Memories of 300 dpi Encad NovaJet printers.

After a few days practice we began producing exhibit quality posters with the ENCAD NovaJet Pro 36 printer. Here are some of our early experiments. Then, several years later we upgraded to the Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 2800 CP. A year later we updated to the HP 5000ps and then added a ColorSpan DisplayMaker XII. Both these are faster and offer higher quality for photographs. Encad is okay for sign shops, but HP and ColorSpan are better if you also wish to do museum-quality photo-realistic fine art. Now (summer 2005) we have 23 inkjet printers but have not used any Encad for the last four years. This is because we print primarily professional photos, giclee, and high quality signs that can't have banding defects.

During our initial four years we learned a tremendous amount about Encad printers. Their series Encad NovaJet 600e had severe problems with clogged printheads which caused a class action lawsuit. So the Encad Model 700 printer was launched to improve the performance. We tested the Encad NovaJet 700 and compared the image with the output of the Hewlett-packard DesignJet 2800. Both printers offered four colors and 600 dpi; both printers were roughly the same generation. But the output from the HP 2800 was closer to photo-realistic because the Encad printheads and Encad software at that time could not get rid of the dotty grainy "inkjet color dot appearance."

Now Encad has improved the appearance of their output if you opt for the slowest mode (which is photo quality). We look forward to comparing these prints with the Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 5000ps. Of course it's tough to compare, since we have the HP 5000 in-house, but don't have any recent models of Encad printer.

Press the PRINT button, and 5 minutes later, there it is. The Encad NovaJet is quick and easy. But it has only 300 dpi. We thought about upgrading to a 600 dpi Encad but at that time Encad moved to concentrate on printers for basic signs, such as selling tomatoes at supermarkets. Thus a Hewlett Packard DesignJet looked like a better option if you want to print photographs.

Nice thing is that the ENCAD and Hewlett-Packard wide format printers do not require large files. Since our BetterLight large format scanning back camera produces huge images, we have the capability to give the RIP as much dpi as it needs to print a full 300 dpi even at these large sizes.

But to print at 300 dpi the RIP wants only about 120 to 150 dpi in your actual file. If you give the system much more than that, the result is stretched. This happens on almost all printers, even laser printers. Don't choke your RIP with files that are too large. Any good after-market manual on scanning and digital printing will explain the mathematics involved.

Excess dpi in your file results in the system chopping off half the picture and then stretching the other half to fill the designated width. Simply eliminate the extra dpi in Adobe Photoshop, image/file size, and sent to print again.

Encad NovaJet wide format inkjet printer for digital photographsWith the EFI Fiery hardware RIP for the Hewlett-Packard 2800 and 3800 it is 3 minutes to RIP a TIF file directly, and up to 20 minutes to RIP that same file if it is in a PageMaker or QuarkXpress document. You can solve this delay by getting a faster RIP such as PosterJet from DCS Software (see all the wide format sites listed at the bottom of this page).

Whichever method you select, no longer is it necessary to go outside to a print shop and have your posters and signs done for you. Now you can do posters in the comfort and convenience of your own office.

Andrea David is an ideal person to test how user friendly the Encad is, because she has no training in computers. She recently finished an internship with a German-Guatemalan law office in Guatemala. Andrea was the FLAAR. CO-Director for several years. She was in charge of cost-cutting, increasing efficiency of office operations, and assessing the usefulness of projects under consideration. She also has trained herself to handle the digital cameras out in field situations in Central America.

Ms David went on to become a corporate lawyer for an international German company headquartered in Essen. She recently switched jobs to be corporate attorney for the German office of a giant international telcom in the Bonn-Cologne area of Germany.

If someone with no training can handle the Encad and Hewlett-Packard printers, surely the people in your office can use a wide format printer system too.

Most recently updated August 3, 2005.
Photographs in the FLAAR. office courtesy of James Robinson; updated March 23, 1999 ; revised Aug. 8, 1999 ; links added Jan 23, 2000.