7 Jan

I just got a phone call from someone asking what equipment we use, "what do you use? a LightJet? a Lambda?" To which I replied proudly, "we use a LightJet." Before I could even expand on the subject I got a polite, "Oh, Ok, Thank you." Click. I've had this phone call a few times in recent years.

I find this strange, because, if I even had a chance to respond I would have explained the reasoning behind our choice of the LightJet over the Lambda. But it's clear to me there is some serious mis-information out there about the merits of the Lambda, perpetuated (I'm assuming) by the large commercial labs here in NYC that use them. Why? Well because that's what they have and use. The Lambda is a great machine, especially for commercial purposes, it is a work horse, and capable of churning out large quantities of high quality photographic prints in hours. It's way faster than the LightJet, without question.

BUT, and there is a big BUT here, for fine art photographic applications, the LightJet will beat the Lambda every time on one very important distinction. The LightJet is sharper, which is why, those in the fine art photography community covet LightJet prints above all. What about the Polie you ask? Well it is essentially a "mini-LightJet." The exposure technology of both the Polie and the LightJet are nearly identical. I even remember rumors of a legal dispute between Cymoblic sciences (original LightJet manufacturer) and Polie about who exactly came up with the design, and who ripped who off, because the exposure design is so similar between the two printers.

So in order to help convince you and dis-spell the myth that Lambda is somehow better than the LightJet, let me quickly explain the engineering design difference between the Lambda and the LightJet, with a little background on the basics: A digital-c print is the same as a conventional photographic print, in that the paper is exposed to light and then chemically processed. The only difference in a digital-c is that the exposure of the paper happens with lasers or in some cases, LEDs (in case of the Chromira). With me so far? So lasers are sharper than LEDs, knocking out the Chromira for sharpness, sorry Chromira users. And so your left with the LightJet/Polie and the Lambda both using lasers to expose the print. The next question is how exactly is the print/paper exposed by the lasers? Well, in the case of the Lambda, the paper is rolled passed the lasers as it is exposed, in other words the papers is moving while the lasers (projected by a stationary spinning mirror) are stationary. In the case of the LightJet/Polie, the paper is stationary while the laser light moves across the paper (projected by a moving spinning mirror).

So besides running a test on both machines, which I have done years ago (and yes the Lambda was soft compared to the LightJet), one can deduce which one is sharper. The printer where the paper is moving during exposure? or the printer where the paper is stationary during exposure?

Hopefully, I've explained this well enough and your with me here, the LightJet/Polie with stationary paper exposure is sharper. If you don't believe me, please try a test.