Yr. Hmbl. Editor has a detectable tendency to avoid category leaders when disbursing Own Money. I guess I like underdogs or something. My first car was a Mazda, not a Honda or Toyota. I haven't shot Canon since they were Avis to Nikon's Hertz. (That might be an outdated reference now for all I know. Used to be, Avis had an advertising campaign—"We Try Harder"—that tried to make a virtue out of being #2.)
So how's that going? Well, consider: I have two Bronicas and a Konica Hexar RF, and my first (and still favorite) DSLR was a Konica-Minolta 7D.
(I don't know what that portends for Panasonic or Pentax, the makers of my current digital cameras [GF-1 and K-5]. But it might not be good. Or maybe I'm just getting better at going with winners.)
My sortie into the world of inkjet printers didn't go much better, I'm afraid. I chose an HP B9180, which hit all the right marks for me on paper, but turned out to be such a problem child that HP has evidently fled that market niche for good, tail tucked firmly beneath its corporate behemoth behind. My B9180s—plural—were certainly problematic for me. I made some good prints with the printer—it gave beautiful results when it was perched delicately on the narrow edge of working right—but I'm not sure I even got it really properly on song. The whole thing had to be replaced once, two heads had to be replaced, and, still, the occasions when all four heads registered the glorious green lights of health in the status box were as rare as blue moons or 50-degree days in January. It leaked money, even when I wasn't using it. I finally got so frustrated with its balky ways that the camel's back broke and I took it out of the system—removed it from the periphery, as it were—and exiled it to the floor in the corner of the living room, where it sulks quietly still.
The advent of the R3000
The undisputed leader in this market category is Epson. And Epson's core product—smack dab at the highly charged border between its amateur and professional lineups—is its premium 13-inch printer, long the stalwart favorite of advanced amateur and enthusiast photographers. There have been a long line of them. (Someone else can give the procession in detail, if they care to. I am weary.)
This month marks the advent of the latest one, the R3000. It was announced on January 17th and has just started shipping in very limited quantities (Amazon doesn't list it yet; B&H Photo is taking pre-orders; and Epson itself is "out of stock"). Reviews have started to trickle forth, including this good one by Ben Weeks at Warehouse Express.
It has its selling features, of course. (What new product doesn't?) In a nutshell: it uses the latest iteration of Epson's UltraChrome K3 inkset with Vivid Magenta; it has a front loader for fine art media with very precise positioning; it switches automatically between blacks, both of which can remain installed at the same time, not always the case with Epson printers in the past; it offers a choice of USB, WiFi, or ethernet connectivity; and the ink cartridges are a little higher capacity (25.9 ml, although the price per milliliter isn't really any better. It's still $84,000 an ounce, or something like that). It's billed as being "compact," but that's relative to the larger wide-carriage pro printers...at a hulking two feet wide, it would be the largest single piece of equipment in my office if I installed it here, save the stereo speakers. At least it's easy on the eyes, or as easy as a plastic box is likely to be.
You could of course make the argument that the border between the amateur and pro models is the worst place to situate oneself, one of those compromises that are worse than either extreme. You pay a lot for the printer ($850 list) yet you still pay a lot for the inks and can't use the really high-capacity carts; you can use big paper but not that big; etc.). But the main point is that it's the newest and latest and shiniest and bestest from Epson, in a product position that's important enough that it's gotten a lot of engineering lavished on it and product development dollars spent on it.
Sure to be a winner?
Don't know. But it bears watching.
(P.S. As for me and my cameras, it's not really as bad as it looks. I bought the Bronicas and the Hexar RF after, and basically because, the companies had already gone out of business. So Panasonic and Pentax probably don't have that much to fear from me after all.)
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Ctein adds: Definitely not cheaper ink than the previous generation of 13-inch printer, but not just slightly bigger cartridges, more than twice as big. A real convenience factor for folks who do more than occasional printing.
Meanwhile for folks who can afford twice the moolah (after rebate), the new 17 inch Epson 4900 printer uses their brand-new "HD" ink set with the additional two colors. Should both improve color gamut and subtle rendition and slightly reduce ink costs.
As per previous discussions of things like 2880s versus 3880s, the larger, cheaper-per-milliliter ink cartridges that ship with the 4900 offset a lot of the additional cost of that printer and mean that over the course of a year or so you're likely to actually save money.
On the other hand, if you think the 3000 is large, the 4900 is insane. (One of the reasons I went with a 3880 instead of a 4880 is that I couldn't figure out how to fit the 4880 in my office.)
Featured Comment by Old Fart: "I'm getting ready to move and I am cleaning out my studio. I am not amused to find I have piles and piles (literally hundreds) of inkjet prints that strictly qualify as 'test prints,' dating back to 2000 when I bought my first photo inkjet printer. These prints have all kinds of notes penciled on them: what color profile was used, what RIP, what settings, etc, etc. ad nauseum. And on the shelf, I have one modest print box, 1" thick, with 'keepers.' It's about half full. And I have a few framed prints on the wall. You know what—I never actually got a inkjet print that could match what I used to do on Cibachrome.
"And you should see my box full of inkjet cartridges waiting to be recycled—there's about 200 of them, from just the past few years. Do the math on the cost. I did and I am pissed. Not to omit from mention there is a non-repairable Epson 2200 sitting in the corner of the room.
"Don't even get me started about the highway robbery at gunpoint for wanting to update ImagePrint just because I want to upgrade my operating system. Last time I paid up, they only profiled a couple of the papers I asked for, and they are just as arrogant on the phone as they ever were. Nuh-uh it ain't happening guys.
"And the fact of the matter is, thanks to the progression of both end-user and print lab color management, these days, when I want a nice print, I can upload it to one of several high-quality services (usually not bothering to proof it) and in a few days I get exactly the result I expected, for far less than the cost of even a single inkjet cartridge, let alone the three or four I always seem to have to replace when I turn on my R2400. Also, far less aggravation.
"Bringing this to the final point: I am done with photo inkjets. I am done with RIPs. I'm done playing with InkAid and all the other nonsense that appealed to me as a consolation against not ever really being able to get a truly satisfactory straight photographic inkjest print. (That was a Freudian slip, I swear!)
"I'm going to eBay my R2400 and Imageprint and live happily ever after. My office printer makes a decent enough 8x10" proof and it cost me all of $79. It only has four cartridges, it doesn't clog, and doesn't need a RIP. When I want exhibition-quality it's just a few days away and it comes on actual photo paper. Or on canvas. Or on whatever paper I want. I don't have to fume because Colorbyte doesn't have the stinking profile I want. I don't have to spend $50 on ink just to clear head clogs.
"Life is good."
Featured Comment by Jay: "A B9180 experience. I knew the the heads were easy to replace so I decided to see how to replace them. I opened the cover and lifted the small plastic piece that covers the heads. When I tried to close the machine I pushed the plastic piece down but It kept springing back up. I could not see what the problem was so I called HP. The 'gentleman' (at least he spoke English) explained that the problem would cost so much to fix that I should just buy a new printer. He offered me a 'special price' on a newer model which sounded very good. Of course, when I thought to ask, he said the inks and heads were not included. They would cost more than the printer. Having told him where he and HP could go I hung up.
"All this to replace a piece that probably cost 35 cents. I had an inspiration and the piece is now held down with a small piece of tape. Everything works well now with the usual quirks and problems."
Featured Comment by Bernard Scharp: "I can't help but think that the costs of inktjet printing do a lot to offset the 'cheapness' of digital pictures compared to film. Sure, a roll of film may be $5.00 nowadays, but the paper and chemicals required for the final picture are peanuts compared to inkjet paper and inks. And enlargers are a lot cheaper than printers."
Mike replies: I recall that in the '90s, one of the things you often heard as "received wisdom" was that, when inkjet printers got good, "at least" the papers would be a lot cheaper than photo paper because they wouldn't have to be coated with costly silver emulsion and gelatin. They would be "just paper." Ah, the days of innocence!
Price I was paying in the '90s for 100 sheets of 8x10" Agfa Multicontrast Classic (MCC), my most-used paper: about $45–55. (My memory is hazy on this point, but I believe it got up as high as the $70 range just before Agfa went out of business.)
Current price of 100 sheets (in 25-sheet boxes) of 8x10" Adox Premium MCC, Fotoimpex's modern replica of Agfa MCC: $104.
Price of 100 sheets of 8.5x11" Canson Platine Fibre Rag, Charlie Cramer's new favorite inkjet printing paper and the paper our recent sale prints are being printed on (again in 25-sheet boxes, because it doesn't come in 100-sheet boxes): $126.