In one sense the decision is really simple. For what your taking about I think an Epson would be a good choice, although you might also consider the HP z3100. Aside from that you need to decide how big you want to print, if you want bigger than 17" then you get the 7880. If you want a 17" printer then you need to decided how many prints you want to make, if the answer is a lot you go with the 4880, the durability, ink costs and speed are all better than the 3800. If your on a budget and want to easily switch between matte and glossy papers the 3800 is your printer. I wouldn't bother with the smaller 13" printers the ink costs are way to high if your printing a lot.
The other issue to consider here is workflow, a word that I get to use a lot. I imagine the costco workflow goes something like this...1.Drop off CD 2.Pick up prints. Doing your own printing can result in arguably better quality prints in terms of color gamut. You may still see a bit of bronzing from the X880 series printers on glossy media, but aside from that I dont think quality will be much of a factor, people will simply see a photograph of your work and judge the work based on the content rather than the method of production...which I think is how it's supposed to work. Any way, generating good quality prints in large quantities can be some work. If you want to be able to drop make 20 prints at a time and have all print automatically I would strongly suggest a RIP. The printer is kind of like a really nice car, but without a good driver (RIP) it's potential is somewhat limited for certain tasks. If your intent is to mostly print at 16X20 or 24X36 or some size that results in only a few prints at a time you should have no problem printing out of photoshop through the epson printer driver.
As far as waiting...there is always something around the bend. In this case its going to be the X900 series printers. They will add more inks and speed and a spectro and better ink switching...and demand a bigger price tag as well. If your intent is to create an inhouse photo lab, and have the business to support it, then the new printers offer some interesting improvements. That said I think you will be happy with a 7880 or 4880 assuming that you print the majority of your work on either glossy or matte paper and don't switch often, and you don't have a problem printing to a standard size roll,(16",17",24") If your content with 16X20's the 4880 would serve you well.
Let me know if you have any other questions.
I'd be the only one in my area for 200 miles with a printer capable of printing like the 7880 does. I've already had several people say they would have me print for them, but not a lot. It would be a way to offset the initial cost.
I'd like to be able to print 20x30, but nothing bigger unless I got a specific request. I would not even want to attempt larger than the 7880 is capable, at 24 x 36--or longer. Even prints at 20x30 are too hard to handle witout a proper (large) location and handling equipment. I've dented plenty of 20x30s trying to frame them.
I really don't like glossy media anyway. I do like matte finishes. And there is somewhat of a paper revolution going on right now. I'd like to print on several different types of media without having to waste that sort of ink. That's almost cripple ware in my humble opinion.
If the x900 printer series with the better inks and heads is replacing the 880 series, won't they be about the same price? The market will only bare so much. Even if they were a few (200-300) more, that would be worth the new technology. You'd save that much on ink changes.
The standard roll size is fine.
LOL, yeah the Costco workflow is more like this: Upload yuor images and tell them "no adjustments." After you get done with their idiot web interface and you jsut shot your dog, you remeber that you made a mistake, but there is no way to correct it. (The don't charge you for it, so no big deal, except the workers sneer at you each time you tell them you don't want something). You pick up the prints the very next day, and they look good you know, except, wait, tehre is a thin slightly visible white line running horizontally. Yes, the operator admits they are having some difficulties. They're pretty nice about that and understand. Then you resubmit them and drive back down again. Now you show up again after using their newest profile from Dry Creek (yeah they profile all their printers) and you see that your yellow is printing as green because the profile they submitted was somehow wrong. You don't say anything because they look at you with both eyes rolling in their head opposite directions. SO now you print using Adobe 1998 for six months until a new profile gets submitted. You see the problem. Most of the time they are good. I just hate doing that. I want to be able to print while I go to bed and have the prints there in my computer room when I wake up. And I like being in total control of the process.
I would just hope that the 7880 or it's predecessor will print images as well as the Noritsu 3120 will, although it will only print 12 x 18 max. But that as big as I go anyway unless it's 20 x 30. Maybe I'll go 13 x 19? Actually 12 x 18 is a good size. It fits in smaller houses and larger ones too.
Thanks for your information and any other tips are appreciated.