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Thursday, 29 September 2011


This may be a strange question, but what connectivity options are there for the photo printers in the category you're talking about?

Is it all USB, or can you get ethernet models, for example?

I ask because my study isn't really spacious enough to fit a printer in, but I could easily place a printer below the workbench in my darkroom. USB wouldn't make the distance (at least not within spec, not to mention that running cables through the hallway isn't really an attractive option), while there are ethernet sockets in every room.


Thanks for your advice. One question: Do you have an opinion as to how long Epson inks are usable after the expiration date?

I turned 40 last Saturday. A monumental event in anyone's life but not as monumental as the Epson 7890 (24 inch printer) that arrived at my door the day before. Once I saw the size of the thing up close and personal, I knew that not getting the 9890 (44 inch) was the right choice. It was hard enough getting the 7890 up the narrow stairs, the 9890 would not have made it.

I'm no expert printer but I was a removal man for a number of years and it taught me two things, a sense of space and the sense to use it well. It's really not just the cost you have to live with when using large format printers.

Printers in this class should have just about all the ways possible to connect: USB, Ethernet and wireless ethernet.

About the only thing they won't have is Centronic Parallel Port. 8^)

Bernard, it all depends on the printer. There are printers with just USB, there are those with both USB and Ethernet, and there are those with USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi.

For instance, Epson R3000 (13x19) has all three. There are new HP, Epson and Canon 8x11 printers offering Wi-Fi connectivity beside USB.

As a rule of thumb in my experience (I'm a computer journalist. still. :)), the more expensive the printer, the more likely it is to have Ethernet.


The Epson photo printers offer ethernet connectivity in the larger sizes (> 3880).

FWIW, all Costco's I have been to have Epson 7880's in the photo center. Perhaps this column is about arriving at an in home solution?... but if you have an SRGB workflow, send an SRGB jpg to Costco and you will find that they can produce large prints at about 1/3 the cost of what I charge as a fine art reproduction specialist, with my own 7880. 99.999% of people will be unable to differentiate a print from a master printer vs said Costco print, IMHO. They print on Epson Premium Luster BTW (sorry matte paper aficionados).

If economics are important to your decision, I recommend outsourcing. Costco gets volume ink and paper straight from Epson, and it would be impossible to touch them on price because of it.

For Mike M: This is just my personal experience, and with an older Epson (the 2200), but I found expired inks often resulted in a lot more head clogs than when using fresh inks. While I keep spare inks on hand, I do not buy so many that they will expire before I use them.

Bernard: Some of the higher end printers have Ethernet, and more recently some are even coming with wireless connections. Just check the specifications pages on the manufacturer's websites.

Dear Bernard,

Lots of today's printers come with built-in Wi-Fi; it's a common feature on the cheaper ones. More expensive ones do have ethernet. Check the manufacturers specifications for the printer; they will always include this information.


Dear Mike,

My opinion is that the Epson Ultrachrome inks are good for at least 2 years beyond the expiration date listed on the package and for at least a year and a half after they are opened.

The ink is in an airtight bag; there really shouldn't be any difference in the life of a partially-used and and unused cartridge.

If your printer/cartridges sit for a long time without use, it's not a bad idea to take the cartridges out and give them a couple of shakes, like you would before installing them when they are new, just to make sure things stay mixed up.

I have no idea if any of the components actually can settle out, but since Epson recommends this as a caution with new cartridges, I figure it can't hurt and it might help.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Com'on get to the real article, enough foreplay.

Dear Frank,

Ain't gonna happen, not now, not ever. This is an INTRODUCTION. All the articles in this series will be INTRODUCTIONS.

If you ain't a newbie, skip'em.

pax / Ctein

Thanks, ctein. Looking at some cheap, nearly outdated ultrachrome ink. I'll take a chance and get back with the results.

Yunfat, Dry Creek Photo maintains the printers (and profiles) for Costco, and they say here that the paper choices are Fujifilm Photo Satin Paper (270 gsm) and Fujifilm RC Semi-Gloss Poster Board. This matches what I saw at my local Costco. And note that the Photo Satin paper has optical brighteners, and hence is unsuitable for archival uses. (And you pay about $9 for a 20x30 on the paper, but $25 for a 20x30 on the board, AND they don't keep very many sheets of the board in stock, I ran them out at least twice.)

So, it's a useful option, but it's not unfortunately in competition with any place doing "fine" printing.

I have found the result quality to be very good; the printer appears to be well-maintained.

Having the printer out of sight in another room can be a problem, print a file, get out of your chair, and find out: printer out of ink, wrong paper, paper jam, etc.etc.

With a B&W Laser it's %$#@ and reprint, with a photo printer you can waste big $$.


So glad you guys are doing this. I was thinking just the other day that something like this would be really useful.

Got myself an Epson R2000 a month ago, I couldn't afford the R3000 or the other high-end models. I can tell you that Ctein's comment about size is real. When I first saw the box and then when I saw the size of the printer I knew I was in trouble! There just wasn't enough space for that monster on my desk, or in any other place in the house. I had to do some ingenious re-arrangements to fit it somewhere.

And then I discovered another problem. Ink supplies. It appears that I was the first person to ever buy that printer in Greece, so the shop I bought it from needs about two weeks to get me the replacement cartridges. I was suspecting that, so I ordered a spare set of inks when I ordered my printer. The printer was here within a week, the ink cartridges two weeks later!!

Can anyone who has used both comment on the build quality of the Epson R2000 compared to the R3000?


Dear DDB (or anyone),

Are optical brighteners really a big deal in inkjet papers? People were worried about them in darkroom papers mostly because of concerns they could be washed out unevenly in processing and you'd end up with a print that could look mottled over time.

I know that brighteners can fade over time, but that is a subtle change in effective density and within the range that may be considered OK for archival standards.

So, does this really matter if you have a paper that you otherwise like?


Dear John,

I think that's a good point for everyone. For small cartridge printers, I would always want to have a spare set of carts on hand. You can get caught by surprise, for instance a head clog can cost a fair amount of ink to clear, and Murphy pretty well guarantees it'll happen at the least convenient moment.

For my 3880, I don't let myself get below 25% of a cart without a spare; for my 9800, 10%.

pax / Ctein

One thing worth considering when buying a printer and choosing between the eg. the Epson 2880/ R 3000 and 3880 printers is the cost of ink.
The price difference between the smaller printers and the 3880 more partely nulled out by amount of ink than comes with the 3880. Having the ability to print A2 is an added bonus.

The running costs are far less with the bigger printers as the price of ink per ml. ink is approximately a factor of 2.3 more expensive for a R2880 compared tio the R3880, at least here in norway. So buying the cheaper and smaller printer is not a good idea if you are going to print a fair amount.

I have a 3800, and did the price comparison 2 years ago and not much seems to have changed.
And when it comes to reliabilty I am very pleased, I have had mine for 2 years now and it has never clogged or had alignment problems.

Ctein, what I can tell you is that the online articles seem to be pretty solidly against optical brighteners for inkjet papers (including what Dry Creek photo says specifically about the Costco situation). John Cone Studio papers advertises they're free of brighteners, BreathingColor.com does, gicleeprinterreview.org cites Wilhelm as saying they're bad, Luminous Landscape has an article that's against them. I have NOT thought about the issue much myself, or read extensively, I was just casually assuming they were bad (and picking up Dry Creek's recommendations against). But when I look more closely, there does seem to be a fairly strong consensus against them. Wilhelm does seem to speak directly against them, but the only link I've found so far is down in footnote 7 of this.

So—casual survey of net articles suggests they're bad, with no oppositional articles by heavy hitters turning up, but that's really only a 15-minute review of the situation.

Dear DDB,


My experience is that betting against Henry Wilhelm is not a smart move on my part. He's right much more often than I. So, if he still thinks brighteners are a bad idea, I will do so.

pax / Ctein

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