I get asked my opinion about different equipment quite a lot and being a helpful sort of person I always try to answer any questions I get about the gear I use.
For this reason I have decided to start adding some reviews on the photo equipment I use in the hope that some of you will find it useful.
I’l try to avoid pages of technical specs as these are easily available elsewhere. Instead I’ll concentrate on what the equipment is like to use day in and day out and the performance and quality that can be expected.
If it proves popular I may eventually purchase equipment purely to review so if you have any gear that you really want reviewing then let me know.
The Epson Stylus Pro 3880
Ok so the questions I was asking when I was looking for a printer were, do I have the available space, can I justify the cost, and most importantly how good are the prints produced on this printer?
As you can see from the above image the Epson 3880 comes in a sizeable box which I just about managed to take up the stairs in my house on my own. I would recommend getting someone to help you if you can though.That is a meter ruler in the shot by the way.
Thankfully it is nowhere near the size of the 7xxx and larger series of printers which come on their own pallet :0
When set up the Epson pro 3880 doesn’t actually take up much more space than a Canon pro 9000 13″x19″ printer which is a pretty impressive feat considering the Epson outputs upto 17″ in width.
Here you can see the printer setup next to a Canon IP4500 A4 size printer. Although the Epson dwarfs it they both fit comfortably on fairly standard size computer desk in the corner of a room which makes them unobtrusive if you dont have a dedicated print room. Which of course means you wont have to persuade your partner to allow you to have a dedicated print room, unless you think you can of course
You can see the space it occupies while in action here
Set up of the printer is very straightforward, just a case of unboxing, removing some tape and then installing the ink cartridges. To install the inks you have to turn the printer on and press and hold the up direction button for 3 seconds and the lid will pop up.
Once you’ve done this the printer will begin charging the print lines which basically means drawing the ink out of the cartridges and into the lines and print head. This process took about 10-15 minutes. It is a fully automated process once you have physically installed the ink cartridges so you can go away and make a cup of tea while the printer does its thing.
On your return you can then run the head allignment tests, after which you will be good to go.
The cost of the printer hovers around the £1000 mark but you have to remember this does include a considerable amount of ink in those large 80ml ink cartridges compared to the much smaller cartridges found in 13″x19″ printers.
Once you allow for this extra ink the price difference between the 3880 and r2880 or r3000 becomes much less.
However there are several points I would make on cost, firstly how often will you actually print above 13×19″?
Once you have filled your walls and your family is struggling to find space for your “gifts” what will you do with those large prints?
Another question to ask yourself is how much do you actually print? If you only print your shots now and again then the £1000 cost of this printer pays for an awful lot of prints from an online printer.
Whether you can justify the cost depends entirely on your own circumstances and the strength of your marriage
If you do end up plumping for the printer then I find Amazon
very reasonable for inks and supplies and they always deliver quickly too.
Ok so now for the important part, the print quality. There are several quality settings on this printer but the only ones I use are 2880×1440 dpi (super Photo) for photo black prints and 1440×720 dpi (Super Fine)for mat black prints.
I print on Canson, Hahnemuhle, Harman, Ilford and Fotospeed papers. (I dont use Epson papers but by all accounts the standard Icc profiles and epson papers produce superb prints.)
The prints that this printer produces are superb. Using any of the Baryta papers on either superfine or superphoto settings produces beautiful prints with rich colours and smooth tonal gradations. The level of detail rendered is very impressive, with a slight improvement shown on photo black papers using the Super Photo setting although if I was only printing for myself I would be more than happy with the Super Fine setting and saving around 10% in ink and almost halving the print times.
Now I also have a Canon Pixma Pro 9000 printer which is capable of producing equally stunning colour prints but the Epson in my experience is much more consistent with colour output. Occassionally i would notice colour casts on the Canon but this has never been an issue with the Epson. Obviously I would not consider selling prints from the Canon Pro 9000 as it uses dye inks which will not have the desire longevity of the Epsons pigment inks.
Using standard paper manufacturer supplied ICC profiles produces prints that are consistent and accurate in their output. I have tweaked these slightly by getting custom print profiles for my printer.
However I wouldn’t deem this necessary for personal use due to the fact that all “Pro” models in the Epson range are calibrated by hand at the factory which means there output is more consistent and in turn the ICC profiles are generally a better match.
One of the main selling points for me was the black and white output of the Epson 3880 printer. It uses 3 black inks at any one time, photo black or mat black, light black and ligh light black. This enable the 3880 in combination with Epson’s ABW black and white driver to produce outstanding black and white prints.
I recently printed off a 24″x16″ print called Incoming storm and the results blew me away. The blacks were incredibly deep and the subtle variation in tones throughout the range produced a print which had real impact.
The black and white prints produced on this printer are nothing short of incredible and I have to restrict myself from printing too many just for fun
If you really like black and white printing then Eric Chan has created some excellent black and white profiles that you can download .
The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 has been extremely easy to use, I print straight out of Lightroom 3 most of the time and the software seems to integrate well with the Epson driver.
Paper loads into the sheet feeder easily but when printing 24×16″ prints on 25×17″ paper which I cut from a roll the paper does not always feed into the machine perfectly straight which can lead to skewed borders. Basically you have the option of trying the sheet feeder again and hoping for the best or you can use the rear manual feeder
Using the rear manual feed is not always straight forward, it can be temperamental so I usually stick to the sheet feed.
These small gripes apart using this printer to print several hundred prints so far this year has been a pleasure. The prints produced are beyond anything your average photo lab could ever dream of producing and I am delighted to put my name to them.
Ink usage seems very reasonable and after 8 months use I have only replaced 3 ink cartridges.
The printer also provides statistics on ink usage, previous print jobs and how many printable are available with the current ink levels. This gives you a nice indication of what your using and when to buy replacements.
So far im averaging about 1ml of ink for an A4 print and 1.75ml for A3 prints.
One point to note is that this models predecessor, the Epson 3800 was replaced after approximately 3 years and the 3880 is approaching a couple of years old now so a replacement might be in the works. However if you can justify the cost of this printer I wouldn’t let that stop you from buying the Epson 3880 now.
The new Epson HDR inkset does improve colour gammut somewhat but you would have to look very closely indeed to notice any tangible improvement and there is no doubt that the prints produced by the 3880′s k3 with vivid magenta inkset will put a smile on your face.
Larger 80ml ink Cartridges
17″ wide printer with a small footprint
Expensive initial cost
Requires a reasonable volume of printing to be cost efficient