What is the difference between Laser & LED printing?

Lambda and Lightjet are both brands of laser printer companies (Durst and Océ, respectively) that developed innovative digital replacements for traditional darkroom printing. Rather than using a bulb to expose light on photographic paper, these printers use three lasers (red, green and blue) to expose light onto photographic silver halide paper, advancing through the Lambda and in the Lightjet, rolled inside a large drum. The exposed paper is then processed in photographic chemistry to create a perfectly archival, digital but traditional C Type print. Hence the term, 'digital C Type'.

Laser printers such as Lambda and Lightjet are the preferred choice by artists and photographers the world over. Laser systems rely on elaborate combinations of rotating mirrors and lenses that must remain in alignment through use. LED technology uses a Light Emitting Diode print-head as a light source which is ‘solid-state’ (i.e. fixed) and has no moving parts.

But at Metro Imaging we know that the needs of photographers, particularly for fine art, are quite specific and based more around the quality of the image, rather than the speed or efficiency of the machine. For artists and photographers the key issue is resolution and image quality. Here laser printers win hands down. Compare, for example the Durst Lambda (laser) printer with a commonly used LED printer: the ZBE’s Chromira:

Printer PPI DPI equivalent
ZBE Chromira 300ppi 1500 dpi
Durst Lambda Laser 400ppi 4000dpi
Océ Lightjet Laser 300ppi 4000dpi

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