« Can You Really Not Go Home Again? | Main | 'Little Book' Update »

Thursday, 26 August 2010


I always thought inktjet printers were based on the razorblade business model: sell 'em cheap, suck 'em dry with the ink.

But apparently the head snaps off the razor after 50 shaves as well.


I recently added an external waste ink container to my R2400. I did this after taking the printer apart for a clean and realising what was going on every time I did a head clean or turned the printer on (I now leave it turned on). It was shocking to me, seeing the ink flow into this bottle, how much gets wasted but does explain why the cartridges are 'always low'.

As part of this upgrade, I also installed a continuous ink system. Together, these mods have given the printer a new lease of life (although its paper feeding issues almost tempt me to throw it out the nearest window on regular occasions).


Ctein, I did pretty much the same thing with my Epson 2200, only I supplied my own tubing and waste ink bottle. It took most of a day to work my way in and back out. (Perhaps the 2400 has an easier path?) Found reset software on the web. It's worked brilliantly ever since.

One side benefit is that you get to watch your precious ink flood into the bottle when you clear a clogged nozzle. That is a sobering sight. Now, in addition to daily nozzle checks, I print every day a homemade graphic containing each ink color in gradation from light to dark. Printing takes little ink, and it keeps the nozzles clear.

I think it's really crappy of manufacturers not to include accessible waste ink tanks with all printers. Maybe we should be shipping all this planned obsolescence garbage back to the countries that make this stuff?

I was just looking at this yesterday. Now here's the 50 million dollar question (billion dollar question?) - how good are Lyson CIS (continuous ink systems). They claim similar gamut, color, and longevity as Epson originals.

Does anyone use them (or something similar) in a professional context? Or are we married to Epson / Canon. I want people who have considered this rationally and not in a knee-jerk manner to let me know what their thoughts are. I am thinking archival prints not wallet photos. A family portrait that may get hung on a wall.

Everywhere you look, bad design.

I ran CIS (not Lyson; this was earlier) on an Epson 1200 with MIS pigmented inks, and on an 1160 with quadtone B&W inks. Both systems were completely trouble-free.

For the color system there was of course the issue of profiling these inks, which were nothing like the dye inks the 1200 was made for. For the B&W it was even more interesting, I came up with my own way of linearizing (I think there are "best practices" guides out there now, but this was a long time ago).

I'm now back to using Epson cartridges (in my little R800; all I've got right now). I went CIS previously because I wanted pigmented inks, which weren't available in the mainstream. Now that they are I'm doing it the easy way. If my printing level increased I might reconsider that for cost reasons.

(In addition to the $300 rebate on the Epson 3880, there's a $500 rebate on the Epson 4880, incidentally. The 4880 uses 110 and 220 ml cartridges, and supports roll paper; the 3880 uses 80ml cartridges and is sheet-fed only. So far I have been strong.)

Darn. I've been sitting on the fence about getting a printer. I'm afraid the 3880 for $800 is going to push me over the edge.

I am sorry but this is a sign of the times we live in today ‘throw it away and buy another one’ how else can industry keep making a profit.
These are the problems one gets when making what is basically an analogue art form electronic. Give me film and a good darkroom any day.

Obscene is not the word... I'm not sure I can think of a word strong enough. Bad design indeed.

Sounds like what I call 'vicious engineering'.

I have always preferred designs that are easy and inexpensive to maintain and repair over (supposed) long component life.

And while I'm on my soap box.
If those 50 pins can line up with a variety of CF cards then why oh why can't interchangeable sensors be plugged into DSLR's. Just think of it, a 5~6 MP "low light" luminance only B&W sensor for the gritty night club and street shooting scene. Then, come the dawn plug back in the 14~18 MP color sensor.

With the Epson 7600, and probably other 'pro' Epson printers, the pads and ink level in the reservoir never seemed to be more than 1/3 to 2/5 full when the printer claimed it was full. Resetting the counter made it good for another full round and even then it would not be full, but I never wanted to press my luck beyond that.

That in mind, I did the hidden keystroke combination reset (also found on the web)on my Epson 2200 printers some time ago and no problems since (knock on wood). It wouldn't be surprising if the same held true for just about every Epson printer since it isn't the printers, but the consumables that fill the bank account.

Eventually when Epson was selling off the 3800 models at such low prices it was like buying just a set of ink cartridges, a bargin hard to pass up. Maybe the 3880 is getting into that category?

I'm not at all sure I'd say that modern inkjet printers were badly designed. For one thing, the technological progress has been so rapid for much of their life that there's really little point in trying to use one beyond a relatively few years; I certainly wouldn't want to be stuck with Epson 1200 gamut or permanence today.

Designing things to last "forever" is not always the right thing to do!

Dear Mike,

You could very well be right, I'm just afraid to find out the hard way. The replacement carts aren't a big expense on the 9800. The business with the 2400 was/is a pain, to be sure.

A big concern, aside from not knowing when reservoirs are *really* full, as that I don't know how the internal counter works, so I don't know if its estimate of life vs real life for my printer would roughly match yours.


Dear DDB,

If I weren't in unusually good financial shape this year, I wouldn't even be contemplating a 3880; the quality of the 2400 is more than good enough to make me happy for several more years. I seriously resent a design that, because of a known consumable, near-to-forces me into a new printer. That should be my decision.

I decided the 4880 likely doesn't work for me, despite the larger and even more economical ink cartridges.

The problem is the physical size of the machine. It's twice as deep as the already-substantial 3880, and I have serious doubts about fitting it in my office. Plus, it weighs more than twice as much; I am not certain I could even install it myself.

What I can't figure out is whether the Colorburst edition of either printer is worth the extra money. Can anyone reading this tell me what the value of the ColorBurst RIP Software is over the standard Epson driver? Especially as regards pictorial, not commercial printing?

pax / Ctein

But, if I do trade up, it'll be my choice, not something imposed on me by a greedy design.

Please tell me you're kidding.
Do you honestly think your urge for a new Epson is gratuitous? Ever heard of marketing?
I'm not saying Epson.next isn't a badass. But thinking that because you hacked their printer you're not being “imposed on” is naive.

The money I've saved loading my own carts with MIS ink has been substantially more than the cost of having an Epson-authorised repair shop replace the waste ink reservoir. I did wince at the cost and cursed Epson for having the "error message" show up when the web tells us the reservoir is only half full, but I paid the price to get on with printing a project. Like you, Ctein, I love the results from my 2400, and I don't have the space for a 38XX, so I just feed the baby and keep on keepin' on.

Just for your information...

I had an Epson (consumer level) printer, got it for the pigmented inks several years ago. Kept clogging and having to do the clean head thing regularly enough. Took it apart to see similar bad design.

Went to one of the newer hp designs where it has the continuous cleaning lines that suck waste ink back into the individual cartridge area to be reused. Haven't looked back.

I think some of the high end printers also do this.

Dear Heitor,

You misread. I didn't say I wasn't being imposed upon, I said hacking my machine meant they couldn't impose the draconian choice on me.

Remember that I've been a reviewer for 30 years. I can tell when I'm being "marketed at," even if I'm not immune to the influence. That's different from coercion-by-malign-design.

pax / Ctein

After a major printing binge for a gallery exhibit this spring my trusty Epson 2200 went all wonky (technical term). I took it down to the local Epson service place for an estimate and they told me it was too big a job for them: It needed electronics (motherboard, basically) and new heads, ink pump, etc. They'd have to send it back to Epson for a complete overhaul... for $350.00

I checked pricing on a new 2880 and the prices for its (smaller than the 2200) ink cartridges and decided to go for the overhaul of the 2200. It's now like new.

(Speaking of overhauls.. Ctein, did you ever find anywhere that does cleanings of scanners? My Minolta Scan Multi wants to know...)

Dear Mark,

Nobody's mentioned any cleaning services to me.

Regarding the ink cartridge size in the 2200 vs the 2880 (and 2400), for most people it's actually the same price per usable ml of ink. In the 2200 printer, Epson was concerned that the ink counter might not be accurate, so the printer indicates a cartridge is empty when it still has another 30% (give or take 5) left in it. The 2400 and 2880 do a much better job of tracking ink consumption and run the cartridges down almost to empty before declaring them so. So, your money buys you 25% less ink with the later printers' carts, but you get the same amount of usable ink.

If that doesn't demonstrate the utterly arbitrary nature of ink pricing, I can't imagine what does.

'Course I was one of those people who bought a chip resetter and squeezed every last drop out of the 2200 carts, so my real-world ink costs went up when I got the 2400. Figgers...

pax / penurious Ctein

I own a printing company in Dallas, Tx. I ran across this from Epson. We have a 9800 which is one of the real large units that we use for proofing for our print jobs. It does a very good job 99% of the time. I'm curious why you go the route of printing these projects yourself internally. Is it a cost issue or time or just overall control? Not soliciting business since we don't do what y'all are discussing but just curious why you would not go to a digital press?

Ctein, thanks for the heads-up on the 3880 rebate. I've put off replacement of my Epson 750 for years until I had more time for printing. This, though, looks like too good a deal to pass up, especially considering the 3880 comes with $300 worth of ink.

Does this mean, though, that the successor to the 3880 is just around the corner?

Hmzzz, design for obsolescense is the word indeed, but it gets repeated everywhere you look, a D2x bought 4 years ago, won't get you a job at your local newspaper nowadays. I have an Nikon F bought by my dad in 1962 and that still works without a glitch, why can't we expect the same from our hardware today. And yes, i've got a R2400 as well, sucking my bank account dry. I hope the reservoir fills up soon and I can kick it out the window to be replaced with a more expensive thus in the end less expensive model. Will be an Epson though since my former HP quit service after a year of rigorous printing (12 A4 photo's I had a busy year that year) refusing to transport any paper what so ever!

Greetings, Ed

Dear Buzz,

An entirely fair question. Simply put, I'm one of the best color printers alive, so personal custom printing is a fair part of my total business, both for selling my own art and printing for clients.

Whether people are getting prints of my own photographs or theirs, they usually have an expectation that they're buying prints made by me, not merely supervised by me. I'm usually promising people 'hand printed' work, and they're paying accordingly.

I can certainly imagine farming work out (with the buyer's permission, of course) if I got hit with a large run/short deadline printing project, but none has reached that threshold yet.

I've got a 9800, too. Currently use it for any work larger than Super-B size. On the whole I am extremely happy with it. The only thing I don't like about it is having to swap black inks for matte and glossy, which basically means I don't do matte, ever, for myself, and I've told potential clients that unless they can promise me at least $4000 worth of printing in one session, I'm not going to consider it. So far none have.

(for those who aren't familiar with them, swapping inks on this large printer is extremely time-consuming and expensive).

pax / Ctein

Dear Chuck,

Yeah, I've wondered about that. I likely would be more interested in the lower price than any new bells and whistles, but I plan to make an inquiry or two before buying.

Unfortunately, if I learn anything it'll be strictly on the QT.

pax / Ctein

The comments to this entry are closed.