Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Printer Wars

Up until now Epson been THE printer using archival inks and the choice of fine art and pro-photographers but now there is serious competition with some new printers. Canon has announced a new printer, imagePROGRAF iPF5000. This is a 17" wide carriage 12 ink printer that will retail for less than $2,000, a close price point to the Epson 4800. Individual ink cartridges are large, heads are self cleaning and user replaceable, and paper paths include roll, front, rear and paper tray. No cartridge changing is required when switching from matte to glossy papers. Print quality is reputed to be excellent and the printing is high-speed.

Self-cleaning heads that are user replaceable instead of a $500 part and service call. No wasting of ink in order to change cartridges when switching from matte to glossy papers. Yes, Yes, this looks like serious competition for Epson.

Up until now, papers and profiles all seemed to be built around the Epson printers but I think all of that will change rapidly. I know I will be following user tests and reviews on this new printer as well as studying the archival data. Self-cleaning heads that are user replaceable certainly gets my attention. If the printer can deliver the print quality, Epson is going to have some serious competition. Who knows, I might be in the Canon camp with my next printer purchase.


Tommy Williams said...

I'm intrigued by the Canon printers, too, but I think it's going to take a while before there is the level of support we see on the Epson side. I'm particularly interested in seeing how broad the paper support is in the Canon. Past Canon printers had a pretty limited selection of papers that would work well. Or, at least, the selection was much narrower than for Epson printers.

The pigment inks may change that.

But if you jump on this printer early, you'll be signing yourself up to generate custom profiles and that's a tedious and expensive activity if you want to print on a variety of papers.

BillieS said...

Tommy, you are absolutely right. I think it is going to take a year before we know the full story on the Canon printers. But I really think if the archival properties of their inks are good, we'll soon see profiles for a variety of papers. I think I read somewhere that ImagePrint is starting to generate profiles for the Canon printer. If it is good competition to the 4000/4800 then the paper manufacturers will also have profiles made that we can download. I have a lot invested in the 4000 so I won't be changing printers anytime soon but I will be watching to see what happens with this new Canon printer. And I want to see a comparison of files printed with the Epson and the Canon. But the competition has to get Epson's attention. They really need to address the clog problem.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tommy and Billie about availability of profiles and acceptable papers. I have been printing with a Epson 4000 on Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper from a 50-ft roll. Canon is going to have to come a long way to top that combination. BUT most of the people using these printers are printing on Glossy or semi-glossy papers AND most of the fine art people are using matte papers. We shall see. I made a test print the other day on the 4000 using Epson Premium Luster -- uneven gloss with varing ink densities, and there was a small amount of bronzing. If Canon can over come those two negative qualities, then they will do well. I know that the K-3 inks are supposed to have solved that problem, and I have a student print on luster surface (InkPress, I think) with his Epson 2400 and the images look very good. But I told him I thought they looked better on Velvet Fine Art -- my fav of all the "art" papers.


BillieS said...

If Canon wants to challenge the large format market, they have to solve all of these problems and I think we are going to see that this new printer IS going to be a challenge to Epson's fine art market. Only time will tell.