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.
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.
This post is an outgrowth of an email that I’ve been sending out to people who are interested in photo printing, but have a lot of questions about how to get started. (A variant of this was first published on our sister site, Complete Digital Photography). 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 that process.
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.
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.
In 1999, I tested Epson’s first wide-format, photographic-quality, inkjet printer, the Stylus Pro 9000. At the time, there were a number of companies that offered wide-format proofers and signage printers, and the 9000 competed well in that space, but Epson was as interested in the nascent fine-art printing market, which was dominated largely by Scitex’s Iris printers.
Epson 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.
In my Stylus Photo R2880 review, one of the biggest questions I get is not about the quality of the printer, or even comparisons with HP and Canon printers in the same price range. No, it is: “How does it compare with Epson’s Stylus Pro 3800?”
This is understandable: while the R2880 is a very good printer, it does suffer from a few issues, notably the smaller ink tanks and the necessity to swap the matte and photo black ink cartridges when you want to move between matte and glossy papers. The 3800 also requires a switch, but the process is automatic and requires no user intervention. The 3800 does waste a few dollars of ink per switch, which is troublesome, but given the rarity with which people change paper type—and its high-capacity (80ml) cartridge size, this is a lesser issue for many pro users.
Right now, the Stylus Pro 3800 is under $1,200 at Amazon (a savings of $100 or so), while the R2880 is priced around $650 ($150 off the list price). If you’re looking at the two printers, how do you choose between the two? I think it’s pretty straightforward: what follows are some of my thoughts, based on fairly heavy usage of both printers (and nearly every other photo printer in the $300 to $5,000 price range).
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.
Epson’s Stylus Photo R2880, an $800 large-format (13″) printer, enters a vastly different printer market than that of its predecessor, the Stylus Photo R2400. When the R2400 debuted in 2005, Epson owned all aspects of the archival photo printer market, and the R2400’s only real competition was the model it replaced, the Stylus Photo 2200. The R2880, however, joins a market crowded by competitors from HP and Canon, as well as Epson itself: there are now five large-format, pigment-based photo printers priced between $500 and $1,000, and Epson’s competitors have done a superb job of catching up to their longtime rival’s print quality. There are many observers who believe that Epson still has the edge in quality, but there’s no disputing that HP and Canon have put themselves into the game, HP with the Photosmart Pro B8850 (and its older sibling, the B9180) and Canon with the Pixma Pro9500. How does the R2880 match up? Read on.