Dye Sub Prints

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dye sub vrs.laser print (jpeg)

On the left, a dye sub print from Kodak. On the right, a laser print from Apple laser, but circa 1995. Close-up of color laser of that era shows problems of an unfulfilled technology at that early time period.

Today dye sub has maintained its lead in quality, due to the continuous tone and attractive finish. 300 dpi in dye sub equals 1440 dpi on ink jet. Dye sub has dropped in price a bit, but not as dramatically as price drops (and quality jumps) of color laser and ink jet.

I thank the National Museum of Ethnology (Minpaku), Osaka, Japan, for the Kodak dye sub printer for use while I was a Visiting Professor in Japan in 1996. As a consultant in digital imaging they asked what equipment would be best, and I indicated Kodak dye sub. They bought two right away.

 bad print of a pig

This object is a peccary head, used as the support of a tetrapodal dish. To see the royal tomb of Calakmul where this was excavated by the project of Dr William Folan, go to www.maya-art-books.org, and do a search for Calakmul.

As recently as four years ago color laser technology was at its beginning. Color was poor and it took forever to print a single page. Today color lasers are as quick as a black-and-white, and the 600 dpi color equals that of 740 dpi ink jet. The new generation of color laser can go to 1200 dpi, though 600 is plenty for even demanding art jobs.

 close up of a dye sub Close-up snapshot of a dye sub image. Color and definition are outstanding. The brand name of Kodak is generally considered a leader, and it was Kodak that I recommended at that time. The museum also had a Seiko dye sub, though it was outfitted for thermal wax transfer mode, which is a bit more economical, and a bit less luxurious.
 dye sub vrs. wax

Kodak dye sub on the left and Seiko wax transfer on the right. Both are outstanding. Kodak (at that time) were about $5 for media and material; wax transfer was perhaps $3 per print, letter size.

The most fantastically impressive quality is the Fuji Pictography, tabloid size and better than you can get out of most professional darkrooms.

All the images here were scanned from 4x5" transparencies on a Kodak photo CD workstation, which tended to make things a bit yellow.

 dye sub close up

Close up view of Kodak dye sub quality, and this was 4 years ago. Dye sub technology, however, has not changed that much, since the market forces are focusing research and development in the ink jet and color laser sectors.

Image is from the Carlos Pellicer Regional Museum of Anthropology, Villahermosa, Tabasco, Mexico. This is a ceramic effigy, possibly an incense burner or a sacred container. It pictures one of the long-snouted deities.


Wax transfer, Seiko, is good quality, but if you have a wax transfer and a dye sub held in your hand then you can notice that the dye sublimation technique is clearly superior. I would imaging that in dye sub mode that the Seiko would have produced dye sub just as well as the Kodak, and that Kodak wax transfer would also be not as fancy as Kodak dye sub.

Close up view of a large tubular ceramic effigy vessel discovered by INAH excavations at Palenque, Chiapas, Mexico.

Digital scanning cameras such as the Dicomed Studio Pro, Dicomed Field Pro, or the Better Light systems can take just about any mix or match of lighting. This is one major advantage of professional studio photography that is not always brought out. With film it would be fatal to have sunlight streaming into a set with tungsten lamps. Fluorescent lighting is death to picture quality with most film.

But there is a special kind of fluorescent tube that is ideal, namely SRGB, used by Videssence. We tried out these tubes. They come in "daylight" and "tungsten" flavors. Both worked well by themselves, or mixed with actual tungsten, as well as mixed with daylight coming in the studio windows.

These lamps last forever, as opposed to tungsten hot lights. Another advantage of fluorescent lamps is that they are cool. The artifacts, and photographer, appreciate this. Your digital system will also appreciate the lack of heat.

Most of the TV stations across the USA use Videssence, from CNN to our own WBCC-TV here at Brevard Community College. But Videssence lights can also be transported. They come in carrying cases, and the fluorescent lamps are not as brittle as tungsten lamps.

Don't confuse these sophisticated photographic tungsten lamps with the lowly fluorescent fixtures in public institutions. SRGB lamps are ideal for photography in general and digital photography in particular.

Check out the Videssence web site, www.videssence.com

Contact Videssence at: (800) 579-7577     (650) 579-7577    or fax (650) 579-7579 (fax)

Their Best Boys series is new.


Lenses such as this monster were actually made to cover major international sporting events, such as the Olympics. Birdwatching is another use for a lens of this caliber. But I use this Leica 280mm APO lens to photograph details of Maya temples and palaces. Some of the pyramids are out in the jungles. They are fragile, so you can't get too close. Or the details are too high to reach with a normal lens.

The quality of this class of Leica lens is what maintains the international reputation of Leitz lenses.

A good place to get Leica equipment is at Stan Tamarkin. He now has a camera store in New York.

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