It's early days yet, but my experience with the Epson P600 printer is going well. I'm trying to make at least one print every night; so far I haven't been able to stick to anything near that few. I've been making mostly small, 7-inch-wide workprints to conserve ink (even though Epson provided the ink! Still)—
Remember the french fries
However, before we go much further here I need to say a word about the value equation. The P600 costs $750 at the moment, vs. $1,195 list* for the P800, its little-bit-bigger brother (LBBB)—a difference of $445. However, as you might know, printer manufacturers basically pass along the printer units for free or even below cost, and then make it up on materials. (McDonalds fast-food restuarants do the same thing—everything they serve is priced at cost except fries and soda, both of which have tremendous markups—500% or more in the case of fries. Not for nothing are counterpeople taught to say "Would you like fries with that?") The T760 ink cartridges for the P600 hold 25.9 milliliters of ink, and a full set costs $288. The T850 ink cartridges for the P800 hold 80 ml. of ink, and a full set costs $495.
P600 ink: $1.24 per ml.
P800 ink: 69¢ per ml.
Not only would the difference of 55¢ per ml. pay for the cost differential between the two printers after purchasing only 809 ml. of ink—that's 31 cartridges for the P600 or just over ten cartridges for the LBBB—but, since the P800 comes bundled with more ink to begin with, the price differential is already offset quite a bit just by the ink that comes in the box! (I haven't figured that out exactly, but I'm sure someone, somewhere, has.) That's a huge operational price advantage for the P800 LBBB that will only grow more lopsided the more prints you make.
Not only that, but Epson considers the P800 a professional product and the P600 a consumer product, and it doesn't provide programming documentation for the P600 to third-party software and peripherals providers. For instance, ColorByte Software is still working on ImagePrint 10 for the P600, because they had to reverse-engineer it. (They'll be sending it to me when they finish up.)
Further, a friend points out that "beyond the ink cost, the P600 doesn't have the maintenance cartridge feature of the 3800/3880/P800 and so has its own characteristic failure mode: it will eventually die a messy death by drowning in its own ink when its excess-ink-trapping sponge, or whatever they call it, gets saturated. Already had that experience with my first inkjet, which had the same 'feature'—don't want to go there again if I can help it."
The downside? The P800 is bigger and heavier, harder to site in your home or office, and takes a bigger up-front outlay to buy. Ink carts cost more in absolute dollars, too.
Additional upside of the P80o LBBB is the immediately obvious one, which is that it handles 17-inch-wide paper instead of 13-inch like the P600.
LBBB gets nod
But as you can see from all this, you might need to think beyond the obvious here. The P800 is a more sensible investment for anyone who intends to do any significant amount of printing. Certainly if you were going to embark on an OCOLOY project making one print a day, the P800 is pretty much a no-brainer. It would be much cheaper in the long run.
...I kind of have to wonder, in fact, exactly who the P600 is aimed at. Obviously, not a casual printmaker, or one with low standards, because it's a very high-quality 9-ink printer that uses Epson's latest UltraChrome HD inkset. I've only been using it for three days but it's so much fun, and the prints look so nice, that I stayed up way past my bedtime last night making prints, including, um, several big ones. My ink is never gonna last at this rate.
I guess the P600 is for anyone who is decisively swayed by the smaller physical size and lower up-front cost, or for someone who wants to make top-quality prints but only in small quantities or occasionally—perhaps only two or three prints every two or three weeks, say. Anyone, that is, who would have trouble using up 31 ink carts over the course of several years or, especially, over the 5–8 year life expectancy of the printer. (That's really ballpark, as I have nothing but a rough monkey-butt idea of how long people typically keep their inkjet printers, or how long the printers themselves typically keep on truckin'.) That would also minimize the lack of that maintenance cart.
Anyway. Something to think about. As far as I can tell so far, the P600 is a wonderful printer that gives outstanding results—and it's quite possible you shouldn't buy it! In fact, I'm mulling over sticking this P600 right back in its box and sending it back to Epson...it's that good. :-)
As always, I shall keep you posted.
(Thanks to John P. and Oren)
A counterpoint view from Mark McCormick-Goodhart of Aardenburg Imaging: The lower ink costs of the P800 versus the P600 only begin to bear economic fruit after you've printed several hundred 8x10 equivalent size prints or more, and can do so in a couple of years or so. I could be wrong, but I suspect many advanced amateur photographers just won't print all that frequently or in enough high-volume sessions to justify the higher capacity ink cartridges. To make a point, consider your first print on the rebated P800. It just cost you about $800. Make two prints. They are $400 apiece...make 800 prints and now the amortized equipment cost per print has achieved parity with the cost of the inks, and the total cost of each 8x10 equivalent print has dropped below $5 even when using expensive fine art papers. Hence, this simple amortization model justifies the higher capacity lower cost/ml ink cartridges only if you think you will print perhaps a few hundred enlarged prints or more per year.
Also, one probably doesn't want to keep two-plus-year-old inks in the printer (pigment particles can settle and/or aggregate, and thus cause color unwanted color shifts and increased clogging issues), so unless you can get through 720 ml of ink in two years (i.e 80ml x 9 cartridges which likewise yields about 700 8x10 equivalent prints), you are better off with the P600's smaller capacity cartridges. The smaller P600 also has a subtle but real quality edge which is noticeable especially in smaller-sized photos owing to its 5760 dpi highest-quality mode setting versus 2880 dpi on the P800.
Bottom line: The shock and awe factor of high priced inks is real but the true ramifications are greatly exaggerated. Home printing, all cost factors considered, will never compete with bargain basement photo finishing of 4x6 photos, but it wins by leaps and bounds over custom lab print prices after you've printed only a few dozen 13x19 or 17x22 enlargements on fine art media! It's the personal control over your print quality and the decision to print on high-quality non RC media where home printing really comes into its own.
*There's a $300 rebate at the moment. Thanks to iran ramirez and several other readers for pointing that out.
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Featured Comments from:
Dogman: "In my experience, ink cost eventually becomes a non-issue. In a time when most people never see a photograph anywhere but on a computer monitor or the small screen on their smart phone, your prints will amaze your friends, family and neighbors as you show them around. Having someone validate your art is priceless."
Keith B.: "Mike, I wish you had been there, back in 2007, to lay out the economics of the P800-sized printer vs. almost any smaller printer as clearly as you just have done. I, and many, many others over these last few years, went through the naive 'The small one will be fine...' self-con.
"If you are intelligent, hate wasting money, and love to make prints, the self-con will likely end the same way for you as it ended for me: Within a year or less, you'll no longer be able to tolerate the private embarrassment that you have chosen a clear path toward wasting money. Then, you'll buy the P800 you would have been wiser to purchase initially."
iran ramirez: "The P800 is $895 after rebate, just FYI."
Jeff: " The P800 really isn't much bigger or heavier than the P600: about 2.5 inches wider, less than a half inch deeper, an inch taller and 8 pounds heavier (without any additional roll paper option). The size differences are minimal compared to moving up to the 4900 (two more inks), which is the only Epson series that has not (yet) received a P-series replacement. The 4900 has had some serious clogging problems."
Steve Belanger: "I bought the P600 nearly one year ago and took advantage of the $250 rebate. I thought it was a great deal, especially considering that the P800 had no rebate offer at the time. Given it is my first experience with printing my own photos, I'm quite happy with the results, although I'm now annoyed to find out about the maintenance cartridge issue. I should also mention that I don't print daily or even weekly. I've not had a problem with clogging, as far as I can tell. I've been printing a handful of prints about once every six weeks. The experience of doing my own prints was been great. Better results and much more gratifying than relying on a photo lab!"