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Author Topic: What printer to start with? A little help needed.  (Read 3460 times)
johnbirch
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« on: May 19, 2012, 01:49:02 PM »
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I have been shooting photographs for many years, but have never really done my own printing.  Currently I am getting my prints done at a pro lab.  I am not unhappy with the prints I have been receiving, but would like to start printing on my own.  I know there is a steep learning curve for doing quality prints, but the technical side of it interests me.

That brings me to what printer to purchase.  Unfortunately my two vices are large prints, and the best possible quality.  I know this doesn't make things cheap, but with this in mind, what recommendations can you make?  From what I have read, I believe that Epson would be a good choice, as there are a lot of profiles available and they have good quality.  I would like something bigger than 13x19, but could live with a maximum of 17" wide.  I looked into the Epson 3880, but am not sure if there is something more current available.  Can the 3880 print panoramas with roll paper?

Thanks in advance for the help, I am sure I will have more questions following this one.

Jeff
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2012, 01:51:29 PM »
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No roll capability on a 3880. The closest with roll capacity would be the 4900. Anything bigger, you will need a lot of space to house. Even the 4900 stretches the "desktop" concept to the limit. You can print 17" wide in a 4900.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Wills
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« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2012, 03:16:28 PM »
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If 17in width suits all your requirements the I'd agree the 4900 is a decent machine capable of top quality output combined with a decent RIP length won't be an issue.
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alain
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« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2012, 03:38:45 PM »
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I have been shooting photographs for many years, but have never really done my own printing.  Currently I am getting my prints done at a pro lab.  I am not unhappy with the prints I have been receiving, but would like to start printing on my own.  I know there is a steep learning curve for doing quality prints, but the technical side of it interests me.

That brings me to what printer to purchase.  Unfortunately my two vices are large prints, and the best possible quality.  I know this doesn't make things cheap, but with this in mind, what recommendations can you make?  From what I have read, I believe that Epson would be a good choice, as there are a lot of profiles available and they have good quality.  I would like something bigger than 13x19, but could live with a maximum of 17" wide.  I looked into the Epson 3880, but am not sure if there is something more current available.  Can the 3880 print panoramas with roll paper?

Thanks in advance for the help, I am sure I will have more questions following this one.

Jeff
Hi

The 3880 can't use roll paper directly, but it can print up to 37" from sheets.  I've printed up to that size from precut roll paper with my 3800 (the printer type before it).  When decurling the paper before printing that goes rather easy, but it's not for daily use.  (and the proper use off the paper edge guide!)


Take a look at he 3800 FAQ by Eric Chan, a lot will be useful for the 3880 :

http://people.csail.mit.edu/ericchan/
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 05:32:04 AM by alain » Logged
Wolfman
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« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2012, 04:17:11 PM »
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If you want to print 37" panos Red River paper makes sheets 13"x38".
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johnbirch
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« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2012, 05:01:48 PM »
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Thanks for all the suggestions.  Forgive my ignorance, but what does "a decent RIP length" mean.  I thought that RIP was a print driver, but RIP length doesn't make sense in that context.

How much image quality difference is there between the 3880 and the 4900?  Also, what is the difference between the 4900 and the 4900 designer edition?  Other than the $1000 of course.  It looks like there are 11 kinds of ink for the designer edition and 10 kinds for the 4900, although I'm not sure if that is true.

4900
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/738107-REG/Epson_SP4900HDR_Stylus_Pro_4900_Inkjet.html

4900 designer edition
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/741507-REG/Epson_SP4900DES_Stylus_Pro_4900_Designer.html

Thanks,

Jeff
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2012, 05:07:47 PM »
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Very little difference of perceptible image quality between a 3880 and a 4900.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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Peter Le
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« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2012, 07:53:05 PM »
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The 4900 is much more of a small heavy duty production printer. It does have the addition of green and orange inks.....but is only noticeable in some prints pushing that color gamut. If you are printing almost every day all day this would be a better choice.......but they love to clog and eat up ink clearing them. If you print only ocasionlly the 3880 would be a better choice.  Ink cost is slightly more but they seem to clog a lot less and seem to be able to sit months at a time without printing. Fire it up and print a perfect nozzle check right off. The 3880 is not clog proof .....but it much more rare then in the 900 series. The 3880 is probaly due to be replaced...but that does not mean it will be better....the 3800 series has proven to be very dependable. If you provide good input either  of these printers will provide excellent output.  This is just my experience ....but I have been using different Epson printers for fine art printing for over 8 years.  Good luck with your new endeavor .
« Last Edit: May 19, 2012, 07:55:28 PM by Peter Le » Logged
aaronchan
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« Reply #8 on: May 19, 2012, 10:17:05 PM »
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I believe a 3880 with a ImagePrint RIP would be the best for you.
ImagePrint is a RIP that you don't need to do color calibration by yourself.
And it allows you to print anything longer than epson's driver's limitation.
Plus it's quality for B&W and Color print is unmatach to anything ICC you make, unless you really fine tweak your icc or you can write your own software for it.
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johnbirch
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« Reply #9 on: May 19, 2012, 11:14:33 PM »
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I believe a 3880 with a ImagePrint RIP would be the best for you.
ImagePrint is a RIP that you don't need to do color calibration by yourself.
And it allows you to print anything longer than epson's driver's limitation.
Plus it's quality for B&W and Color print is unmatach to anything ICC you make, unless you really fine tweak your icc or you can write your own software for it.


This sounds pretty good, I think I might explore this option.
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Wayne Fox
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« Reply #10 on: May 19, 2012, 11:38:00 PM »
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I personally don't believe a RIP is the way to start.  Current printer drivers are very good, and most paper makers create very good profiles.  Ilfords new papers that are arriving very soon (which are not much different than their current papers) are all being profiled for them by xRite (according to my Mac Group rep).  Almost all Epson profiles are very good.  Moab also provides very good profiles.

The 3880 is a great starter machine, very reliable, rarely clogs, the only downside is the panorama thing. But it has big enough ink cartridges to make the costs more reasonable as opposed to the 3000.

The 4900 is great if you want to use roll paper, I have one, and rarely put roll paper through it.  I only use it instead of a 3880 because I want an exact match to my 9900.

Visually for photography there will be no perceptible difference in prints between the two except perhaps a rare one with some extreme colors, and even then the 3880 will be very good.

Right now the 3880 has a $250 rebate, the 4900 has a $500 rebate, (in the U.S.) which means you can get a 3880 for around $1k, a 4900 for around $1600.
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aaronchan
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« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2012, 01:28:52 AM »
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I personally don't believe a RIP is the way to start.  Current printer drivers are very good, and most paper makers create very good profiles.  Ilfords new papers that are arriving very soon (which are not much different than their current papers) are all being profiled for them by xRite (according to my Mac Group rep).  Almost all Epson profiles are very good.  Moab also provides very good profiles.

The 3880 is a great starter machine, very reliable, rarely clogs, the only downside is the panorama thing. But it has big enough ink cartridges to make the costs more reasonable as opposed to the 3000.

The 4900 is great if you want to use roll paper, I have one, and rarely put roll paper through it.  I only use it instead of a 3880 because I want an exact match to my 9900.

Visually for photography there will be no perceptible difference in prints between the two except perhaps a rare one with some extreme colors, and even then the 3880 will be very good.

Right now the 3880 has a $250 rebate, the 4900 has a $500 rebate, (in the U.S.) which means you can get a 3880 for around $1k, a 4900 for around $1600.

Generally speaking, a RIP might not needed due to it's complexity. But a RIP such as ImagePrint, it doesn't confuse the user but also it will save you time and money in profiling papers. If something that could simplified a workflow, why not to use it?!

Aaron
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kikashi
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« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2012, 02:53:05 AM »
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I believe a 3880 with a ImagePrint RIP would be the best for you.
ImagePrint is a RIP that you don't need to do color calibration by yourself.
And it allows you to print anything longer than epson's driver's limitation.
Plus it's quality for B&W and Color print is unmatach to anything ICC you make, unless you really fine tweak your icc or you can write your own software for it.


QImage, although not a RIP, purports to be able to print longer than 37" on a 3800/80 by concatenating pieces of the photo. It's a hell of a lot cheaper than ImagePrint and if increased length is your only desire, it might be worth a look. I've not tried it myself.

Jeremy
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Wills
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« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2012, 04:03:24 AM »
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I see the answers for and against my suggestion to invest in a rip have been well and truly covered in the above replies.
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Czornyj
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« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2012, 04:52:10 AM »
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Don't buy a RIP until you really need it/test it.

And if you really want to print rolls rather than cut sheets, I'd suggest you should also consider a 24" Canon iPF6300/6350 instead of SP4900. It's not really that much bigger, heavier nor bulkier.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 04:54:05 AM by Czornyj » Logged

Marcin Kałuża
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« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2012, 05:52:49 AM »
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Don't buy a RIP until you really need it/test it.

And if you really want to print rolls rather than cut sheets, I'd suggest you should also consider a 24" Canon iPF6300/6350 instead of SP4900. It's not really that much bigger, heavier nor bulkier.

I also suggest against a RIP, certainly when starting out.  I use Qimage as printing application (windows only) and it's good for it. 

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Czornyj
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« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2012, 07:19:17 AM »
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I also suggest against a RIP, certainly when starting out.  I use Qimage as printing application (windows only) and it's good for it. 

I used to print from Qimage on Epson SP7880+Windows, now I print from Photoshop plug-in and Lightroom on iPF6350+OSX.
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Marcin Kałuża
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« Reply #17 on: May 20, 2012, 09:03:52 AM »
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I personally don't believe a RIP is the way to start.  Current printer drivers are very good, and most paper makers create very good profiles.  Ilfords new papers that are arriving very soon (which are not much different than their current papers) are all being profiled for them by xRite (according to my Mac Group rep).  Almost all Epson profiles are very good.  Moab also provides very good profiles.

The 3880 is a great starter machine, very reliable, rarely clogs, the only downside is the panorama thing. But it has big enough ink cartridges to make the costs more reasonable as opposed to the 3000.

The 4900 is great if you want to use roll paper, I have one, and rarely put roll paper through it.  I only use it instead of a 3880 because I want an exact match to my 9900.

Visually for photography there will be no perceptible difference in prints between the two except perhaps a rare one with some extreme colors, and even then the 3880 will be very good.

Right now the 3880 has a $250 rebate, the 4900 has a $500 rebate, (in the U.S.) which means you can get a 3880 for around $1k, a 4900 for around $1600.

I agree with most of this. I don't think a RIP is necessary unless the user wants it for its layout, print management and archiving features. For print quality alone, it's unnecessary for the reasons you state.

As for paper profiles, yes, the Epson profiles are fine for Epson papers. I've not had very satifactory results with the Ilford profile for Gold Fibre Silk. I had better outcomes making and using my own profile, and even better yet letting Scott Martin make me a custom profile with the very latest X-Rite equipment and his own target. All that said, it could be that since I last tried an Ilford profile they may have improved it.

I had to laugh where you talk about your usage of roll paper in the 4900. One of the reasons I bought a 4900 was to have this capability and I too seldom use it. I was on the phone just Friday with my paper/ink supplier here in Toronto and he observed that very few of his 4900 customers use the roll holder either! Well, as is often said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions; OK not really a road to hell - remains a fine printer, but from my experience it demands more regular usage than my 3800 required to avoid the need for cleanings. There's all kinds of speculation out there about why, and I'm not a printer technologist so I don't know, but just another observation to add to the list.

When I was writing my review of the 4900 for this website http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/printers/the_epson_4900_printer_hands_on_and_down_to_work.shtml I did compare its output with that of a 3800 (one generation before the 3880) and differences of print appearance even for that comparison were "de minimus". By the way, after my review appeared, someone from Epson got in touch and commented that its better NOT to transport these machines on their sides, as shown in my first illustration! (Well, it was just a few feet).

I think the choice between a 3880 and a 4900 boils down to a few operational variables of which print quality is NOT one: need for the roll holder, price, size and weight (it needs space and a very sturdy table or cabinet) and frequency of usage.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2012, 09:34:18 PM by Mark D Segal » Logged

Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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John Caldwell
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« Reply #18 on: May 20, 2012, 09:20:58 PM »
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Excellent remarks above. I'll keep it to what I know: We have an HP Z3200 (self-profiling 24" roll); an Epson 3800 (17" sheet only) and an Epson 4900 (17" sheet and roll). We use a colleague's Epson 9900 for large prints above 24".Our printing is strictly from Lightroom, and as of recently, we use after-market profiles made by Booksmart Studio at an average price of $30 per profile. In the end, I think the results from each of these paths is really excellent, but getting to know a machine/paper interaction is, in my hands at least, the secret to getting predictable and good results. I've never seriously contemplated a RIP, but our canvas sizes are rarely greatly unusual.

John Caldwell
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john@shadesofpaper.com
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« Reply #19 on: May 22, 2012, 09:49:52 AM »
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John,

Don't forget to think about the cost per ml. If you will be printing a lot then the 4900 might be the right pick. Cost per ml for the 4900 is about 44cents a ml and 63cents a ml on the 3880. While the initial cost may be a little bit higher the savings long term will be worth it.
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John Ferriola
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