The appearance of a digital print depends on how we look at it. All prints are designed for a specific viewing distance and will contain artifacts when viewed at closer distances. For digital prints, this distance is typically 1.5 times the diagonal of the print or 17″ for an 8×8″ print and 25″ for a 12×12″ print. Similarly, books are designed to be viewed at a minimum distance of 10-12″.
When prints or books are viewed closer than these distances the dot patterns that make up the digital prints become readily apparent. The dot patterns come from the way digital prints use different size dots to create the illusion of continuous tone. The image to the right is of an eye enlarged to show the dot structure.
Traditional photographs do not generally show the same dot pattern. Instead, these prints show a noticable lack of sharpness when enlarged. The photo to the right is of an eye printed on traditional photographic paper.
The loss of sharpness with traditional photographic printing becomes particularly apparent with text and other high-contrast items that may be present in a digital image. The images below illustrate the difference in text reproduction with both methods.
Which print is better? The answer is that neither print is inherently better. They are different, and in fact, both systems are capable of producing high-quality digital prints.