New Epson Stylus Pro 4880, 7880, 9880 Photo Printers


The photo printer has made some big strides in the last few years, and Michael Reichman at Luminous Landscape offers his thoughts about the new upcoming Epson Stylus Pro 4880, 7880, 9880 Photo printers, as well as the next generation Epson Stylus Pro 11880. I’ll summarize the high points of the article here and then provide some color commentary on making prints at home.

Epson Stylus Pro 9880

The new “880 series” brings:

  • Wider gamut in blue/purple through new “vivid magenta” ink
  • AMC Print Heads which are intended to reduce clogs
  • New screening technology which is intended to result in even smoother ink distribution (but as Reichman duly notes, it remains to be seen how this improves print viewing at normal distances)
  • Ethernet connectivity and Mac OS X Leopard 16-bit print drivers

And the cost: MSRP for the 4880 will be US $1,995, the 7880 will be $2,995, and the 9880 will be $4,995. Available Fall 2007.

Epson’s next generation printer is the Epson Stylus Pro 11880. At 64 inches wide and $15,000, it’s like the printing equivalent of a concept car, but one you may actually be able to test drive or own. Along with the technologies mentioned above, new higher-density print heads, media bar coding, and auto-cleaning are on the cutting edge. And that’s about all we know so far (thanks again to Mr. Reichman). Availability is also unknown.

Epson Stylus Pro 11880

So, what does this mean for the average photographer and printer?

I’d say it means business as usual. Most people still view their images primarily on their monitors. In fact manufacturers are doing all they can to make printing a photo–any print size–a more convenient task that can be accomplished while you’re out, say, shopping for groceries.

For those who do print and print big, what we have today is extremely good. Sure it could be easier and faster (especially easier) but quality digital printing is now within the reach of the average hobbyist. Anyone who spends the time and effort to master their printing skills can produce dramatically good prints from today’s tools. And I think this has improved from even just a few years ago, when I got fed-up with the print-making struggle and sold my printers.

Earlier this year I needed to update some prints in my portfolio. I didn’t want to buy a new machine, so I plugged my iBook laptop into my cousin’s Epson R1800, downloaded drivers, and prepared myself to lose some hair. Given those expectations, you can imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when portfolio prints rolled out of the machine on the second or third iteration. i.e., It took me only two or three test prints to get the color and contrast I wanted, and I’m fairly picky. Printers, and print drivers, have come a long way.

Still, I think it could be even easier. The experience got me scouring the blogosphere for the easiest printer with “high-enough” quality. And to be honest, now I want to print big–17 inches wide, minimum. That would really justify the effort for me (but it still has to be affordable and easy).

Well, 17 inch requirement notwithstanding, HP has a contender that some claim is in fact number one in quality. Canon too has its fans, but Epson seemingly continues to rule the roost despite complaints about clogging and wasted ink. Last March I walked the floor at PMA 2007 looking only at prints. To my eye the Epson prints were the most consistent across glossy and matte media, and across a variety of photographic subject matter. But, practically all the prints from the three manufacturers were “high-enough” quality and it’s difficult to compare machines without direct experience printing with them yourself.

Remember too that prints optimized for a trade show exhibit are one thing, your own images are another and here is where the practical matters of ease and speed and cost are just as critical as quality. There’s a good balance between these factors when a product is mature enough, and it seems close for the 13-inch wide printers (more ease, please).

As for me printing 17s, I’m still waiting…

by Laurence Chen |

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