The Digital Photo Guy

Update on Epson 3880

by on Oct.21, 2011, under Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

A Serious Printer for Serious Photographers

In Feb 2011 (9 months ago,) I bought an Epson 3880 to replace my Epson R1800 which had been my workhorse for nearly five years. I previously posted how the R1800 was a love-hate relationship. To date, I’ve printed over 135 prints (mostly 13×19) on the 3880 and am just now about to replace three ink tanks. Keep in mind that a new 3880 uses about 20% of the ink to charge the system the first time. Next time, I should get 20% more ink, equal to another 35-40 prints.

To print the same amount with the R1800 would have cost ~$240. As it is, the three 3880 tanks I’m replacing cost $135. The other six tanks still have between 45% to 65% remaining with the exception of Matte Black which I rarely use and still shows 80% after using 20% to initially charge the printer.

The 3880 uses 80ml (milliliter) tanks instead of 11ml cartridges on the R1800, R1900 and R2880. This drives down ink cost significantly especially if you buy from Atlex who sells $60 Epson 3880 OEM ink tanks for just $45.

What prompted this love-fest post about the Epson 3880? I started printing B&W in earnest. Not that I wasn’t serious before but I knew I wasn’t getting the best I could. My first stop for all things 3880 is Eric Chan’s site. Eric is a Senior Computer Scientist at Adobe Systems (reading his bio, be prepared to feel inadequate, he’s a typical MIT overachiever.) There, I came across a tutorial for printing B&W using ABW (Advanced Black & White) in the 3880. One click and my B&Ws are visibly better.

I think you can see the difference in the image below. My original attempt is on the left and the ABW print on the right. On screen, it may look like the ABW print is just lighter but, in life, the ABW print has much better tonal gradations. The shadow details aren’t blocked while the highlight details retain contrast.

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2 Comments for this entry

  • Andy Kliss

    Hi Lee-

    Nice little blurb on your experiences with the 3880. If you may remember, I bought mine shortly after you got yours. I asked if you could come over to help me troubleshoot my way off-colored prints my 3880 was spitting out. I found out why when after setting up the 3880 and printing for a while, I reformatted my hard drive, reinstalled software, etc. and then resumed using Photoshop CS5… (Shame on Adobe for not writing a wee bit of code to save settings!)…which turned out to be a good thing, for before formatting, I inadvertently checked off the little box that warns of color workspace discrepancies to not pop up again in Photoshop. Sooo, when editing and printing, I was doing that in Pro Photo and not converting to Adobe RGB before printing. Needless to say, it was very frustrating for a season.
    Your links in the article are very helpful indeed. The paper profiles from Eric Chen alone are worth their weight in gold. I switched to ABW after talking to printing guru Tom Pappas over at Calumet, Escondido regarding paper choices. The dude is a veritable fountain of information in all things photography. Keep up the good work!!!

    • Lee

      You’ve been busy this morning! Yes, I thought about you as I was writing the post. Glad to hear you got things sorted out with your 3880. It’s such an amazing printer, I can’t help but gush about it to anyone who will listen. I find the worst problems are the self-inflicted variety. There’s no on else to blame…

      I absolutely agree that Adobe (and all other publishers of complex applications) should embed code to save all current settings for times when a reinstall is the only option.

      Tom helped one of my students get good prints from his R1900 from Photoshop Elements on a Mac. He’s always helpful and knowledgeable. I try to buy as much as possible there but that 8% sales tax kills my fervor. As for Eric Chan, he’s one of those scary smart guys. It would be neat to sit down for a beer with him. I’d be afraid my brain would explode!

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