View Full Version : Printers and Ink
Printer and ink questions. I have been using both an R800 and a 4000 for about a year. Both do what they are supposed to do and I have been very pleased with the output of both machines. The 400 is not in my studio so I have been considering getting one of my own, or a 4800 or an 1800. Decisions, decisions, decisions. The 1800 will do fine in terms of size for the vast majority of the prints I make and I can continue to use the larger printer when I need to. The question then is quality? Any reason to step up from the 1800 to the 4000 or the 4800 other than size? Should I be thinking about the new 2400 instead of the 1800? Are there significant differences in the inks? I know what the literature says, what I am looking for is some actual experience. Any one got any? I donít mind laying out the much larger bucks for the 4000 or 4800 if there is a good reason beyond size but I am not sure there is. I realize there is a huge savings on ink in the 4000 and larger printers IF you stick to Epson inks. That also brings up the question of third party ink cartridges and ink sets. Anyone use them? Any comments? I have seen them as much as half or less than half the price of Epson inks but have not taken the plunge. Looking forward to some helpful responses.
Beyond the ink cost issue, there's also a convenience factor to the larger ink carts. I have a friend who just printed a huge pile of prints on her 7600 for an upcoming show. She made sure the ink carts were nearly full, loaded a full roll of paper into the printer, fired up photoshop and queued up the prints, and then just stuck her head in to check on the prints every little while while it printed. Some of what she was doing was gang printing large number of small prints. Even if she put roll paper in a smaller printer, she would have been constantly changing those little ink carts - and ditching any print that needed an ink cart change in the middle of the print.
I'd also note that the printer to printer consistency for the pro level printers (4000, 7600, 9600) means that you can get a profile made (or use profiles like the free Atkinson profiles) and use it on more than one printer. The consumer level printers don't have the consistency and thus you'll need to profile each individual printer. (or at least that's what I hear).
In the end, if you expect to do much printing at all, I would think the increased speed of the 4000/4800/7800/9800 along with the dramatically lower ink costs would be compelling. Throw in the unit to unit consistency, and it's hard to see why you wouldn't buy the 4000 over an r800 or 1800 or 2400.
As for inks, it seems it's a crap shoot. I read lots of people talking about problems with third party inks - clogs, longevity issues, etc. If the third party inks offered something beyond lower cost (as with quadtones, for instance), I think they would be interesting. But at $.75/sq ft, ink costs don't seem to be a big cost factor for me. If you halve your ink costs, and you're printing on paper that costs, say, $0.75/square foot, you've cut your cost of goods 25%, which seems like a big deal. Epson Ultrasmooth or Hannemuhle PR cost more like $1.75, and halving your ink costs would drop your cost of goods by 15%.
But the markup on the prints is so large, cost of goods sold is minor compared to the risk of having the printer not working when you need it, at least in my view. If you're running on a much lower margin, then it would make sense to look at third party inks.
I use a 4000 with Imageprint and UC inks for all my color and b&w. Imageprint really optimises both the color and b&w. I will probably replace the 4000 with the 4800 if the claims for increased DMax hold true. My b&w images require a good dmax and the current setup just barely meets my requirements. Having said that I have a retrospective show coming up with a mix of my vintage silver and cibachrome prints from the museum collection and new inkjet both color and b&w. I went and did a preliminary layout of the show yesterday. The b&w holds its own tonally and the color easily exceeds the vintage Cibachromes. I few weeks ago to do a comparison I ran ssssome of my files trough my friends 7600 set up for Piezography and found some differences but no real improvements with the b&w going that route.
Kirk, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the differences you observed comparing piezography and B&W prints done with UC inks, either here in the forum or offline via email. I suspect I'm not the only one...
Thanks Paul and Kirk, pretty much confirms everything else I have heard and know. I was about to go out and get a 4000 or a 4800 for the shop when the latter is available but am doing a final mental check on the other options. Kirk, I'm with Paul on wanting to hear the differences between piezography and b&w.
Ted, here's a great article by Joe Holmes, who is one of the gurus of the color printing world. He is a beta tester for Epson (has been for many years), and has had one of the new printers for awhile now. Here is his review of the new inks and printers:
Thanks for the link.
Kirk, if you email your findings to Paul, please include me. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this show and how the output was perceived, etc, etc.
Good luck at the show!
it appears that based on Holmes test, the blacks you can get from the new K3 ink are only beat by the best dye-sub & dye transfer prints. I'd love to see the B&W prints you had in VC done on the new printer with the new ink set.
all the best....
Here are some of the differences. It is partly comparing inks and partly comparing the profiles of Imageprint vs. Cones. IP concentrates on shadow detail instead of dmax but their performance was very similar in terms of DMax on various papers. My curves of course were optomized for Imageprint and UC inks and they reall need tweaking for the cone inksets.
*I truely love the look of ink on mat paper. It has the richness of a fine lithograph. I always hated the plastic look of Cibachrome and as far as I am concerned it is history. But I was surprized that the b&w inkjet looked so good compared to the silver. I am a good silver printer, but I now wish I could have done the entire show in inkjet.
*The various Cone ink colors are matched pretty easily with the the tone setter of IP. It is great to be able to use one inkset to get all the b&w tones you want.
*Alot of my work has very deep moody shadows. Visually the dmax of a good inkjet print is far deeper than what you can get in silver and I can hold shadow detail as well. I don't care about measured dmax because that is alittle like apples and oranges when you compare glossy silver and mat inkjet. I only care about how it looks on a wall. This changes somewhat when you get the prints under glass the differnce is lessened but still apparent.
*Paper choice is far more important in terms of Dmax than any difference in the two ink sets. Max dmax is achieved with EP Velvet Fine Art over any other paper I have tried hands down. Then EP Enhanced mat then Hahnemuhle Photo Rag. Everything else I have tried pales in comparison in terms of DMAX like all other EP papers Somerset Legion Hahnemuhle. I like the dmax on EP Velvet Fine art that I am willing to limit my b&w print sizes right now to 11x14 because EP VFA only goes up to 13x19.
* for color I prefer the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag over all others for its color richness and accuracy. It just glows.
*All spray fixatives kill the dmax on mat papers. So for now I am willing to live with "naked" prints. There are some hand mixes that I am going to try like the old lacquers that traditional printers used to use, but I have my doubts.
*If the dmax is indeed higher in the new Epsons it will open up more paper choices for me
Thanks, Kirk, for such a great summary. I wish I could see the show!
Thanks for writing out your views. I agree fully about the Hahnemuhle photo rag. For color it's superb. Too bad I can't see the show. As my work is mainly wedding and portrait....I don't get to many of my shots up in a gallery. Especially considering most couples don't want a 24x36 of themselves to look at in their living room!
All the best.
Also EP Enhanced mat is a nearly perfect cheap proofer for the expensive Velvet Fine Art (The profiles are nearly identical) and pretty good in b&w for the Hahnemuhle Photo Rag.
Thanks for the kind words. If anyone is interersted there is a book that goes along with the exhibit. It is called "SHELTER FROM THE STORM:THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF KIRK GITTINGS" They are taking orders now but it will not be shipped until July.
The cover photo is incredible!
Ted, here's an interesting blog, wit "real world" experience.
Take it for what it is, i.e. personal impressions of a guy who's using the 4800...this guy thinks that the major improvement of the new K3 inks compared to the "old" ultrachrome is more in the b&w prints rather than the colour ones:
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