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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New Epson wide-format printers announced

At the Drupa trade show in Germany this week, Epson announced two new wide-format printers, the Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900. The new printers, which have a maximum print width of 24" and 44",respectively, incorporate a new pigment-based ink set, called UltraChrome HDR. The HDR inks include photo and matte black inks, light black, light light black, cyan, light cyan, vivid magenta, vivid light magenta, yellow, orange and green, and use an 11-channel head that switches automatically between photo and matte black.

Ink cartridge size (a hot topic these days) is quite large — 350ml and 750ml — and Epson claims that the 7900 and 9900 offer significant speed improvements over the existing Epson wide format devices.

Also notable in the new printers is an optional built-in spectrophotometer from X-Rite, called the Epson SpectroProofer, which provides “automatic color measurement data to the printer, allowing user profiling and linearization, enabling professional color management while at the same time reducing labor costs.”

The Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 are expected to ship this spring in Europe and Australia, although pricing was not announced. Epson America representatives stressed that this announcement was made by Epson Europe, although we would assume that ultimately the new printers and inks would reach the U.S. and Canada at some point not long after they ship elsewhere.

[Source: Print21, an online publication produced by the Australian trade association, Printing Industries.]

ColorMunki 1.0 problems

Over on his thinbits blog, Dave Camp has posted a lengthy review of his initial experiences with the $499 ColorMunki Photo, which just started shipping.

To summarize, the product was a complete failure for me on multiple machines and multiple printers and I cannot recommend it to anyone. My friend has problems as well, so there is definitely something wrong with the product as a whole. The only thing keeping me from returning it at this point is the promise of better software this week. X-Rite is known for having quality products, so it’s baffling as to why they shipped the ColorMunki in this state.

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X-Rite announces ColorMunki profiling tool

colormunki.pngAt the WPPI show in Las Vegas this week, X-Rite announced ColorMunki Photo, a $499 spectrophotometer designed to calibrate displays and projectors, as well as create ICC profiles for RGB and CMYK printers.

Using a small-number, large-patch sample, X-Rite claims that the ColorMunki will produce highly accurate ICC profiles in a fraction of the time it takes with more expensive devices. You can also use it to measure a room’s ambient light, and will be able to create custom profiles for different lighting conditions.

ColorMunki has a funky-cool look, sort of like a tape measure. It will work with both Mac and Windows systems, and is small enough that you can carry it with you when you’re working on a remote job. In addition to the profiling and calibration capabilities, ColorMunki can capture spot color from any spectral surface and can extract specific colors from your photos, to help build custom palettes.

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Sale on pro paper at HP site

HP is running a special “Buy 1, get 1 free” promotion on 13" by 19" paper for many of its professional line of papers for the B9180 and B8850 printers. If you’re a big fan of the HP/Hahnemühle Smooth Fine Art and Watercolor papers, or HP’s Professional Satin Photo Paper (one of our new favorites), Aquarella Textured Art or Artist’s Matte Canvas, it’s a good time to stock up. Simply add two packages to your cart, and one package is free; HP’s even offering free shipping on the deal.

Given that HP’s Smooth Fine Art is regularly $4 per 13" by 19" sheet—although it’s a more reasonable $2.40 per sheet via Amazon—getting it for $2 per sheet is quite nice.