Can the Epson 9000 produce fine art giclée prints or should I go for the Epson Stylus Pro 10000 dye or 10000arc? Print

Yes, and no. Yes, the Epson 9000 does produce a quality of image that is attractive. But no, the prints from certain models are not archival, indeed Epson itself is very honest about this. Epson said their intended market for the 9000 is POP, point of purchase signs and posters which need to hang only a short time. If you want inks that last a few years you have to use non-Epson inks. However many users experience clogging to the point of ruining their printheads when they used aftermarket inks, especially pigmented inks.

Epson 9000 wide format color printer reviewsFor years Epson itself offered no archival inks, indeed the cheaper Epson desktop printers such as the model 1520 and 3000 are infamous for their fading inks.

But Epson is doing its best to overcome past mistakes. The Epson 9000 comes with an EFI Fiery RIP. The lack of a useable RIP was a prime fault of earlier Epson desktop printers. You always had to buy an add-on after-market accessory to print good text or to handle PostScript adequately. Even with the Birmy accessory, the Epson 1520 and Epson 3000 could be nerve wracking to the point that many people were sorry they every bought one (such as myself, a community college, and my brother's company, a substantial architectural firm).

On the subject of RIP´s, you can run any Epson printer with its native printer drivers. But if there is any text in your image, then you need PostScript to get rid of the jaggies on letters in your text. EFI Fiery RIP, no matter how low and discounted the price is, has a variety of deficiencies. Check out our FLAAR Premium Report Series on RIP´s.

Epson model 9000 wide format inkjet printerThe newer Epson 7500 and Epson 9500 offer an acceptable color gamut of long life inks. Whether this pigmented ink can actually reproduce the colors you need, only you can tell. Some users report they are disappointed. Indeed the Epson USA web site warns you not to expect a full gamut of colors. Reds, blue (and cyan) are the most difficult colors to reproduce with pigmented inks. The new HP pigmented ink for the HP 5000ps is the first pigmented ink to break the color gamut barrier and offer a fuller color gamut. Still, pigmented ink in general is not as bright and colorful as dye-based ink. If you wish to get up to 6 free FLAAR First Level Reports, just fill out the request-survey form.

The next question of course is how long will an Epson 9000 hold up?
It definitely looks stronger than the cheap plastic desktop printers. Indeed the Epson 9000 looks as though it were designed in the 1960's, for industrial use. The model 9000 is definitely not designed by Porsche or by any French or Italian designer of note. Unfortunately the printer is well known for shaking side to side as it prints. All printers of all brands move around a lot as they print, but the motion of the Epson can be disconcerting the first time, before you get used to it. The actual output looks quite nice, albeit rather slow.

Beware of the advertised price of any printer. The price you will be quoted is that of the printer; the actual cost of the RIP is blissfully overlooked. For example, the Epson 9000 is attractively priced at a new low, but when you add the EFI Fiery RIP the actual price has been as high as $12K to $14,995! And what about the fading prints? A recent report in Publish magazine, a highly regarded and widely read trade magazine, indicated that "the glossy film, while providing a gorgeous print, showed signs of distinct fading after only a day outside." The new low price (since PMA trade show, Feb. 2001) was because the new model Stylus Pro 10000 Epson printers are now available.

Our university ordered an Epson 9000 printer (before FLAAR arrived on campus). We found the Epson 9000 already abandoned. The art department professor said that the original color was unusable due to color matching incapabilities. They eventually got the images closer to what they needed but evidently there were other issues that resulted in the printer being parked. How many other people have similar experiences?

Of course if they had obtained the same printer from a dealer that provided better color management experience, perhaps they could have overcome the problems. Nonetheless, it's actual user experiences, especially in the art department of a university with experienced computer users, that gives one pause. My personal summary would be to skip the Epson 9000 unless you need a printer for non-Epson inks (the new Epson 10000 absolutely restricts use of any after-market ink). Other than that deficiency, the Epson 10000 is considered improved in every respect. It certainly has a more handsome exterior design and more sophisticated interior technology.

To be on the safe side, be sure to check out the all comparable printer brands, especially the Mutoh, which may be more robust and the newest Mimaki which is much faster. The Mutoh uses the same printheads as the Epson 9000 but has added features and a speed upgrade. Ask around. Don't just swallow that the manufacturer claims. And don't even buy what a FLAAR review recommends either. Don't avoid a printer just because we mentioned it's weak points. Perhaps the same printer has a feature that you need. Possibly your kind of inkjet printing is different than ours.

To save yourself from buying the wrong printer, be inquisitive, and realistic. No one printer can do everything. What you need is the printer that has the most benefits with the fewest deficiencies.

Other than it's low price, the main advantage of an Epson 9000 (or any piezo printer except the Epson 9500 or 7500) is that you can use after-market inks. However we just got a horror story of a user in England or Ireland who used a well known brand of after-market inks. Ruined his printheads and the lost time basically ruined his giclée business. He alleges that Epson in that country refused to honor a warranty. So he is stuck with a nonfunctioning printer and a nonfunctioning business. Thus, although some of these piezo printers such as the Mimaki can use dye sublimation heat transfer inks and even special textile inks, be wary of head damage. Dye sub inks are reportedly aggressive to the point that they take out your heads after about six months of continual use.

Downside of the Epson 10000 is no alternative ink changes whatsoever. If you start off with pigmented inks, you can never, ever, use the brighter dye inks. With almost all other printers, Mutoh, ColorSpan, Encad, Hewlett-Packard, Mimaki, etc., you can change back and forth any time and as often as you wish.

For a "second opinion" on whether to take advantage of the price drop on the Epson 9000 or opt for the Epson 10000 contact an Epson dealer who can provide information about the new Epson 10000 dye and 10000 arc (archival) printers.

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.


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

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