There are plenty of digital SLR cameras on the market now for those who want to exercise more creativity and control of their digital photographs, so it logically follows that those same enthusiasts will also desire the same flexibility and high-end performance in a photo printer.
It is for this top-end of the market that HP has released the Photosmart Pro B9180.
This printer uses eight individual Vivera pigment inks -- matte black, photo black, light grey, cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan and light magenta. It is also built to accommodate HP's new range of A3+ size photo papers and Digital Fine Art media, which HP claims will deliver gallery-quality images that will be fade resistant for more than 200 years (based on Wilhelm Imaging Research light-fade testing under glass). The Vivera pigment inks will also produce waterproof photos when used with HP Advanced photo paper.
Given the impressive print quality, it is also a remarkably fast printer. In its fastest modes, the B9180 is capable of producing 13 x 19-inch photos in 90 seconds.
Professionals and advanced amateurs will also appreciate its print plug-in for Adobe Photoshop which automatically synchronises Photoshop and the printer driver for a single user interface and colour management.
To be honest, CNET.com.au was pretty distracted during the launch of the B9180, as HP brought professional photographer Douglas Kirkland to the briefing. Kirkland, who in his decades-long career has photographed almost every A-list celebrity that you can think of, uses the Photosmart Pro B9180 in his own studio. His hearty endorsement of the printer was powerful indeed, but it was hard not to be sidetracked by his tales of what Marilyn Monroe and John Lennon were really like or how he snapped Jack Nicholson with a lighted match in his mouth and Ann Margret on a Harley in the Nevada desert. See some images from his vast portfolio at CNET.com.au's photo gallery.
The Photosmart Pro B9180 is certainly overkill for those who aren't going to make frequent use of its capabilities or who have no need for the high level of accuracy and detail of its colour reproduction. The price will deter the average punter -- even if the cost of the printer (AU$1499) seems manageable, the cost of the ink cartridges and media (which includes Hahnemuhle Smooth Fine Art or Watercolour paper, Aquarella Art paper and Artist Canvas Matte) adds up pretty quickly.
If producing professional quality photo prints is as important to you as capturing high-quality images, the HP Photosmart Pro B9180 is worth checking out.