Canon's new ChromaLife ink system is now shipping in a few new printer platforms. The most notable thing about this system is the 30 year lightfastness claim. Add to that a 100 year album life claim, 10 year gas fastness claim, and improved resistance to heat and humidity, and you have a ready made fight with Epson's UltraChrome system. There is a catch - ChromaLife is dye based ink. Until now, dye inks always faded faster than pigments. The conclusion must be that Canon has found a new and better way to make inkjet dyes.
To start, this is not the same kind of setup HP offers. Canon does not tie their claims to swellable polymer media like HP. Canon does mention specific papers when making the fade and gas resistance claims, but none of the media are swellable polymer. We are left to read into the information offered that it is the ink, and not so much the paper, that is the magic of ChromaLife.
Bullet Points About ChromaLife
- 30 years lightfastness when displayed under glass away from sunlight or intense lighting
- 100 years fade resistance in enviromnentally controlled dark storage (closed photo album)
- Improved resistance to humidity and heat
At first blush, we are skeptical of their claims because of our long and ongoing experience with dye ink fade on basically any inkjet media. However, it is not impossible that Canon has made big breakthroughs in dye technology. And they have the power of Henry Wilhelm's rating and name behind this system. So it may indeed be the next big thing in inkjet printing. Upcoming independent tests of the ChromaLife setup will help answer our questions in early 2006.
For now, we still are firmly on the side of pigment inks if you require long lasting inkjet prints. The technology is proven and readily available in the form of Epson UltraChrome or 3rd party systems. But even if ChromaLife offered only half of the claimed benefit, it would be a tremendous improvement, and a huge step forward for the industry.