Thursday, January 25, 2007

Pig. Printers: More Info Needed...

A couple of commenters to the previous post have hit one nail squarely on the head, which is that when considering a pigment printer, you need to consider a number of factors relating to ink. For each of the printers listed, it would be useful to come up with the hard numbers for the following:

1) number of inks each printer uses
2) amount of ink per cartridge
3) cost per cartridge
4) ink cost per ml.
5) cost of a complete set of cartridges

For instance, I don't think the number is published, but I believe that the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 uses ink cartridges with 14 ml. of ink per cart. (I have a notoriously bad memory for numbers; I'm recalling a conversation with an Epson rep several months ago). The Stylus Pro 3800 uses carts with 80 ml. per cart. Looking up the cost of the respective ink cartridges on the B&H website, it's $13 for an R2400 cart and $55 for a 3800 cart. While that's considerably more money for the latter, the cost per ml. is 93¢ for the R2400 and only 69¢ for the 3800.

The HP B9180 uses $32 carts with 28 ml. of ink per cart, for a per-milliliter cost of $1.14.

The Canon ipf5000, a more expensive printer, uses carts with 130 ml. of ink per cart that cost $75, for a per-ml. cost of 58¢. Cheaper even than the 3800, but not by all that much.

Into that equation, how important it is that the HP B9180, for example, takes 8 inks, for a total cost of $256 for a complete set of inks, while a complete set of 12 iPF5000 inks costs $900? Presumably, you're going to get more mileage out of a set of inks with more carts per set, so you'll have to replace them less frequently. So these numbers aren't a direct comparison, and that difference not quite as dramatic as it sounds.

A complete 3800 inkset costs $495 (9 carts at $55 per cart).

Lastly, you need to consider how much printing you do. Presumably, the less printing you do, the more sense it makes to get a printer with a lower unit cost and a lower per-cartridge cost, even if the cost per ml. of ink is higher. After all, you don't realize the savings for larger carts if you're not going to use them up. Or maybe a better way of putting that is, the savings aren't going to be as significant if you only use a few sets of cartridges over the service life of the printer.

(However, apropos my main recommendation, it's a poor economical choice to spend an hour or two of your life making a beautiful print that's going to fade in a couple of years. My early dye inkjet prints are fading unacceptably already, and I wasn't a particularly early adopter. Pigment inks and good papers are where it's at.)


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