Saturday, December 13, 2008

I'm Dumber than I Thought.

So since the bonus gods were kind to me, I bought myself a little present. (Most of it went into savings or bills. Really.) And I promptly got myself into one of my snits about it.

I don't make as many prints as I might. Mostly this is laziness but part of it was because my printer - my faithful Epson Stylus Photo 2200, which certainly owed me nothing - was getting a little temperamental and didn't like current MacOS very much. Endless driver problems. So I had been wanting a new one.

Lo and behold, Epson's website has refurbished Stylus Pro 3800's on sale for $995. (Normally $1295.) That's a lot of money, but on the other hand it costs less than half as much per print to operate. So if I got to making prints, it would save me money. Plus my wife is getting into photography and she can use it too. So I started thinking about it.

But wait! There's more!

December special, free shipping and $100 off instant rebate. Now the thing is $895, no tax, no shipping. And I can write it off. And I can print archival 17" wide prints. Oh, Hell. What's money for? Besides, more than half of that is ink. I think the actual printer cost me about $250. Unlike Canon and HP, Epson never ships printers with reduced-capacity starter cartriges. This thing came with over half a liter of ink all told. And I thought I might be able to get a little something for my old printer - they were still selling on eBay. (I ended up getting $100 cash for it, which means the net cash I had to come up with was only $795.)

So I bought one. Epson's shipping facility is in Indiana so even with the free ground shipping it only took three days to get here. After some lugwork getting it home (the box weighs about fifty pounds and is about 3' x 2') and setting it up, I was all set to test it. I put in some 4x6 paper for test prints... and it happened.

Paper didn't load properly. I fiddled and diddled and to make a long frustrating story short, couldn't get it to work right. Paper kept shifting.

So today I had to take a beef hindquarter to Oak Brook (long story) and after I dropped it off I went into Calumet Photo to look at their 3800 to see if mine was doing something wrong.

The nice man on the floor powered up their demo 3800 for me and fed a sheet of paper while I watched. It did the same thing.

After I stopped cursing and explained to him the problem, he asked me what size paper I'd been using.

"4x6 test sheets," I said.

"Everybody has problems with 4x6 sheets in this printer," he said. "They're very light and they tend to move a bit when the guides operate. The printer has to be able to handle big heavy 17" sheets and the tiny papers just get thrown around by the power of the mechanism."

So I ran through an 8.5x11 and did a targeted geometric figure to find the center.
Dead on. Perfect centering in both dimensions.

Okay, so I'm paranoid. I *did* run a few test sheets at 8.5x11 but they didn't look right last night (can you say confirmation bias?) Now they're fine.

This is the printer (courtesy of Calumet Photo:)

It's kinda big. But it should be fun. I also got some 17" x 22" (!) paper from Calumet's website when they were having a special sale the other day. The price I paid, it would actually be cheaper to print four pictures at once on them and cut them up than to use regular photo paper.

Another nice thing about it is that it has three stages of black and some fairly advanced black-and-white printing modes, which is something I'm looking forward to. It also holds both matte black ink and photo black ink at the same time (it has nine ink tanks.) That means that if I want to switch media I don't have to switch tanks, plus it saves a lot of time and ink because all it does is clear the line and then it's ready to print on the appropriate media. The other printer, which required a tank swap, used quite a bit of black ink to charge the line relative to the size of the tank, which meant that every three or four swaps cost me a $20 ink tank.


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