more musings by Marshall

I’m in love with a lamp

May 23rd, 2005 by Marshall

Why do you need to order a special light bulb from New York? Because you want to know what your inkjet print looks like.

Many of us edit our images on screen and would like our prints to match what we’ve chosen, whether we send them out or print them at home. So we talk about color management a fair amount. Most of those conversations are about calibrating and profiling monitors or about working with printer profiles. Good stuff.

But…

I tend to print at home after work or on weekends. When printing at night, I have trouble because I’ve had no way to view the print and see how it will really look during daylight. I mostly trust my profiles now, but I’d still like to know that it came out right, and I’m into instant gratification – I hate waiting to see the print! To make matters worse, metamerism is a friend and a foe. It’s the reason we can use CcMmYK inks to create most of the colors you’d need, but it’s also the reason we can’t always judge in one room what they’ll look like in another. Every object in the world looks different in different lighting conditions, but inkjet-printed colors definitely suffer the effects of different lighting. [So do lightjet prints and ilfochromes, but to differing degrees.]

The solution is good, accurate lighting, or a Print Box, which is an enclosed space with dark walls and an even, 5000k light source in the roof. Print boxes take up space and good ones cost a lot of money. What I wanted was just a good light.

The best lights always seemed to be the ones by Solux, which are used by museums and galleries around the world. But I never got one, because their $8 bulbs only fit into their $150 lamps, and I just didn’t want to blow that much. Now they have cheaper fixtures, but a simple gooseneck desk lamp still sets you back $80.

The magic is in the bulb, though. They sell many good bulbs, including several 12-volt models that are 4700 degree bulbs. I can’t remember where I saw it posted, but someone mentioned that the Solux bulbs will fit into a cheaper desk lamp that you can buy at Office Depot. Yeah, right.

Well, it does.

I ordered Solux’s $11 5000k bulb and tried to ignore the fact that it cost $8 to ship (it came in a couple days from Rochester, very well packaged). I called Office Depot to confirm that this lamp by Tensor is, in fact, a 12-volt lamp that takes an MR-16 bulb. They guy I spoke to there was very helpful, sparing me a 20 minute drive until I knew it would work.

It’s not a perfect solution, because one desklamp doesn’t provide even coverage across a print beyond about 8×12. But it’s pretty good and it’s way better than any other solution I’ve seen at this price.

Speaking of price, total cost: $48 plus a 70 cent toll to drive to my nearest Office Depot. Maybe it’s worth it to buy the fixture directly from Solux, but I’m still saving up for that dSLR.

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