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Epson Stylus Pro 7800 wide format printer for giclee and fine art photography Print E-mail

The Epson 7600 was a popular printer. We have an Epson 7600 and also an Epson 7500. Both continue to hold up without a glitch; both still work perfectly, and impress people with the quality of their output. This is why a 30-day demo test is not adequate: we can testify to the stamina of the Epson printers precisely because they still print without a hitch after several years. If we did not have them for years, we could not certify how long they keep going. Same with most of our other 21 printers: the HP 5000 prints day after day after day (in its fourth or fifth year), especially giclee and computer-generated art for our art department on campus.

Then the new inks came out for the HP 130. The quality of this printer, compared with all earlier HP printers of comparable chassis, was a total surprise to lots of people. The HP 130 was effectively near-continuous tone image quality with an enviable color gamut. Plus you could print on glossy paper without fear of the dreaded gloss differential defect (which mars all your images if you use pigmented inks on glossy paper). The HP 130 uses a special long-life (70-year) dye ink.

But if you needed to print on canvas, or watercolor paper, that was not available for the HP 130 platform, so the Epson Stylus Pro 7800 fills a much-asked for niche in the fine art, museum quality, marketplace.

Comments on printers by FLAAR are an asset because we know most of the key printers so we can provide practical comparative facts. A review of a single printer by itself will tend just to praise the printer endlessly. But this kind of review is not realistic. You need to know how each printer is compared to other printers.

Epson Stylus Pro 780
Epson Stylus Pro 7800, Dubai 2006

Epson Stylus Pro 7800, prices, costs, product comparisons:

We are curious as to how the quality of the Canon W6400 compares with the output of the Epson Stylus Pro 7800. The Canon imagePROGRAF W6200 is a 24” printer used in proofing and other pertinent applications. The next generation Canon imagePROGRAF W6400 has already been announced for Japan and Australia (price is not yet firmly established). This Canon W6400 is probably the fastest 24” printer on the market today. Some of our readers, who are artists, tell us clearly that they prefer quality over speed. It is primarily if you are a commercial print shop that you need the speed of a thermal printer technology (Epson is piezo).

Unfortunately HP currently (May 2005 and before), does not yet have a 24” printer for fine art photography or giclee. The 42” and 60” HP 5500 and the earlier HP 5000 are totally capable of giclee on canvas and watercolor paper. But photo satin, photo semigloss, and even photo matte require a near continuous tone quality (this implies no bothersome inkjet dot pattern). The HP 130, and we expect the Epson Stylus Pro 7800 will be near continuous tone for photographs on smooth paper (rough paper like canvas and watercolor hide the grainy inkjet dot pattern, so these textured surfaces are perfectly okay with older printers at 600 dpi; we print for two museums with the HP 5000 and HP 5500 thermal printheads and the exhibit audiences love the results). But when we exhibit photographs nowadays, the audiences seek a surface closer to continuous tone.

Of course the new HP B9180 printer line unveiled at PMA 2006 and then shown again at Art Expo (a giclee show), reveal the stealth technology that HP was quietly working on the last several years in their labs.

Multiple Black Inks with the Epson Stylus Pro 7800

Multiple blacks are a real bonus. We will discuss all this in our upcoming FLAAR Report on the Epson 4800, 7800 and 9800 series, compared with the full quad-black in the ColorSpan DisplayMaker Mach 12.

It is noteworthy that:

  • Epson has listened to their faithful end users (to learn what they want)
  • Epson has paid attention to market statistics, and trends.
  • Epson has improved those aspects of earlier printers that end-users wanted improved.

The Epson USA and Epson Europe managers understand photographers, artists, and giclee print ateliers. The Epson exhibit at Photokina, if you compare it with the exhibits of competing printer manufacturers, was light years ahead in style, finesse, and communication.

Putting Quality to the Test

Since photographs by FLAAR are taken with a 22-megapixel Leaf Valeo and 22-megapixel Hasselblad H1+Imacon Ixpress 528C, or with a 48-megapixel BetterLight large format digital camera, we want a printer that can reproduce this class of image quality.

FLAAR also has an 80-megapixel Cruse digital camera, one of only two universities in the entire US with a camera of this sophistication.

So when Nicholas wants to print his photographs, what printer does he prefer? Over 400,000 artists, photographers, and print shop professionals read the FLAAR reviews every year. They know the ultimate compliment is for a picky photographer (who knows the differences) to chose one printer over another.

For the last six months, the color gamut and perky gloss of one particular printer got the most favorable comments by visitors to our lab. This is very impressive technology of the new HP brightly colored inks in the Designjet 130. When we did comparative tests, the prints from this printer were consistently judged superior to all other printers in the lab (and we have lots of them). This summer and autumn the question will be, how does the output of the HP 130 compare with the Epson Stylus Pro 7800 (or 4800) and with the new Canon imagePROGRAF W6400.

When larger prints were needed, this called for the Epson 7600, since no thermal printer over 13” has this quality (at least not yet; Canon is close, but they do not have three blacks).

The Future is Exciting

The Epson Stylus Pro 7800 ushers in a potentially new era in print quality (obviously we have to test and certify this, but the initial spec sheet is nicely presented, with minimal hype; overall a well-balanced presentation). HP has a 9-color printer already shown since earlier this year, the 9-color HP Photosmart 8750. Then in early 2006 HP introduced their B9180. Its pigmented Vivera ink overcomes anyone’s objections to the dye-based inks of earlier HP desktop printers.

Imagine the quality of this range of color gamut at 24”, at 42”, and at 60”.

The next generation of medium format digital cameras already announced at PhotoPlus 2005 and shown at PMA 2006 will blow away all 35mm cameras that are today so proud. But the 16, 17, and 22-megapixel medium format digital cameras are already plenty good enough, so we look forward to seeing how our 22-megapixel images, and our 13-megapixel Kodak SLR/c and SLR/n photos, look on the new breakthroughs in photo printers for 2006.

Indeed now the new generation of inkjet printers is also out: starting with the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5000, iPF6000, iPF8000, iPF9000, and HP Z2100 and HP Z3100.

It has taken Epson too long to produce anything new recently. And when it finally came out, it was a 64" version of the Epson system with tweaked inks to recover from issues with the previous ink (interesting that they tell you had bad their own ink is only when they come out with a new chemistry and have to admit what features it has that the old ink misted). This new printer is the Epson Stylus Pro 11880.

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.


Most recently updated Sept 26, 2006.
First posted May 19, 2005.

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