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Which Epson printer for M8 pictures?

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If I do end up spending a fortune on a larger printer it will probably be an HP Z-series model (built-in photospectrometer for self-profiling, eh?), unless something better comes out.

 

It's funny how we balk at the idea of spending $5000 on a printer, yet here we are using $5000 cameras with another fortune invested in lenses. I guess we tend to value different things in different ways. In any case, for those larger-than-A3+ prints, there are always services around that print pretty much any size you want. For a price. But give me a call when you get that Z3100!

 

Bill

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You know, I should have clarified I've owned BOTH the 4800 and 3800 as well as a 7800 and 9600 and 7600 before those.... I know Epson printers... As soon as I got the 7800, the clog-prone 4800 was gone. When I got the 3800, I sold the 7800 in anticipation of a 9-ink 9880... Which doesn' look like it's happening, but I print 99% of the time on photo paper with Pk ink at that size ayway and the 3800 is fine for the art paper Mk ink prints I need to do, so the 9880 may be okay for me.

 

So, if you want to get right down to brass tacks, buy the 3800 and be done with it. Great printer for the money and will be great even after the newest x880 Epsons hit the street.

 

You only asked about Epson printers, but to be sure, the newest HP printers are excellent too...

 

Cheers,

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One issue that doesn't seem to rate a mention in any of the other suggestions here is the volume of work you put through whatever printer you use. In general terms, the wider the printer carriage, the larger the volume of ink held in the supplied ink cartridges.

 

If your volumes are low, it really doesn't make sense to buy a printer with large volume ink cartridges as the ink ages, settles and in my experience tends to clog heads more over time. This latter issue of clogging is particularly problematic with pigment as opposed to dye inks, although dye inks do age the same as pigment and the makers have use-by dates on these cartridges too. I have not, however, seen any particular adverse effects on prints using dye ink approaching it's use-by date.

 

Quite simply you need to consider the time it will take you to get through the ink that is loaded in the printer you are considering and whether that is material to what you buy. If you are prepared to throw out aged but unused ink and replace it with new cartridges then this can be ignored, but for cost reasons alone few of us would choose to go this way.

 

These same considerations also mean that you should only hold stock of spare ink that you will consume before it expires and that you should check the expiry date of any cartidge you intend to buy. Aging shelf stock is a trap for the unwary, especially if you are ordering on-line. I make a point of asking before I buy what the use-by date is of the stock on hand.

 

In reality, all of the manufacturers now make printers that will produce very high quality work if you know how to 'drive' them properly. Quite simply then, if you start by deciding what width paper carriage you need, i.e 13", 17" or wider, and then whether you prefer pigment or dye inks, the choices start to narrow down. I agree with many here that the HP B9180 and Epson 3800 make good middle-ground choices at a fair cost and that they both are capable of producing excellent results. Beyond that, you simply need a clear idea of your needs/wants v means and the rest is up to you.

 

While some may question why anyone would bother with a dye printer these days, I should mention that I have a HP Designjet 130 that I have used for nearly 2 years and it produces a unique look that makes it my printer of choice for lustre and gloss paper surfaces. For printing a dead neutral b&w, or for printing on any matt/art paper surface I use an Epson 3800, or a friend's 4800.

 

Despite the extra work and cost involved, I choose to spray coat all my dye prints to make them more waterproof and also stick to the maker's (excellent) papers to preserve their resistance to fading. I am sure that there are other printers that are equally good in their own way, and many more that are far more convenient to use, but I still choose to use the DJ130 for most of my colour work and have no regrets at all about doing so. Each to their own, eh? Regards,

 

Gary.

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Earlier...

 

I would say it's a question of your anticipated printing volume,

 

then later...

 

One issue that doesn't seem to rate a mention in any of the other suggestions here is the volume of work you put through whatever printer you use.

 

Sigh.....................Why do we bother?

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so I cannot comment on the pro level printers being discussed here. The M8 test shots I have done print spectacularly well.

 

However, an artist friend of mine needed a printer for giclees of his work and I recommended the HP B9180. The printer paid for itself in one art show. Does a bang up job for $699 and can be networked as well.

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Is there a particular reason why no one mentions the new Canon Pixma Pro 9500?

I haven't seen too many reviews, not even Luminous Landscape.

Are Epson and HP the best players?

 

Brad

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Hi,

 

Thank you very much for so many answers. Well why Epson?, basically because of what I read in some magazine, they were saying the 3800 and 4800 were winners.

 

Regarding Canon although they could be very good I prefer Epson or HP as I get a high discounted price on both brands, not on Canon.

 

Reading all this, I think the 3800 is probably the right choice at the moment, if I needed a roll of paper I'd go to a special service probably.

 

By the way the 4800 is now becoming a 4880 do you know if the 3800 will be a 3880 in a month time?. I'd like to know, either to get a more discounted 3800 or wait for the new 3880.

 

Regarding the HP I did not think about it, mainly because my brain was locked a few years ago, HP for laser and Epson for inkjet. But I am going to closely look at it before making a final decision.

 

Thanks to all,

 

Eric

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Had both HP and Epson printers. No printer problems with either. Now use a 3800. Still not happy with color output - always have to print a test print and then correct with curves (yes, I've been through all the drills ad infinitum suggested on the net to fix this). BW is very, very good. Lots of tone control which I like. Most of higher end printers today seem to do a good job, but do your homework before buying. After having purchased the 3800 I realized that I would have been better served getting a 4800 due to the roll printing capability.

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It's funny how we balk at the idea of spending $5000 on a printer, yet here we are using $5000 cameras with another fortune invested in lenses. I guess we tend to value different things in different ways. In any case, for those larger-than-A3+ prints, there are always services around that print pretty much any size you want. For a price. But give me a call when you get that Z3100!

 

Bill

 

Just making a point and trying my best not to self-promote.... (really)

 

As a pro lab we print fully color-corrected and test-printed Durst Theta 20x30 prints on Kodak Endura paper for only 20 bucks. On some printers, you can spend that in ink and paper alone for the same print, not to mention the intial cost of the printer or any waste generated in test prints or nozzle clogs.

 

I just printed up a few of my shots from Germany to 20x30. Five prints, no color adjustments beyond what I had done in C1 for on-screen viewing, sent to printer and 5 minutes later I have prints that match my files 100% and are ready for display. No muss, no fuss, no upresing, no extra output sharpening. Just good prints with great color and sharpness.

 

We have several Epson 44" printers in house for printing on canvas and fine art papers. We have a constant struggle trying to match the color range and accuracy of our photographic printers. Yes, we use the best color management tools money can buy and yes we have been in the lab business 35 years and in digital for 16 years. No, we are not delusional. Yes, our $250,000 Durst printer makes better prints that our $7,000 Epson. And instead of an hour to print a sinlge 20x30, we can make 165 of them in one hour.

 

I understand that photography is a hobby to many here (including myself). It can be fun to print yourself and see the fruits of your labors. I do not intend to rain on anyone's parade here. I just don't completely understand the focus on inkjet printing. Perhaps I am spoiled because I have access to nice toys in my lab, but the whole idea is that anyone has access to the same equipment I use for less than the cost of doing it yourself. Is this just priciple or am I missing something?

 

David

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Is this just priciple or am I missing something?

 

I think it's akin to having a home darkroom in the 70's... While we all know the pro lab with a quarter-million-dollar printer can do a better job than we can, there is a certain satisfaction in generating prints that are reasonably close in quality ourselves. Also, not all pro labs CAN produce prints better than a quality pro or pro-sumer inkjet

 

Also, there is the economics... What would your lab charge for a dozen 16x20 prints? I just printed a set up for a show on my 3800, they look phenomenal and cost me all of $7 each in ink and paper to produce.

 

Cheers,

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Jack,

 

Our regular price for 16x20 is $15. For 12 of the same picture the price drops to $13.

 

Remember, though, you have to account for the price of the printer too... If you make 500 prints over the course of the life of your $1,200 Epson 3800 printer, you are "paying" another $2.50 per print. If you only make 250 prints, that goes up to $5 per print, etc. And the way Epson has everyone buying a new model every 18 months (ala Canon), I'm not sure how much mileage each generation gets. Don't forget maintenece tank and cleaning cycle waste either (every time the printer does its startup dance).

 

And, yes, I understand the analogy of the home darkroom.

 

David

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Jack,

 

Our regular price for 16x20 is $15. For 12 of the same picture the price drops to $13.

 

Remember, though, you have to account for the price of the printer too... If you make 500 prints over the course of the life of your $1,200 Epson 3800 printer, you are "paying" another $2.50 per print. If you only make 250 prints, that goes up to $5 per print, etc. And the way Epson has everyone buying a new model every 18 months (ala Canon), I'm not sure how much mileage each generation gets. Don't forget maintenece tank and cleaning cycle waste either (every time the printer does its startup dance).

 

And, yes, I understand the analogy of the home darkroom.

 

David

 

Lots of different factors involved. I haven't seen a b&w Lightjet (or whatever you want to call a digital C print) that can rival an inkjet on Crane Silver Rag (or similar). I had some 48x72 b&ws done out of neccesity once. They looked fine for wall murals in a museum exhibition but not as exquisite fine art prints.

 

Though one does see lots of Lightjets in fine art shows these days for color and I'm looking at a beautiful 30x40 one I have on the wall next to me. What's the archival difference between these and an inkjet print? Type C I always found worrying in that aspect.Also $15 for a 16x20 sounds too cheap to me - I take it that doesn't include the scanning, any extra cc etc? I'd be wary of paying that little for a print myself.

 

One also needs to figure in the trip across town to drop off the scan, pick up the print, stressing out at the front counter because the print looks nothing like you wanted so you need to make two more trips across town, etc etc. But like anything, once you get the workflow down it can be a lot cheaper to put a show together.

 

But I also use my 4800 for not just fine art prints but also portfolio printing (I design mine in Indesign) as well as printing test spreads for a book I'm currently editing, and other small printing tasks. I can just set up the printer and let it run while doing other things and not have to deal with an outside source.

 

So both types have their place I believe. And I love the big tanks on the 4800 - saves a lot of money on ink if you use the printer a lot (kind of the flip side of what was discussed above). Just be sure to run the machine every couple of weeks or so. I've left mine for a month with no bad results but I live in a pretty neutral climate (Pacific NW).

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Jack,

 

Our regular price for 16x20 is $15. For 12 of the same picture the price drops to $13.

 

Remember, though, you have to account for the price of the printer too... If you make 500 prints over the course of the life of your $1,200 Epson 3800 printer, you are "paying" another $2.50 per print. If you only make 250 prints, that goes up to $5 per print, etc. And the way Epson has everyone buying a new model every 18 months (ala Canon), I'm not sure how much mileage each generation gets. Don't forget maintenece tank and cleaning cycle waste either (every time the printer does its startup dance).

 

And, yes, I understand the analogy of the home darkroom.

 

David

 

Dave, I think the other thing that Jack implied (that's very important) is how, well, just plain terrible some commercial labs truly are. They don't care about output, because a lot of photographers have never seen great output.

 

So they settle for good enough. I'm not saying all labs are like this, but many fine photographic labs didn't make the switch to digital. Some great ones aren't very economical.

 

BTW--I always like to know who's printing what. Any chance of a web link to your lab? I'm growing a list of people who really do know their stuff and who can work to get me what I need.

 

FWIW, I agree with you that the best high-end output beats the best inkjet output that I've seen so far, including BW printed to fiber based Gallery with a Durst front end.

 

The results are simply stunning, in the right hands. But they're mediocre to poor in the wrong hands

 

So in some ways, having excellent printing at hand beats having exceptional printing but at distance, or in the crap shoot of lab personalities.

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Lots of different factors involved. I haven't seen a b&w Lightjet (or whatever you want to call a digital C print) that can rival an inkjet on Crane Silver Rag (or similar). I had some 48x72 b&ws done out of neccesity once. They looked fine for wall murals in a museum exhibition but not as exquisite fine art prints.

 

Though one does see lots of Lightjets in fine art shows these days for color and I'm looking at a beautiful 30x40 one I have on the wall next to me. What's the archival difference between these and an inkjet print? Type C I always found worrying in that aspect.Also $15 for a 16x20 sounds too cheap to me - I take it that doesn't include the scanning, any extra cc etc? I'd be wary of paying that little for a print myself.

 

One also needs to figure in the trip across town to drop off the scan, pick up the print, stressing out at the front counter because the print looks nothing like you wanted so you need to make two more trips across town, etc etc. But like anything, once you get the workflow down it can be a lot cheaper to put a show together.

 

But I also use my 4800 for not just fine art prints but also portfolio printing (I design mine in Indesign) as well as printing test spreads for a book I'm currently editing, and other small printing tasks. I can just set up the printer and let it run while doing other things and not have to deal with an outside source.

 

So both types have their place I believe. And I love the big tanks on the 4800 - saves a lot of money on ink if you use the printer a lot (kind of the flip side of what was discussed above). Just be sure to run the machine every couple of weeks or so. I've left mine for a month with no bad results but I live in a pretty neutral climate (Pacific NW).

 

Charles,

 

$15 is for a print from a digital file, not from film. Yes, we color correct every image, then make 8x10 test prints before the final print. I'm glad you think we are offering a good value.

And, while we have a large amount of walk-in business, we do a fair amount of our printing from orders submitted online or through the mail.

 

As far as archivability goes, this is a touchy subject. Photographic paper has a proven lifespan of 75-100 years. For-profit testers like Henry Wilhem rate inkjet at 200+ years.

 

You may want to check out not-for profit sources like the Image Permanence Institute at the Rochester Institute of Technology (IPI at RIT) for more unbiased testing. Wilhem receives $2,500 per paper/ink/printer combo he tests. For a new line of printers/inks, he may receive $750,000 for testing Epson's latest range of printers. So the results can be used in marketing materials, the testing time is extremely short. Common sense would dictate that if you basically have two (Epson and HP) customers that pay for your services, you may be interested in showing them in the best light. This paves the way for future mutually beneficial business. I'm not saying that he lies for them, but he can vary his testing methodology to be most beneficial to their product.

 

In a conversation with one of the IPI researches, he explaied that Wilhem only does accelerated visible light and UV testing, without getting into gaseous testing. Apparently, beyond a certain concentration of detrimental gases, you can't accelerate the tests. This means that testing would take months instead of weeks. In their tests, photographic paper is almost unnafected by atmospheric gases. Inkjet, on the other hand, is extremely sensitive to gases like ozone, CO2, and polutants. The paper is designed to absorb by its nature. Once photographic paper is fixed and stabilized, it is no longer reactive. I've attended two seperate seminars with Wilhem, and think he's got a great business model. I just don't think that he has the science to back up his operation.

 

I picked up a sample print from PMA at the Epson booth when they introduced the R800, which was one of the first x800 printer generation. The print looked great. Because we are Epson dealers (gasp), I tucked it away in a drawer with all our other print samples for customers to look at. Nine months later I was going through the prints. The R800 sample had visibly shifted. In the portrait of a girl, the skin tones were still the same, but the brown hair had gone very magenta. All of the shadow areas had gone magenta, actually. The print wasn't exposed to light at all. This was a bit shocking, and in fact prompted my call to RIT, seeking informed answers (from PhDs, not MBAs).

 

As far as B+W goes, our prints are dead neutral. We do linearization calibrations for every paper emulsion, and individual machine gamma tests every morning. Each system is color profiled. Neutral is neutral. We also have the Cone Piezography system, which is quadtone B+W. Besides the constantly clogged nozzles, we've had issues of the gray carbon pigments falling out of emulsion, resulting in cyan coloration coming through in some of the midtones. This happened in the cartride as well as in prints that were only several months old. I think the problem has been solved, but it made us think twice about really getting into fine art B+W output. Our customers expect that the prints we make them will last longer than them. Prints that discolor after a few years put us in an untenable position.

 

When topics like this come up I sort of feel like the guy who says the emperor isn't wearing clothes. There are a lot of people in my industry that feel the same way, but most manage to keep their mouths shut. I have a terrible tendency for hoensty.

 

I'm totally in agreement with your statement that both types of printing have their place. I encourage people to experiment at home and enjoy the art of photography. Just be sure to get the facts and take everything with a grain of salt. Do the research for yourself. Just becuase a hard drive says it has an MTBF of 1 million hours, doesn't mean it will really last 114 years. Same for prints.

 

David

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Jamie,

 

You can check out our website at Dale Laboratories.

 

We pride ourselves on caring what goes out the door. So many commercial/pro labs have gone the way of studio corrected color. What comes in is what goes out. We have always prided ourselves on looking at and correcting each and every single that comes into our lab, be it a 25 cent 4x6 or a $20 20x30, or a $100 custom Gicleé print.

 

David

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Thanks for that informative answer!

 

I agree that b&w lightjet prints can be dead neutral (maybe even more so than inkjet) it's just the type-c medium that doesn't do it for me. But I'd love to try the fiber Durst set-up sometime.

 

I own an Imacon 646 so scanning isn't that much of an issue for me. Would love a link to your lab - you can PM me if you don't think it appropriate to list it in the thread.

 

I'm working on this b&w (medium format) book project and a bit in the air as to how the workflow will end up. With my past books (also b&w) I supplied prints but as I no longer own a darkroom (or want to enter into one) I'm thinking of supplying scans and/or prints from scans (which would then be drumscanned by the printer). I also have a fair amount of retouching that needs to be done.

 

Problem with scans is that there can often be a big disconnect between what Chinese printers are doing and what you've sent them which is why prints are still the norm. Just wondering what sort of quality one would get from a scanned Lightjet print as that would essentially be the 3rd generation by that point. Or maybe best to send the scan and a print for matching purposes. Of course a lot of this will need to be hashed out with the publisher's print coordinator.

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David, pardon my ignorance, but what is different between a "$20 20x30 or a $100 custom Gicleé print" that justifies the $80 price difference? I have never really been clear on what a Gicleé is other than a high quality inkjet print. I checked out your website to see if it explained it, but you don't seem to offer it. Thanks.

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David, pardon my ignorance, but what is different between a "$20 20x30 or a $100 custom Gicleé print" that justifies the $80 price difference? I have never really been clear on what a Gicleé is other than a high quality inkjet print. I checked out your website to see if it explained it, but you don't seem to offer it. Thanks.

 

Sorry for the confusion. The Gicleé is an inkjet print done on a large format Epson on fine art paper or cotton canvas. The $20 20x30 is a laser print on photographic paper, developed in chemistry (aka C Print/AgX/wet print). The reason the inkjet print costs more is that it takes one of our technicians considerably longer to produce one of these prints. We also do custom Photoshop to tweak the colors in specific tones in order to produce the best possible print. We may make four or five 8x10 test prints before we run out the 16x20. So we have a 50% waste factor to deal with as well.

 

The photographic print is made on a Durst Theta 51, which prints at 3"/second using red, green, and blue lasers. So in the time it takes to make one print on the Epson, we can make 100-200 on the Durst. So even though the Durst costs about 30 times as much it is also way more productive with far less waste and requires much, much less in terms of labor.

 

Hope that helps. Also, sorry for sad state of our website. We are in dire need of an update.

 

David

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