FLAAR Digital Imaging Resource Center

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The Small Print

FLAAR is a nonprofit organization established under the laws of Rhode Island and registered with IRS for over three decades.

FLAAR has an additional evaluation facility at our offices in Guatemala. FLAAR has had a presence in Germany for about seven years and is considering opening an affiliation with a university or Hochschule there or elsewhere in Europe.

The original founding purpose of FLAAR itself is research and public education by means of photography and digital imaging in the fields of art history, architectural history, archaeology, anthropology, ethno-history of the indigenous peoples of Mexico, Central America, and South America, with a focus on pre-Columbian civilizations of Mesoamerica (Mexico through Costa Rica). Because the exotic plants and animals in this tropical region were a key part of the diet and culture of the indigenous peoples of these areas, we also include studies of the tropical flora and fauna of the core region (ethno-botany and ethno-zoology). Our goal under this mandate is to work towards increasing the quantity and quality of a professional level of photography in field work and in museums. It is logical that we are thereby keenly interested in helping people learn about the advantages of high-end digital imaging, both input (scanners and digital cameras) and output (inkjet and laser printers).

Grants and Sponsorship

The FLAAR program of digital imaging began with a grant from the Japanese Ministry of Education in 1996 for FLAAR to do a feasibility study for how the Japanese National Museum of Ethnology could best digitize and store its 35mm color slides of pre-Columbian art. The museum itself does not have any Maya art, only thousands and thousands of 35mm slides (from the FLAAR Photo Archive).

That same year FLAAR received a grant of $100,000 from an American foundation for the purpose of preparing a feasibility study of how FLAAR itself could scan its own in-house slide archive of 50,000 slides of pre-Columbian art and architecture.

The network of web sites is our report to the world of the trial and error we went through in trying to figure out what was the best digital imaging equipment.

After four years of upgrading our reports, the FLAAR web sites on digital imaging hardware and software had become immensely popular. But by 2000 we had obviously run out of funding from the original 1996 monies. We had a growing network of web sites, with only one single person who simultaneously wrote all the text, produced all the web sites, and tried to answer the increasing flood of e-mail. So in that year Hewlett-Packard kindly offered to cover the costs of hiring a team of professional web designers to improve the design and navigation within the sites. With this educational grant we outfitted the facility at the Francisco Marroquin University.

The HP funding was for about five years, circa 2000-2005. By the time this grant reached its natural expiration date the FLAAR Information Network had reached about a dozen web sites in three languages with a staff of more than 12 people. Since by now the FLAAR reviews were wildly popular with readers, who depend on us for accurate information, we approached other companies for funds to allow us to continue to cover the expenses of the facility and staff at off campus. We appreciate the grant from MacDermid ColorSpan, Parrot Digigraphic (Epson), Color DNA, Drytac, Gandinnovations, Zund, and other sponsors which allow us to continue bringing the 500 pages of consumer reports to you around the clock and around the world. As you note sponsorship is encouraged from competing technologies. FLAAR is not owned, nor operated, by any company nor beholden to either piezo nor thermal inkjet technology. FLAAR existed long before the first inkjet printer was even a gleam in an engineer's eye. Our initial funding came from sources with no relationship whatsoever to computer or digital imaging technology.

FLAAR reviews are now read in more than 82 countries worldwide.

End-User Reports of their Actual Experiences are a Crucial Portion of our Information Sources

As typical of other publications, incoming mail (e-mail) is utilized to form a wider picture of the state of digital imaging technology, especially what end-users need in terms of equipment, accessories, and help, whether help via future training or more immediate help by means of providing general introductory information. In some instances the information contained in an incoming e-mail may be pertinent enough that we would include it within one of our reviews. In no case, however, is the name of the sender published by FLAAR on our web sites. The text of e-mail will be edited appropriately to fit in the space, style, and subject matter at hand. We send up to 8 reports to provide information to you in return. It's a fair exchange.

When an incoming e-mail expresses interest in a particular product where it is logical that the manufacturer or distributor of that product may have more up to date information with which to answer aspects of the questions posed in the e-mail FLAAR will forward the pertinent e-mail to the pertinent company so that they may attend better to the needs and questions of the e-mail. Nonetheless, we will still personally answer your e-mail ourselves with the FLAAR reports.

All images taken by Nicholas Hellmuth, Andrea David, or sent to FLAAR by others are copyright by the respective photographer (or FLAAR in the case of photos by Nicholas Hellmuth). No portion of the text or illustrations of a FLAAR web site may be reproduced in any manner without prior consent of FLAAR in writing.

In addition to our web sites and occasional public lectures and articles, FLAAR is active in market research so we can better communicate to the hardware and software companies what the end user needs in terms of new and better features. All too often the needs of first-time users are not attended to by major corporations (who naturally tend to concentrate on the prepress and commercial markets). Since our background is academia and as public education implies a policy of helping newcomers learn about the subject at hand, we work hard at helping newcomers learn about digital imaging (as can be attested to by the countless "thank you" e-mail that we receive weekly from people whom we have helped make a decision on what direction to take as they enter the world of scanners, digital photography, and desktop printing).

A current goal in FLAAR research is to gather together the gist of the incoming e-mail and with this information to prepare booklets, handouts, and other information so that additional people can be helped. Since the companies who make the hardware and software rather obviously know more about their products than outsiders, we are sharing the questions and needs expressed in the requests-for-further-information with the companies so that through feedback from the companies we can all learn more about the products ourselves and hence are better prepared to answer the next round of incoming questions. Thus the questions, observations, facts, and text of incoming e-mail may be utilized as background material or as quotations for informational publications of FLAAR and/or the companies whose products are pertinent to digital imaging so that we may provide more complete information to all who come to FLAAR for help in learning about digital imaging needs. All rights in letters, articles, and reviews sent to any FLAAR editor or e-mail address will be treated as unconditionally assigned for publication and copyright purposes and are subject to FLAAR's unrestricted right to utilize and edit as necessary.

In order to bring your applications and needs to the attention of manufacturers, so that they can realize what kinds of features you wish in a new printer or software, we work together with organizations are can do surveys to assist us. So in the future we may offer you additional FLAAR Reports at no cost if you can take a few moments to answer a follow-up survey. If you do not wish to do so, you can simply decline.

FLAAR is not responsible for typographic errors or the validity of any information submitted. FLAAR will not be liable for any damages, including damages for loss of business profits, business interruption, loss of business information, and the like, arising out of the use of or inability to use any of the advertised equipment. Users need to realize that any one item of equipment is only one link in a chain that includes adequate image capture at the beginning (scanning or digital photography) through color management and RIP´s. Your situation may be different than ours whereby our results are not appropriate to your situation.

If for any reason you wish to communicate, e-mail should go to ReaderService@FLAAR.org. If you happen to have a question on legal matters, Andrea David, Co-Director, is a lawyer and will be interested in your observations. In real life she was a corporate attorney for a major multinational company headquarters in Essen, Germany. She is now in-house corporate attorney for the German office of a giant US telcom in Bonn.

On the subject of legal aspects. Sometimes product managers get ruffled feathers because they are so used to trade magazines parroting their PR releases, that they forget that not everyone is so easily fooled by potentially misleading advertising claims. Besides, it's not our fault that your ad agency got overzealous and created bait-and-switch advertising. We would also like to point out that misleading advertising violates FCC regulations, a federal matter.

It is not our fault that your engineers could not fix your feeding mechanism to avoid banding defects. It is not our fault your printheads have a generic propensity to clog. If your company spent as much money on improving your product, as headquarters spends on slick advertising to sell the flawed model, then your improved model would not need to face scrutiny.

At trade shows product managers get an opportunity to speak with FLAAR in person. The manufacturers sometimes are all steamed up, but eventually calm down when they realize 1st: that we have abundant files from end-users which document the foibles of the equipment; 2nd; that we bear no malice whatsoever, indeed we work hard to find something good about even the worse printer (the grainy, outdated, miserable dpi Fuji-Brady printer actually has people who love it, though the XES Xpress is so awful it's tough to find supporters, but we finally did find one person who said he got acceptable output from it at times). Thus our motto is, "everyone has different needs; no one printer will satisfy all those needs, but for every printer, no matter how little it impresses us, there are plenty of other people with different needs than ours, for whom that printer may be acceptable."

Our other motto is, that you should never buy a printer just because we recommend it; you should never not select a printer just because we point out its weak points. Instead you should inspect the printers yourself, you should find sign shops, photo labs, fine art studios, or museums in your area, and ask them what printers they utilize. The printers we like may in fact not produce the kind of output you need (in cases your business is different than ours, which is primarily photographic for our museum and CAD for our architecture department on campus). Furthermore, the images we print are from $54,000 scanners and $14,000 digital cameras. If you print images from a megapixel digital camera your output may be embarrassing, even if you buy precisely the printer we recommend. Or, even if you also have good images, perhaps you get a lemon or a printer made on Monday (when the plant workers are still hung over from the weekend). Merely using a different media than we use could cause your image to be a disappointment. Or, if you select a printer which failed our inspection, you may well use a different media, and end up with a fabulous print that wins an award.

Professional Consulting Services

If you wish DR Hellmuth to visit your facility for an on-site evaluation of your large format digital imaging needs (scanners, RIP´s, printers, digital photography, studio lighting) the cost is contained in our page on consulting and/or our PDF on consulting. It is a basic fee plus basic round trip airfare and per diem meals and hotel.

We do not list a phone number because we are often away at trade shows and our staff are in Guatemala or Germany so reaching FLAAR is more realistic by e-mail.


Most recently updated, January 2010.

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