Color Balancer Issues — Ongoing
The Official Response
The following is the "official" response by Epson to the issue of omitting the Gray Balancer from the Epson Photo 2200.
"Epson products often differ from country to country and each country puts a great deal of effort into choosing which products and features will serve their customers' needs the best. We used a group of highly-respected professional photographers to beta test the EPSON Stylus Photo 2200 and the Gray Balancer utility. The feedback that we received helped us determine that this wasn't a feature that would benefit our customers.
We found that the Gray Balancer software application severely limits the number of paper choices for the printer and interferes with professional color management solutions commonly used by our customers. We believe that the benefits of the Gray Balancer software application can be better achieved with Adobe Photoshop and custom ICC profiles for the printer. The combination of Adobe Photoshop and ICC profiles is a powerful and flexible solution that meets the needs of our customers without the limitations of the Gray Balancer application.
In the past, the Gray Balancer utility might have been more useful to our customers, but with the latest driver, print engine, and ink technology introduced this past year, Epson has solved ALL of the reasons why EPSON Gray Balancer was initially developed. Epson America is not planning to make the Gray Balancer available with our printers or via download.
Thank you for choosing Epson."
Frankly this is complete baffelgab. To say that "We believe that the benefits of the Gray Balancer software application can be better achieved with Adobe Photoshop and custom ICC profiles for the printer" is meaningless to anyone that understands the issues. It also assumes that the user has either the money to have custom profiles made, or the money and skill to make them himself. Many have neither.
That Epson US's beta testers found the Gray Balancer to be a difficult to use is a story that has circulated widely, and is known to be true. But, that's not the point. In the hands of some users the software will prove to be a powerful tool. Others may find it marginal, others unusable, and many of no interest. But at least 2100 owners in other countries have the choice!
Including the Gray Balancer with the 2200 will cost Epson nothing. The reference chart is a simple printed sheet that costs at most a few pennies. The software itself is distributed on the driver disk. Where is the downside for Epson?
A Patent Issue?
Shortly after my Gray Balancer review was published I received the following e-mail.
"Epson not offering the grey balancer to US customers may have other motivations than you think. Such politic almost always is not motivated by assumptions about the user (US customers are too stupid), but by intellectual property secured by competitors in some but not all countries.
I did some recherche in the US patent database with this assumption in mind and came across PAT. 6,268,932: " Gray scale calibration tool for setting the density of a printer " filed by IBM in 1998 and granted on July 31, 2002.
It describes the procedure used by the grey balancer.
So my assumption would be, that Epson would very much like to give the tool to US customers but can not because of the IBM patent coming out in the very last minute."
I have no idea at this time if this is accurate or relevant, but if true would simply require Epson to say so. Lots of companies withhold certain products from certain markets due to patent and licensing issues. But, they simply say so when this is the case. As long as Epson insists on maintaining the fiction that we "don't need" the Gray Balancer, we won't know.
Epson UK Says
"EPSONís ëGray Balancerí software
is designed to calibrate and customize the greyscales used in black and white
photo reproduction. It gives you the flexibility to adjust the application of
ink according to the conditions in which prints will be stored or displayed.
The results are perfectly balanced, smooth toned, vibrant black and white photos."
— Epson U.K. web site.
On the other hand, Epson U.S. says, "In the past, the Gray Balancer utility might have been more useful to our customers, but with the latest driver, print engine, and ink technology introduced this past year, Epson has solved ALL of the reasons why EPSON Gray Balancer was initially developed." — Epson U.S. standard e-mail response to those that complain about the missing Gray Balancer.
This is the same company, in two different countries, talking about the same printer. Really.
Once again Epson U.S. is like the ostrich with its head in the sand, not realizing that people can read what's being written, said, and done in other countries with a click of their mouse — instantly. Who's zooming who?
Some people are so upset about not receiving the Gray Balancer that they are considering buying a 2100 from the U.K. Please be aware that the U.K. uses 220V and 50 cycles rather than out 110V and 60 cycles. You'll need a transformer to make it work.