I just posted a pretty long article on Pixiq.com entitled:Â 10 Tips for Navigating the PhotoPlus Expo in New York City.
If you are at the show today, or if you are planning to attend this week or in upcoming years, I hope you find it useful. You can find the article here.
After I posted a hands-on review of the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer, a few people left comments asking what the differences are between theÂ Epson Professional or Graphic Arts Edition (a version of the ColorBurst RIP) and the Standard Printer (without the RIP). In this article, I will explain some of the differences as I understand them, and my comments should cover all versions of Epson’s Stylus Pro line (except where indicated), including the Stylus ProÂ 3800, 3880, 4000, 4800, 4880, 7800, 7880, 9800, 9880, or 11880 (the new Stylus Pro 7890 and Stylus Pro 9890 do not have a Professional/Graphic Arts Edition option listed on Epson’s Professional Imaging website). The new Epson Stylus Pro 4900 will offer anÂ EFIÂ® eXpress RIP option.
The first thing to understand is that the only difference between the Graphic Arts/Professional version and the standard printer is the software. The printers that ship are identical, regardless of which option you choose. The Epson Graphic Arts Edition adds a software application often referred to as theÂ ColorBurst Edition bundle (because it is bundled with the printer as opposed to being sold separately). Most people who do not purchase theÂ ColorBurst Edition bundle use the Standard Epson Driver, which comes on a CD with the printer. However, I recommend downloading the newest driver (and any updates) from Epson.com. It’s also important to note that even if you purchase the Professional/Graphic Arts Edition, you can always use the Epson software (even from print to print). You just have to know how to configure your system so it know whether you are printing from the RIP or the driver.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Some of the advantages of the Epson Professional/Graphic Arts Edition vs. the Standard Epson driver:
1. Ability to extend the maximum print size past the Epson Driver’s 37.4 inch maximum (refers to the Epson Stylus Pro 3880). Prints of 100 inches long (about 3 meters) or more are possible when output from most applications. For the other printers in the Stylus Pro line, the maximum print length with the driver is between about 44 and 90 inches.
2. Ability to get better overall color from PDFs exported from InDesign, Quark XPress, Adobe Illustrator and other applications. Dropping PDFs into the X-Rite Print Queue allows the software to use a lot of behind-the-scenes color intelligence compared with just printing from those applications directly through the Epson driver. This is particularly important for Pantone color matching. The printer you use will also determine what percent of Pantone spot colors you can match since many spot Pantone colors fall outside the printable gamut of many printers.
3. The ColorBurst print queue can hold many completed print projects, making it easier and faster to reprint something compared with the Epson driver and Mac or Windows Operating System queue.
4. You still have the ability to use the standard Epson driver at any time. This is useful for printing at speeds higher than the 720dpi options available in the Professional/Graphic Arts Edition.
5. A hardware linearization can be performed using X-Rite spectrophotometers such as the i1 Pro, as well as the X-Rite ColorMunki.
6. There are quite a few 720dpi environments available for printing with Epson Glossy and Semi-gloss papers. In the Epson driver (at least with the Epson 3880), only the Plain Paper option supports printing lower than 1440 (180dpi and 360dpi). Otherwise, 1440 is the lowest resolution that can be selected with any of the glossy/semi-gloss papers. Although I recommend that most people use 1440 or 2880 for high quality printing, there are times when 720dpi is great to have because it allows for considerably faster print speeds.
Some of the advantages of the Standard Epson driver vs. the Epson Professional/Graphic Arts Edition:
1. Custom profiles can be added and used with the Standard Epson driver (whether you create them, purchase them or download them from a paper manufacturer’s site), but custom profiles cannot be created and installed by the user when using the Professional/Graphic Arts Edition. Only a limited number of papers (generally the Epson branded papers) have custom profiles available in the form of “environments.” Upgrading to one of the other RIP options at ColorBurstRip.com allows you to create custom profiles for any paper.
2. 180dpi and 360dpi printing are available in the Epson Driver under the Plain Paper Media Type setting, allowing for very fast printing, but 720dpi is the minimum resolution available when using the Professional/Graphic Arts Edition (depending on the “environment” you choose, which contains the paper profile and print resolution). 180/360dpi are useful in many cases when you want to do a quick test for alignment or if you are printing something that does not have to print at a very high quality level.
Below is a set of specific suggestions for how to prepare PDF files created in Adobe InDesign, Quark XPress, Adobe Illustrator, etc.Â (thank you to ColorBurst support for these tips)
1. Export PDFs as high quality pdfs using version 1.6 compatibility.
2. Set PDF standard to NONE.
3. Drag and drop the PDF file into the ColorBurst RIP queue.
4.Â Turn on “Use embedded profiles” in the Â “input profiles” section.
5. As with any printing that you might do, all image files that are inside the PDF should have an embedded profile.
Pricing and Availability
As of 10/22/2010, the street price for the Stylus Pro 3880 was about $800 for the Standard Edition and $1,100 for the Graphic Arts Edition after a $300 rebate. This is a considerable savings over the original street price just a year ago. The new 17-inch-wide Epson Stylus Pro 4880 was recently introduced, but it does not replace the Stylus Pro 3880, and the street price is yet to be determined (retail price starts at $1,995). If you’d like to check current pricing on the Epson 3880 and help support our site, please consider using one of the links below. We have an affiliate relationship with all of the companies below, and all are Epson Authorized Professional Imaging Resellers. A $300 mail-in rebate applies to purchases of the Stylus Pro 3880 from 8/1/2010-10/31/2010 (download the rebate form here for details).
The advancements made over the last 10-15 years in photo-quality inkjet printing are nothing short of incredible. Some of the features that have made their way into a number of inkjet printers on the market are as follows: compatibility with a wide variety of paper and canvas materials; expected print permanence before noticeable change surpassing 100 years; improved inksets capable of outputting very wide color gamuts; and pricing in line with consumer electronics like TV’s and digital cameras.The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 with its output tray and high-capacity paper feed open. Photo courtesy Epson America, Inc.
The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 is a 17-inch-wide inkjet printer that was first announced in late 2009. It is a prime example of a printer that embodies all the advancements listed aboveâ€“and many more. I could start by listing all the specs for the printer, but instead, I prefer to provide specs as they arise during my review. Also look for a few tips within the Pros and Cons (they are indicated by the word Tip). The magic of the internet allows me to provide a link to an excellent overview with full printer specs on Epson.com’s Website, which you can find here. The printer shares many of the features of its predecessor, the Epson Stylus Pro 3800, which I’ve owned and used for about the last two years. The primary differences between the 3800 and 3880 are as follows:
• The Stylus Pro 3880 has two new Magenta pigment inks (Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta), which help provide an extended color gamut (more printable colors).
• Unlike the 3800, the Stylus Pro 3880 uses a new AccuPhotoâ„¢ HD2 Screening Technology, designed to produce smoother color gradations, better shadow and highlight detail and better color constancy (prints should not change as much when viewed under different types of light). HD2 Screening Technology also allows for a single ICC profile to be used per media type regardless of resolution (1440, 2880, etc.).
• Unlike the 3800, the Stylus Pro 3880 has an ink-repelling coating on its print heads, which is designed to decrease maintenance, reduce clogging and increase overall reliability.
Over the years, I’ve written a lot of product reviews, and I’ve read many more than I’ve written. I generally get the best information from reviews that contain well-researched “Pros and Cons” sections. Thus, I’ve decided to write this article primarily highlighting the Pros and Cons of the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 based on about three months of testing, and after printing and looking at hundreds of prints on glossy, semi-gloss and matte papers. I tested the printer using the standard Epson Mac OSX driver on OS 10.6 on an Intel Mac, as well as the standard Epson Windows driver on Windows Vista.The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 with its output tray and high-capacity paper feed closed. Photo courtesy Epson America, Inc.
• Printer arrived well-packed and protected, with very clear and easy-to-follow setup documentation. I was making my first print in about 30 minutes from the time I placed it on a table and plugged it in. And it did not need any special trucking service, thanks to its compact form factor and the fact that it weighs just 43.2 pounds.
• Very well-priced for the feature set. See the information at the end of this review for more about pricing and possible rebates.
• Outstanding image quality and color gamut when used with just about any pigment ink-compatible media.
A few interesting gamut plots can be found on this page of Luminous-landscape.com that show the differences in color gamut between the 3800 and 3880 (as well as a comparison between the Epson 3880 and the Epson Stylus Pro 7900). The paper used to measure the gamut (or the paper profile used) is not listed, but I would guess it is a glossy or semi-gloss paper.
• Excellent water and humidity resistance on most compatible media. This is important for long-term display and general handling.
• Very good expected permanence for color and black and white (approx. 100-300 years).See this page on Wilhelm-Research.com for much more information on this topic.
• Fast printing speeds, even at some of the higher quality settings.The HS (high speed modes) can cut print times in half with little effect on the overall print quality. However, images with very fine details or fine lines can often benefit if HS is left off (unchecked). High Speed essentially means the print head travels and lays down ink in both directions as a page travels through the printer (instead of just one direction).
On that note, the following chart and information that follows is from Epson’s website, and my tests resulted in similar speed findings. Very large files will sometimes take a few minutes to process and spool before printing, and the numbers below do not account for file processing. What I found quite amazing is that you can print a very high quality 16×20 print on 17×22-inch paper on the 3880 in just over 5 minutes. That being said, I could detect a slight improvement in overall detail, smoothness and density when using 2880 dpi HS compared with 1440 dpi on most papers, (especially semi-gloss and glossy papers). Also note that the Windows driver (at least the one I am testing with a Windows Vista machine, uses a 1-5 scale, with 1=180 dpi 2=360 dpi, 3=720 dpi, 4=1440 dpi, and 5=2880 dpi. Checking microweave (Windows) or Finest Detail (Mac) will slow the printing process even more, and I have not seen much difference between having it on or off compared with the printing quality without the HS checked.
8 x 10
11 x 14
16 x 20
SuperFine – 1440 dpi HS
SuperFine – 1440 dpi
SuperPhoto – 2880 dpi HS
SuperPhoto – 2880 dpi
HS = High-Speed Print Mode (Bi-directional Print Mode) | Print speeds are shown in min:sec.
Based upon print engine speed only. Total throughput times depend upon front-end RIP, file size, printer resolution, ink coverage,
networking, etc. -Print speed chart and text above from Epson.com
• 17-inch-wide maximum media printing width in a great form factor. The ability to print on 17-inch-wide media really helps set the 3880 apart, since most printers in the $1000 range and below can only output on paper or other substrates up to 13 inches wide. In addition, the printer’s weight, at just 43 pounds, makes it very manageable for many individuals to move it from room to room in a home or studio, or from a home to the back seat of a car, as I’ve been doing with minimal effort over the last three months. This is a big deal.
• Uses individual 80ml ink cartridges that are easy to install and remove. 80ml ink cartridges were a major reason for the success of the Stylus Pro 3800 (most desktop printers use ink cartridges containing just a fraction of that amount), and like the 3800, the 3880 ships with 9 full ink cartridges. Though difficult to estimate exactly because of many variables, most users who print a range of images that use a wide range of colors should be able to print 500-1000 8×10-inch prints before the first set of inks are depleted. Some inks colors may last far past the 1000 print mark before needing to be replaced.
• Contains a very well-designed high capacity paper feeder for making multiple prints unattended. Many pro-level printers cannot accept multiple sheets. high-capacity paper feeder handles up to 120 sheets of plain, letter-sized paper or up to 20 sheets of photographic media.
• Excellent-quality free output (printer) profiles come installed with the Mac and Windows driver. The printer profiles supplied by Epson keep getting better, and even though I commonly make custom profiles for specific printer and paper combinations, most people should have no complaints using the built-in paper profiles.
•There is minimal head clogging compared with some previous models. For those who have used Epson printers in the past (especially models introduced more than five years ago), clogging of print heads from time to time was common, especially in dry environments, or in situations in which the printer was rarely used. Over three months in a range of temperatures and humidity levels, I experienced little-to-no clogging with the Stylus Pro 3880. I do occasionally hear the printer internally doing maintenance, but it does not appear to waste a lot of ink.
• 3 black inks for outstanding black and white and color printing on matte and glossy papers (see below for a related Pro).
• Easy-to-use Advanced Black-and-White Mode (built into the driver). The Advanced Black and White mode in conjunction with Epson’s three black inks makes black and white printing very straightforward. One of the major benefits is that you can choose a specific toning color from the Advanced section of the driver. You can then print multiple images with the same overall tonality, even if they are still in color.
• USB 2 and Ethernet connectivity.
• 9 ink cartridges instead of 10-12. Many people need to keep a full set of replacement cartridges nearby, and using fewer ink colors compared with other printers on the market can reduce the overall inventory cost of storing extra cartridges.
• Optional RIPs are available that extend the maximum print length of 37.4 inches. Many of these products can be found at the end of this article.
• Internal switch occurs between Matte and Photo Black instead of the manual switch needed with the Epson Stylus Pro 4800/ 4880. This is a major advance when compared with the 17-inch-wide Epson Stylus Pro 4800 and Stylus Pro 4880 printers. Also note the first Con below, because this topic deserves both a Pro and a Con.
• Matte Black and Photo Black heads are not always “active,” like on some other printer models. Even though the Matte Black and Photo Black cartridges are always loaded in the printer, an internal ink changeover takes 2.5 to 3.5 minutes and wastes a small amount of ink (approximately 4.6 ml from Matte to Photo Black and approximately 1.6 ml from Photo to Matte Black, according to Epson).
• Maximum print length is 37.4 inches unless a third party RIP (or Epson’s $300 Graphic Arts option) is used. See links at the bottom of this article for RIPs that allow you to exceed the 37.4-inch limit. My source of the information regarding the 37.4-inch limit is the “Epson 3800 FAQs”-see the links section below for a link to that very helpful and informative site. Much of the information there still applies to the 3880.
• No roll feed. I personally don’t miss this very much, but for some (especially those who print on canvas), this is an important feature.
•It is relatively easily to switch inks by mistake from Photo to Matte Black or vice-versa because no confirmation by the user is necessary to switch inks.
The way a switch is made from one Black ink to another (unless the Plain Paper Media Type setting is used-see below for more about that) is by selecting a matte or gloss paper from the Media Type list in the Epson driver. If you use a RIP (see the list at the end of the article), this may be different.
Items that have both Pros and Cons:
In addition to the high capacity paper feeder, there is a well-designed rear single-sheet feeder and a very sturdy straight-through front paper feed for very thick materials, such as illustration boards. However,
the rear single-sheet feeder can be finicky when paper is loaded, and
the front feed can accept only 16-inch-wide media. Though it generally works well, it is difficult to achieve 100% feed success with heavier papers using the rear single-sheet feeder. TIP: In my tests, the vast majority of papers up to about 300gsm (sometimes even 320gsm) feed fine through the main bulk paper feed. The key to avoiding using the rear feeder is to choose a Media Type that does not require the rear feed, such as Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte, then adjust the Platen width manually under Advanced Media Control in the driver (circled in red, below). I usually enter 6, 7 or 8 in the Paper Thickness box for 280gsm, 300gsm and 320 gsm papers, but this will vary a bit depending on paper thickness. Then save your settings next to the Presets section (circled in blue, below) so that you can recall the setting for your printer and paper any time without having to re-enter the media type, quality settings, etc.
The printer is
solidly built, but the front door of the printer is a bit on the light side, so care should be taken when opening or closing the front output tray. Tip: After dropping down the front door to extend the output tray, stand directly in front of the printer, hold the tray with both hands and pull the tray straight out (not up) to open it fully. When you are done, hold the bottom section with both hands and push straight ahead with both hands firmly on the front door to close the extension tray.
There is currently only one way to select 180dpi or 360dpi Draft Quality using the standard driver while Photo Black is loaded, and no 720dpi option is available. This is a very helpful option that has a few advantages. Epson has included a way to make super-fast prints, such as when you want to do a placement test (for example, when making custom books that have hinges), or when good (but not great) print quality is not necessary. Tip: The way to do this when Photo Black is loaded is to choose Plain Paper as the Media Type (see screen shot below), then select Photo Black ink. You normally cannot adjust this, but Epson has made it possible to choose either Matte Black or Photo Black when using Plain Paper, probably with the thought that some people will want to print office documents or PDFs on plain paper even if the Photo Black is loaded. The drawback is that you can’t choose 720dpi under any of the glossy or semi-gloss paper choices when the Photo Black ink is loaded when using the Epson driver. In the future, I hope that Epson will include a 360 and 720dpi option for at least one glossy or semi-gloss media type when the Photo Black is loaded.
It is possible, when Matte Black is loaded, to choose 180, 360 or 720dpi depending upon the matte paper type chosen. This feature allowed me to recently print a few hundred bookmarks at 720 dpi in about 1/3 the time it would have taken to print at 1440 dpi. I used the “Ultra Premium Presentation Paper Matte” Media Type. In some cases, you can work around this issue with either Photo or Matte Black ink loaded by using one of the RIP solutions listed at the end of this article. That being said, the Epson driver comes free with the printer, and it’s easy to navigate once you spend some time with it.
Conclusion and Recommendations
I highly recommend the Epson Stylus Pro 3880. It’s an outstanding printer, with a feature-set and price tag that no other company has been able to match to date. It’s a workhorse, and performed without a hitch while testing it at my home studio, and during a few photo workshops that I conducted over the spring and summer. That being said, I don’t think it’s the right printer for those who want to make just a few 8×10-inch prints every monthâ€“other printers with smaller ink cartridges are better suited for that. The printer should be used on a semi-consistent basis so that the ink doesn’t sit in the printer unused for many months. Though I haven’t scientifically tested this theory, I believe that the 3880 is ideal for anyone who prints at least an average of 2-3 11×14-inch prints or 4-6 8×10-inch prints per week.
Pricing and Availability
As of 9/24/2010, the street price for the Stylus Pro 3880 was about $800 for the Standard Edition and $1,100 for the Graphic Arts Edition after a $300 rebate. This is a considerable savings over the original street price just a year ago. The new 17-inch-wide Epson Stylus Pro 4880 was recently introduced, but it does not replace the Stylus Pro 3880, and the street price is yet to be determined (retail price starts at $1,995). If you’d like to check current pricing on the Epson 3880 and help support our site, please consider using one of the links below. We have an affiliate relationship with all of the companies below, and all are Epson Authorized Professional Imaging Resellers. A $300 mail-in rebate applies to purchases of the Stylus Pro 3880 from 8/1/2010-10/31/2010 (download the rebate form here for details).
More Info and Links
Epson 3800: Printer FAQ (maintained by Eric Chan): An excellent reference for owners of the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 (much of the info can be
applied to the 3880). There you can also find more links to related products and reviews.
Printer RIPs and workflow software that allow you to exceed the 37.4-inch printing length restriction in the standard driver:
ColorBurst RIP– $495 for the ColorBurst X-Proof RIP, which allows users to make custom profiles inside the system. Comes with a PANTONE licensed PostScript Language Level 3 compatible RIP.
Epson Professional RIP (by ColorBurst)– About $300 when purchased as a bundle in the Epson Graphic Arts Edition (custom paper profiling is not permitted, but the company supplies excellent profiles for a wide range of papers, and this is a good solution for those who need to print proofs from PDFs). Like the ColorBurst X-Proof RIP, this option also comes with a PANTONE licensed PostScript Language Level 3 compatible RIP.
ImagePrint RIP – About $900
Qimage (not exactly a RIP, but it shares some features of RIPs)