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Saturday, 10 April 2010


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Printing well digitally is just the same as printing well in the darkroom - it's easy once you've put in the years of hard work.

Trouble with that it only prints RED........

I have heard that this model can leave some very unsightly tyre marks. Have you experienced this?

I have a B9180. All four print heads just died on mine last week. Simultaneously. Elevated blood pressure seemed to be a side effect of getting good prints out of it. I do not mourn the loss of it, and have vowed never to purchase an HP product again after my first-hand experience of their hardware and customer support. It's too bad, because the printer was capable of making good prints. It also proved too capable of dumping vast quantities of ink into its innards and scratching up pages of paper.

There are numerous complaints about digital printing, I'm yet to find a solution, or at least a good example to what is going wrong.

As for myself, I'm obviously printing badly because I'm pretty happy with my prints :)

Yup. My B9180 is currently sitting on a shelf out in my shed/workshop, in transit on its way to the dump. I put up with it for three maddening, expensive years. It drove me crazy every time it did it's daily self-maintenance dance (I tend to follow instructions, so I left it on as HP recommended), and I must have spent thousands of dollars on ink in that time. Probably more than enough to buy me a top-quality full-frame DSLR and couple of the best lenses. And then there were the little errors and feed problems that always seemed to occur at the wrong time.

As you say, it made lovely prints when it worked. But it was a PITA to keep running. Never again.

I replaced the HP with an Epson PX5600 (I believe it's called the R2880 outside of Japan) and haven't had a single problem thus far. Only five months, to be sure, but those five months have been pure bliss. It only needs to be turned on to print, so it sits quietly and never disturbs me while I work. It sips ink as though it were on a diet. And it prints beautifully.

But the B9180 isn't ready to relinquish its role as a thorn in my side just yet. The disposal and recycling laws are rather strict where I live, so now I'm going to have to pay someone to take the damn thing on the final leg of its journey.

Note to HP: It'll probably be a very long time before I ever consider another HP anything. Sorry, but that's just the way the consumer mind works.

The current state of the large format printer market is of significant concern to me as I am probably going to buy a 24" model within a year. However, all the current models seem to be "mature" and I keep thinking something new will come out the minute I buy.
I just wish there were more real world reviews available. Most of the reviews on-line are decidedly "light-weight" evaluations.

"It requires attentiveness, knowledge, investment, and a certain thoroughness of mind."

We've gone through about 6 wide-format digital printers at work. We've given up and just condensed that phrase down to "babysitting" (at least when referring to the technical aspects) -- "How much babysitting does that model require?" -- We spend enough time holding our clients hands; having to babysit the latest and greatest "hassle-free, no-maintenance" piece of wunder-tech in this day and age is just plain annoying ...

Yep, the 599 is a fine little grocery getter - I'd prefer silver, though.

Funny - I just about sprung for a B9180 a couple of years ago when I was going through a period of frustration with my Epson 2200. Eventually I found settings and procedures that worked (photoshop controls color, Ilford's ICC profile, set 'no color control' in color management, set the printer options with 'high speed' turned off, then re-check 'no color control' before printing) and have been happy ever since, especially since I've settled on Ilford Gold Fiber Silk (lousy name, great paper.)

Now printing (usually 12X18 on 13X19) is quick, easy and consistent.

The printer, BTW, was purchased through Epson's Refurb store. I've bought 2 printers and 1 scanner through them and had an excellent experience every time. Your mileage may vary.

So what printer would I recommend to the serious photographer nowadays? That's easy. I suggest you go with the Ferrari 599.

Can it print in anything but red ink?

Bur seriously, I have never tried printing anything properly at home, and never will. I have read enough scare stories and posts such as this to know it's not something I want to get into. I'll sent my files to an online printer, thank you.

I bought a B9180 after reading very favourable reviews on a number of sites (not including yours, Mike). And for the first 12 months it performed beautifully. Then, with just a week of the 1 year warranty to go, it started to have problems, producing strange artefacts on prints and consuming lots of ink. HP sent me another one, which performed beautifully, until... you've guessed it... I'd had it just over 12 months. Same problem, and many hundreds of dollars of ink later, still unresolved, it sits next to my computer as a very expensive paper weight.
HP? Never again.

Take the blood pressure damaging frustration of a "paltry" priced B9150 and multiply it many fold and you'll have some idea of the pain induced by spending several thousand dollars on a Z series printer. And having your business depend on it. When it works it is capable of beautiful prints, but when the software goes wrong, it really, really goes wrong. With this printer you find a path that works and then you... dont... change... anything!

Next time I'm buying the Ferrari.


Funny you should mention that. The last ink jet I owned was 15 years ago. Decided to leave the hassle up to those who wanted to fuss with getting consistently good prints, and to pay the ink cost, and paper, and clean up their mess. Funny because just recently I figured it was time to revisit the idea of printing again for myself, "surely things have improved since then."
Do Ferraris come in blue?

"all you have to do is press a button." - very true! It's when you start thinking you can improve on that by learning about profiles and changing settings that things start to go wrong. Of course the printer manufacturers won't dicourage your fruitless efforts as they just increase ink sales.

Definitely the Ferrari.
I have a 9180, and it has paid for itself. Indeed I still use it - to print lecture notes for the University courses I'm taking, and, sometimes, for a photo. Somehow though, it just never clicked and I have gone back to using a local lab to print for clients.
It seems to me that it takes about as much work to maintain one printer, and one fully profiled workflow, as it does to maintain several (like a lab would). Which, by extension, means that making your own prints is not going to be economically favorable because you are trying to amortize a large investment over a smaller print run.
Now, this is not to say that making your own prints isn't intensely rewarding, both artistically and technically. Just that it doesn't save as much money as it appears it should if you are counting in your time. It goes without saying that YMMV
Someday I want a 17 inch carriage printer but that will have to wait for a new "day job", hence the University classes!

I don't even understand the point of home photo printers.

If something is worth printing at all, it's worth printing professionally, on a high-end machine, via a pro lab. If you just want snaps to give to grandma, you can have that done a la carte.

Mind you, I own an HP printer. My wife bought it, and it gathers dust. It's just another slab of plastic that will sit in a landfill for a 10,000 years.

How timely! After spending the past 24 hours beating my head on the wall over a recalcitrant HP B8850—which, like its larger cousin makes gorgeous prints sometimes and bad prints with regularity—I'm about ready to throw in the proverbial towel and load the shotgun. I've had it. I tried, I really really tried, but I was defeated. Too bad it took this long to figure it out.

"I have heard that this model can leave some very unsightly tyre marks. Have you experienced this?"

Yes, at times. I'm very "experienced" when it comes to the foibles and follies of this particular printer.


Prints? Who does prints anymore? Haven't you heard of big LCD TVs or the iPAD?

"It made very nice prints when it was working right"

Yep. As great at the prints are they just aren't worth the trouble. Glad they're discontinuing it. I'm buying an Epson 3880 as soon as I run out of ink for my B9180.

Ah - but are you not recommending the Porsche as well?

Both Canon and Epson make awesome printers and inks these days. A "serious photographer" hardly needs a recommendation. Pick a size and a budget and buy one, anyone (within the pro lines).
The nasty question is .... what driver/RIP to buy with it? And that's assuming color printing. If you want B&W too, with more sophisticated inks and controls than ABW (OEM driver-level B&W option), good luck with the learning curve, especially for glossy. But you knew that ....

"Do Ferraris come in blue?"

If you want to be haunted by old Enzo's ghost.


Hey, not everybody hates the B9180. Mine works just fine. Bad news about the discontinuation. I'll be having trouble getting ink.

Thank you for validating my experience with digital printing. I have a large, expensive printer from another brand, which has been useless to me.

I have had a B9180 or a few years. I print seldom, but when I do it is 13 X 19. The printer does a magnificent job. Yes I lose a lot of ink due to maintenance, but I have never had a clog.


It will be a long time before you have trouble getting inks. that is where all of the HP profit is.

If you're interested in printing your work at all, I'd think you'd want a personal printer, if only for proofs. My HP 8750 is getting quite old now, I'd guess. I got it after a few unfortunate Epson experiences (most likely all the brands have issues.) I've had no problems over the years other than the inevitable ink purchases. But then, it's dye-based (not pigment) . . .

Geez, Mike, after talking about the 599 you print a picture of the California Spider (or is it Spyder?). C'mon, you have to do better.

I feel ya, Mike. When I mentioned on my blog (Shutterfinger) a few months ago how hard it is to find a good, reliable, affordable inkjet printer, I got several replies from readers telling me about all the wonderful prints they were getting from their Epson R3800s, R3880s, R4880s and so on. I would certainly hope they got wonderful prints from machines that cost more than a thousand dollars. Not only that, half of the recommenders were using RIPs that cost as much as the printer itself. This combination may be closer to the Mercedes-Benz or Lexus of ink jets than a Ferrari, but it makes no difference; I can't afford any of them. Even if I did, it's not what I'd prefer to spend my money on. Prints, yes. An expensive, high-maintenance printer, not so much.

Sh*t! I just bought a pair of B9180 at Ritz Camera CHEAP on closeout. Thought I was getting a great bargain, because the purchase price was less than the prices of replacing the ink cartridges.
They're been sitting in their boxes until I got my new HP computer up and running (I'm going out of my mind trying to adapt from Windows XP to Windows 7).
Thanks for recommending it, along with that POS eMAC.

...more of the same with my B9180 experience. it dutifully self cleaned its heads everyday I dutifully replaced the cartridges every few weeks - until the heads went AWOL and I looked into the beasts belly and realized my dollars were building the inkjet equivalent of the devils tower. Good bye HP. My Epson 3800 is equally finicky to dial in but the ink lasts much longer. It doesn't taunt you with its random daily purging - of your bank account.

As someone doing events, I am thinking about a dye-sub printer. Any ideas about them?

Well, I made darkroom prints for 20 years and got pretty particular about the results. And, after a year using the Epson 3800, with some some fantastic papers (e.g., Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta and Ilford Gold Fibre Silk), the resulting prints from Leica M files are superb.

The one year warranty is up in a week, so the dealer who sold me the printer recommended a reputable service company that is totally refurbishing the printer under warranty. Can't wait for the next year.

I'll probably get another Epson at some point to dedicate to black and white only, using Cone inks, with 7 shades of black/grey versus 3 from Epson.

Who says you can't print at home?

I bought the Ferrari 599, Mike. Now, much to my dismay, it gets horrible gas mileage :)

My b9180 had been sent back to the company by so many previous owners it arrived at my house with big red WARRANTY VOID stamps all over the back label. I bought a set of cartridges and a used (no kidding) set of printheads, and it has performed perfectly for 3 or 4 years. If they stop making the #38 carts, I suppose I'll have to go to the Hefger pigment inks.

Got an 8850.
Does OK most of the time but burps lots of ink to keep its nose running.
Seems it was designed to maximize gloss differential. I love matte, repeat I love matte.
It has a large flat top surface that invites you to pile things on it... not good, causes tire tracks.
The more HP in-house brand software involved in an HP product the more trouble you are courting.
I'll keep it until it dies but will buy ink one cart at a time.

Amen brother. Aside from its clunky operation, the S/W interface with PSE simply is terrible. I cant wait to get my old 1800 back up and running.

Doug G

The driver software is buggy as hell, and it can make me crazy at times; but for the most part, the printer has worked well for me over the past three years. There are people on the 9180 email list that have gone through three or more printers under warranty - I'm still on my first one. Maybe I'm just lucky...

You'll probably like it. It's sort of the Windows of printers. [g]


Nope, that's a 599, not a California.

But I just found the Ezra Dyer piece, and he actually recommends a 458 Italia! My bad memory....


My 2 1/2 year-old HP Z3100 (24-inch) is still going strong. Fantastic customer service because it's a HP pro product, and ink usage is INCREDIBLY low. Leave it plugged in and on and every 24 hours it automatically goes through a cleaning cycle that uses an unmeasurable amount of ink. I print sporadically so sometimes it will sit unused for a month. Nevertheless I have NEVER had a clogged printhead. Built-in paper profiling is a bonus that works well with most papers, but with experience I now generally fine-tune in PS to get the look I want. Can't compare print quality with the latest Epsons or Canons, but beat my old Epson 4800 and Canon iP8500 hands down for gamut, skin tones, and B & W. On the other hand, I bought a B9180 expecting similar quality and ink economy. No such luck. Sold it before the first set of cartridges was used up - which didn't take long.

… coming up on my second year of digitalness (this Tuesday in fact) i'm still peevish about printers and am beginning to get over the news that there is no more Agfa Brovira, well no more Agfa period. as for the 599, i have a feeling that if Ferrari made printers they would phenomenaly fast have twelve print heads and be exquisite… and tempermental and very expensive to maintain… just saying (lol!!)

During the big printer boom..where other companies (besides just Epson) became manufacturers of small and large format printers , my behavior was brilliant. BRILLIANT I SAY!

I just sat in the weeds and watched everyone go nuts.

Whatever, it's boring to talk about one's self in such bold and mighty terms

I stuck with my Epson 7800 and I'm still stuck on it. It works brilliantly and I love this thing.

You are brilliant, it's true.


If you have a B9180 and the daily maintenance cycle suddenly starts running for a long time and consuming noticeable amounts of ink, try cleaning the NEDD sensor (http://h10025.www1.hp.com/ewfrf/wc/document?docname=c01457506&lc=en&cc=us&rule=17975&product=1142684&dlc=en). I have to do this about once per year, but otherwise my B9180's been great since I bought it, two weeks after it was released.

I've often wondered if there's any connection between my good luck with the printer and the fact that I bought HP's extended warranty for it. (Lest anyone think evil of HP, I bought the warranty a few weeks after I bought the printer.)

A tip:
For those of you that are losing too much ink on the 9180 daily printhead maintenance cycle, if you haven't done so yet, you ought to try cleaning the NEDD. It's a very simple procedure, and there are several good descriptions of how to do it on the web. A dirty NEDD sensor will waste lots of ink and give false readings on printhead condition.

I may or may not live to see it, but call me when you can connect a gizmo displaying an image the size of an ipad to a printer that can deliver a print at the push of a button (as it appears on screeen without further adjustment) that displays full print tonal quality. Then, and only then will the whole digital revolution thang become a fully realized reality.

Not that I'll be able to afford that either...

What excellent timing. I need a new printer and in the past few days was considering the B9180 because of all the great reviews when it first came out. I think I'll stick with Epson now (I have a 10 yo 1270).

As for prices Gordon Lewis, the B9180 costs an average of A$1200 (US$1,118) in Australia, even on-line, and ink cartridges are A$40-45 each.

I've been wondering if I can afford the Epson 3880 at A$1,850 (US$1,724) plus freight! But the ink cartridges are A$99 each! That's nearly $1,000 just for a set!! At 80ml each, they should last a long time, but ...

Frankly, my Canon MP530 multifunction produces excellent prints with no fuss whatever. I think I should just be satisfied with that.

I have my Epson 2400 pretty much dialed in now and know it's quirks by heart. I print in B&W on my favorite paper Moab Lasel Luster and get fine results. As a non-pro I wonder how wise it was for me to spend all that money for the unit and ink just for the convenience of making inkjets at home.

Since it's already sucks the soul out of true photography (sorry) why not just let a pro service with even better equipment do it for you? I give my inkjets away. I treasure the occasional good wet print I'm able to produce.

Hm, wonder if you had written a good review of the printer, would all users as like it write how much they admire the printer. Now you wrote negatively and all those as have bad experience about write that (including me).

We bought two B9180 and like the prints.

Someone asked if we also get got the tractor marks. Yes, we got them, but is mainly visible when there is a huge reflection from the ambient light and the photo is not visible any way. In other words we can live with it.

Soon after one year had passed. One of the printers got problem. When I tried to find the error, I swapped the print heads between the machine. There after none of the printers worked, all print heads where dead!

I contacted HP service, and that was not a pleasant experience. Not even a hint if the printers where repairable or not. One of the printers had a beta version of the firmware! It was not possible to update the firmware because of the other error, so it was a moment 22. HP took no responsibility for the old firmware.

We ended up retiring the one with beta firmware. Bought a new set of print heads ( and that printer we have now given away) and bought a third printer. This because we had bought that much ink and special paper that it was the most economical choice.

I don't use B9180 anymore, but I heard the others have problem with the colors after the upgrade to Snow Leopard and is still not corrected with the latest Aperture 3.

I am not surprised if HP has discontinued the printer, since the software does not seem to be updated.

I am looking for a new and larger printer, and I am not looking at HP.

BTW, I were recently on a photo fair, and there was no HP printers at all. Nine out of ten printers must have been Epson, the rest were Canon and Fujifilm printers and they could together be counted on one hand! It is not good that Epson single handed owns the market - their prints are not that much better.

I got one (before you recommended it) and I'm rather pleased with it, but only after deciding to ignore HP's advice to keep it on full time. When I haul it out of the storage room (about once a month) I can now actually make prints without first having to order new cartridges.
The stitch marks I used to get in my prints are gone since I switched to Ilfords 'Gold Fibre Silk' paper fed through the specialty media tray instead of 'regular' paper fed through the main tray.
Hope this helps people who, like me, can't justify a new printer just yet and would like to keep the old beast going.

I'm going to have a good chuckle when all those Panasonic GF-1s you sold go South a week after their warranties end too! ;-)

I was just telling Mike today that I have an HP 3550 Laserjet office printer, and for some reason, the magenta ink ran out, although I mostly use it for printing manuscripts, which only takes black ink. Anyway, the machine wanted magenta, so I tootled off to the Office Depot, where the magenta cartridge cost $147! So do the other three colors (cyan, yellow and black.) This isn't even a photo-quality printer...I then found out that I could buy a *new* 3550 for $450 online, or $150 less than the replacement cartridges, and it *comes* with cartridges. I'm not sure if they're starter packs, or full-sized ones, but the question is bringing out the greed in me...Should I go for the awful, wasteful, crappy idea of throwing out a perfectly good printer to buy a new one I don't need, just to get the cartridges? Or should I go with the socialist/internationalist/environmentalist impulse of declining to act on greed, and stick with the morally superior purchase of replacements? Or should I do neither of those things, and instead purchase a a Ferrari 599, which, considering the cost of inks, would probably be cheaper in the long run? I wonder if anybody's thought about the idea of peddling vast numbers of cheap HP machines to the Arab states, and then trading oil for ink?

(I won't buy another HP anything.)


Ooh ya...digital printing is easy and wonderful and frustrating and impossible. My good'ns? Epson 1870 and Canon 9000, both 13"ers; Epson 7000 and 7600UC, both 24"ers. Ones I now wish I never had? A Canon 4700Pixma-something-or-other (which NEVER created a good-looking print but was an OK GP printer) and a Canon 5100 17"er, which required so much fiddling I sold it after using about 10' of the 200' of roll paper I bought. My current Epson 1400 (13") was only $200 and makes gorgeous prints without profiles. Lucky me, again.

BTW I chose the Porsche ('06 Cayman S).... :-)

As you say, frustrating printer, but when you put in the work and get it to behave it produce beautiful prints. I have documented most of my problems (and the solutions) here:

So what printer to get next when my printer dies (probably sooner than later, I'm on my 3rd B9180 now)?

I'm sorry to hear this news Mike. I've only made a few prints with my B9180 over the three years or so that I've owned it, but I have been sitting around feeling pretty smug about having my future printing needs covered since the printer was recommended by The Online Photographer himself. Now I read this.

I haven't thought much about the fact that this big gray plastic box sits in the corner blinking the blue message "Replace the following faulty ink cartridge: MATTE BLACK [MK]." Being ever optimistic I never put together the thought that this might be an ominous sign, afterall, the beast was blessed with holy water, and ink isn't exactly the printer itself. Maybe you Mike, and the forty other writers here (so far) just had some bad luck, or maybe you all just have an axe to grind with HP ;).

I have not looked at HP printers since they started using the DMCA to try to outlaw third-party ink. Not that I'd ever use third-party ink myself, but that's just a shameful use of a bad law for even worse purposes.

I recently spoke to HP about printers - and they have stopped making A4/Letter printer only devices - the only thing you can get from them is an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier unless you go to A3. The last time I had to deal with an HP "All in one" device it was enough to put me off them for life - and that was about 8 years ago - so I'm a bit concerned that if I want to buy JUST A PRINTER - I'm going to have to buy now before they die out...

Been working with an Epson 2100 since 2005 I think, makes great prints because I use a Rip which cost me nearly as much as the damn printer! Great advantage about Rips is I have profiles for most papers although these days I´ve settled down to probably two papers. I haven´t upgraded to newer model because "If it works don´t touch it" and because I don´t have the money at the moment to spare for both a new printer and and a Rip. To get an idea how good a Rip can be I´ve tested newer A3 printers without Rips up against mine working with my Rip and really the improvement is not worth the money. Bare in mind I´m talking about colour prints not B/W. I´ve never tried getting a paper profiled as I have nobody near me who can make a single profile for me. Some people talk about using the colormunki but I have my doubts.
Anyway I sure Ctein can probably shed some very bright light on all this.

It's a shame, because decent competition will keep the other players honest.

I got rid of an old Epson due to a fear of it smashing a rather large plate glass window in the room in which it lived. It rarely if ever printed right first time.

I eventually took it to the recycling centre and bought a cheap HP (7660), which always just works, and always works first time. Even having sat idle for 6 months and enduring a boat trip to the other side of the world. First page out printed perfectly. It still prints lovely, neutral B+W images with no messing.

I got an ex-demo HP8750 (A3+) for around $30 (!) complete with cartridges and plastic protectors. It too just works. Just like the Mac :-)

My 9180 has also been finicky. Sometimes it works great. But it's an ink guzzler, no doubt about it (sometimes I think the daily cleaning cycle is put on double-overtime just to consume extra ink).

I've owned Epson, Canon and HP. All of them had problems. I think my next printer is outsourced prints. Shame, because I like printing at home...

I don´t particularly hate printers themselves. Eventually, HP A4 printers perform admirably. And large format printers do so, as well. I guess the problem is that the A3 printers are usually blown-up A4 printers, and therefore, problematic to use.

The Epson A3 printers are admirably slow. Good, but very slow.

What grinds my gears, actually, is the lack of performance they show, no matter what printer you buy. Drivers are insane, just as pieces of software.

I don´t understand why, after more than 25 years of inkjet printing, we do not have automatically the picture we see on the screen translated into paper without having to interact with extra steps such as paper profiling. I shouldn´t be doing that.

I'm picturing Ctein sitting on a couch somewhere laughing and laughing to himself..."You guys thought printing was going to be easy?!?"

This is all sounding familiar. My B9180 worked fine for about a year, and then I replaced the cyan cartridge once, and it was as if the new cartridge was overpressurized, and it's been leaking cyan ever since, requiring periodic manual cleanings, and the calibration hasn't been the same since, despite various recalibrations of printer and monitor, and it's been languishing in this state while I've considered whether I should just try another cyan cartridge for $39 or should I replace the printhead, which I've just noticed has come down to $60, but then that probably means two new cartridges as well, so make that $140.

It must be like the old saying, "never buy a Chevy that was built on a Friday afternoon." I've had my B9180 for 3+ years. It must have been built on a Wednesday. I only had to replace 1 printhead, about a year ago, although I clean them regularly. The prints are wonderful, but it has been one of the most frustrating things I've ever used. As long as it works I'll keep using it, but I too will never buy another HP product. Life is too short and I don't have much hair left to pull out.

Okay, just after typing that last comment, the cyan ink ran out during a cleaning cycle, so I shopped around. Best prices I found on HP #70 printheads (yes, I'm getting a new one) and #38 toner cartridges are at http://tmx.tonermax.com

My friends and colleagues usually ask my opinion when they plan the purchase of some photo equipment. If it's a printer, my answer is always the same: "Find a good lab, possibly close to a parking area (I live in Rome)-, and save yourself the hassle-pain-frustration. Home printing is more like going to see an urologist."
As long as monitor makers will be allowed selling over-boosted, thus uncalibrated, viewing devices (even in laptop computers), making impossible to match what we see on the screen (a false rendering) with what ve get on paper (mostly a true rendering), this will be the umpteenth swindle in an unregulated marketplace.
Of course, one can calibrate his own system. It only takes more money to spend, more time to waste, more pixel-peeping routine and, most of all, less real photography making.
Two truths should be made clear by magazines and sites devoted to product news and reviews:
- The home printing business works like drug selling in front of a school: the first fix (the machine with bundled inks) comes almost for free. Then, the next sets of ink cartridges often cost more than the printer itself. Let alone a box of A4 decent paper. And heads declogging is performed wasting a huge amount of the same stuff (the ink) which clogged them.
- Home printing is far away from being as easy as using a Xerox copier (despite all appearances and propaganda). It takes time, skills and lots of paper and ink to waste in a long trial-and-error process.
- Home printig can be performed at a reasonable cost provided that high volumes of large format prints justify the purchase of a professional large format printer.
For me, getting to a decent level of professional-grade home printing took at least a couple of years and all the skills (and patience) coming out of more than three decades of darkroom experience. And a daily gruelling struggle against the printer's tantrums (whoever got an Epson 2000P knows how much a humang being can hate a machine).
I have owned an Epson Stylus Pro 7600 for five years now, and after getting to manage it (not an easy task) I will stick to it as long as it will work and Epson will sell its ink cartridges. As for the average paper/ink cost of a 60x90 cm (23x35 in) exhibition-grade print, it's around ten dollars. Only twice the cost of an A4 print on fine-art paper made with my Epson R800, which I very rarely use: I prefer go and see my urologist.

I have a B9180. Lovely prints. After 13 months it tried to drown itself in ink. My best guess on what happened is that it noticed a clogged nozzle in its daily maintenance cycle and tried to get rid it of it. Only the nozzle did not unclog. So it tried again. And again. And again. I had no chance to help it out of this deadly circle, because I was out for two weeks.
When I returned, Printer blinking. Cartridges empty printheads all gooey.

What a timely blog post. I'm about to take my B9180 out into a field and destroy it Office Space style. Maybe that will give me some level off satisfaction after the enormous amount of time and money I've wasted on this monster. Now, where did I put my baseball bat...

It is interesting how experiences vary.

My B9180 has given three years of faultless service.

It was such a relief from my previous Epsons, where every printing session had to be preceded by several nozzle checks and head cleaning routines, and even then about two thirds of what I printed was scrap - white lines, colour casts, complete lack of one colour for half the print, gobs of black ink on the print. This experience would make me very nervous about ever buying another Epson.

By contrast, the HP has never produced a faulty print. If I stick to the HP branded Hahnemuhle papers, the colours are a very close match to my calibrated monitor. When I use other papers, I have had to try several profiles, but at least the results are consistent.

The HP printer monitoring software is rather quirky. It often tells me that there are no printheads installed, but you can just ignore it.

The impression I have gained from reading reviews of Canon printers is that the software interface is often/usually awful.

So what does that leave? Which brand/model will produce technically perfect prints first time every time, even if it has not been used for a month?

I recently spent a weekend upgrading my printing skills with Chuck Kelton at Project Basho in Philadelphia and it was pure pleasure. Kelton is a master commercial printer and he generously shared his experience. Watching Chuck massage a print in the darkroom is bit like watching a conductor with a fine orchestra. Pure music.

Unfortunately, gelatin silver printing seems like it's rapidly becoming a lost art.

I've never worked with a high end digital printer, but the process just doesn't seem like it's as much fun. Is it?

I've had mine for years, and it has been great, no problems, but...

When I got it, I was runnning PS CS2, so I used the printing plug in that appears in the automate menu. It does indeed give the best prints. Some time later, I upgraded to CS4, and the special plug-in driver is lost. Doesn't work with versions of PS newer than CS2! I contacted HP, a very frustrating experience that reminds me of a friend's experience with Mecerdes (My car won't go on snow or ice because of the traction control. Well, you do have another car, don't you?) HP had no plans as of at least a year ago to update software for more recent versions, so now I leave two versions of PS loaded. UGH!!!!

No more HP products for me!

You think you folks have it hard?
I my house it's like this, for B&W anyway.

1st-Clean all the wife's stuff out of our 5 X 8 ft. bathroom.(our only bathroom)
2nd-Place the plywood board on the sink and the a big shelf across the tub
3rd-Set up my little Durst Reporter, a prehistoric Time-O-Lite, a grain focuser, and a home made easel on the sink board.
4th-Set up develop, stop , fix and rinse tray and tongs. Place print hanging clips on shower rod.
5th-Remove the 4 vanity bulbs and replace with one safelight bulb.
6th-Pour your chems and retrieve your negs and boxes of paper.
7th-Shut door tightly, stuff that old ratty towel in bottom door gap and your hand towel in your belt.
8th-Start with first marked neg, make sure it's clean, put in carrier, focus, compose, set timer to 20 seconds, stop lens to f8, recheck focus, switch back to safelight, pull paper from box and place in easel and..... KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK, honey? can I come in, I really need to go, *heavy sigh* put paper back in box.
OK dear, just a moment.

I had 8850 for a month last year. A test. Performed beautifully. Got some gorgeous prints. The only times it left scratch marks on the paper was when I inadvertently put in a paper that was not for that line of printers. (HP sent me that by mistake. :)) And even with that kind of paper, I could print square pics in the middle of the sheet without problems.

OTOH, it was the second generation of that particular line. I did read various complaints about 9180 online.

Cool wheel design on that Italian car -- is that a sign of the times?

I pretty much just use my photo printer to print images that I use in art projects - it's too slow to use for large, high-quality prints, and most of the time when I'm sharing the equivalent of snapshots, I just post them online, and let other people decide if they want to print them for themselves.

Of course, part of the reason I switched to slide film was that I was tired of storing all the prints, and then I made the switch to digital because storing the slides was becoming a problem too. So why would I want to turn all but a handful of the really great images back into prints?

Note to Mike Mundy: If you're using HP Premium/Premium Plus paper with that 8750, its lightfast qualities aren't too far behind the pigs used in the 9180/8850. (Harry Wilhelm agrees, for what that's worth.)

And, speaking of the 8750: I've been using one since buying it new over four years ago. I've printed work for other photographers and graphic artists with it, printed several portfolios of my own, plus prints for a one-person show. Besides having long ago paid for itself, it's been stone-reliable, although I nonetheless managed to find myself a second, barely-touched 8750 last year to mothball as a spare just in case.

I always felt the 8750's black-and-white (tri-tone) output ran rings around the 9180, with proper tonal detail and virtually none of the bronzing/gloss differential/metamerism that I saw in a few too many prints from those later HPs. (Color output is equally stunning.) By the time people using the B-series printers found workarounds to these issues (or some new and pricey paper), a sizable percentage of those printers apparently started to fall apart of their own accord. Love's labors lost?

So, Mr. Mundy, I suggest you stick to that 8750 for a while. You were ahead of the curve without knowing it.

And, never mind the Ferrari. Tesla's where it's happening, baby!

- Barrett

After more than four years of nearly glitchless use of an HP8450 I was thinking on a B9180 to replace it lokking for a bigger machine, but after all I read... no way, HP!

As for home printing... it's not a matter of saving money but of getting -or trying to get- what you want from your image, not what the lab does. It may be very rewarding... and frustrating sometimes. But so is photography, isn't it?

I got my lightly used 9180 on eBay to replace an Epson 2200 soon after you, among others, recommended it. It eventually became fussy about feeding thin paper from the lower tray. It's never been fussy about feeding single sheets from the speciality tray, and the quality on Ilford IGGFS or Hannemuhle Photo Rag Duo has kept this amateur very happy. The hp software seems much tidier on the Mac 10.6.3 than under Windows XP.

I stopped leaving the printer powered up between sessions, because I got obsessive about wasting energy., Maybe that's what's saved me from excessive ink wastage too? I guess I'll have to move back to an Epson when the hp fails or the ink supply gets too difficult or expensive.

According to the trusted source, Top Gear, the Ferrari is a pretty good printer, but not the best: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSdbTS8bhvQ

These days you need to recommend a Bugatti Veyron.

In fairness to myself, I must say that I'm a results guy. I always care about what the print looks like first and foremost. And the B9180 does give excellent results. When the prints look good, they look really good. I probably haven't had more than a 10% wastage rate all told.

The thing about the printer that really kills me is that is uses ink of the priming cycle when you're not even printing, so it can suck down ink even when you're not using it. This just irritates my cheap gene intolerably...it hasn't been a piece of cake to keep it running, but ink waste and cost was my biggest problem with it.


My B9180 works well but I don't print a lot. So most of the ink goes into self-cleaning. Not a nice thought, but when remembering my experience with the very first Epson photo printer, the Epson Stylus Photo, and later the Epson Stylus Photo 1200 with their almost permanently clogged printing heads, then the HP is paradise. On the other hand this self-cleaning costs a lot, as a cartridge comes 29 euro apiece, and you need eight of them.

The day the printer is discarded you will loose about 116 euro worth of ink, which corresponds to the average quantity of ink contained in the printer. In addition you can throw away all the spare cartridges you stockpiled. You have to stockpile, as it generally takes weeks before ordered supplies are delivered.

When adding all the other trouble associated with printing, especially colour management, I sometimes wonder if it would not make sense for me to stop printing altogether and just enjoy watching the pictures on a fine, calibrated screen. And to show them around an iPad might do.

I've wondered if Dilbert was working in the HP printer division. I sent the VP for printing and imaging a letter about my experience with the B9180 but never got a reply. Then I read he was being eased out, poor fellow. Since HP won't admit they ever had a problem, all I can do now is boycott their products and point people to the Ferarri 599!

After pushing a couple thousand bucks worth of ink through an Epson R2400, it has come to this. For B&W prints I use the Epson. Works great without special RIPs. For color, I now upload my files to the nearest Costco. $2.99 for an 11x14 and the prints are closer to what I see on my profiled and calibrated screen. Costco even has their own printer profiles you can download, but the results I get are so close and consistant that I have not bothered to do so. A friend who went straight, gave up newspaper photography, and opened a high-end portrait studio turned me on to Costco. The people that work in their photo lab seem well-trained and can answer my questions. Amazing.

Just one more voice added to the "9180 is amazing WHEN…" mob. Black and white prints with this on silver rag are amazing. And so is the speed of ink use, even with cleaning.

Just to update, I replaced my MK/C printhead and C cartridge, cleaned the NEDD sensor, realigned and recalibrated, and color and density seem back to normal, but meanwhile my stock of Harman Gloss FB AI seems to have changed a bit due to changes in humidity, so I'm getting scratches, which are incredibly frustrating. I'm flattening the paper overnight or maybe longer in a cold drymount press to see if that helps. Hate to toss a box of paper for this reason. The ability to print color on baryta, and particularly Harman Gloss FB AI, which is the same base as Ilford MGIV FB subbed for inkjet, is one of the things that actually appeals to me about inkjet printing.

I'm also not terribly enthusiastic about Tonermax, though they do have the lowest prices. First one of the items on my order was missing, though it was on the packing slip. They fixed that rather quickly. Two cartridges were in the foil but not the original boxes--turns out they were expired --turns out expired cartridges invalidate the warranty. The expiration date is on the outer box and the cartridge itself, but not the foil packaging, and is encoded electronically in the cartridge, so the printer will warn you, if you attempt to install an expired cartridge. Waiting for a response from Tonermax on this.

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