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This False Promise Won't Fade Away

17 Apr, 2002 By: Gary Peterson imageSource

This False Promise Won't Fade Away

are some things that I can live with when it comes to exaggerated promises. I
know that my car does not really get 30 miles to the gallon and that my favorite
sports team will not win the championship every season, despite the players’
promises. Even in the printer world, there are some claims that I can shrug off
- when the printer does not print at the speeds boasted by the manufacturer, or
when the image isn’t really that “lifelike” - it’s OK. I can manage to
wait a little longer for my documents to print out and my colored graphs do not
have to be stunning. However, printer manufacturers are brewing up a new promise
that Joe Consumer and I cannot forgive; one that will come back to haunt the
industry-the ever evil claim of ink light-fastness.



definition light-fastness is, “the ability of a plastic material to resist
fading, darkening or degradation upon exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet
light.” In layman’s terms, light-fastness is a measure of how long your
printed digital image lasts without fading away. Light-fastness has recently
become a hot marketing topic as more and more printer companies have entered the
digital imaging market. Today, printers are so good that very little can be used
to determine if one printer is truly better than the other. With print
resolutions so high, the human eye can no longer determine differences. The cry
heard from consumers today has nothing to do with the crispness or sharpness of
their captured images, but rather their cherished pictures fade too fast. This
has quickly become a determining factor for printer manufacturers to exploit;
hence, the birth of light-fastness.


companies measure light-fastness through independent laboratories that conduct
various light and temperature tests on ink and printed images. Through these
tests, an ink’s light-fastness is measured in years; both Canon and Epson
claim 25 year light-fastness, while Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark have yet to make
claims of light-fastness ratings. However, the fine prints of these
light-fastness tests are extremely complex and make the clarity of actual
results very murky. Nearly all of the tests are conducted in a closed,
temperature controlled room, and all of the tested prints are under glass - not
necessarily the same way we view and store our pictures at home. Epson’s fine
print indicates that specific ink on specific paper is the only way to achieve
25 years of light-fastness. Canon’s fine print indicates that the test was
conducted under glass in a room held at 75 degrees Fahrenheit -- so if you
don’t live in a mall the test may not apply to you.



reality, the actual lifespan of an image printed by an inkjet printer is far
less than what is promised through these assorted tests. Though I don’t have a
laboratory, I have printed dozens of digital images with photo inkjet printers
from every manufacturer and my personal results are staggering. The average life
span of my pictures ranges from 6-weeks to 12 months, and I live in San Diego
where 75-degree weather is the norm. Fading typically starts at 6-months and I
have yet to produce an image lasting more than 18 months. These results are so
disappointing that I have thrown out my photo printers and the only pictures I
get today are from the local photo lab.


disparity between manufacturer claims of 25 years with actual results of 1 year
will come back to haunt photo printer manufacturers. Despite the fine print, the
grossly exaggerated claims will not sit well with consumers, and this is for
purely sentimental reasons. Through a photo printer, a manufacturer’s final
product is the actual printed image, and these products are of huge personal
significance to consumers. These prints are not emails, or presentations, or
greeting cards. These prints are images of family and friends, of weddings and
graduations, of personal memories cherished by those who took the time to print
them. Faced with watching their precious moments fade in such quick time,
roughly 25 times faster than promised, consumers will not only be disappointed
in the product, but will perceive the printer manufacturer in a very negative


some claims are easy to forgive, the exaggerated claims of light-fastness
promise to leave a sour taste with consumers. Perhaps honesty is the best policy
in this case. Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark don’t promise any specific
light-fastness results, so consumers have nothing to benchmark their results
against. However, for those who do claim longevity of prints, just be realistic
and state the truth. Otherwise, your future customers will fade away too.

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