Review: Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500/ET-8550

ET-8550, shown with ink bottles.

I was intrigued last year with Epson’s announcement of the EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and ET-8550, the latest iteration of their “supertank,” high-capacity inkjet printers. These were the first EcoTank printers to offer a six-color print engine tuned for printing photos, while also offering high-quality document printing and scan/copy support. Reading through Epson’s lofty marketing language, which talked about “lab-quality color photos and graphics at an incredible value,” it was clear that, if the company followed through on its promise, the ET-8500/ET-8550 could very well usher in a new era of high-quality photo prints, at significantly lower costs than classic, cartridge-based, photo printers.

After working in-depth with the letter-size model, the ET-8500, for the past few months, I will say that these printers truly are the most exciting photo printers I have come across in a long time. They have excellent photo quality, flexible paper handling options and superb usability, with print costs that are a fraction of those found in specialized photo printers. The EcoTank Photo printers are not for everyone—you wouldn’t use one of these for gallery-ready prints, for example—but they are perfect if you want to get into printing your photos, and want great output with minimal hassle.


ET-8500/ET-8550 Review

  1. What is a supertank printer, anyway?
  2. Specifications
  3. Basics and setup
  4. EcoTank inks
  5. Paper handling
  6. Print quality
  7. Ink usage
  8. Other items of note
  9. Conclusions

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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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Epson P700/P900 rebates (now through 1/31)

Epson is currently offering $200 mail-in rebates on all SureColor P700 and P900 printers purchased between January 1 and January 31, 2022 December 1 and December 31, 2021. The rebates drop the final price for the P700 (Amazon link) and P900 (Amazon link) to $600 and $1000, respectively, which make them a great deal overall. The rebate forms are available directly from Epson (P700 rebate PDF; P900 rebate PDF), and they must be submitted within 30 days of the purchase date.

Canon’s imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 17-inch desktop printer is also available right now on Amazon for $1100, $200 less than its normal selling price (sadly, the deal is gone, as of 12/24). This doesn’t seem to be a Canon promotion outside of Amazon, and I’m not sure how long the sale will last, but it is a good deal on a rock-solid pigment-based photo printer.

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 blog[1]David’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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References

References
1 David’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.

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.

Review: Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300

Canon’s imagePROGRAF PRO-300 is a $900, 13-inch desktop photo printer with nine pigment inks. Introduced in mid-2020, not long after Epson’s announcement of the 13-inch SureColor P700 (and the 17-inch P900), the PRO-300 replaces the Pixma PRO-10 at the top of the Canon’s 13-inch photo printer lineup. It boasts a comparable feature set to Epson’s P700, including flexible paper handling, black-and-white and borderless printing, extensive connectivity options and more. After a few months of testing, I can say that it’s a solid printer with excellent print quality for its class. Like most photo printers at this level, there are a few rough edges in places, but overall it’s a good value, and quite competitive with Epson’s offerings.

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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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Thoughts on choosing a photo printer (updated)

Maybe it has been the pandemic, or just timing, but the idea of printing your photographs seems to have some new resonance with photographers. I receive more questions these days than ever before from people who are interested in the idea of printing, but who aren’t quite sure how to even start thinking about buying a photo printer. The questions are varied, many of them along these lines:

  • Which printer should I buy?
  • Doesn’t it cost a lot more to print with your own printer?
  • Don’t photo printers clog all the time?
  • Pigments vs. dyes — does it matter?
  • Epson vs. Canon — who really is the best?
  • Why shouldn’t I just use an online printing service?

This post is an outgrowth of an email that I’ve been sending out to those folks with questions (a variant of this was first published on our sister site, Complete Digital Photography). It includes a few thoughts regarding things to think about when choosing a photo printer — or whether you should just use an online print service for your prints. It’s not intended to be the final word on the matter, but more of a conduit to get people thinking about the idea of printing their work, and the things to consider about the process.

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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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Review: Epson SureColor P900 (with P700 notes)

Epson SureColor P900

Epson bills their SureColor P700 and P900 printers as models that can create “exhibition quality” photographic prints, and that is most certainly true: the quality of the prints that they can produce is second to none in the sub-$1500 market. Replacing two five-year-old models, the SureColor P600 and P800 respectively, the new printers have some important enhancements, including a new inkset that expands the printers’ gamut; enhanced blacks when printing on glossy and other photo papers; and the removal of the decades-old reliance of using a single black-ink channel to switch between photo and fine art media. The new printers are also small and light, which should make photographers with tight workspaces happy. All that said — and especially if this is your first printer of this type — be prepared to wrestle with it a bit as you get up to speed.

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