Epson Stylus Pro 11800 printer faces touch competition from Canon iPF9000, HP Z6100 and HP Z3100
Epson was market leader during the years that HP concentrated on CAD printers and its big-picoliter HP 5000 and HP 5500. This HP Designjet sold more printers than every other printer over 42 inches put together! The sales records for the HP 5000 and 5500 (essentially the identical printer) exceed all records in the past, present, and probably future of wide-format inkjet printers.
FLAAR had three of this HP model so we were able to write evaluations and maintain our digital equipment tests and reviews on the Internet for over five years. During these five years over three million people were exposed to our reviews of these HP Designjet printers.
But today we don’t have any new HP Designjet printers, neither the Z2100, HP Z3100 or HP Z6100. So we have concentrated more on the Epson 7800 that we have, as well as the Canon iPF5000, Canon iPF5500, Canon iPF6500, Canon iPF8000, and Canon iPF9000. FLAAR receives requests every hour from around the world for help deciding which of these printers to purchase.
When the Epson Stylus Pro 4800, Epson 7800 and Epson 9800 existed, the market was “owned” by Epson in proofers and in printers for fine art photography and giclee. HP, Colorspan, a few Mimaki’s and a few elderly Roland water-based printers were used for giclee and décor, but 80% of the market was securely in Epson’s hands. It is not surprising that they became accustomed to this.
But at a recent trade show, the booth of Epson was physically empty, not a single prospective buyer. All the fine art people were in the booth of Canon and HP.
Another competitive problem for Epson is that today you can print giclee, décor and fine art photographs with eco-solvent ink and mild-solvent ink (as Epson knows, they will also launch a 64-inch eco-solvent printer later this year or next year). But the problem for Epson is that Mimaki, Mutoh, and Roland already have eco-solvent printers available. HP has no eco-solvent but does have mild-solvent HP Designjet 9000s and HP 8000s.
FLAAR has tested the Mutoh Spitfire Extreme and the Mutoh Rockhopper 3 Extreme. FLAAR has spent a week in the Mutoh Europe factory testing these two solvent ink printers (one is eco-solvent, the other is mild-solvent). Our FLAAR Reports are readily available on both these Mutoh printers.
Awkward to compete against “12-color” printers
The Oce Arizona 250 has only four colors; it claims all kinds of fancy reasons why it does not need six colors that all competing printers have. But when we inspected the Oce 250 at FESPA ’07 in Berlin, it was clear that the quality was poor in color transitions: too much dot was visible in light tones.
Now Epson is in the same awkward situation: all the competing printers have 12-colors (really not 12 colors, but 12 ink lines). So naturally Epson creates PR buzz to explain why it’s modest 8 colors are as good as the 12-color HP Z3100 and 12-color Canon iPF9000.
Epson has one blessing in its favor, the HP Z6100 has only eight colors: but has in-line color management. And all the Canon have 12-inks, and the HP Z3100 has 12 ink lines. It’s a bit embarrassing to come out with a “brand new” printer that has only 8 inks and only 360 nozzles (look at how many Canon offers!).
Why is the new Epson nothing radically new?
Canon spent over one billion dollars developing its new iPF 9000 line of printers.
HP spent over one billion dollars developing its new Z-series of printers.
But Epson does not have one billion dollars, and sales of its old printers (7800, 4800, and 9800) collapsed after the Canon came out with the iPF5000 in 2006 and the HP came out in force in late 2006 and early 2007 with the Z-series.
It is notable that most of the pseudo-reviews repeat Epson mantra and smoke and mirrors, and don’t mention the plight of the once market leader is now in third place without breakthrough technology.
Does any of this mean FLAAR recommends the Canon and HP and demotes the Epson?
Not whatsoever. We use Epson printers daily in our test facilities at Bowling Green State University. We use HP printers daily in the same test facilities. If we had any of the recent Canon printers we would use them too. So each brand has its pros and cons. Over one million people a year, worldwide, read the network of FLAAR websites on printers, so we will work to include the Epson printer in our coverage as soon as one becomes available.
The major downside of a 64” Epson water-based printer is an almost total lack of media over 54”. One fine art printer who bought a Roland d’Vinci dumped it because he said not enough 60” or wider fine art media was available.
This is something you don’t realize until you buy the wide Roland d’Vinci. This is precisely why FLAAR works hard to inspect printshops and bring back the facts of life.
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.
If you are looking for a place that is not a box-pusher (meaning you want a place that provides service after the sale), then one place we know for many years is Parrot Digigraphic. Their telephone is 978.670.7766.
First posted July 24, 2007.
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