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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pig. Printers: More Info Needed...

A couple of commenters to the previous post have hit one nail squarely on the head, which is that when considering a pigment printer, you need to consider a number of factors relating to ink. For each of the printers listed, it would be useful to come up with the hard numbers for the following:

1) number of inks each printer uses
2) amount of ink per cartridge
3) cost per cartridge
4) ink cost per ml.
5) cost of a complete set of cartridges

For instance, I don't think the number is published, but I believe that the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 uses ink cartridges with 14 ml. of ink per cart. (I have a notoriously bad memory for numbers; I'm recalling a conversation with an Epson rep several months ago). The Stylus Pro 3800 uses carts with 80 ml. per cart. Looking up the cost of the respective ink cartridges on the B&H website, it's $13 for an R2400 cart and $55 for a 3800 cart. While that's considerably more money for the latter, the cost per ml. is 93¢ for the R2400 and only 69¢ for the 3800.

The HP B9180 uses $32 carts with 28 ml. of ink per cart, for a per-milliliter cost of $1.14.

The Canon ipf5000, a more expensive printer, uses carts with 130 ml. of ink per cart that cost $75, for a per-ml. cost of 58¢. Cheaper even than the 3800, but not by all that much.

Into that equation, how important it is that the HP B9180, for example, takes 8 inks, for a total cost of $256 for a complete set of inks, while a complete set of 12 iPF5000 inks costs $900? Presumably, you're going to get more mileage out of a set of inks with more carts per set, so you'll have to replace them less frequently. So these numbers aren't a direct comparison, and that difference not quite as dramatic as it sounds.

A complete 3800 inkset costs $495 (9 carts at $55 per cart).

Lastly, you need to consider how much printing you do. Presumably, the less printing you do, the more sense it makes to get a printer with a lower unit cost and a lower per-cartridge cost, even if the cost per ml. of ink is higher. After all, you don't realize the savings for larger carts if you're not going to use them up. Or maybe a better way of putting that is, the savings aren't going to be as significant if you only use a few sets of cartridges over the service life of the printer.

(However, apropos my main recommendation, it's a poor economical choice to spend an hour or two of your life making a beautiful print that's going to fade in a couple of years. My early dye inkjet prints are fading unacceptably already, and I wasn't a particularly early adopter. Pigment inks and good papers are where it's at.)

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

23 Comments:

Blogger TBG said...

Another important factor is how much ink is used for cleaning/maintenance cycles. I've tracked my Epson 4000 for more than a year and for every ml of ink that goes on the paper, roughly .8ml goes to cleaning - just less than half - effectively doubling your ink costs.

8:30 AM  
Blogger John said...

More important than ink cost per ml is ink cost per print. Of course, this is much harder to determine, but different printers use different amounts of ink to print the same photograph.

9:19 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

John,
I can only obsess but so far....

--Mike

9:22 AM  
Blogger dasmb said...

Anybody know what the word is on Epson's new(ish) "Claria" dyebase inks? They're claiming 200 year color fastness and improved scratch/smudge/water resistance.

I picked up an R260 to replace my dirty-as-sin R200; the printer was less than the price of a set of pigment from MIS. The prints do seem to be of superior quality to the R200's with Epson ink, and the Ilford profiles match a lot better than I could ever match the MIS inks.

I'm still in the market for a pigment printer, if it can be done cost effectively. But I'm actually pretty satisfied with Claria so far, and if the ink itself actually offers the benefits Epson's claiming, it may be a stopgap for those of us who aren't ready to plunk down $250+ for a set of inks.

9:47 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

dasmb,
The early word on Claria is impressive. It's a limited inkset, I think only 6 colors (right? Correct me if I'm wrong...), and only for some of the smaller consumer printers, and you need to use certain papers (namely, the porous fast-drying types) to achieve the claimed permanence. But the numbers are very good, and the stuff is completely waterproof and very tough, by which I mean resistant to smudging and such. I don't know what the technology is that enables Epson to make a dye ink with the qualities Claria has, but Epson has always been a half-step to a step ahead of the rest of the competition in ink technology. Claria certainly seems to be the best choice in terms of ink for frankly amateur printers, although the limited colors will affect your ability to make truly photo-quality prints with it. (I don't mean to damn with faint praise, but these are real limitations....)

--Mike

10:15 AM  
Blogger Yuda said...

Look to Consumer Reports for per-print costs.

That said, they didn't investigate any pigment-based printers in their most recent printer report (from 7/06). Maybe in 2007's update...

10:35 AM  
Blogger fivewhistle said...

Hey, Mike!

(my first comment here...)

I have an R260. Very good construction and nice, rich colours from the claria inks. I agree, though, it's not quite, how you say, "photographic". Still, the images are worlds better than the Stylus 1200 that I bought in 2000 and easily good enough to fool friends and family.

I will use it mainly for contact sheets, proofing and quick snaps until I get one of the above pigment jobs later this year.

I should mention that my work takes me out of town for weeks at a time and so far, upon firing up the idled R260, I've had zero issues with clogging or spitting and the costly, annoying cleaning cycles that were the plague of the 1200 even after only a day and a half of sitting.

Highly Recommended (as they say at DPReview).

12:17 PM  
Blogger Light and Lens said...

With respect to cleaning cycles:

I recently purchased an HP all-in-one that uses their Vivera inks and am happy to report that, unlike my previous Epson with its Durabrite inks, very little ink has been "wasted" on cleaning cycles. I've printed many pages worth and heard the cleaning cycle on a regular basis, but the ink levels do not decrease anywhere close to what the Epson did. This is due to their new closed-loop pumping system and results in essentially no wasted ink. Despite the ink tanks being significantly smaller (probably about half to a third of the Epson), the actual "ink on paper" is much higher (~100%(?) versus ~50% according to the previous post).

Do the new Z series have the same technology? Do they assume that the monitoring feature compensates for clogged heads without worrying about wasted ink? What about the waste ink pad for those printers that use them?

You might also want to take into consideration the cost of a replacement head in all this. Some printers have replaceable heads, some don't, and somehow that should be included in the running costs.

You can obsess as far as you want, but perhaps at least being aware of the whole picture would help.

12:17 PM  
Blogger madmanchan said...

Two things.

1. The Canon ipf5000 wiki has a nice table that compares some of the current 17" pigment printers. The table includes many of the factors Mike listed.

http://canonipf5000.wikispaces.com/FAQ#Pros

2. Another factor to consider is the amount of inks that ship with the printer. Example: The Epson R2400 and Epson 3800 both come with full sets of nine cartridges each. (I believe the R2400 ink cartridges are 17 mL, not 14 mL.) Assuming that all cartridges are full (17 mL and 80 mL for the R2400 and 3800, respectively), the difference in ink is 9 * (80 - 17) = 567 mL, which equates to about seven 80 mL cartridges. Assuming $55/cartridge, this means the 3800 comes with about $385 more ink than the R2400. If we deduct this from the price of the 3800, we find that the 3800 is only about $130 more than the 2400.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Dave New said...

The biggest complaint I have with the Epson R1800 with its tiny 12ml cartridges is the way it clogs at the drop of a hat, then insists on refusing to do a cleaning cycle if you have less than 5% remaining in any of the cartridges.

I went through one session where I ended up replacing 3 differenct cartridges before I could do enough cleaning cycles (3 or 4, if I recall correctly) to get set to do one print. Even with cheap cartridges, that can get pretty expensive.

Someone pointed out to me on another blog that I could have put the almost-empty cartridges back in after cleaning the heads, and continue to use them until they were empty. Too late for the current batch -- they've already been shipped back for recycling. I'll try this stunt the next time around, though, and see how far I can stretch them.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

The printer I had before my R800 was the venerable Epson Stylus Photo 750. This was a dye printer, which blocked up on me totally once, before I cleaned it thoroughly with those alcohol soaked wipes, and got it back into service.

The very first prints I did with that printer have, without a doubt, faded (green is the most fade resistant of the dyes, it would seem).

However, later on in its career I printed with it on some Galerie Classic Pearl (and Gloss) paper, and those are doing pretty well so far. They are 'swelling' surface papers. (I suspect Epson have tweaked their dyes during the lifetime of the printer, too).

I switched to the R800 for the guarantees that pigments deliver, but I think with current dye papers I might be slightly more inclined to take a risk.

1:23 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

I swear by Ilford papers. Galerie Classic Pearl and Gloss are very nice surfaces, but I think the Smooth Pearl (and Gloss) papers make better prints. Classic tends to bloat blacks, making the image look a lot less detailed in dark scenes.

What's best about the Ilford papers is their profiles. They produce very nice results and Ilford is pretty good about keeping them up to date with modern printers.

2:10 PM  
Blogger mbb said...

Epson now has a wide-format Claria printer - the 1400, which replaces the venerable 1280. This seems to be how the do things - first the letter size (R260, or for pigment, the R800) then introduce a larger model. It's also hard to say that the R800/1800 actually has more colors because those "colors" include photo/matte black (only need one for the dye printers) and a gloss optimizer (not needed for dye). I think it may be too early to completely count out dye printers, of course, with the new higher price on Claria ink, it isn't clear that going to dye will really save money.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

mbb,
Thanks. Do you happen to know how much ink is in the "high capacity" 1400 carts?

--Mike

5:45 PM  
Blogger mbb said...

I don't think anyone knows yet - Epson sells "high capacity" carts for the 260, which have I think 20ml ink (vs 14 for the standard). My guess would be that the 1400 carts are the 20ml variety, but since the 1400 isn't actually out yet, it's hard to be sure.

5:55 PM  
Blogger bryn said...

Also of importance for occasional printers is the amount of ink required for unclogging. The bigger printers with tubes of ink, waste more ink when going through a cleaning cycle. Of course it's probably a smaller percentage of the cartridge so you probably still come out ahead on cost

6:03 PM  
Blogger bryn said...

Also, one more thing to consider, how much power do these while in standby mode? the big epsons use quite a bit running their fans. So if you don't turn your printer off when you aren't using it, you'll be paying an extra couple dollars a month in electricity (small relative to ink probably)

One way to mitigate this is to use a power strip such as the ones listed here that sense when your computer is off and turn off your peripherals

http://electrimetric.blogspot.com/2007/01/taming-peripheral-drain.html

For more information on how much power things use check out my blog http://electrimetric.blogspot.com
there will soon be an entry on printers.

6:20 PM  
Blogger mbb said...

Correction, I was being generous:

The standard capacity claria cartridges have 7.4ml of ink. The "high capacity" print "50% more" so by pure math one could guess 11.1ml, but still since epson doesn't want us to know how overpriced they are, they'll never tell us.

7:16 PM  
Blogger S_Lallement said...

What is a pig printer? Something like this, I presume:

http://artbig.com/rff/PigPrinter.jpg

Cheers,

Sebastien

10:54 PM  
Blogger Kjell said...

I have tracked the R2400 usage very closely, and when used frequently, I printed around 79 borderless A4 pages for each 9 cartridge inkset.

Using it frequently prevented any clogging, and I seldom swapped between photo black and matte black.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Note: for those unfamiliar with ISO paper sizes, A4 is 210 x 297 mm, or letter-size.

--Mike

9:59 AM  
Blogger Impasse Lebouis said...

Note: for those unfamiliar with ISO paper sizes, A4 is 210 x 297 mm, or letter-size.

--Mike


The information I have is that A4 size measures 8 1/4" × 11 3/4" while the U.S. Letter format is 216 × 279 mm

http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/iso-paper.html

12:18 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Pardon me, I should have said APPROXIMATELY letter-size.

--Mike

12:22 PM  

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