink (30% off retail) that works out to $0.83 to $1.06 per square foot for ink when using 220 ml cartridges or about 10% higher when using 110 ml cartridges.