Dedicated Photo Printers – Summer 2019

Equipment for sale; Equipment wanted; Identify good prices & service; Identify good new products; Highlight problems with suppliers; etc
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spb
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Joined: Tue Mar 25, 2008 7:04 pm

Dedicated Photo Printers – Summer 2019

Post by spb » Wed Jul 31, 2019 11:25 am

I have two Epson R3000 printers; one for matte and one for gloss papers. A third R3000 sits patiently on the shelf with donor card in hand. For historic reasons these are charged with inks from two different suppliers via two different refillable ink systems. Keeping them running is a bit of a trial and I foolishly thought that it might be nice to sell the whole lot and buy a shiny new printer.

After much investigation of the likely candidates my conclusions are as follows;

Canon Pixma Pro-100S (A3+) £360
+ excellent print quality and build quality
+ low price for the quality
+ replaceable print head
+ dye inks cheap and excellent results on gloss papers
- difficult to print on matte papers and third party papers without ludicrously wide borders
- panorama prints impossible
- no removable waste ink tank
- poor support for third party inks
- very small ink cartridges
- dye ink prints less well on matte papers and poorly on copy paper (for day to day office documents which help to keep the printer active)
- slight worry about future as Canon have been giving them away in the USA for $50.
CONCLUSION: dye printers are not for me, personally, due to matte paper performance

Canon Pixma Pro-10S (A3+) £500
+ excellent print quality and build quality
+ fair price for the quality
+ replaceable print head
+ pigment inks reasonably cheap and excellent results on gloss and matte papers
+ gloss optimiser evens out surface finish on gloss prints
+ reasonably large cartridges
- difficult to print on matte papers and third party papers without ludicrously wide borders
- panorama prints impossible
- no removable waste ink tank
- poor support for third party inks
- slight worry about future as Canon have been giving them away in the USA for $50.
CONCLUSION: an excellent printer but the border and panorama issues are non-starters for me.

Canon Pixma Pro-1 (A3+)
- discontinued and spares becoming scarce.
CONCLUSION: a fine printer but still has the disadvantages of the other Canon models and too much of a risk unless very cheap.

Canon Prograf Pro-1000 (A2); £900
+ excellent print quality and build quality
+ replaceable print head and waste ink tank
+ professional features such as built-in colorimeter/vacuum paper holding
+ pigment inks excellent results on gloss and matte papers
+ gloss optimiser evens out surface finish on gloss prints
+ large cartridges capacity
+ almost never sees ink blockages
- large cartridges cost
- panorama prints impossible
- poor support for third party inks
- massive weight (32Kg)
- head clean every 60 hours (and even more intensive cleaning at longer intervals) result in huge ink costs.
CONCLUSION: probably the finest quality printer A2 desktop photo printer on the market but aimed at professionals. Running costs, border and panorama issues rule it out for me.

Epson SureColor SC-P400 (A3+); £400
+ excellent print quality and adequate build quality
+ pigment inks excellent results on gloss and matte papers
+ reasonable price for the quality
+ excellent local repairer
+ unlimited panorama prints and print borders
+ widespread support from third party inks
+ no matte/gloss black switching; each has its own nozzles in the head
+ gloss optimiser evens out surface finish on gloss prints
- small ink tank capacity
- no grey inks for optimum monochrome printing
- smaller colour gamut due to 5 ink colours only
- historically poor support from Epson in first year and none thereafter
- printer needs to be used regularly to avoid head clogs; can be fussy to own
- print head not replaceable
CONCLUSION: a good starter A3+ pigment photo printer. Lack of black ink switching is a major bonus but this is offset by a smaller inkset and cartridge size.

Epson SureColor SC-P600 (A3+); £600
+ excellent print quality and adequate build quality
+ pigment inks excellent results on gloss and matte papers
+ reasonable price for the quality
+ excellent local repairer
+ unlimited panorama prints and print borders
+ widespread support from third party inks
+/- medium ink tank capacity
- historically poor support from Epson in first year and none thereafter
- wasteful matte/gloss black switching necessary and it must be done regularly (or never) to avoid damage
- printer needs to be used regularly to avoid head clogs; can be fussy to own
- no gloss optimiser
- print head not replaceable
CONCLUSION: probably the best all-round A3+ photo printer but little better than my R3000’s (which it replaces).

Epson Surecolour SC-P800 (A2); £1000
+ excellent print quality and adequate build quality
+ pigment inks excellent results on gloss and matte papers
+ excellent local repairer
+ unlimited panorama prints and print borders
+ widespread support from third party inks
+ large ink tank capacity
+ replaceable waste ink tank
- historically poor support from Epson in first year and none thereafter
- expensive for the quality (although quality roll paper holder free offer at present)
- wasteful matte/gloss black switching necessary and it must be done regularly (or never) to avoid damage
- printer needs to be used regularly to avoid head clogs; can be fussy to own
- no gloss optimiser
- print head not replaceable
CONCLUSION: probably the best all-round A2 photo printer. The black switching issue still annoys, though.

NB In addition to the dedicated photo printers above, there are many other dye-ink multi-function printers from several manufacturers that would produce acceptable photos at a fraction of the initial cost. However to achieve those results they will still require coated photo paper and OEM ink at similar cost per print. It is debatable whether someone starting out in photography would notice the difference between a dedicated photo printer and a multifunction printer with photo capability.

MY CONCLUSIONS
If forced into making a purchase at the moment it would probably (and reluctantly) be the Epson P800 but I plan to try to keep my Epson R3000’s running in the hope that Canon or Epson will eventually release a printer which overcomes the ridiculous border/panorama and ink switch issues respectively which are a huge turn-off for me.

Another possibility is that Canon or Epson offer such a good deal that the decision makes itself. Canon have been virtually giving some of their printers away, on and off, in the USA for 18 months with massive rebates and discounts. Not in the UK, of course.

KEEPING THE INK FLOWING
Pigment printers employ different black inks for matte and gloss papers. This is to achieve a darker black on matte and uncoated papers. If this matte black ink was used on coated gloss papers it would not dry. With the exception of the P400 printer the above Epson printers employ a motorised valve to switch between matte black and gloss black inks. This valve has long-been the source of frustration. Firstly switching the blacks takes time and wastes expensive ink in all eight cartridges. Secondly the valve has been prone to failure. Epson recommend changing the valve every two years on their ‘professional’ A2 printers but not on the closely-related A3 models which they seem to regard as uneconomic to repair. Luckily, we have a good local repairer who doesn’t agree.

If you have one of these Epson printers the recommended advice seems to be to switch the black inks at least every month to keep the ink liquid and flowing. If you have not switched for a year the advice seems to be to never switch again. The problem seems to be that the particles of pigment in the unused black pipe settle and thicken over time. If the valve is activated with the ink in this state it will jam, block or break which can lead to total black ink loss which the printer is then unaware of. At the very least, blobs of liquid black and yellow ink on prints tell you of trouble ahead. The valve itself is apparently tested to more than 1000 operations, so it is not wearing out by itself.

It should be noted that although Canon printers suffer less nozzle blockages than Epson, this is because they use prodigious qualities of ink in regular, timed, nozzle cleans that can’t be by-passed. Epson printers are a little more relaxed in this regard. These printers employ incredibly sophisticated technology capable of firing microscopic spots of ink through hundreds of nozzles to produce photos of unsurpassed quality in a domestic setting. We must learn to accept ink ‘lost’ during nozzle-cleaning and black switching as part of the cost of ownership. If you can’t live with that, don’t buy an inkjet printer and send your images to an online printer.

Cheers, Steve Brabner

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