My B4 prints were made on Fuji Frontier printers at Camera
Kitamura, which I believe uses colour lazer printing so it is very fast
and detailed. I think just about all camera shops have the same process
here in Japan, Fuji dominates and I use the regular quality, though higher qualities are avaliable (such as was used for the exhibition
prints). In Japan B4 print size is called 4W, the w
meaning ‘wide’ and uncropped, 6W being an A4 print. If you don’t get the wide size, you need to crop, which is neccessary for many frames and is something to think about.
A3 prints are about twice the price here, so for me it’s not worth it and believe
it or not, A4 are more expensive, as I was printing 2 for the price of
about 1 (2 for 990 yen). They make great presents as well as ways to
show your photos. Though email, web galleries and iPhone-type screens are good for convenience, you have to remember that they are like small prints in terms of
resolution, generally around 1/2- 1 and 1/2 mp. Even a 1080p TV set is only 2 mega-pixel worth of detail. Unless you have a very expensive 30 inch, 2560×1600 WQXGA monitor, you have a vastly reduced resolution, despite the brightness and vividness of LCDs being so attractive.
In terms of colour, generally they are pretty much like what I see on my monitor. I make sure that any file I use is in SRGB colour. Whilst Adobe RGB or even better Pro-photo RGB have a wider gamut (range of colours), this is more useful for editting than printing on these types of printers- though really high-end ones can make use of the more exact hues. On a standard printer or the internet, though, not being able to display the hues properly can lead to washed out colours appearing in their place- so SRGB is still the usual standard for this. Also, remember that they will probably
lighten and warm up the pictures automatically. If you want to get more exact, then you need
to communicate with the printer’s operator, by showing a sample printed the way you
like it, small (which you can experiment with to get just right), or try making a
darker and colder-coloured one to compensate. Even then, print it small first as a
test print before making the big ones. Why do they do this? It’s because photos are usually too dark for printing,
much darker than the monitor appears, which is tremendously backlit. Also, especially for portraits or sunsets in particular, warmer
colours are more pleasing. I should add that the ones I just got are
pretty much the same brightness as on as my monitor, though when I printed from home I
had to make them brighter to compensate. Some of them came back a bit warmer, but not so much as to be a distraction.
*Note- having just shown some to a friend whose father won numerous photo comnpetitions, he said in each case that the store printing, with it’s lighter shadows and warmer hues, looked better to him. I am inclined to agree- especially on prints, they do look more pleasing than a more ‘accurate’ photo in much cases. I was pleased to hear that my printing choices are working out.
Try a couple first and see what you think, I’m happy with it but
probably for an exhibition print I would need to get it just right and
pay more for the very best quality- though I don’t make those much. My home printer is actually capable of finer quality, especially since I can chose the papoer and have it just match the ink being used. Unfortunately, the ink is too expensive to print much large and
after all, the Fuji Frontier prints are already so high quality people are amazed. The quantity offered by their affordability helps, especially at large sizes.
For the future, I have plans to print A4 size from home at super high quality on my Canon MP 980, on special paper. I’ll use
those for exhibitions and perhaps another kind of portfolio, encouraging people to look very closely at them. I am
already making postcards for people on it, which are incredibly sharp… but that’s another story!
Quality and quantity are the principals to balance here, as with anything else.