Epson Owes Me Big Time

I’ve owned Epson dedicated photo printers since the late 90’s when I was running Jon Cone’s Piezo System on an Epson 1270. The results, when you could get them, were stunning, mostly down to the Piezo Ink system with Quad Tone RIP that replaced the OEM Epson inks and workflow. Even today, the best prints I’ve made have been Piezo prints on Exhibition Matte. Nothing else comes close. The problem was the innumerable clogs you’d have to deal with, the improperly banded prints, the wasted paper and ink trying to clean print heads. Essentially, if you didn’t print everyday, and I don’t, with the Epson archival pigment ink systems you could expect constant, expensive problems. Constant head clogs; constant marathon head cleaning cycles that wasted massive amounts of expensive ink; occasional removal of the print head to soak in some magic solution promising to clean and unclog the head; reams of expensive exhibition grade paper fucked up by banded printing or ink smears or some other one-off mishap. I don’t think that printer ever stopped working, I just got so sick of it I trashed it.

The Epson 1270. If you like clogged print heads, You’re going to love this printer

From the 1270 I moved on to a wide carriage Epson 4000 pigment ink printer which printed up to 24′ width and had huge (and expensive) ink tanks. It did nice B&W – certainly not as nice as the Piezo system – but better than most wet prints I could do in the darkroom. Good tonal gradations, black blacks – when it printed. While it was nice to have the ability to print large, I never much printed bigger than 10×15 anyway, and, of course, the printer was a nightmare for clogged heads and banded prints and wasted paper unless you used it on a daily basis. And whatever software Epson bundled with it sucked. I eventually got so sick of it I took it to the dump and made a solemn promise never to buy another Epson printer, a promise I broke about 6 months later when I got a killer deal on a refurbished Epson R3000. Well, you can guess how that worked out and where that printer currently resides. Clogs, wasted paper, wasted ink trying to clean the heads etc. You’d think Id have learned by now. Off it went to the dump with another solemn vow – I will light myself on fire before I buy another Epson inkjet printer, period.

The Canon PIXMA Pro-100. Irrespective of what Canon claims, it sucks for B&W prints. If you’ve already bought one thinking you can print acceptable B&W, dont bother. Take it to the dump now and save yourself the hassles.

I’d read that Canon printers didn’t have all of the issues associated with the clogging and banding of the Epsons, and so bought a Canon Pixma PRO-100, a non-pigment ink 13×19 printer that promised exceptional archival (99 years) B&W prints via three dedicated black/grey inks. It didn’t clog or band so bad, and you could let it sit for good periods of time with no adverse effects, but the B&W output was terrible, with either blue or warm color castes that you couldn’t get rid of. I found the only way I could get any acceptable B&W out of it was to tell it I was using plain paper, which had the practical effect of just using the one black ink. And then it started to clog heads after I made the mistake of trying to use third party inks in it (the OEM ink tanks were tiny and super expensive to boot). So that went to the dump a few months ago. Now what do I do?


The Epson ET-8550. Finally Epson Has Made a Printer You Don’t Have to Take to the Dump in a Year

So, this November, with maybe 6 months to live, I’m printer-less and my wife is after me to print up a final accounting of a 50 year photographic career. Being the scufflaw I am, I had an idea. A lot of these big-box stores sell Epson/Canon Printers and give you a ‘no questions asked’ return policy if you don’t like it for any reason. I’m pretty sure I’m going to find a reason not to like it, but if I’ve essentially got the ability to print up a shitload of prints and then bring the printer back and get my money back, what’s the downside? So after doing my research, and finding a large, corporate merchant stupid enough to sell me one with a free return policy until January 30th, I bought…..another Epson. I decided, given the ‘free’ nature of the transaction, that I can in good conscience renounce my solemn promise to light myself on fire if I was ever to buy another Epson….I’m not buying this one, just using it free for 3 months. Consider it balancing the scales for all the money Epson stole out of my pocket for defective inkjet printers over the last 25 years. Epson richly deserves the balancing of the scales.

An Epson ET-8550 Eco-Tank archival (non-pigmented ink) 13×19 printer to be precise. On the advice of a reviewer of two, I also downloaded the Epson Print Layout software, (which for some reason doesn’t come with the printer, a huge oversite on Epson’s part because it’s so good – super intuitive while giving you all sorts of goodies to use ICC profiles to tweak your prints). The 8550 uses what it calls an “Eco-Tank” ink system: instead of using replaceable ink cartridges it has 8 empty ink tanks that you fill and refill with large bottles of Epson ink which are remarkably affordable. No need to cut corners with third party inks, no need to be buying overpriced teeny ink cartridges every week.

Plus, using the the printer with the Epson Photo Layout Software is a breeze; everything works perfectly. Never any clogging, no wasted inks, never a wasted piece of expensive Ultra Luster paper. I’ve gone through 4 50 print boxes of letter sized Canon Premium Ultra Luster, 3 13×19 50 print boxes of the same (great paper, super black blacks, beautiful tonal gradations), and 2 boxes of 50 print Pacific Inkjet Premium Luster (almost identical to the Canon Luster), all without wasting one sheet of paper. Given past experience, that is remarkable. No clogs; no banding; no need to ‘clean the head’ periodically. The printer just works.

Plus, its B&W output is exceptional. No annoying colorcasts, just a nice steely grey output that could be mistaken for a wet print. Plus, the EPL software has easily accessible and understandable ability to add subtle toning if that’s your thing.

All in all, the ET-8550 is an exceptional printer. Epson has finally figured it out. If you are a B&W printer who prints occasionally and tends to let the printer sit for a bit, this is the printer for you. OEM Ink is relatively inexpensive too.

I have printed so many prints on this thing that I’m surprised it hasn’t started smoking when I fire it up. It has been flawless; exceptional B&W prints with absolutely no fuss. But I’ve still got the box and all the supporting documentation, and the printer itself still looks new. But for some reason, I’m not sure I can look some kid in the eye at a return desk on January 30 and tell him I had a bad experience and I’m here to get my money back. Granted, after all Epson has put me (us) through – being their no cost Beta testers over the course of 20 years for shitty, unreliable printers – they richly deserve it.

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14 thoughts on “Epson Owes Me Big Time

  1. Dogman

    My first Epson printer was the R3000. I loved it. Never had a clog, never had a hiccup. Until about 2 years ago when it refused to recognize the paper I was using and refused to print. I replaced it with the highly rated Epson P700. After just under two years–still using the first full set of Epson inks–it will no longer feed paper…any type of paper.

    I hesitate to consider another Epson. I know they print great B&W photos, especially on the velvety cotton rag art papers I love. But I now consider them unreliable machines not to be trusted. I’m looking at the Canon Pixma Pro-200. I’m probably trading one problem for another but I’m too pissed at Epson to consider another of their products.

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Lee: Don not buy the Canon if you’re going to print any B&W. It’s the successor to the PRO-100. Don’t do it for my sake. Get the ET 8550. You will not regret it.

    1. Rob Campbell

      I did a similar servicing to my HP-abandoned B 9180. Not out of spite, but simply to break it down into bits that I could lift and take to the dump. Unfortunately, when I removed the inks, I managed to have a blue one spurt its final orgasmic spurt onto the table, up the wall, over a large map on said wall, and also down onto the carpet. That had never happened any time before when I changed inks. I wonder if it knew what lay in store for it later on? Perhaps it was just because the cartridge had stuck, not having been removed in a long time. Even so…

  2. Rob Campbell

    As a b/white lover, I went for the HP B 9180 a long time ago. Sadly, it gave up the ghost just as HP abandoned it. It used to give nice black/whites, but not such good colour, being pretty weak on reds.

    I have never replaced it – not with anything. My pretty A3+ prints now sit in long-unopened boxes, as I have intimated in the past…

    Were I a young guy, trying to get ahead in the business, I would be very tempted to print again, but not at my late stage. I understand your situation and desires, Tim, and am confident you’ll get the gig done, and find plenty of time to enjoy the aftermath. I feel it in my bones.

    Today, I got my left eye lasered in order to cut a hole through a sort of skin that had grown across the line of light through eye to personal sensor. The blur has gone, and compared to the right eye, which is to be attended to later on, being less affected than the left one, it’s been a revelation: it looks as if the left one has found about a stop more light, lots of fresh contrast, and it goes to show how, slowly, one can grow accustomed to failing vision: after the two cataract ops a few years ago, both eyes were as good as new! The subsequent decline was so subtle…

    One thing I’d mention, for anyone faced with cataracts of the eyes: don’t hesitate; they put drops in your eyes and that both dilates them and provides the anaesthetic. If you have fear of pain, forget it: there ain’t any, neither with the cataract ops nor the one I’ve just had for capsulatoma (?). Best of all is not needing ant such attention in the first place. The doc told me that no, it wasn’t just oldie goldies like moi that get these problems. For your own best sakes, never ignore anything that just doesn’t feel normal. I discovered my own, original problem of high pressure in my eyes because I had found it difficult to hold focus looking through the viewfinder. Auto-focus might have masked that for a long time. Another good reason for using old lenses. Anyway, the old, natural lenses were replaced by Hoya ones. Am I now part Japanese? 😉

    Season’s greetings to all of you!

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Same to you Rob. I hope your health situation gets a little better for you.

      Happy Holidays Rob, Religious and Secular.

    2. Dogman

      Hey, Rob. Glad to hear things are going well for your sight. And a Merry Christmas to you as well.

      I had cataract surgery this past summer and I immediately noticed improvement in my distant vision. Just recently on a follow up visit to my ophthalmologist it was discovered I had grown that secondary cataract filming. He laser beamed them away and it was astonishing how clear my vision became immediately. I had not noticed how my eyes had clouded up since the surgery.

      My only complaint is that my near vision is so damn poor it’s driving me nuts to switch to readers constantly and then back to no glasses. Or sunglasses to readers. And wearing those damn reading glasses on a string around my neck is also a pain. Although my distant vision is now almost normal, my ophthalmologist gave me a prescription for new progressive glasses with only minimal distance correction. I’ve worn progressives for about 40 years and the idea of continuing to wear glasses full time doesn’t bother me at all. At least now I won’t be so totally dependent on distance correction so I can wear regular Ray-Bans when outdoors in bright light.

      Now…if only someone could kill the floaters in by vision I would be elated.

  3. Lee Rust

    Tim, I used a 1270 for maybe 10 years but eventually gave up on it, just like you. Since then I’ve taken my occasional printing jobs to the only remaining photo store here in the hometown of Eastman Kodak. This Eco-Tank system though… it’s good to hear your real-life user experience.

    Rob, I’m getting ready to make the plunge into artificial lenses. Everyone I’ve asked has had a good experience. I’ve also heard about the possible need for a capsulotomy somewhere down the line, and how that generally goes pretty well too. I’ve been dragging my feet, but everything’s gotten too blurry in the past year.

    Have an enjoyable holiday season, one and all!

  4. Dan Newell

    I would second that Epson Photo Layout software. Much better than the original software for the P800 which is classified under the heading Coitus Interruptus.
    I must have gotten a good copy of the P800, the sucker just goes and goes and I don’t have to worry about having a savings account.

    Merry Christmas Tim, kick out the jams and take no prisoners!

  5. Robert Coscia

    If anyone has a really spectacular negative / image they would like wet printed on Fiber base paper, let me know.

    Large format negatives not an issue up to 4×5.

    Ive been using the Heiland LED cold light head (made in Germany of course $$$ ) and its pretty cool because you can do split grade printing without having to potentially take the negative out of register by utilizing the LED light color change Vs having to swap out filters either above or below the negative.

    My Epson ink jet clogged up on me, which I mainly used 99% for color printing, so I just do B & W wet printing now.

    I treat myself with a Velvia slide show every now and then Vs color print.

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