SAN FRANCISCO (07/05/2000) - Pictures of an event shouldn't fade long before your memories do. But print out a photo of your cousin's wedding on a desktop ink-jet printer, and chances are not much of the image may remain after a year.
Conventional photographs last around 15 years before beginning to fade, and photos developed on special archival paper can last a generation. Most images from ink-jet printers, though, start fading within anywhere from six months to five years.
That's no big deal to many consumers, who can just print out another copy of their digital image files. But for professional digital photographers, this problem can hit them squarely in the pocketbook. And if digital prints are quicker to fade, then digital cameras are less likely to win wider acceptance.
Epson America Inc. (800/ 873-7766, http://www.epson.com) thinks it has a solution in the form of longer-lasting inks -- and studies from Wilhelm Imaging Research, which has a strategic partnership with the company, suggest that Epson may be on the right track.
The research firm, which tested the new inks for Epson's Stylus Photo 870, 875DC, and 1270 printers, estimates that images produced with the inks can last from 6 to 26 years, depending on the paper used. Conventional "heirloom" photographs last longer, but the Epson prints were acceptable for consumer use and held up well compared with snapshots on traditional film. The 870, 875DC, and 1270 printers cost US$299, $399, and $499, respectively.
Epson will target professional digital photographers with two new large-format printers. Special archival inks developed for the $4,495 Stylus Pro 7500 and the $8,995 Stylus Pro 9500 can last more than 100 years without fading if you use special papers, Epson says. (Add a Fiery RIP, and the prices rise to $9,495 for the 7500 and $13,995 for the 9500.) Both printers will ship in August.
For fine-art and portrait photographers who want print longevity at a lower price, Epson has developed the Stylus Photo 2000P. It can handle media (including photo-paper rolls) as wide as 13 inches, and it uses a new type of pigment ink to produce glossy, durable prints that reportedly can last 200 years on certain paper types. The printer retails for around $899 and should ship by early July.