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Wednesday, 23 September 2015


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Do you have any sense of the difference between the 3880 and 4900, i.e., how might this compare to the 4900?

[Ctein replies: Ed, I'm going to engage in a certain amount of guesswork, because I've done very little with the 4900. The dot pattern on the 4900 will still be finer, but my P800 unit is good enough that I don't care. They may all be that good, but I don't know. The two extra ink colors in the 4900 give it a bit of a boost in the color gamut, but my strong impression is that the D-Max in the 4900 is no better than the 3880. In that case, what I said about improved tonality and color in the P800 ought to apply in comparison to the 4900 as well. But, guessing.]

Ctein, could you mention what paper choice setting you found best for the Canson paper? Thanks.

[Ctein replies: Charles, this is a funny business. I've used three very similar (in look, anyway) baryta-type "air-dried F" surface papers. For one of them, the paper manufacturer recommended the printer be set for "semigloss" paper. For the second, "gloss." The Canson data sheet didn't say. So I flipped a coin and decided "semigloss." Y'know, I don't think it much matters]

longior, non legi ... per adesso

I just received my P600. Aside from a quick shot with my two standard test images, just to make sure that the thing worked,and that there were no hidden problems, I have not yet used it. I've been too danged busy to give it a workout.

My 2880 sold in less than 24 hours on eBay, so with the rebate, the P600 is almost free!

OK, I admit I haven't done any tests of my own yet since I just saw your review, but I'm a bit confused by your "printer manages color" recommendation. Does soft-proofing still work properly if you turn the color management over to the printer? (I print from Lightroom, in case that's relevant.) It's not evident to me how you can anticipate the print's appearance if you allow the printer's firmware to interpret the Adobe RGB colors you transmit to it.

I'm not arguing, mind you. I just don't understand how this would work.

[Ctein replies: Chris, I would note that this is a place where Andrew Rodney and I strongly disagree, but I find soft proofing to be pretty inaccurate. It tells me roughly how the tone and color will transform when I print a photograph, but doesn't tell me anything about the nuances and subtleties that make or break a print for me. So, for me, soft proofing is an "I'm in the ballpark" tool. I find that the differences in appearance between the soft proof with different profiles is smaller than the difference between a soft profile and a physical print.

Accordingly, I am entirely happy with an approximate soft proof. I just grab the canned profile that's closest to the paper I'm printing on and tell Photoshop to use that for soft proofing. It tells me as much as I'm going to learn from a soft proof.

I don't use Lightroom, so I have no idea if things will be different there.]

Ctein, can you give us a better idea of the color space coverage for the new Epson inks? Such as larger than RGB, or around the range of the pro-photo color space. If I was not having some house contruction work done I would be ordering the printer.

[Ctein replies: Mathew, Ummmm, nope. I've got no way to measure such things. I think Googling "color gamut" and "P600 (or 800) printer" would get you some such.]

Nice review...I'm sold. Now if I can just convince someone to take my HP B9180 off my hands, I can move forward.

Very timely review. I've used a 3880 for years, and all of a sudden it needs multiple new ink cartridges! That, and I've been printing a lot from Sigma DP Merrill cameras, B&W prints, and as astounding as they are the better handling of blacks and detail will help.

My preferred paper is Epson Cold Press Natural, which complements the vision I have in mind for the prints. I have been using Pixelmator for printing, after processing in Sigma Photo Pro and then refinement in Iridient Developer.

One thing that bugs me about the 3880 is that getting paper properly lined up in the rear - for thicker matte papers - is dicey. I often have to try and try again to get the paper properly inserted. I hope this too has improved with the P800.

In any case, printing is really fun and rewarding. Viewing images digitally becomes dissatisfying in comparison.

Do you use the ABW (advanced black and white) mode for b/w prints, or stick to your same workflow for b/w as you describe here for color, for instance using Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique?

[Ctein replies: Jeff, I print everything, including my B&W infrared photos, as if they were color. ABW is really slick and produces great results, but I am not a fan of it for reasons I expressed in my comment to this column.]

Any comments on paper feed? It's my understanding that all thick papers must be fed from the front with no option for rear feed. Is that correct? Sounds like something I wouldn't be happy with, but maybe I would just get used to it after using it for a while.
Also did you try out the optional roll feeder? If not do you plan to? I wonder how useful it is without a built in cutter.

[Ctein replies: BJ, personally I'd rather be feeding paper from the front than the rear. I've got easy access to the front. I didn't test the roll feeder.]

Ctein, thanks for the reply. I wonder, though, if using 'printer manages color' places one in somewhat the same potential predicament (not having control over outcome) compared to using a specific profile.

[Ctein replies: Jeff, it's really not the same thing. The kind of color management you do when printing is a tweak, to optimize the performance of the printer. It'll be different, slightly, any time you change printers (or print drivers). Profiles aren't portable. But that's all about trying to get a printer as close to ideal as possible. I think that is a very different thing from making wholesale changes in the tones or hues of a photograph that are entirely dependent for their existence on the features of one particular printer driver.]

I don't know that this is really on topic, but it's interesting that Epson has decided to discontinue the 4900 upgrade path in favor of what is essentially the successor to the 3880; while they have 11-color full-roll-size printers in the new series, they start at 24 inches and are stand units rather than desktops. That leaves an interesting question of where to go whenever my 4900 gets unacceptably cranky, and a lot of options.

[Ctein replies: Tim, is that a known fact or an inference on your part? If the latter, it could be wrong. I do know that there was no migration path downward from the 4900 to a "3900" because the print-engine form factor simply wasn't compatible with that sized chassis. So, any upgrade to the 3880 had to be an independent path. The P800 doesn't mean the x900 path is dead (though it could be).

Maybe we'll get some info from our Epson readers, he hinted. ]

> But as I repeat, ad nauseum, “Data trumps theory.”

Or, as they say here (Germany), "Versuch macht klug" (experiment makes you wise) or "Probieren geht über Studieren" (trying it out beats studying it).

Thank you Ctein for this thorough review. I know where I'll be headed when it is time to retire my second 3880. I like the idea of the front feed too, as it makes my setup easier to manage.

Ctein - it's an inference, but I think a very strong one. It's not the existence of the P800 that makes me think so, but the existence of the P6000 to P9000. It seems pretty clear that they have a whole series set up, and would be somewhat odd of them to infill after the fact.

Ctein, a terrific review and very helpful replies to readers' questions.

Just a simple question from me: how does the footprint of the P800 compare to that of the 3800/3880? I managed to shoehorn my 3800 into the space I'd built for my old 2880, and I'm not sure if I can squeeze in anything more than a tiny bit larger.

[Ctein replies: Rodger, it's identical. If you're flat-feeding special media, it's even less, since you don't need full sheet-length clearance behind the printer.]

Dont know about he U.S.A. but there is a significant difference in price between the P600 and the P800 here in Europe

Thanks for this informative review.
Any idea how 1)tonal separation and 2)the blacks might compare with a piezography print?

[Ctein replies: Nope!]

I retired my canon ipf5000 after 9 or so years (printheads needed replacing etc, needed 6 or 7 new ink cartridges), and got the P800. So far it's working great. I kept my canon roll feed unit, mounted on some blocks of wood behind the printer and use that for roll paper. It is a little fiddly to get it aligned properly, but once the paper is in it works well. If i use some thicker paper and need the from feed, I'll probably have to move the blocks.

It agree that if one prints only with one specific printer, OEM ink, a small number of select media that match up reasonably well in ink loading requirements of the printer driver media settings, then a closed system "printer manages color" approach can work very well. The printmaker can learn to anticipate the subtle quirks of that system and make his/her image edits accordingly and indeed become pretty efficient at it.

That said, there were good reasons the industry developed spectrophotometers, CMMs, ICC profiles, soft proofing on calibrated displays, etc., over the last twenty plus years of digital printing. An ICC color managed workflow delivers an open system platform, allowing the printmaker to move smoothly with the same printmaking skill set from one printing system to another and not lose the control that otherwise occurs when going from one closed loop printing system to another. For example, I can prepare an image on my P600 in my studio, then if I want a larger print size, move the job to my Canon IPF 8300 here in the same studio and get very consistent output with very little rework involved. Were I using the "Epson color controls" workflow for my P600 as Ctein does, I'd essentially have to start the job over from scratch to get comparable output between the two different printers.

Just saying that many printmakers aren't likely to abandon open color management principles and practices in favor of an aRGB/Epson Color Controls workflow no matter how well it might work in a closed print shop environment, because the method isn't extensible to any other printer platforms.


[Ctein replies: Mark, I disagree with your analysis on several points, but this is exactly the kind of discussion I requested be held over to the future column, so all I will say is, "No."]

I already stumbled on the inadvertent switch of the black inks, and I was not aware of the manual setting option (admit did not RTFM). And I will test the "print manages color", I'm using the same Canson Baryta paper (semi-glossy you wrote). Thanks a lot.

I would love to see the stained glass dome/light photo offered as a TOP print, hint hint. ;-)

[Ctein replies: Greg, thanks very much! The print looks even better-- the JPEG came out kinda "cartoony"-- the blue-greens are too intense and flat.

My next sale isn't scheduled until the end of next year and it doesn't include this (no spoilers, sorry). I don't think there's space in Mike's sale schedule for a single-print sale by me between now and then, but let's see what he says. I'd be agreeable. TOP doesn't want to have too many sales; each should be special.]

Thanks for the great review. Is the P600 identical to the P800 except for paper size?

Is there any reason to believe that the P800/600 will be less susceptible to the clogging issues that plague the older Epson printers?

[Ctein replies: Chris, since I have never, ever had head-clogging issues with any Epson printer I have owned (save the 2400 that I stupidly left sitting unused for over half a year, while I was writing Digital Restoration) I can't speak to that. Personally, I don't think Epson printers are "plagued" at all; I think it's Internet sample bias. That is, it's a known failure mode, but that doesn't mean it's common. You can't tell from the number of complaints because you don't know the size of the sample space]

Do you know of any technical reason that Epson is not "upgrading" the printer-managed color space in Windows to aRGB? Because my household is all Windows, I'm stuck with it. Is Epson ever planning to fix this issue?

[Ctein replies: Greg, as I understand this (from Dave Polaschek), it's not an Epson thing but a Windows thing. The chunk of Windows code that the Epson driver talks to to print only supports sRGB. So, it might get better in future versions of Windows.]

Thanks, it seems like the P800 is a solid advancement and it's time to upgrade my aging 4800 (with Image Print RIP)
Can I assume from your comments that I can safely forgo a RIP with the new machine?
Re Soft Proofing, I have always treated Soft Proofing as 'approximate' as well, but I always assumed it was my hardware issue. (Apple Cinema Displays) Folks who swear by Soft Proofing usually have wide gamut high bit depth displays.
Even the 5k iMac which has incredible resolution but is still limited to sRGB and 8 bits. Sadly Apple still doesn't support 10 bit color.

Re Upgrade Path. Epson has already announced 11 ink Sure Color printers,using new Ultrachrome HDX inks but so far only 24" and above the P7000 & P9000 They also introduced a P6000 and P8000 with a smaller ink set (perhaps the same as the P800??)
So if you want Epson's best ink technology, it appears that there is no longer a 17" option
This is not to say that the P800 isn't wonderful, but I don't buy printers that often so I like to buy the best available technology and keep it a long time. If there was a 17" printer (like the 4900) with their best ink set, that's what I would have bought.

[Ctein replies: Michael, I am hoping someone from Epson will chime in, but seeing as the large format printers were announced only a week ago, assuming that Epson is done "upgrading" their lines seems, well, premature. Reading tea leaves in a cup not yet drunk.

I've never compared any of this to ImagePrint. I have a friend who swears by it. Someday I might do a comparison. Or not.

My dissatisfaction with soft proofing is not a display hardware issue. My iMac display is plenty good enough to see the mismatches that vex me. We can talk about this more when I write the next Profiling column. ]

Totally OT, and FYI. The Phoenix Public Library has ordered forty-one copies of Saturn Run. I am number one in the holds queue.

Your book is going to pay for a lot of ink!

Ctein, Just wondering what colour space you're using in Photoshop. Does the printer software convert the image to AdobeRGB when you specify that for printing. I use Lightroom 5, which uses ProPhoto working space. Does the image source in a larger colour space have any affect on the output, or do you need to convert to AdobeRGB before sending the image to the printer? I have an R2880 and Canson Baryta, so will be trying this out (on a Mac of course).

[Ctein replies: Wayne, no you shouldn't mess with your working color space. Most of my work is done in ProPhotoRGB, because that's best for importing from digital cameras - there's less clipping of the extrema.]

Thanks for the review. My HP B9180 is still hanging in there with only one printhead replacement since I bought it new, and I'm still happy with mine, but at least now I have the sense that I have someplace to go next and I can throw out its enormous box and reclaim a little space in my storage unit, for now at least. One interesting thing I've discovered, which may apply to other printers, is that its performance has improved (meaning fewer visible artifacts) since moving from New York to Honolulu, presumably thanks to the higher humidity here, so if life brings me back to the mainland, the printer will stay in the islands.

Clogs are much less an issue with modern Epson versions, it seems, except for the 4900. There are far more complaints online about the 4900 compared to other models, and an 'insider' (in the sales world) confided to me a year or so ago that production was halted for a period in recognition of the concerns.

I'd also like for someone from Epson to chime in....especially concerning any 4900 P version on the horizon....

I’d like to come back on Craig’s “pizza wheel marks” question. Did you also look at the SC-P800 prints outdoors in (bright) sun light? I only started noticing those irritating glittering pizza wheel streaks in very dark (and saturated) areas of my SC-P800 prints on glossy paper when I took the prints out on the balcony. The marks are usually not visible inside in a normally (dimly) lit room. Hahnemühle FinaArt Photo Rag Pearl does show the marks even when only dimly lit, though.

When I’m looking at the paper transport mechanism of the SC-P800 I can’t really imagine people not having those pizza wheel marks on glossy paper prints as it seems the sharp pizza wheels inevitably have to break the gloss coating of photo papers if they are doing their job of holding the paper down and in place right.

Btw: Beautiful example images :-)

[Ctein replies: Miles, thanks for the compliments!

No, really, I don't see pizza wheel marks. Maybe you should check your " purity of heart and nobility of spirit" rating in Photoshop. Mine is 8.3. If yours is below 7.0, you might have pizza wheel problems. [vbg]]

Andrew wrote earlier:
One thing that bugs me about the 3880 is that getting paper properly lined up in the rear - for thicker matte papers - is dicey. I often have to try and try again to get the paper properly inserted.

I used to have this problem as well but I've found that the following technique gives much greater success.

Feed the paper in the back as usual and press down slightly until the printer starts to draw the paper inwards. Then keep the downward pressure on with the tips of your fingers at the top of the paper. You will find that the printer gives a bit of a kick back before continuing with drawing in the paper. Pushing against this kick back definitely increased my successful load score. I think what happens is that the kick back without the finger pressure often causes the paper to shift slightly and that results in the misaligned error message.

If You reprint Jewels of Kilauea, I vote for Competing Ferns.
I have the Dye then I could do my own comparison.
What do you use to Scan those Negs?

[Ctein replies: Michael, a Minolta Dimage Scan Pro Multi. I now own 2.7 of them.]


Thank you for clarifying the color space issue with Windows. I have a windows computer and wondered why. I can only guess that the web, which uses sRGB, with its massive number of Windows users, makes it not an important upgrade for the MS softwares.

For Canon printer users the ImagePROGRAF Pro-1000 17″ printer is about to be released. No real info at this point. Will be interesting to see what it can do - I'm still using a 9 year old iPF5100!

Windows: I can set my R2880 printer to Automatic Mode: let the printer manage color - and there is a choice between sRGB and Adobe RGB. I choose the latter and send the image TIF, prepared in Adobe RGB, to the printer, for example, from within Picture Window Pro. I don't see where Windows intervenes in the choice of color space.

As an owner of Epson 3880 I can attest that pizza wheel marks are very real and only way one will not get them is if one is using front feed path.

If one is using other paper paths they will be there, there is no physical way to avoid them, those pizza wheels _WILL_ touch that paper and no amount of "karma" can change that reality.

They will be most noticeable on non-matte papers in dark areas, one will be able to see them with naked eye if lighting conditions are right and one inspects them carefully enough (and my eyesight is below average).

IMHO only way one will not notice them is if one is giving very cursory look and/or is inspecting under very diffused/poor lighting conditions and/or has very poor eyesight.

[Ctein replies: iXandra, you're new here, aren't you. [s]]

Ctein, you'll probably like this page, Chicago Cultural Center shot before the restoration of the dome. The dome is believed to be the largest Tiffany glass in the world. Some of these are extremely high resolution 360's shot many years ago. It also shows you another place to visit when in Chicago, the Elk's memorial. It's free and open 7 days a week, even parking is free in the visitor parking lot on the south side.


BTW, here is one reason why _NOT_ to get P800 if you already own perfectly fine 3880: If you are user of non-Epson papers and don't have a way to create your own paper profiles you won't have a profiles for it yet.

[Ctein replies: iX, ... or one can't/won't pay a third party like Andrew to create good custom profiles for you.

But, my experience has been that "canned" profiles, whether from the printer maker or the paper maker, are, on average, not very good. Definitely not in the league of a custom profile. Which is why I didn't even discuss them. Also, again on average, using the printer-maker's nearest-match profile produces about as good results as the paper-maker's supposedly-customized profile.

It's a bit of a disappointing state of affairs. But, for example, if I print on something like Ilford Gold Fiber Silk or Canson Baryta Photographique using Epson's provided profile for a similar paper of theirs, it's not worse than using the profile that Ilford or Canson provides. Either way, not what I'd be recommending to people over a custom profile or over printer-managed color.]

Regarding "Printer Manages Color" in Windows. This was discussed at some length in the previous ToP thread on CM. Since then, on Lula there was a discussion in which several people tested setting the printing space to be the same as the image space in Photoshop on Windows.

So if your image is in ProPhotoRGB for example, set the printer space to be ProPhotoRGB as well, together with Photoshop manages colors. Photoshop will show a great big warning, but you can ignore it. Those tests reported on Lula clearly showed that this effectively turned CM, as "Printer Manages Colors" once used to. Whether this null profile conversion trick works on Mac as well, I have no idea, but I suspect not.

The other option in Windows is to print from Qimage, which unlike Photoshop, does have a proper color management off option.

That said, I'll be using a custom profile for most color printing.

[Ctein replies: Ferdinand, thanks for that report. OK, so there may be ways to get out of sRGB space when printing under Windows. Charles made that observation earlier in the comments, too. So noted.]

I'm a little confused, are you saying just let the printer manage color and don't look back?

[Ctein replies: Steve, always look back. 'Cause things change. And you may hit a weird and rare corner case. But, if you're running in the environment I describe, yeah, just let the printer do it.]

Do you know anything about "hacking" the P800 or P600? I have an R2400 that needs to be replaced, and have been using 3rd party inks with success. I also removed the waste ink lines so instead of going into the "diaper" below the printer, waste ink goes into a bottle. Do you know if either is possible for the new printers?

I am nervous as well about pizza wheels. After my experiences with the 2400, I have at times sworn I won't buy another printer without a vacuum feed.

There is one additional benefit concerning the new Epson P800 that you did not mention yet: The manual controls are on the front of the printer, not on the top as they are on the Epson 3880. Why does it matter?
It matters because my cat likes to sleep on top of the printer. He inadvertently hits the controls, the printer changes settings, initiates cleaning cycles and such. Well, the cat enjoys the humming noise as well as the gentle vibration of the printer and started hitting the controls on purpose: A case of animal/ machine misunderstanding - much to my disadvantage. The new model takes care of this issue.

Looks like Epson is introducing some new 24" and 44" printers:


P.S. Oh snap! I didn't read thoroughly enough. You already announced this. My bad (hope this doesn't sink me into pizzawheel purgatory)

[Ctein replies: Ned, well I certainly hope not! One's karmic fate shouldn't be dependent on an errant web post. That would simply be too unjust.]

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