Amazon shipped the Windows 7 Upgrade UPS ground instead of the 2nd day air I specified, so it won’t be here until next week. I will use the time to make friends with my new printer.
I’ve had an Epson 3800 for a couple of years now. I got it when the baryta-coated fiber papers began to be available. I’ve got a 9800 for matte papers. It’ll print on glossy paper as well, but you have to go through a 30-minute process of hovering over the printer flipping levers to change from matte black to photo black, all the while the printer runs through more than $50 worth of ink. Rather than do that, I thought I’d get a printer that could produce nearly the same results as the 9800, albeit on smaller paper, while having the ability to switch back and forth between the two kinds of black ink.
So I bought one of the first 3800s. I wasn’t disappointed in the print quality. It seemed to be every bit the equivalent of the 9800. However, there were other problems.
During the first few months, I was never able to print an entire 15×20 image on 17×22 paper. The printer always trailed off on the last half-inch or so. The folks at Epson professional support first said it was cockpit error, and then had me make a bunch of firmware changes, to no avail. They sent me a new printer. Same problem. They had me send them my files. They printed fine for them. Finally, they suggested not using the Ethernet port, but using the USB port instead. That fixed it. When they found that out, they said not to use the Ethernet port any more. After some complaining, that’s what I did. I figured that I didn’t have much choice. I asked them to let me know when they found the bug and fixed it, but I never heard from them.
In addition, the paper handling left a lot to be desired. The first problem I had was that it was way too persnickety when loading large sheets of paper. Loaded from the back or the front, it didn’t seem to make much difference. Three times out of four, it would reject the paper as being misaligned. I’d reload the paper, holding my tongue in a different position, and it would work. I never did learn how to do it right. I finally got fed up and turned off the alignment check.
The printer always fed just fine from the regular multi-sheet hopper, but sometimes when feeding from the rear slot it would get the paper hung up, not realize it, and print on nothing, dumping a whole page worth of ink in the bottom of the printer, where it would streak the next three or four prints. I suffered along.
When I printed the glossies for PhotoLucida last spring, I used the Harman baryta paper, which comes in 17×25 sheets. The 3800 is not specified to handle pieces of paper larger than 17×22, but the driver let me specify a custom size that worked just fine. I printed many 17x25s from the rear manual slot, with no problems except for the occasional lack of feeding the paper. I got pretty good at watching closely and stopping the printer before it made too much of a mess.
I fear that I may be giving the wrong impression of the 3800, because I’ve been focusing on the negatives. It is small. It is quiet. The nozzles hardly ever clog. The print quality is great. I have printed several thousand 8x10s from the standard hopper with hardly any problems. It is not a bad printer.
A couple of weeks ago, when I was trying to print a 15×23 image on the Harman paper, the printer discovered a new way to screw up. It would print almost the whole page, then the paper would start to get cocked at an angle. Finally, it would hang up on the side of the printer, there would be a popping sound, and the printer would spit the paper out with the trailing edge of the image misaligned.
I started to think about a new printer for my glossy work. The obvious choices were the just-shipping 3880, or the 4880. The big knock on the 4880 is that it is just as bad at swapping between photo black and matte black as my 9800. That wasn’t a problem for me, since I had the other printer for matte work. There is currently a rebate program that makes the 4880 not much more expensive than the 3880. However, the 4880 is huge, and heavy, and noisy. I decided to go with the devil I (sort of) knew, and ordered a 3880.