PhotoPXL new video series: Print It

Kevin Raber and his crew at PhotoPXL do a great job of covering printers; I’ve found their reviews and related posts quite good over the years. They just announced a new Print It video series, which will cover a range of topics surrounding printing:

“In our first video, we sit down together to discuss where making prints is as far as today’s photographers.  We are is a digital age and while it great we can share our images on many types of devices, we all feel that in the end you really don’t have a photograph until you have a print.  We may be a little old school, but there is something to be said about having a tangible and tactile print in your hands.  You can enjoy detail, a feel, and enjoy exploring the image itself.”

The initial three videos are quite good; for me, the most interesting video so far to is a 23-minute video discussion about printing with Dan Steinhardt, Epson’s Pro Marketing Manager (famously known as “Dano”). Joined by our old friend Jeff Schewe, Dan answers a slew of questions on topics that are not necessarily specific to Epson printers, including:

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David duChemin on printing

David duChemin is a wonderful photographer who has written a number of books about the creative aspects of the practice of photography, and I regularly look forward to his his bimonthly newsletter, which is also posted on his blog1David’s approach to photography instruction is much more creativity-focused than gear-focused, and he is a very good writer. At times, his newsletters can diverge into a bit of a soft-sell for his courses, but he’s worth reading if you’re interested in a more thoughtful, artistic approach to improving your work.. This past week’s post, “Print Your Work Without Printing Your Work?“, was quite provocative, especially when I read his comment near the top of the piece:

hate printing, and it’s high time I admitted that.

David goes on to talk at length about his dissatisfaction with the process of printing by himself, despite the fact that he (like many of us) loves the look and feel of a finished print. His solution: utilize the services and talents of a friend who is a fine-art printer, which I think is a great idea.

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PhotoPXL on Epson EcoTank Photo

Kevin Raber has a rave review of Epson’s EcoTank Photo ET-8550 printer over at the PhotoPXL website. The review includes extensive setup information and print comparisons with Epson’s SureColor P700:

I took around 10 files, some of them actual printer color test files, and sent them through EPL to the ET-8550 and the Epson P700. I marked the back of each print with the printer used. I then started sharing them with friends who would come to the studio and see the printed images on the table.

First, there was little difference, if any, visible between the prints (Note: they were all made on Epson Premium Lustre paper). Also, when push came to shove, more people choose the ET-8550 prints than the P700 prints, which was quite astounding. Keep in mind finding any differences was very difficult.

I’ve been hard at work finishing up our latest book by Ben Long, The Practicing Photographer, and haven’t been able to get to the stack of printers for review in my office (and on order), but the dye-based EcoTank printers are near the top of my list. I think that these new printers could be ideal for a lot of amateur photographers looking to create decent prints at lower costs, and it was good to see Kevin’s early take on them.

Epson announces EcoTank Photo printers

Epson recently announced a new set of all-in-one photo printers in their EcoTank line of cartridge-free printers. The EcoTank Photo ET-8500 (letter-size; $600) and Photo ET-8550 (13-inch; $700) inkjets have six refillable inks (five dye, one pigment), the capability to handle thick media, full network connectivity options, a flatbed scanner/copier, and more. These printers are Epson’s first photo-centric entries in the “supertank” printer market, and the company is hoping to reach photographers, designers and small office/home office folks who want high-quality, wide-gamut prints on a range of different media formats.

Epson’s EcoTank ET-8500

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Oh, hey … Printerville

So, I’m back over here.

It’s been nearly a decade since I stopped working on Printerville. There were number of reasons for that, some personal, some professional, but the reality was that a site that reviewed mid-range to high-end photo printers didn’t make a lot of sense at the time, especially if there weren’t new developments happening on a regular basis. Archival ink sets offered expanded color gamuts that had seemed unimaginable in desktop photo printers a decade before, and the printers from Epson and Canon that used these inks were quite advanced. And HP, which had made a splash with their Z series of large-format printers, largely walked away from the advanced/pro photo market after the crash and burn of the B9180/B8850 desktop printers. 

Plus, there was the ‘screen’ thing. Photographers at the time seemed to be more enamored of tablets and phones and online photo services like Instagram, Flickr and 500px than printing. When I’d mention printing, mostly what I heard from many photographers was that printing ‘was hard’ and, more importantly, ‘expensive.’ 

There’s nothing wrong with photos viewed on screens, but I love printing my own photographs, whether they be snapshots, proofs of work in progress, or finished fine art. To me, printing your work is an essential part of growing as a photographer; it helps inform your shooting and your processing in a way that viewing on screen cannot. It’s another component of the art of photography, an element of practice that can help you become a better photographer. 

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Epson announces the Stylus Pro 3880

Stylus Pro 3880Epson America today announced a modest upgrade to its 17-inch professional photo printer line, with the Stylus Pro 3880.

On the surface, the 3880 offers a few incremental improvements over the Stylus Pro 3800, adding the Vivid Magenta inks, an improved printhead, and new screening algorithms. The case design, print engine, and ink system (with its spacious 80ml cartridges and 8-channel head that requires switching of matte and photo black inks) are identical to the 3800, which is testament to that printer’s design and its success in the market, as well as the relative maturity of the photo printer industry.

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First look: HP Designjet Z3200 Photo Printer

At Photokina in Germany, HP today announced the Designjet Z3200 Photo Printer, a wide-format inkjet printer for professional photographers and designers, with a new ink formulation, speed and paper-handling improvements and other enhancements over previous models.

The Z3200 is the successor to HP’s the Designjet Z3100 Photo Printer, which, when it first shipped late in 2006, was one of the most innovative photo printers we had seen in a long time. The Z3100 utilized 12 pigment-based inks (including a gloss optimizer) to produce high-quality, gallery-ready prints, but it was the printer’s embedded spectrophotometer (from X-Rite) and seamless integration with networked Macs and PCs that set it apart from competitors like Epson and Canon. HP spent considerable effort streamlining the process of printing: everything from unboxing the device to profiling and adding new paper types had been thought through by HP’s hardware and software engineers. The result was a printer that created top-quality prints and was a joy to use, day in and day out.

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Canon cost per print data from Red River

We recently noted Red River Paper’s ink cartridge testing for the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 and Stylus Photo R1900 printers. These tests attempt to come up with a real-world cost-per-page metric for inkjet cartridges—which is one of the hottest topics in the world of photo printing—and they’re great data points to have when you’re evaluating printers.

Over the weekend, Red River’s Drew Hendrix posted their latest results, covering Canon’s Pixma Pro9500 and Pixma Pro9000 inkjets. Their results show that the dye-based Canon Pixma Pro9000 offers roughly the same cost per print as the pigment-based R1900, while the Pixma Pro9500 has a slightly better cost per print than Epson’s R2400. (The Stylus Photo R2880, which was introduced in June, is probably much closer to the 9500 in cost per print, based on our tests, which use the same test image and similar methodology to Red River’s.)

We’re currently testing the HP B8850 with some slightly different methodology, but one that we hope will give us slightly more accurate results. Stay tuned—we think this is pretty important stuff.

Red River ink life testing

Following up on our recent post concerning ink cartridge life, Red River Paper, one of our favorite paper companies, has posted some similar test results regarding Epson’s Stylus Photo R1900 and Stylus Photo R2400 printers. They used the same test image and similar measurement techniques to come up with a cost per print for images printed at 4" by 6", 5" by 7", 8" by 10", 11" by 14" and 13" by 19". They also work a bit deeper on trying to define a metric for something they call “Cartridge Equivalent Usage,” or CEU.

This report addresses concerns and arguments about the true cost of ink in desktop photo printing. Using the Epson R2400 and Epson R1900, we conducted a series of print tests to determine how much ink is used in a full coverage 8”x10” print. From that figure we extrapolated ink usage per square inch. The objective is to share a realistic cost per print vision with inkjet users. The choice to pursue photo inkjet printing is in the end an individual economic choice.

We think this is pretty important stuff, and it’s good to see others working on similar tests — the data regarding the R1900 is especially welcome, and it looks like Red River’s results on the R2400 are very similar to ours, which speaks well to this style of test’s repeatability. If you’re interested in this topic, it’s worth going through the report.

Based on some of the comments we’ve received, we think there are a few tweaks we can make to get the test methodology a bit more secure, and be extended to HP and Canon printers. Stay tuned.