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Author Topic: Comparison of Epson 7900 versus HP Z3200  (Read 45471 times)
alan a
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« on: October 18, 2008, 07:32:44 AM »
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Neil Snape correctly criticized me for not starting a new topic on a comparison between the two new hot printers on the market -- the HP Z3200 and the Epson 7900.  I buried my questions in other threads on other topics.  So I am correcting my mistake and doing that here.  Repeated below is the set of questions I posted in another thread, which I will now go back and delete from that thread.  (I hope I'm not causing more confusion and apologize if I am doing so.)  Directly below this, in a separate posting, I will include verbatim the response that Neil posted in another thread, so that the responses that compare the two printers can be collected in one place -- as Neil wisely suggested.

************************

There will be many glowing reviews on these two new printers, each one focusing on why this particular printer is the greatest known to mankind.   What we, the consumers, really need is an honest comparison of the two models.  These two printers cost about the same, and is these two printers that many of us will be directly comparing.  Any responses that do so would be a real service for readers of the forum, and I thank you in advance for responding.  

Both printers will presumably be great when only using their own branded papers.  Many of us use papers from other manufacturers for the simple reason that we think some do a better job than the Epson or HP offerings.  And in many cases those papers cost less.  We would like to have that flexibility in a printer costing $4,000.  That is specifically addressed below and throughout this posting.




COLOR GAMUT AND PRINT QUALITY HP Z3200 VS EPSON 7900

Which one has a better color gamut and overall better print quality -- the new HP Z3200 or the new Epson 7900?

Which one has a better color gamut based on tech specs and looking at tech tests, and which one appears better based on real world printing? I've seen posts that argue that one manufacturer is better in reds, or in greens or in blues. What about these two printers?
 

PRINT QUALITY USING PAPERS FROM DIFFERENT MANUFACTURERS -- EPSON 7900 VS HP Z3200?

How does the Epson 7900 do with non-Epson papers in colors, gamut and print quality and how does HP Z3200 do with non-HP papers?


BRONZING AND GLOSS DIFFERENTIAL -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

The HP has Gloss Enhancer -- the Epson does not.  Is the GE on the HP a big advantage or not?  If it is an advantage, can you name some of the papers where GE is a big plus for HP -- where Epson doesn't print as well on those papers without GE?

Or does Epson generally do as well on most 3rd party media without GE as compared with HP with GE?  

In the sales literature, Epson says that the new inks have "Improved Microcrystal Encapsulation™ Technology for reduced gloss differential; Virtually eliminates any bronzing of basic pigment chemistry; Significantly improves the gray balance while eliminating color casts."  


BLACK AND WHITE PRINTING -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

Both the same on black and white?  If not, how many hoops do you have to jump through with each printer in photoshop or in the print driver to optimize the printer for B&W?


MECHANICAL ISSUES WITH PAPER AND MEDIA, SUCH AS ROLLER AND STARWHEEL MARKS -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

Epson has used a vacuum. HP does not.  Do you think that this mechanical difference results in any difference in how the two handle media?  Does the Epson design with a vacuum work better than the HP design without a vacuum?

Which one successfully handles some of the media that have been prone to problems with roller or star wheel marks on the Z3100?

How well they handle the media from other manufacturers?  Epson with non-Epson media and HP with non-HP media?


SHEET AND MANUAL FEEDING -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

Which one does a better job at sheet feeding?   When you manually feed a sheet, is the alignment almost always correct and you are done?  Or is the alignment almost always wrong, and it then requires you to manually align the sheet a second time -- and this happens most of the time?


"AUTOMATIC" PRINT FEEDER AND NO SPINDLES -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

What is the automatic print feeder on the Epson and how does it work?

The new Epson doesn't use spindles? How does that work?

Can the roll feeder be reached on the Epson by leaning over the front of the printer, for those of us who must shove it up against a wall?


PRINT SPEED -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

What is the actual print speed comparing the two printers, In knocking out the same image in a 16x20 versus 22x34 or some larger size?  Is one significantly faster than the other?


SOFTWARE AND DRIVERS -- WHEN USING THIRD PARTY PAPERS -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

BAD DRIVERS AND SOFTWARE can cripple the best mechanical design.  How do they compare?  Does the manufacturer have a reputation for producing stable drivers and software.  This is important, because a printer is just a large cube to hold a door open without software and drivers to run it and do so consistently and reliably.

DRIVER COMPATIBILITY WITH 3RD PARTY PAPERS -- Which works better with papers from DIFFERENT manufacturers rather than branded papers?  Eposon with non-Epson papers and HP with non-HP papers?  

SETTINGS FOR GENERIC PAPERS -- HP includes generic paper types in their driver. Epson never did.  Is that still the case?  Or is that a non-difference, as you can tell that Epson luster works with that as well as generic pearl, satin, etc?

PAPER THICKNESS in the driver? Adjustable in both?

INK LOADING Do they both include the ability to change to less, standard or more ink? Or is it a non-issue?


REPRO AND ART WORK -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200

Not my area of expertise, but those in this business want to know about repro of detail with super fine screening, and the possibility of 16 bit high bit workflow for highly detailed and accurate repro.


CUSTOMER SERVICE AND TECH SUPPORT -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

Obviously opinions differ.  But any comments on this are obviously important, as it is dumb and really naive to assume that we will never have a problem with such a complex piece of equipment.  The other issue is the degree to which the printing platform is mature and all the bugs have been worked out.


SPECTROS THAT ARE INCLUDED -- EPSON 7900 VERSUS HP Z3200?

We all understand that the spectro is included in the price of the HP Z3200 and is an expensive add-on for the Epson 7900.  And we all understand that the 7900 unit is aimed at the prepress, RIP, and proofing professional business.  Nonetheless, it is a very nice feature to have on-board automated profiling of papers -- as the Z3100 has demonstrated.  Many of us may later add on the Epson profiling device even given the cost difference.  A critical question is therefore whether the Epson spectro can be used for the profiling of papers, and how well it works for that purpose or whether it is only suitable for proofing work.

So, acknowledging the price difference, how do the two units compare for profiling papers if someone who purchases the 7900 decides to also buy the spectro?  If someone chose to pay the difference and buy Epson anyway, how do the two spectros and their software compare for PROFILING PAPERS?  

MECHANICAL DESIGN -- The biggest difference is that Epson uses a more expensive and removable spectro, whereas HP uses a built-in spectro at a significantly lower price that is included in the price of the printer.

How easy to take the Epson on and off the printer?  Fast and easy or time consuming and a big operaton?  The Epson apparently includes something to dry the prints, based on sales literature?  What exactly does it do, and how does it do it?

Is the Epson design superior because it is removable, includes more features, and is not in the path of spraying ink, or is it just more expensive?

HP includes their spectro in the print head. Does the HP unit ever suffer from ink spraying on the spectro?   Problems with lens alignment or fouling?  It would logically seem that should happen. Does it?

SOFTWARE AND TARGETS -- How sophisticated is the software that drives the spectro?  If it is a basic version, it might produce basic profiles.

How large is the target?  How many color patches does it print and measure?  There is apparently an important correlation in this regard, and a small target results in poor profiles.

Does the software include features to fine tune the profile after it is produced?

Does the software include options to change from D50 to D65, or change the gray balance, etc?

Critically, can it print and measure targets on smaller sheets?  The earliest version of the APS from HP could only do it on 24" rolls, so if you decided to try out a new paper in a smaller size, whether sheets or rolls, you couldn't profile it.  (HP revised the APS to correct that problem.)
« Last Edit: October 19, 2008, 09:24:09 PM by alan a » Logged
alan a
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« Reply #1 on: October 18, 2008, 07:36:24 AM »
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Here is the response from Neil Snape to some of the above questions as posted in another thread.  I have copied verbatim with no editing.

*********************

Quote from: neil snape
Many questions that all interested in a LFP should have. I want to add what I know so far. Real world tests will come after.

I'll just cut and add in the below quote....(Responses from Neil in bold)

QUOTE (alan a @ Oct 18 2008, 03:41 AM) *

I am interested in both, and in a comparison on the following, since they both sell at about the same price:

Which one has a better color gamut -- the new HP 3200 or the new HP 7900?

Different gamuts , different extensions, both good, both more than enough for most printing. What is and has been obvious is the ability of Epson to print well on any media you throw at it. HP does well on certain papers with GE that Epson struggle with. Nothing to do with gamut but to do with media types. Gamut cannot be disassociated with media types, hence the GE although almost neutral is an ink advantage on some media. Epson have the edge on other media especially matte papers in saturated three quarter tone on downward. This is a result not only being ink but also that of software, color maps, hardware tech.

Which one has a better color gamut based on tech specs and looking at tech tests, and which one appears better based on real world printing? I've seen posts that argue that one manufacturer is better in reds, or in greens or in blues. What about these two printers?


Again which images, what is the reference, what is the viewing goal. Better is subjective. Accurate is objective but only an indication of the visual appearance that again becomes subjective. True the HP has a very natural realistic green output in all the greens you would see in landscapes, leaves etc. I didn't see anything to say the x900 would not produce images in that range that would not equal or surpass that of the 78800 etc, but the increase in greens with Epson x900 is in areas that were not really a problem in for the K3, and VM inkset before. Where Epson say the new printers are for prepress, there is a misnomer as they can print everything as before just that much better, but the new big change is the additional purity in flat colours large areas of less modulation that take over in saturated areas, and not so saturated areas alike.
So better needs to be referenced to the image type. If so the Epson has everything it needs to produce great imagery, and vector art, and everything in between. HP can do well on photo papers, but will not do as well on less than ideal coated surfaces including very diffuse matte paper, some third party media, but otherwise can do just as well in particular on optimised OEM media. Where Epson will and still do have a big advantage is in the repro of detail with super fine screening, and the possibility of 16 bit ( I don't know what the actual screen depth is ) with high bit workflow for highly detailed and accurate repro.


Both the same on black and white?

Hmmm. HP have an interesting trick> when the rgb numbers are equal the printer simply runs pure and total GCR , in other words, you have only blacks going into greyscales or the areas of grey. The HP greys are a tad blue, but very neutral throughout.
Epson to get that type of black only printing you need to print as ABW. Epson have much much less gloss differential and almost no bronzing so the output is neutral at more angles than HP which without Gloss Enhancer is well, not very good. The max density on Epson is now higher than HP, but both are very black. Both have very good Dmax and D range on matte papers. Detail is again finer on the Epson depending on the driver settings of course. When you print on Epson with the settings for finest detail, the drop size allows rendering of fine contrast areas possible with the smallest droplet size.
To recap, the Epson on photo media will be an almost ideal B&W without the use of a fragile Gloss Enhancer. On the other hand, HP can batch print B&W side by side full colour with GE which in most cases has reduced gloss diff, reduced bronzing. both of which are almost eliminated on optimised media.


Which one successfully handles some of the media that have been prone to problems with roller or star wheel marks on the Z3100 and, I believe, to some degree with Epson?


HP does not use aspirated media feed. This is surely needed on some media. The star wheel marks are noticeable only on some media, and under some conditions, other than if you have defective roller assembly/carriage planety.

What about the mechanical operation? Epson has used a vacuum. HP does not. Is that still the case? Do you think that this mechanical difference results in any difference in how the two handle media?

See above.




Some of us would like to know about the new spectro on the Epson. I recognize that Schewe says it is not recommended for simple profiling of papers at the price, but it would still be useful to know how the two units in the two printers compare. How easy to take on and off in the case of Epson? How does Epson compare to the APS software used by HP? What is the number of color calibration squares used by both -- how large is the largest target? Which is better for how large the color target is? Which calibration software and hardware works better?

At this time the Epson spectro doesn't look interesting for photographic repro. Will they offer an SDK for third party dev?
In any case it's off to a false start which is unusual for Epson. Are there some impending patent problems? Likely.
You should assume that they will not be leaving the spectro as a prepress RIP accessory for ever.
The HP spectro/APS set up is really really nice. It does have its long term questions though like calibration, lens cleanliness, alignment. The spectro is on all Z models, APS costs just a little more than the i1D2 that is included. You can like or dislike the profiles created by LOGO libraries, equivalent to Profile Maker.


HP includes their spectro in the print head. Does it ever suffer from ink spraying on the spectro? It would logically seem that should happen. Does it? Is the Epson design, that is removable, superior, or just more expensive?

Yes see above.



What about the drivers? HP apparently includes generic paper types. Epson does not -- correct? Or is that a non-difference, as you can tell that Epson luster works with that as well as generic pearl, etc?


It is not a problem on Epson drivers with any printers I know. Why should it be with the 7900?

What about paper thickness in the driver? Adjustable in both printers?

HP drivers are less user adjustable as they are included in the media presets. Don't forget the Z accepts a max thickness of 0.8mm otherwise you risk roller marks of all sorts. Epson need and do employ platen gap to it's advantage with all the LFPs.

What about less, standard or more ink settings? Do they both include that? Or is it a non-issue?

On HP you can have some funky results when you touch any of these. Since I've always relied on custom profiles I think there would be less problems in linearised graduations printing smoothly without adjusting these sliders. Yet maybe that's just me.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 12:15:10 PM by alan a » Logged
alan a
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« Reply #2 on: October 18, 2008, 12:39:05 PM »
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Quote from: neil snape
HP does well on certain papers with GE that Epson struggle with. Nothing to do with gamut but to do with media types. Gamut cannot be disassociated with media types, hence the GE although almost neutral is an ink advantage on some media. Epson have the edge on other media especially matte papers in saturated three quarter tone on downward. This is a result not only being ink but also that of software, color maps, hardware tech.  Epson have much much less gloss differential and almost no bronzing so the output is neutral at more angles than HP which without Gloss Enhancer is well, not very good. To recap, the Epson on photo media will be an almost ideal B&W without the use of a fragile Gloss Enhancer. On the other hand, HP can batch print B&W side by side full colour with GE which in most cases has reduced gloss diff, reduced bronzing. both of which are almost eliminated on optimised media.

At this time the Epson spectro doesn't look interesting for photographic repro. Will they offer an SDK for third party dev?
In any case it's off to a false start which is unusual for Epson. Are there some impending patent problems? Likely.
You should assume that they will not be leaving the spectro as a prepress RIP accessory for ever.
Neil --

Thanks very much for the excellent and detailed response!  Greatly appreciated!  

Can you offer some examples of the papers that HP "does well on" and that "Epson struggle with."  This is an important issue for many of us.

Which papers specifically does HP do better with (with or without GE?) as compared with "Epson struggle with?"

Also where "GE is an ink advantage on some media."  Also that "Epson have much less gloss differential and almost bronzing" --

That suggests that GE is not needed on Epson and may not be that big an advantage as compared with the fact that it is included on HP?

On the whole, for most Epson and non-Epson papers, does Epson without GE do a good job for color and BW work on photo papers as compared with the results on the HP Z3200?

On the spectro you said "At this time the Epson spectro doesn't look interesting for photographic repro. Will they offer an SDK for third party dev?  In any case it's off to a false start which is unusual for Epson."

Why doesn't it look interesting for photo repro?  Because of the expense?  

Or are you suggesting that even the high price, it just doesn't work well for profiling papers?
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 01:03:28 PM by alan a » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2008, 01:26:00 PM »
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Quote from: alan a
Why doesn't it look interesting for photo repro?  Because of the expense?

The onboard accessory spectro is designed for the needs of a proofing biz in that it's designed to do linearizations needed by RIPs and the making of RIP profiles for simulating various offset papers.

Also understand that Epson making this unit available is NOT because Epson photo printers NEED it. Epson's unit to unit variation is a very, very low Delta E where Canon and HP pigment printers tend to be very different. So, if you are using Epson papers and use the Epson provided profiles (which have been very good that last couple of rounds of printers) you really don't have to make "custom" profiles. If you are using 3rd party papers then yes, you'll need custom profiles but there are plenty of lower cost solutions for photo printing profiles than the Epson spectro.

The spectro is really designed to be a useful and needed piece of equipment that proofing houses need. And, while the 79/9900 printers themselves make for really nice photo printers, they were first and foremost designed to suit the needs of the proofing industry. Epson will, I think, NOT suggest the spectros for general purpose and photo printers. That's one of the reasons that the cost is so high. For the proofing industry, these printers are a drop in the bucket and the added cost of the spectros are no skin off their noses.

NOTE: the form and manner in which you've asked a vast multitude of questions in one SOLID block makes for very difficult reading and answering...you really might concentrate you questions on similar topics and keep them simple to make it easy to get your answers. Seriously, my eyes glazed over trying to read your original post...
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alan a
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« Reply #4 on: October 18, 2008, 03:34:57 PM »
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Quote from: Schewe
The onboard accessory spectro is designed for the needs of a proofing biz in that it's designed to do linearizations needed by RIPs and the making of RIP profiles for simulating various offset papers. The spectro is really designed to be a useful and needed piece of equipment that proofing houses need.

So, if you are using Epson papers and use the Epson provided profiles (which have been very good that last couple of rounds of printers) you really don't have to make "custom" profiles. If you are using 3rd party papers then yes, you'll need custom profiles but there are plenty of lower cost solutions for photo printing profiles than the Epson spectro.

NOTE: the form and manner in which you've asked a vast multitude of questions in one SOLID block makes for very difficult reading and answering...you really might concentrate you questions on similar topics and keep them simple to make it easy to get your answers. Seriously, my eyes glazed over trying to read your original post...
To address the last suggestion, I went back and reorganized the posting by topics as per your suggestion.  I hope that helps.  

I am seriously considering the Epson rather than the HP.  I am admitting that bias to you because I want you to understand that my questions are not intended to be slanted against Epson.  I nonetheless tried to pose my questions in a fair manner.  The simple facts need to be addressed.   HP has Gloss Enhancer and Epson does not.  HP  has an on-board spectro that is included in the price whereas the Epson unit is an add on at a high price, and most critically, no one has yet forthrightly addressed its abilities to profile papers.  On the other hand, Epson has a vacuum, whereas HP does not.  That appears to make a big difference in the ability to handle a wide range of media without all of the reported problems with the HP printers related to starwheels and pinch roller marks.  Finally, the HP Z3100 is terrible for manual loading of sheets.  Any fair list of questions must cover those issues.

So, on those three issues:

(1)  SPECTRO -

The spectro happens to be a key question, at least for me.  There will be some of us who would buy the Epson spectro even at the high cost.  Or we at least want to have the option. The HP Z3100 has demonstrated how convenient it is to have an automated on-board spectro. Yes, I understand that there are many other profiling packages, and I own one that I could use for that purpose. I also understand that I could just limit myself to Epson papers and profiles, but I won't do that, and very few would do so when spending $4,000 on a printer.

So I would still like to know whether --regardless of the price -- the Epson spectro can profile papers, and do it as well as the APS software used with the Z3100 and 3200?  

I'm honestly confused by the responses from you and Neil.  Both of you continue to report that it is primarily aimed at the proofing business and for RIP simulations.  Neil appears to suggest that it might not even work for profiling papers (although I might have misunderstood).  I have limited knowledge of RIPS and proofing.  Does that mean that a device that is made for those uses can automatically profile papers, or possibly can't do it at all?

Jeff, you might not be able to speak to the comparison between HP and Epson, but you can let us know if the Epson can even do the job to profile papers, and if so, how well?  Not just that it is designed for professional proofing.  

Here are the questions posed, specifically on the Epson spectro:

How easy to take the Epson on and off the printer?  Fast and easy or time consuming and a big operaton?  The Epson apparently includes something to dry the prints, based on sales literature?  What exactly does it do, and how does it do it?

Is the Epson design superior because it is removable and thus not in the path of spraying ink, or just more expensive?

What is the number of color calibration squares used by Epson -- how large is the largest target?

For the price, the Epson software should be the equivalent of a top-of-the-line Xrite or Gretag profiling package, at least for papers. Is it?

We need to know if Epson just plain can't do a good job of profiling papers with the add-on hardware and software, in which case that might be an Achilles heel, or whether it is a first rate package in light of the price.

(2)  GLOSS DIFFERENTIAL AND BRONZING

The other important issue is that of bronzing and gloss differential on photo papers.  The HP GE can really help in this area.  But it appears that well designed inks and drivers can address the problem as well, even with 3rd party papers -- and recent innovations in ink and printer design have gone a long way in this regard since the Epson 4000.

Since Epson does not have GE, any reports on its abilities to print on 3rd party photo media are obviously important.  As quoted in my newly revised post, Epson claims that their new inks reduce or eliminate these problems.

But is that true with non-Epson media as well?

(3)  VACUUM AND PAPER PATH

Finally, mechanical marks on paper pretty well cripples a printer. Those problems have been widely discussed in this forum with regards to the HP Z3100.  Epson may have the advantage in that area if the 7900 uses a vacuum and wider platen as in previous models.  Does it?

It is a pain to manually load sheets on the Z3100, since you almost always have to correct the alignment.  How easy is it load sheets in the new Epson, and do they correctly align the first time and every time; or align correctly most of the time when first loaded; or only a minority of the time, or none of the time and must always be reloaded and realigned?
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 10:29:36 PM by alan a » Logged
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« Reply #5 on: October 18, 2008, 08:14:08 PM »
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Quote from: alan a
Here is the response from Neil Snape to some of the above questions as posted in another thread.  I have copied verbatim with no editing.

*********************

Where Epson will and still do have a big advantage is in the repro of detail with super fine screening, and the possibility of 16 bit ( I don't know what the actual screen depth is ) with high bit workflow for highly detailed and accurate repro.

Can someone give me some further information regarding this? I am trying to decide between these two printers too strictly for art repro. On the HP website it states "support for 16-bit TIFF and JPEG files are standard on HP Designjet Z3200ps Photo printers only", so how exactly is this different than what Epson offers?
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« Reply #6 on: October 18, 2008, 10:19:33 PM »
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Quote from: alan a
(1)  SPECTRO -
The spectro happens to be a key question, for me personally.

The spectro is designed specifically for the proofing industry. The ONLY people who have advance versions of the spectro are people _IN_ the proofing industry. To my knowledge there are only 3 or 4 people who are testing early prerelease units for fine art.

So...you questions can't be answered (unless somebody from the proofing industry also frequents these forums).

But the spectro really should NOT be a factor in the decision on these printers...get yourself ProfileMaker & an i1iSis (even if you DO get an HP) because these will be far better (and more useful) than an onboard spectro. Seriously, this is NOT a factor you should be weighing...

Quote
(2) GLOSS DIFFERENTIAL AND BRONZING

HP MUST include a gloss agent because otherwise their pigment prints look awful. Epson pigment inks do not and the Ultrachrome HDR inks are improved over even the K3 inks...

Quote
(3) VACUUM AND PAPER PATH

The Epson's are capable of very fine detail and the new Epsons use new math for even finer detail and 360 nozzles/inch. Epson felt the need to have a very accurate paper feed so that the stepper motors could move the paper even more accurately. And the 7900 I have does that...more detail and less "grain" than the 7880 I just got rid of...the 7900 is also very quiet, and faster than the 7880. No shaking, the printer itself is rock solid (and very heavy) because of the head track that is needed for fine control.

Look, these printer are not shipping...so, the amount of information is very small. You are just gonna have to wait, see one for yourself and then decide. I'm more than happy to talk about stuff, but you really need to ask precise questions that are simple and easy to answer, otherwise I won't bother.
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alan a
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« Reply #7 on: October 18, 2008, 10:44:06 PM »
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Quote from: Schewe
But the spectro really should NOT be a factor in the decision on these printers...get yourself ProfileMaker & an i1iSis (even if you DO get an HP) because these will be far better (and more useful) than an onboard spectro. Seriously, this is NOT a factor you should be weighing...

Look, these printer are not shipping...so, the amount of information is very small. You are just gonna have to wait, see one for yourself and then decide. I'm more than happy to talk about stuff, but you really need to ask precise questions that are simple and easy to answer, otherwise I won't bother.
Jeff, thanks very much for your response. Greatly appreciated.

I didn't know that you don't have one of the spectros, as that was not clear in your previous responses, which is why I asked my questions.  I incorrectly assumed you had one of the spectros.  I still greatly appreciate your response.

There are many readers of the forum who will never have the ability to see one of these printers.  We don't all live in LA, Chicago, NYC or a large metro area.  For those who live in small towns, small cities or rural areas, we must rely on the opinions and reviews of people like you, for better or for worse.  We will be ordering the printer and having it shipped to us.  So it is, in fact, impossible for many to go "kick the tires" and see the printer in operation.

That's why I tried, however unsuccessfully, to pose precise questions.  My knowledge is limited, and in some cases I may not know what to ask.  To quote an old expression, admitting what you don't know is as important as proclaiming what you do know.  I at least admitted that I don't know if something that works for RIPs and proofing also works for paper profiling.  That might be a dumb question, but at least I admitted my ignorance.  

For better or worse, I asked the most precise questions I could.  I shall not bother you again, but still appreciate your response.

P.S.  I looked up the i1iSis on the Xrite web site.  I found two models selling for $4,160 and $5,200.  Not exactly a very practical option, since both cost as much as the printer itself.  

More practical options that are reasonably advanced -- but manual --  have an MSRP of $1,500.  That happens to be the same price as the Epson unit for the 7900. Therefore, the choices that we all have are (1) to buy the HP with a built in spectro for the same price as the Epson printer itself; (2) buy the Epson spectro once we have more information and know whether it even works for paper profiling and if so, how well it works; or (3) buy a manual package where we have to manually print and measure the patches -- even for $1,500.  

I've done option three -- manually reading patches.  A real pain.  If the Epson spectro can't do the job for $1,500 (and we won't know until more information is available), then my advice is to buy the HP Z3200 unless you are prepared to manually read the patches.
« Last Edit: October 18, 2008, 11:21:43 PM by alan a » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: October 18, 2008, 11:35:19 PM »
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Quote from: alan a
Jeff, thanks very much for your response. Greatly appreciated.

I didn't know that you don't have one of the spectros, as that was not clear in your previous responses, but still greatly appreciate your response.

There are many readers of the forum who will never have the ability to see one of these printers.  We don't all live in LA, Chicago, NYC or a large metro area.  For those who live in small towns, small cities or rural areas, we must rely on the opinions and reviews of people like you, for better or for worse.  We will be ordering the printer and having it shipped to us.  So it is, in fact, impossible for many to go "kick the tires" and see the printer in operation.

That's why I tried, however unsuccessfully, to pose precise questions.  My knowledge is limited, and in some cases I may not know what to ask.  To quote an old expression, admitting what you don't know is as important as proclaiming what you do know.  I shall not bother you again, and appreciate your response.

P.S.  I looked up the i1iSis on the Xrite web site.  I found two models selling for $4,160 and $5,200.  Not exactly a very practical option, since both cost as much as the printer itself.

Alan,

You did a beautiful job with posing a set of questions that I suspect many of us here would love to have answered as we plan our LFP purchasing decisions.  Unfortunately, it appears that we will need to wait for a detailed comparative review written by someone with access to both printers and who is skilled at writing such reviews.  The beta testers are not necessarily the review writers.  (Although I hasten to add that I appreciate the comments from Neil and Jeff, however sparse.  After all, is their prerogative to say as much or as little as they wish.)

In an ideal world, Epson and HP would have shipped the printers to Michael Reichmann at the same time as they shippped to the beta testers.  (Maybe they did, for all we know, and Michael is just finishing up his review; but somehow I doubt it.)  The manufacturers may not wish for reviews to be published before they correct the final bugs discovered by the beta testers.

IMO these are casualties of Epson (and maybe HP too) having pre-announced these products an outrageously long time before the product availability.

Bruce
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« Reply #9 on: October 18, 2008, 11:37:06 PM »
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Quote from: alan a
That happens to be the same price as the Epson unit for the 7900. Therefore, the choices that we all have are (1) to buy the HP with a built in spectro for the same price as the Epson printer itself; (2) buy the Epson spectro once we have more information and know whether it even works for paper profiling and if so, how well it works; or (3) buy a manual package where we have to manually print and measure the patches -- even for $1,500.  

I've done option three -- manually reading patches.  A real pain.  If the Epson spectro can't do the job for $1,500 (and we won't know until more information is available), then my advice is to buy the HP Z3200 unless you are prepared to manually read the patches.

There is also the option (4) - to purchase the Epson 7900 and post away test targets to someone who has a reputation of making good profiles.

Most often a person who has a good reputation for making profiles knows a lot more about colour, making profiles and tweaking it after you have tried it, than both you and I... well me in particular. So I vote for getting the printer you like the printed result of best in conjunction with ease of purchase and agent support, print a test target, let your test sample dry for 24 hours, then post it off and get your profile done that way. Not an instant profile, but another feasible option.

Julie
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alan a
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« Reply #10 on: October 18, 2008, 11:55:48 PM »
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Quote from: BruceHouston
Alan,

You did a beautiful job with posing a set of questions that I suspect many of us here would love to have answered as we plan our LFP purchasing decisions.  Unfortunately, it appears that we will need to wait for a detailed comparative review written by someone with access to both printers and who is skilled at writing such reviews.  The beta testers are not necessarily the review writers.  (Although I hasten to add that I appreciate the comments from Neil and Jeff, however sparse.  After all, is their prerogative to say as much or as little as they wish.)

In an ideal world, Epson and HP would have shipped the printers to Michael Reichmann at the same time as they shippped to the beta testers.  (Maybe they did, for all we know, and Michael is just finishing up his review; but somehow I doubt it.)  The manufacturers may not wish for reviews to be published before they correct the final bugs discovered by the beta testers.

IMO these are casualties of Epson (and maybe HP too) having pre-announced these products an outrageously long time before the product availability.

Bruce
Bruce, thanks for the compliment.  Hopefully the reviewers will read read this forum and see that list of questions -- I will continue to add to the list as I see other postings below mine, so the list might reflect everyone's concerns. I tried to post a fair and objective list, for what that is worth.

The problem with the reviewers is that they get free equipment, and then just praise the printer or camera.  Or they praise it to get advertising revenue from the company in question.  I note that this issue, of people getting free product, and not disclosing that fact, has been a point of controversy in this forum. (I'm not taking sides on that controversy, only noting that it exists.  Also, that is not the case with Jeff Schewe, as he openly acknowledges his work with Epson.  With regards to Michael Reichmann, he does publish critical reviews and I commend him for that.  This web site does not obtain revenue from advertising, so that is not an issue.)

I'm hoping for the impossible.  That someone with both printers will actually do an honest printer versus printer review, and actually compare the two units.

For that matter, an honest review of the 7900 with spectro versus the Z3100 would be great, since we can then mentally note where the 3200 has included improvements as compared with the 3100, such as in the reds.

Hopefully Michael Reichmann, who I believe has a Z3100, will do just that -- publish an honest and critical comparison of the Z3100/3200 and the Epson 7900 with the 7900 spectro included and covered in the review.   If anyone can get a 7900 spectro and software for review, it should be Reichmann.  The only valid review would be of both printers WITH spectros -- that would be an even-handed review.  It would be a great service to all of us.  

On the other hand, it would be unfair to Epson and an inaccurate review to commend the spectro built in to the HP Z series, and criticize Epson for not having a spectro, when in fact they do.  We need a review that compares the Z3100/3200/with spectro and the 7900 with spectro.

I totally agree on how outrageous it is for these companies to announce equipment and then delay the release for many, many months.  Just call the large retailers, complain about that, and then mention one word -- "Epson" -- and they will all agree.  Epson is notorious in that regard.  (I can say that since I may buy their printer!)

It was Jeff, who in a previous posting, said that the 7900 might be in short supply at first, so we should order now.  But what information should such an order be based on?  

Julie, your recommendation to mail off profiles for proofing is also a great recommendation.  In this era of instant gratification, the HP solution is very attractive.  But your recommendation is also an excellent option.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2008, 12:59:44 AM by alan a » Logged
Schewe
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« Reply #11 on: October 18, 2008, 11:55:53 PM »
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Quote from: BruceHouston
In an ideal world, Epson and HP would have shipped the printers to Michael Reichmann at the same time as they shippped to the beta testers.

While I'm sure Michael would like to have one (I believe Epson Canada has retrieved his 11880) and I'm very sure he WILL be getting one, it's simply too early for that. The printers have not even been officially announced in the US. That will be coming soon...and the fact is there are very, very few preproduction units available. So you all are simply going to have to wait a while. The fact that Epson released me from my NDA so I could talk about it before the US announcement is very unusual. But Epson in Europe was VERY keen to have the first announcement at Drupa (last May), which is very, very unusual to reveal something that far in advance. But they were vying for the attention of the printing industry in general and the proofing industry in particular. That is, after all, where these units are expected to sell large quantities...yes, indeed they will also make really, really nice fine art printers–something Epson is also very aware of (and keen to take advantage of) but again, it's just very early...Epson will be making a big splash at Photo Expo very soon and again at Graph Expo at the end of Oct. I suspect a lot more information will be made available then and the odds are there will be more seed units. But I can't say who will be getting them. We will also have a 7900 unit traveling with us with the US launch of the Epson Print Academy (which is one of the reasons that Mac Holbert and I got early units). We will be traveling to 13 or 14 cities around the country. Maybe somebody can come and see them in action at one of those events.
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BruceHouston
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« Reply #12 on: October 19, 2008, 12:12:09 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
While I'm sure Michael would like to have one (I believe Epson Canada has retrieved his 11880) and I'm very sure he WILL be getting one, it's simply too early for that. The printers have not even been officially announced in the US. That will be coming soon...and the fact is there are very, very few preproduction units available. So you all are simply going to have to wait a while. The fact that Epson released me from my NDA so I could talk about it before the US announcement is very unusual. But Epson in Europe was VERY keen to have the first announcement at Drupa (last May), which is very, very unusual to reveal something that far in advance. But they were vying for the attention of the printing industry in general and the proofing industry in particular. That is, after all, where these units are expected to sell large quantities...yes, indeed they will also make really, really nice fine art printers–something Epson is also very aware of (and keen to take advantage of) but again, it's just very early...Epson will be making a big splash at Photo Expo very soon and again at Graph Expo at the end of Oct. I suspect a lot more information will be made available then and the odds are there will be more seed units. But I can't say who will be getting them. We will also have a 7900 unit traveling with us with the US launch of the Epson Print Academy (which is one of the reasons that Mac Holbert and I got early units). We will be traveling to 13 or 14 cities around the country. Maybe somebody can come and see them in action at one of those events.

Yes, the Epson Print Academy idea is a good one, Alan.  It is the best that you can do at this point if not living in a Megatropolis.  I have already signed up for the Dallas Academy on December 13th (I live in San Antonio).  Of course, I do not expect that this event will satisfy the thirst for a detailed comparison to HP.  However, the hands-on training should provide a very detailed look at the 7900 itself.

Bruce
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alan a
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« Reply #13 on: October 19, 2008, 12:21:31 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
We will be traveling to 13 or 14 cities around the country. Maybe somebody can come and see them in action at one of those events.
I will attend one of those events, and will introduce myself to Jeff during one of the breaks.  I will try to ask precise, specific questions!    
Maybe one of your fellow instructors will have worked with the spectro and can respond to questions, such as Holbert.  
« Last Edit: October 19, 2008, 12:29:31 AM by alan a » Logged
alan a
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« Reply #14 on: October 19, 2008, 12:34:48 AM »
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Quote from: sesshin
Can someone give me some further information regarding this? I am trying to decide between these two printers too strictly for art repro. On the HP website it states "support for 16-bit TIFF and JPEG files are standard on HP Designjet Z3200ps Photo printers only", so how exactly is this different than what Epson offers?
I added your concern to the list, in the probably foolish hope that one of the reviewers will consult that list when writing a review.
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« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2008, 02:03:56 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
While I'm sure Michael would like to have one (I believe Epson Canada has retrieved his 11880) and I'm very sure he WILL be getting one, it's simply too early for that. The printers have not even been officially announced in the US.

For what it is worth, they have only been announced in Japan on Oct 16th, of course with different model numbers...

http://www.epson.jp/osirase/2008/081016.htm

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2008, 02:18:18 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
But the spectro really should NOT be a factor in the decision on these printers...get yourself ProfileMaker & an i1iSis (even if you DO get an HP) because these will be far better (and more useful) than an onboard spectro. Seriously, this is NOT a factor you should be weighing...

Sure, but i1 Sis retails for 8000 US$ in Tokyo, that is 4 times the price of the built-in spectro and nearly wtice more expensive that the printer itself... it better be amazingly better than the built-in spectro for that price... and notice that I am not even factoring in the price of the software...

Any cheaper recommendation?

Cheers,
Bernard
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« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2008, 05:32:39 AM »
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Hi,

I also want to buy a 24" printer, either the new Epson 7900 or the Z3200. I've got one question though, how do you calibrate/linearize the Epsons without a spectro in the unit?

Many thanks
Colin
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« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2008, 10:00:37 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
Also understand that Epson making this unit available is NOT because Epson photo printers NEED it. Epson's unit to unit variation is a very, very low Delta E where Canon and HP pigment printers tend to be very different. So, if you are using Epson papers and use the Epson provided profiles (which have been very good that last couple of rounds of printers) you really don't have to make "custom" profiles. If you are using 3rd party papers then yes, you'll need custom profiles but there are plenty of lower cost solutions for photo printing profiles than the Epson spectro.
New unit to new unit variation is one thing but unit variation over time is quite another. Epson prints heads last a long time but high volume printing shows that piezo heads do change over time. Production staff in high volume shops that keep their printers working 8+ hours a day 5+ days a week know this all too well. Epson heads open up with heavy use and put down more ink eventually causing shadow detail to plug up. The proofing market is often high volume and is concerned about this type of change. RIPs like GMG can access an on board specto for regular relinearization and profiling if necessary. Many such proofing systems use a small label printer that prints a certification label noting the condition of the printer on that day complete with Delta E variances. These labels are put on the corner of a customers proof. Having an on board spectro automates these processes and is a *really nice* (workflow automation is a big buzzword in the offset printing world right now).

Thermal heads are kinda like CMOS sensor technology. Once laughed at for their inconsistencies, thermals head tech has come a long way and is now surprisingly good. Not only are the new unit to new unit variances surprisingly small now but many have suggested that they are more consistent over their lifetime than piezo heads. While I don't know of anyone that has published numbers comparing any variables other than new unit to new unit piezo head variances, I don't think it's fair to write off thermal head technology.

As far as profiles go, HP Z series printers have a huge notable advantage for being able to make profiles for any paper you put in them. Canon is embracing popular 3rd party papers and is making and delivering their own profiles for them. We'll see a bunch more of this in the new few months. Epson is the only one that's providing profiles just for their own branded papers. Several paper companies are releasing profiles for their papers but I've generally find the quality of their profiles to be unimpressive. Expensive licensing and experience keeps them from using top notch profiling technology like Epson and Canon are using. Cheers!
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alan a
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« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2008, 11:29:30 AM »
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Quote from: Schewe
But the spectro really should NOT be a factor in the decision on these printers...get yourself ProfileMaker & an i1iSis (even if you DO get an HP) because these will be far better (and more useful) than an onboard spectro. Seriously, this is NOT a factor you should be weighing...

HP MUST include a gloss agent because otherwise their pigment prints look awful. Epson pigment inks do not and the Ultrachrome HDR inks are improved over even the K3 inks...

I'm more than happy to talk about stuff, but you really need to ask precise questions that are simple and easy to answer, otherwise I won't bother.

Quote from: BernardLanguillier
Sure, but i1 Sis retails for 8000 US$ in Tokyo, that is 4 times the price of the built-in spectro and nearly wtice more expensive that the printer itself... it better be amazingly better than the built-in spectro for that price... and notice that I am not even factoring in the price of the software...

Any cheaper recommendation?

Cheers,
Bernard

Quote from: Onsight
As far as profiles go, HP Z series printers have a huge notable advantage for being able to make profiles for any paper you put in them. Canon is embracing popular 3rd party papers and is making and delivering their own profiles for them. We'll see a bunch more of this in the new few months. Epson is the only one that's providing profiles just for their own branded papers.

Bernard --

I'll attempt to explain in this post why I have emphasized the 7900 spectro in my above posts, and respond to your question, which happens to be one of the key issues.

If the new Epson with its new ink doesn't have a problem with gloss differential or bronzing, as suggested by Schewe above, then the 7900 will be the rough equal of the HP Z series in that regard.  In all of the other areas listed in my original posting, my guess is that the 7900 will likely beat the HP Z3200.  That is only a guess based on early reports and the tech specs, and we must wait for HONEST reviews to confirm that (not the usual worthless reviews that simply praise equipment without any critical commentary).  The Epson spectro, as explained above and below, is one of the important unknown variables at this time.

So there may be those who buy the 7900 for about the same price as the Z series, because the 7900 may prove to be superior to the Z series in most if not all areas.  Again, the jury is out and we must wait to see if that is the case with regards to the overall performance of the 7900.  

You then posed the key question.  If you buy the 7900, what is the best way to profile papers with that printer, and not pay $5,000 for an automatic profiling Xrite device as recommended by Schewe?

As I explained above, any other high quality profiling solution that is an alternative to the US$5,000 i1iSis would be the same price as the Epson spectro, about $1,500.  That is one of key issues -- that the Epson spectro would cost the same as any high quality alternative.  Those high quality profiling packages include pucks to calibrate monitors, and we already own those and don't need them. These are MANUAL packages -- meaning that you must scan the targets yourself.  The larger the target, the better the profile, and the longer that it takes.  By contrast, the HP Z series includes a built-in spectro and the APS includes a very large target and prints and scans it automatically.

So the Epson spectro would be the best choice for that printer, at $1,500, since the process would be automated -- IF AND ONLY IF it includes paper profiling software to drive it.  The Epson spectro is likely to be of very high quality as a mechanical unit, since it has been built for the professional printing and proofing industry.  So the only remaining question is whether Epson, in their wisdom, included high quality software for profiling papers along with the spectro that is at least as good at the APS.  (Number of patches in the target, etc.)  Scott Martin is absolutely correct that the HP Z series offers a huge advantage because it can profile papers automatically using the APS software.  It was that new innovation that set HP apart from Epson and Canon.

That explains why I included a detailed list of questions in my original posting on the spectro.  (Apparently not precise enough, though.)  That is a key issue IMHO.  That is why I reposted those questions for Schewe, because he kept commenting on the spectro, leading me to incorrectly conclude that he had one of the spectros in his possession.

The engineers of Epson would have to be morons to include a high quality spectro but not include the software (like APS) to profile papers.  If they are that dumb they will continue to lose market share to HP because the Z series includes a spectro and the APS software to drive it.  Because the other Epson printers, as I recall, still have the problem of not being to auto switch black inks -- another problem solved by HP in the Z series.  

Epson has dominated the market for the last decade, and it shows in their approach.  As Scott observed, Epson only includes profiles for their own papers, and only list their own paper types in the driver.  Epson behaves as if there is no other competition, and if there is, it can be ignored.  That attitude reminds me of the US automakers 40 years ago, and we know what happened to them.  (Note that I included the issue of the Epson driver not including generic papers in the original posting as well, because HP has a more flexible driver in that regard.)  But HP and Canon are hot on the heels of Epson, and Epson needs to include these new innovations in their new printers, or they will continue to lose market share in our end of the market.

But engineers have been morons before.  It may be that the hubris of Epson results in a $1,500 spectro that is only good for RIPs or proofing and fails to include APS-type software to profile papers.  So my view is that the jury is out on the 7900 until we get definitive answers on how the spectro works.  And have detailed, yes even precise answers, on the software that is, or is not, included to profile papers.

In closing, I agree with Scott Martin that the HP Z series has a "huge notable advantage" in including a built in spectro along with high quality software that makes profiling ANY paper an automated process.  

I respectfully, and strongly, disagree with Schewe that automated paper profiling should not be a significant factor in which printer to buy.  Anyone who has gone through the laborious process to manually scan targets knows what a pain that is.  HP set a new standard in that regard for a completely automated approach.  Epson needs to meet that standard.  

If the Epson spectro fails to include software to drive it for profiling papers, then we must all make our own individual buying decision.  Is the Epson superior enough in all other areas, as compared with the Z3200, to justify buying it even when it does not include automated paper profiling?   Or is the Z3200 pretty close to being as good as the Epson in all other areas, so that the added bonus of automatic paper profiling tips the balance in its favor?  Each of us will have to make that judgment call, and it is a personal decision.  And even if the Epson does include paper profiling with the spectro, the total cost of the printer and spectro might be about $1,500 higher than the Z3200, and that is yet another factor for each person to consider.

The only alternative that is automated for the profiling of papers, as Schewe himself noted by recommending it, costs about $5,000.  That is more than the price of the printer itself.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2008, 03:14:10 PM by alan a » Logged
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