Although I now print mostly on my own Epson 3880 and R1900, I still send larger prints to MPIX, and used them for many prints before I got better printers. After testing several labs, they seemed to produce the best rendition of that I thought I sent to be printed.
I have no qualms about printing a 16x20 or 16x24 from a properly processed image from a 12MP camera. I've even had a 30x60 inch print made from a D300 image. It's all in the processing that you do to the file.
For years I used Aspen Creek Photo, based in California, to make my prints. I tried many other print makers before deciding which one to use. I developed a preference for Fuji Crystal Archive matte paper, which is very similar to what many inkjet paper companies sell as satin photo paper. ACP uses Fuji photographic papers and provides a very professional service. However, they offer a limited range of products, specializing in high-quality photographic and inkjet canvas prints, at which they excel.
I printed mostly 8x10 and 8x12 prints because they sell well in our frugal community, but many larger ones as well, up to 16x24 and got very good results. My camera is a 12 MPixel D300. Aspen Creek Photo provided very reproducable prints.
As for other print makers, I found Adorama in NYC quite reliable and inexpensive, but they use Kodak paper. However, they do not provide a really "professional" service, more of a consumer service. White House Custom Color has a good reputation. They are a full-service print maker, offering many types of products; they use Kodak Endura paper.
The earlier comment about the importance of good editing of your image files is spot on - I never let any of the print makers adjust my picures, I felt I needed to control what the image looks like.
With my new Epson Pro 4900, I am presently not using Aspen Creek Photo, but can wholeheartedly recommend them.
I have two epson printers that are useless for printing serious prints. My house was broken into a few years back and the window they decided to break to get in just happened to be the one both of my printers sat in front of. The printers have glass dust in them, so not so good for printing quality prints.
For quick down and dirty printing just for myself or for give aways to friends I print to Sams Club.
For my customers or sell prints, I use H & H Color Lab, my largest prints with my D70 and D300 have been 20x30.
I don't have a current source. However, as far as the size is concerned:
How many camera pixels per inch (resolution, ppi, etc.) that is desired an important thing. Everyone wants 600ppi. But, you need to think, how far away the viewers will be when they view the print. It might not look great from 18-24", but if they are 5 feet away, it might look great.
I know I haven't explained this very well, but I hope you get the idea. Many large prints are not meant to be hand held. Years ago, when I was contemplating a large format printer, I did see a guide to help determine viewable size based on uncropped pixel count, etc.
>Biggest will be 16x20 and viewing will probably be a few feet >head on. > At this size any 12mp (and even smaller) image will produce an excellent print.
You can upsize the file to 300dpi if you wish but it is not necessary. Just send the cropped file at 5:4 aspect ratio to the printer and specify the desired print size. If you prefer to upsize aftermarket plug-in are better that Photoshop's resize but at 16x20 it is not necessary.
Let me know if you would like more technical details on perceived resolution, print size and viewing distance and I can send you some links.
Barry, that information would be great. Many years ago I used a lab for my print work but that was in my film day. Been reduced to snapfish for so many years now for snapshots and 4x6 prints that I've forgotten so much. Best... Steve
I print my own on an Epson 7900 up to 24" wide. Larger than that (rare), I send out to White House Custom Color. I've printed a pretty fair number of DX files at 24x36", both myself and at WHCC. I'm sure I could go bigger, but haven't needed to with any DX files. I've printed a few bigger than that from FX, also from 12mp or so.
_____ Brian... a bicoastal Nikonian and Team Member
My gallery is online. Comments and critique welcomed any time!