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Reviewing the Epson 9000 is a challenge Print E-mail

The Epson 9000 at our university has failed to produce adequate color matching when the art faculty tried to use after-market pigmented in in it. This is sort of a problem, in that Epson printers only accept the Epson ink which is made for them. You can't switch back and forth as with all other printers such as Roland, Mimaki, Mutoh, Encad, HP, or ColorSpan. When the artists saw the results of output on the I-Jet (Mutoh), ColorSpan DisplayMaker XII, and Hewlett-Packard DesignJet 5000 they realized that viable alternatives existed.

Epson 9000, wide format printers

On the surface the colors and definition are nice but how long do those lovely colors really last before they fade? End users report mixed reactions with their Epson 9000 and Epson 7000 printers. Sometimes is more informative to bring you pros and cons from people who actually have one. Many people are opting for a Roland (if they can afford Roland quality) or for a Hewlett-Packard DesignJet. Yet plenty of people are still buying the Epson 9000.

"I settled on an Epson 9000. It's up, had special profiles made for my papers and inks, and we've been producing (using Mac G4's and no RIP) directly from Photoshop. It's not been smooth but we are close to being truly productive..."

Yes, you can use many wide format printers with no external RIP, such as the Epson printers. Hewlett-Packard has a different solution for its DesignJet 2500CP, 3500CP, 500ps, 800ps, and 5000ps. HP cleverly builds the RIP into the printer; indeed the 800ps and 5000ps in the FLAAR facility even include an onboard RIP processor chip. But you need to be a dedicated professional with unusual patience. I hate to think how long it takes to print a sign or poster doing from Photoshop with no external RIP. Many of the people who use wide format printers either need a RIP eventually or otherwise realize the printer handles more easily if you have a RIP. However be sure the RIP that you select can handle the six-color ink set . Most older RIP´s can do only four colors.

Another reader wrote of his experiences:

"One problem with the 9000 and inkjets in general is that certain colours are very hard to reproduce cleanly. We were printing a shot of asparagus against a dark green background - a product shot. That particular dark green simply would not print smoothly, the driver was making it up from 100% Y 100%C, lots of black and some magenta as well. The result was a dirty colour with a black overlay of coarse dots, nothing like the usual smooth dither pattern that the 9000 is famous for. In addition, this amount of ink was causing the paper to wrinkle, even on the semi gloss and this affected the head-to-paper gap. The result was a series of faint shadows over the even-colour areas which should have reproduced as a smooth blend. We had techs running around, senior Epson people scratching their heads and so on.Epson eventually conceded that this was a problem that existed, not just in our heads. The also said this was a limitation of the printer and that they had not seen it before! We eventually scored a roll of paper and a set of inks as compensation. We now know how so get around this type of problem and that is by careful colour management and good profiles.

You asked about our printing settings. We very rarely print at 1440. The best compromise between speed and quality is 720 fast or 720 slow if banding is visible. For low res files and big images, 360 fast is excellent as long as there are no big areas of smooth blends in the image. Its interesting to note that the published speed figures from Epson are so far off reality - about 1/2 to 1/3 what we are seeing. Do you think the Ethernet link will speed things up?"

Nonetheless, thousands of other people are probably happy with their Epson 9000. Obviously people tend to contact us only when they have problems. Not too many people will spontaneously simply send off an e-mail telling us how much they love their Epson 9000. For example, on our university campus the Epson 9000 is semi-abandoned. They had terrible color matching problems because this production run of the printer did not accept after-market pigmented inks. My understanding was that they got this printer from a well known Epson dealer. After FLAAR personally filed a complaint with this dealer did we finally get some action. I must say that once Epson America was fully aware of the implications of the inadequate service we had received that they immediately took care of the problem with our art department. Now the printer functions but the students still come to use the HP 5000, ColorSpan Mach 12, or Mimaki JV4 because their inks have an excellent color gamut. Most other pigmented inks are not quite as bright as those of the HP 5000. But you can't get thick stiff watercolor paper through any HP. For that you need an Epson, Mimaki, or Roland..

My feeling is that if the art department of Bowling Green State University had bought the Epson from a full-service dealer that specializes in large format printing they could have avoided many of their problems. Or, at least the dealer would have returned their money or gotten a replacement that functioned (here on campus they seemed too busy to bother anymore, besides, FLAAR now provides printers for the university community so they don't have to worry about printers that don't work). Anyway, the Epson 9000 printer now functions, albeit its output is rather slow compared to other printers. For this reason we recommend the Epson 10600, which is not as slow and has an improved color gamut..

Where to buy your Epson 9000?

If you wish to use dye sub inks, or textile inks, you can perhaps coax these inks into an Epson 7000 or 9000 (but not into any other later Epson printer). Otherwise, the 7600 and 9600 are so superior to the 9000 that we suggest you go for the newer models. Downside of newer Epson printers is they don't take dye sublimation or textile inks.

EIther way, be sure to buy your Epson 9000 from an experienced printer company that can walk you through or at least talk you through the setup and subsequent problems. Avoid buying an Epson printer from some mail order place. Their technicians cannot have serious experience with every different product that such a company sells and obviously have no practice doing fine art giclée prints.

Here is an example:

"...The Epson 9000. We got a Yarc system for a RIP. After much testing, and many calls with their technical support we come to find out that the Yarc system 'at that time' did not support 6 colors. So all of our prints had a granularity to them. We were able to return the Yarc. I believe a few weeks ago the Yarc gained support to print at a full 6 colors. Note, Yarc seems to have filed for bankruptcy last year).

At present time we are still in search of a RIP for the Epson 9000. Your e-mail on the PosterJet arrived just in time. We have been looking at a RIP from Wasatch, they support 6 colors. Currently we are using the Epson 9000 with Epson's software to print from Adobe Photoshop. Prints have been good, if not just short of amazing. We have been using Lysonic inks with the Epson 9000. Lysonic supplied ICC profiles of their inks, which have been pretty good. Print times are good, I can't say as good as Epson says they are. A 24x30 print with about 85% full ink coverage at 720 dpi is about 10 min. We have been printing from Apple Macintosh G3 400 MHz through 10/100 (Ethernet). The Epson 9000 we had was one of the first off Epson's production line. The printer required a logic board upgrade, which Epson took care of. The problem was we got the network card with the Epson. The Epson printer would lose connection with the host computer and stop printing, then it would roll out about 3 to 4 feet of paper and continue printing where it stopped. I've come to find out through the repair tech, that this is a problem with all Epsons. The repair tech said he believed that the newer models have a newer ROM version. It did, however, take a week of talking to Epson's tech support to get this issue taken care of. As well as a lot of paper. Some of the other issues with the Epson 9000 are, the software they supply with the printer is not all that good. Each version of the software for either Macintosh or IBM PC offer good and bad points. It would be nice if both versions of their software would offer all the features of the other one. I know Epson would like you to get the Fiery RIP, but some of the reviews I; /ve heard of the Fiery RIP are not all that promising.

I will offer you a review of the Epson when we receive a better RIP, after this letter I will be heading to PosterJet's web site to check it out."

Most of the problems that people report about their Epson printer could have been avoided if the users had more training and had a capable person at tech support to answer their questions. Problem is that most tech telephone support people don't actually do any printing. They sit at a desk all day to keep you on HOLD so you can enjoy the bad taste in prerecorded music or ads they bombard you with.

Perhaps your problem is a lousy image to begin with. Maybe not enough pixels (too low a resolution). Or maybe a simple color management adjustment would eliminate your problem and allow you to produce awesome fine art or photo realistic prints.

Every several years there is either a new Canon iPF printer or a new Epson or a new HP water-based printer that is made for giclee, decor, or fine art photography. It is hard to keep track of the advances in improved inks and color management features. FLAAR is keeping track by visiting giclee ateliers around the world that have these various brands. Each brand has its good points and a few issues and an occasional deficiency. 

Since FLAAR itself does not sell printers, for you to find out information on prices and availability of each model that can print fine art giclee well, we suggest you contact a company that offers all three brands: Canon, HP, and Epson. This way they are not going to push just one brand because they offer all three. Plus you need a company that has plenty of experience with fine art photographs, photo labs, and giclee atelier. 

The advantage of a place that offers both Epson, HP, and Epson is that they can provide some tips on the differences. If a store sells only one brand or the other, they will understandably push the brand they sell.


Last checked : Sept. 23, 2003.
Previous updates: Jan. 15, 2003, Oct. 21, 2002.

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