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Thread: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

  1. #1

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    B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    First of all, let me apologize up front for asking something I know has been discussed to death, in bits and pieces, many times and in many places. But I'm hoping people with direct experience with this can make it clearer for me (or at least more interestingly murky).

    I've found that recently, the vast majority of my photography, at least that which I want to print, is in B&W. I have an Epson 7600, which for all its life has been used with Ultrachrome Ink (Matte and Light black).

    Now that I'm shooting primarily for B&W, I'm considering switching to one of the various 3rd party B&W inksets out there. But I'm not sure how much benefit there is to doing this, and I'm also confused about some of the options and tradeoffs.

    Right now I'm using QTR with the Epson inks on the enhanced matte paper. At the risk of revealing myself to have impossibly low standards, the prints look pretty OK to me. But I've never done a direct side-by-side comparison with the output of other inks, so perhaps there's something beyond "pretty OK" that I could be getting with better inks. I just don't know.

    Complicating things is the fact that some of my prints benefit from a bit of sepia toning, while for others I prefer to print them neutral. I know that at least some of the third party inksets are specific to neutral/cold/warm/sepia.

    It seems to cost about $1k to switch inks (a flushing set plus the first set of new inks), so I'm not exactly interested in doing this on a whim (especially if I might end up switching inksets several times before I find one I like best). And right now I can still print color if I want.

    So how much of an improvement am I likely to see by switching inks? And any suggestions for which inksets I should be investigating (based on my desire to print both toned and untoned) if I do decide to switch?

    Thanks
    Last edited by Matt Blaze; 21-Dec-2007 at 11:54.

  2. #2

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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    I've never used the 7600 printer. I did use the MIS quadtone inks and Paul Roark's curves for about four years, first in an Epson 1160 printer, then in a 1280. When QTR became available I switched to it and Epson inks in the 1280. Since then I've used the Epson UC inks and QTR in a 2200 and my present 3800. When I first switched to the Epson inks I continued using the MIS Eboni ink in place of the Epson MK ink but I eventually switched from Eboni to the Epson black ink because of the usual quality control problems with inks from MIS.

    I print almost exclusively on matte paper. My prints using QTR and UC inks are at least as good as those I made with the dedicated b&w inks from MIS and having been a dedicated darkroom printer for many years I have very high standards for my ink jet prints. Plus I haven't had the first QC issue with the Epson inks whereas MIS has always had QC problems. There is also considerably more flexibility in terms of toning with the UC inks. Some people think the Epson inks are too warm, I haven't found that to be the case but it's a matter of personal taste I suppose.

    I don't know what the future of the third party inks from MIS, Cone, et al might be after the ITC's decision banning the import of Epson clone cartridges into the U.S. I assume Cone and MIS are still selling inks from cartridges they had on hand at the time of the decision but I'm not really current on what they're doing because I haven't seen anything after the first big flurry of excitement that followed this decision. Before switching you'd obviously want to be certain that they've found a legal way around that decision if you're in the U.S. The last thing you'd want is to switch and then have the ink you switched to become unavailable.

    IMHO the only brands to seriously consider are MIS and Cone. My guess is that at least 95% of the serious b&w printers who use dedicated b&w inks use one of those two brands. I've heard nothing but bad things about Media Street's customer support. These are the only three suppliers of dedicated b&w inks I know of, maybe there's others I don't know about but MIS and Cone seem to be the only choices of the people I know and read about.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  3. #3
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Well, you are right in that this has been discussed over and over. See the archives for the yahoo group DigitalBlackandWhiteThePrint for in depth discussions of all the pros and cons.

    Basically for a 7600 (seven inks) you can go a handful of ways. You can use the ImagePrint RIP to print B&W with the Epson color inks. You could use QTR for the same purpose.

    If that doesn't work for you, you can switch to a grayscale inkset. There are several good ones. Check out the Media Street, MIS, and Cone inksets.

    The only fixed tone inks on the market AFAIK are the inks from Cone. That said his inks are amenable to split toning as you can mix and match across the "colors" (Selenium, Neutral, Sepia, etc.)

    All the techniques have pros and cons as you might imagine. So dive in and do the research. Send some files out and have people print for you. Compare prints and see what you like.

    If you have questions, another place to ask (besides here and the aforementioned yahoo group) is the yahoo group EpsonWideFormat. There are some excellent B&W printers participating there.

    Bruce Watson

  4. #4

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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Brian, thanks very much for the response. It sounds like in your experience the current ultrachrome inks (on the 7 ink printers) perform pretty well on matte papers. That plus the legal uncertainty is an argument for staying where I am.

    Bruce, I'm sorry if my question offended. I was hoping to get a reaction to my particular situation; it's sometimes hard to judge from the (often contradictory) ocean of information out there what's most relevant, and so I figured I'd ask here with my specific situation. I've been trying to do my homework on this, and I'm certainly aware if the benefits of trying something and judging for one's self. But I'd also like to learn for the experiences and mistakes of others. Do you have experiences with any of these third party inksets for the 7-ink Epsons?

    Thanks

    -matt

  5. #5

    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Tom Mallonee and Richard Lohmann have this pretty much wired using the 7600. Wonderful work, lots of data on the longevity of the various inksets. I'll see if I can put you in touch.

  6. #6

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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Matt,

    I have used all three of the dedicated B&W inks mentioned above as well as the OEM Ultrachrome inks with Bowhaus and QTR in both a 2100 and a 4000 (both of these printers share the same inkset as your 7600).

    In my opinion the OEM inks can produce good B&W output when used with any of these RIP's, however prints made with these inks do suffer from much more metamerism than those made with the dedicated B&W inks. They will also not be as long lasting due to the use of the coloured inks when printing.

    Choosing between the dedicated B&W inks is difficult as they have different strengths.

    If you wish to vary tones print by print then look at the MediaStreet GQ and MIS UT7 or UT-3D inks. All of these contain essentially a warm and a cool set of greys together with one or two blacks (the MIS sets use the two dark greys to create black on glossy papers). The MediaStreet set also includes Gloss Optimiser. Both of these sets of inks can be used on either matte or glossy papers and ready made profiles are available for both. If you decide to go down this route you should check that the inkset you choose covers the range of tones you require - some are more limited than others.

    The Cone inks are fixed tone (although you get a choice of several tones and can vary them a bit by choosing papers carefully) but, as a result of using six grey inks produce wonderfully smooth transitions and a really extended tonal range. At the moment they are limited to matte papers although they have recently introduced a new set which will work on glossy.

    When I started using these inks I thought that I wanted to be able to vary my print tones print by print. I also wanted to be able to print on glossy papers. I therefore went with the MIS inks. However I have found that over time my prints have tended to be on matte paper and all fall within a relatively narrow range of tones so that I can easily achieve what I want with the Cone inks and a few papers. I have therefore moved to these inks for the greater tonal range.

    I hope this is helpful

    David Whistance

  7. #7

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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Another alternative is to move to an Epson 7880, which will give you what you need and allow you to stay with Epson inks. While expensive, it is not much more expensive that a couple of sets of TP inks and/or a rip.

  8. #8

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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Keith, David, Ed, thanks very much for the responses.

    David, you've confirmed my fear, that choosing among the B&W inksets is not trivial. Out of curiosity which Cone ink have you settled in on? And have you any experience with the latest Epson inks for the new (K3) printers?

    Thanks again, all.

  9. #9
    Resident Heretic Bruce Watson's Avatar
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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Blaze View Post
    Bruce, I'm sorry if my question offended.
    Who's offended? I just tried to point you to where you will, in the end (IMHO), end up. Because in the end, no one can make the choices but you. No one knows what you are trying to do with your images, or even the content of those images better than you. And that information is usually the deciding factor in making a decision like this. All we on this forum can do is tell you what's out there and assure you that there are people using every choice available. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, said another way they all fill their niches. How your art and what you want matches up to these various niches only you can say.

    As for me, I use the Cone inks in my 7600. I basically agree with Mr. Whistance's conclusions. I don't want to spend any time at all tinkering with the tonality of my B&W work. But that's just me. I know plenty of people who love that stuff. So again, "you pays your money and you makes your choice."

    Bruce Watson

  10. #10

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    Re: B&W printing with the Epson 7600

    Matt,

    I only print B&W and use an Epson 3800. I also like glossy paper, which is the worst PIA for black and white.:-) I have been very impressed with the Epson in advanced black and white mode - for glossy papers, it is even better than I can get with my Imageprint RIP. (The rip is still better for mat paper.) You can tinker with toning in ABW, but since I have spent a long time getting to neutral print, I am not much interested in toning.

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