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Author Topic: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics  (Read 1254 times)

NAwlins_Contrarian

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Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« on: August 31, 2017, 01:06:09 AM »

Another thread recently got into ink usage for printing, why Red River Paper found what they found, etc. I had some suspicions and analyzed their tests with a little extra data. The results of volume of ink used for area printed did not surprise me too much: the more colors of ink a printer uses, the more ink it uses for printing a given area. The results of cost of ink used for area printed did surprise me at least somewhat: going by then-current B&H prices as of when I starting compiling this data, the costs are a lot more of a scatter than I'd thought. I've attached as JPEGs screen-captures of my spreadsheet, one sorted by volume of ink used and the other sorted by cost of ink used.

Forgive me if this is too basic or simplistic to be useful, but to give a very simplified explanation by example about ink use: if the color to be printed is light gray, a printer with only black ink and no gray might print (say) one black dot for three places it leaves white (uninked paper). A printer with black plus one gray ink might print in the same area two gray dots and leave two places white. A printer with black, gray, and light gray might print light gray in all four places. So it would seem that all else being equal--and I realize it isn't!--the ratio of volume of ink used by these three printers to print a light gray area is 1:2:4.

And Red River's tests show just that, in a general way: all of the printers with 8 to 10 colors of ink (with photo black and matte black counted as one color, and gloss optimizer / chroma optimizer not counted as ink) used a greater volume of ink per area printed (1.2 to 1.9 ml/ft^2) than all of the printers with 6 colors of ink (all 1.0 ml/ft^2), and the printer with 5 colors of ink used the least (0.9 ml/ft^2).

Cost is a trickier thing, and my analysis is subject to some vagaries (detailed below). It won't surprise you that the most expensive was the little Epson R280 with Epson's 'standard' 7 ml cartridges (the 11 ml high-capacity cartridges work out cheaper) at $2.20/ft^2. But the very cheapest was the old Epson R1900, using little 11 ml cartridges, at $0.88/ft^2. The general trends you'd expect more-or-less hold sort-of true, but there are many outliers / much scatter in the data; for example, the Epson P600 is surprisingly expensive, and the Epson R2880 is surprisingly cheap.

About my methodology: in all cases I started with Red River Paper's data. Their own test reports show that their methodology has not been totally consistent over time, and what paper you print on, which is one thing they have changed among different reviews, may matter. The cartridge size data used for the cost comes from a variety of sources, and in one or two cases comes from the manufacturers' other-country websites, leaving open the possibility that cartridge capacity varies among countries. Based on my own personal interest, and Red River's promotion of the same ICC profiles among the models at issue, I assumed that the Epson R280 and Artisan 50 used ink at exactly the same rate as the 1400. In some cases the cyan cartridge did not cost the same as some other colors, and I made no attempt to account for that. It would not surprise me if B&H's prices for some of the cartridges vary significantly over the months much less years.
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Farmer

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #1 on: August 31, 2017, 04:29:34 AM »

I think your premise needs to be further tested.

Printers with variable drop technology do not necessarily fit your assumption of more ink for more colour inks compared to those without.  A black only printer with variable dots might use 1 or multiple dots of different sizes to create a grey compared to a printer with variations of lighter black (which again, could be used in varying sizes).

It also depends on the resolutions being used and the media being used, although that would tend to be consistent for those factors.

It also assumes that you are creating a colour without reference to anything beside it which may necessitate a different amount of ink or different size so that the colour appears correct both for that nominal pixel and for the one next to it.  It also is based essentially on printing single colours which are better represented by multiple drops of another (if available).

Most photos, in reality, have so many colours printed on the page that there would be an averaging of the effect.
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Phil Brown

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #2 on: August 31, 2017, 06:32:08 AM »

If you allow that grey inks are diluted black, it makes perfect sense: the same total amount of black pigment is used to create a specific shade of grey, whether it comes from a small amount of black ink or a larger amount of grey ink.

Whether the same is true for colour mixing, I wouldn't want to guess...
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Paul Roark

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #3 on: August 31, 2017, 11:28:12 AM »

As a black and white photographer & printer, my formula for holding down printing costs is (in addition to using Red River papers when they are appropriate) to dilute my own MK and PK with the dilution bases I've formulated and published the formulas for.  OEM inks, particularly the light ones, are very expensive water.

Paul
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http://www.paulroark.com/BW-Info/
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Ferp

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #4 on: August 31, 2017, 08:22:25 PM »

Thinking about this, I'd expect printers like the R2000 to use less ink.  A printer without any of the light inks - LC, LM, LK, LLK - will have to print lighter colors and shades by dithering, i.e. spacing the ink dots further apart, won't it?  Printers with those light inks will rely on them for printing lighter colors and shades, and so I'd expect them to use more ink volume.  The R2000 is at the bottom end of that list in terms of ml/ft2.  If I'm right then this effect would be more pronounced when printing lighter-toned images, and there may not be all that much difference for dark-toned images.  Of course the R2000 has a higher cost / ml, and so you gain on the straight and lose on the round-about.

Using the same logic, I'd expect that printers set up to use one of the monochrome inksets, like Paul's or Cone's Piezography, would also use a higher volume of ink.  I guess that one advantage of Paul's inkset is the low cost / ml.

What does puzzle me in that table of numbers is the higher rate of ink usage in the P800 & P600 compared to their respective predecessors, the 3880 & R3000.  If anything you might expect the later printers to use less, as the black is blacker and so you'd need to use less of it.  I don't see how your theory about more or less inks explains the difference between these two generations of otherwise similar printers.
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traderjay

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #5 on: August 31, 2017, 10:15:29 PM »

I think its a common knowledge that:
- Printer with smaller cartridges (P600, Canon Pro 1) are always more expensive compared to models with larger cartridges
- Printers with 11 or 12 colors uses on average less ink per color vs printers with 6 or 8 colors?

While its good that we are getting into the details of cost per page etc but I think we are killing ourselves. There are way too many factors to properly quantify everything.
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NAwlins_Contrarian

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #6 on: September 01, 2017, 12:21:44 AM »

Thanks all for your thoughts on this. Going in order:

Quote
I think your premise needs to be further tested.

Definitely! The available data is pretty limited. But the Red River Paper ink use tests are something regularly discussed here and on DPR, so further analysis of their results seemed like a worthwhile starting point. If you just take their data and factor in the number of ink colors (easy to determine, no real question on accuracy) and ink cartridge volume (in some cases more difficult to determine, with less-than-certain accuracy) you get new tentative conclusions that seem to me to be of wider interest.

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Printers with variable drop technology do not necessarily fit your assumption of more ink for more colour inks compared to those without. A black only printer with variable dots might use 1 or multiple dots of different sizes to create a grey compared to a printer with variations of lighter black (which again, could be used in varying sizes).

That does not seem correct to me. To make the optical density of, for example, a gray area using black ink, I suspect that whether you put in a given area 4 dots of 1 pl each, or 2 dots of 2 pl each, or 1 dot of 4 pl, you get the same or close to the same appearance, at least at normal viewing distances. Also, I have the sneaking suspicion that at least in many cases, the drop size does not vary over one print; it varies only when you change the printer's resolution. In other words, if I set the R280 to 5760x1440, I get the 1.5 pl ink drops; and at 2880x1440 dpi, I get the 2.5 pl (or whatever) ink drops; and if I set it to 1440x1440 dpi, I get the 5 pl ink drops.

Quote
Thinking about this, I'd expect printers like the R2000 to use less ink.  A printer without any of the light inks - LC, LM, LK, LLK - will have to print lighter colors and shades by dithering, i.e. spacing the ink dots further apart, won't it?  Printers with those light inks will rely on them for printing lighter colors and shades, and so I'd expect them to use more ink volume.

Yes, exactly. That's what I was trying to illustrate with my crude example. More colors means less making up apparent color with a lot of white and a small amount of black on the page, instead of larger volumes of more intermediate-color inks.

Quote
I think its a common knowledge that:
- Printer with smaller cartridges (P600, Canon Pro 1) are always more expensive compared to models with larger cartridges
- Printers with 11 or 12 colors uses on average less ink per color vs printers with 6 or 8 colors?

(Emphasis added.) Part of my point is that this supposed "common knowledge" about ink costs is simply not true, at least if the Red River data is basically valid; it's only a generalization subject to multiple exceptions, not something that "always" is true. And although I think that printers with more colors of ink probably use less ink per color than do printers with fewer colors of ink, the more relevant consideration is that the total volume of ink used tends to increase with the increasing number of ink colors.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2017, 12:25:19 AM by NAwlins_Contrarian »
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Ferp

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #7 on: September 01, 2017, 09:30:29 AM »

While its good that we are getting into the details of cost per page etc but I think we are killing ourselves.

Good point.  Ultimately, the printer manufacturers will get you either coming or going.  You just choose how and when you pay.  But people considering the P600 - P800 choice still need to understand the numbers and compare them to how much they will print.

Yes, exactly. That's what I was trying to illustrate with my crude example. More colors means less making up apparent color with a lot of white and a small amount of black on the page, instead of larger volumes of more intermediate-color inks.

That's not more colors, that's different colors, for the R2000 vs a K3 printer.  Both are eight channel printers (although you could argue about the gloss optimizer).  A ten ink printer has more colors, but unlike the R2000, I can't see see a theoretical reason why it should use more or less ink than an eight channel printer.  I don't think the point you're making is best described in terms of the number of colors.
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Farmer

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #8 on: September 01, 2017, 09:57:42 PM »

That does not seem correct to me. To make the optical density of, for example, a gray area using black ink, I suspect that whether you put in a given area 4 dots of 1 pl each, or 2 dots of 2 pl each, or 1 dot of 4 pl, you get the same or close to the same appearance, at least at normal viewing distances. Also, I have the sneaking suspicion that at least in many cases, the drop size does not vary over one print; it varies only when you change the printer's resolution. In other words, if I set the R280 to 5760x1440, I get the 1.5 pl ink drops; and at 2880x1440 dpi, I get the 2.5 pl (or whatever) ink drops; and if I set it to 1440x1440 dpi, I get the 5 pl ink drops.

Drop sizes can either be consistent or variable within the one print depending upon the underlying resolution selected.  There are resolutions at which you will get different drop sizes and those in which you get just one and not all sizes are available at all resolutions (even when using a RIP).  Those drops have different dot gain on different media and there is indeed a difference in the apparent colour resulting from the same amount of ink laid down in different configurations and patterns.
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Phil Brown

NAwlins_Contrarian

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #9 on: September 01, 2017, 11:42:14 PM »

Quote
Quote
While its good that we are getting into the details of cost per page etc but I think we are killing ourselves.

Good point. Ultimately, the printer manufacturers will get you either coming or going. You just choose how and when you pay. But people considering the P600 - P800 choice still need to understand the numbers and compare them to how much they will print.

No doubt printing at home can be expensive, but the calculations presented above show that even just in the realm of buying new ink from a major retailer for small and mid-size printers, there's a 2.5x range in ink costs per area printed.

Quote
That's not more colors, that's different colors, for the R2000 vs a K3 printer. Both are eight channel printers (although you could argue about the gloss optimizer).

IMO, by an appropriate way of counting--that is, what would generate substantially-different L*a*b values--actually it is more colors. The R2000 has CMYKRO--six colors. The K3 printers like its contemporary the R3000 have CcMmYKGg--eight colors. Gloss optimizer is neither a color nor even sprayed like a color; it has a totally different function and usage pattern. Both printers have both photo black and matte black, which I count as one color--on any given print, it's an either / or situation. Yes, I'm counting light cyan, light magenta, gray ('light black'), and light gray ('light light black') as separate colors.

The basic point is that if the R2000 uses x amount of cyan + x amount of no ink (white of the paper) to print the appearance of light cyan, but the R3000 uses 2x amount of light cyan ink to print the same appearance, then the R3000 uses 2x the ink of the R2000 to print that particular area. The same goes for the other colors. It will surely vary from print to print, but it's hardly surprising that Red River Paper's data with the additional calculations presented above shows that with the sample images they used, the R3000 used 1.3x as much volume of ink per area printed as the R2000 did.

Quote
Those drops have different dot gain on different media and there is indeed a difference in the apparent colour resulting from the same amount of ink laid down in different configurations and patterns.

I don't doubt that there's some variability. But I suspect the variability there is considerably less than the change you'd get going from a printer with (for example) light cyan, light magenta, and light black (gray) to a printer without those colors.
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Farmer

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #10 on: September 02, 2017, 06:41:43 AM »

I don't doubt that there's some variability. But I suspect the variability there is considerably less than the change you'd get going from a printer with (for example) light cyan, light magenta, and light black (gray) to a printer without those colors.

That's not an unreasonable question, but it will take some actual testing.

Also, the cost metric doesn't provide a measure of actual value.  A better print which costs more to make will likely still represent better value.
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Phil Brown

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #11 on: September 02, 2017, 08:24:36 AM »

No doubt printing at home can be expensive

Actually, my printing costs are less than if I get a machine print at the local department store (Harvey Norman).
And as Farmer notes, are we comparing like with like in terms of print quality.

Finally, let's include the total cost of a print hanging on the wall which includes:
- Paper
- Ink
- Protective coating
- Mounting / framing

Now, if we added cost of camera gear divided by the number of actually mounted/framed prints....
And the time by the photographer in capturing, processing and printing the final print.

Frankly, for the quality of the final print and the flexibility that home printing provides, ink is cheap!
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enduser

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #12 on: September 02, 2017, 09:18:51 PM »

There is the cost of buying the printer to be factored in somewhere.  A print from Harvey Norman is free of machine costs for the customer. Although on the other hand you do pay for their machine a little at a time with each print you buy
If you buy many prints, at some point you've bought their machine for them.  I wonder where the economic cross-over point is?
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Stephen Ray

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #13 on: September 03, 2017, 12:05:42 AM »

: the more colors of ink a printer uses, the more ink it uses for printing a given area.

Are you sure this is true? If more ink were used, wouldn't the result be darker?

It also depends on the resolutions being used and the media being used, although that would tend to be consistent for those factors.

Are you sure this is true? Regardless of resolution the color should be the same. If not, at least one factor could be the ICC profile not performing correctly.
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Ferp

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #14 on: September 03, 2017, 09:12:43 AM »

Are you sure this is true? If more ink were used, wouldn't the result be darker?

This is why I preferred to describe the difference between the R2000 and the P800 as different colors, rather than more/less colors.  The difference between the R2000 and the P800 stems from the way they print lighter colors.  The R2000, not having light inks, is going to have to space the dots.  The P800 instead will use those light inks and hence use more ink.

There aren't any numbers in that Red River table for ten color printers like the 4900, P5000 or larger, but I bet that adding in two more colors in the form of orange and green wouldn't change matters much. 
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Stephen Ray

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #15 on: September 03, 2017, 01:11:56 PM »

The P800 instead will use those light inks and hence use more ink.

But using less of the other, more usual CMYK inks, thus equal amounts of ink to make the same color. No?
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MHMG

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2017, 02:41:42 PM »

I think some of the key variables have been touched on correctly in this discussion, but they aren't easy to separate.  To get to correct density on a finished print, i.e., neither too dark nor too light across the full tonal scale and assuming the influence of different media/media settings has been taken out of the loop, different printers do indeed lay down different size drops in different ways. Ultimately, the colorant, either pigment or dye, has to be built up gradually to get to the correct density. For printers with dilute inks such as LC, LM, LLK, LK, etc., the colorant-to-solvent volume ratio is considerably lower, so more ink (mainly comprised of solvent) has to be jetted to build up the image density. Downside is more ink consumed, but upside is smoother midtone and highlight gradations with less noticeable dot structure. How the printer driver/firmware LUT handles the ink channel ramp from a more dilute ink to a less dilute ink, e.g., from LC to  C, LM to M, or LLK to LK to K, etc., thus also enters into how much solvent load is going to be used to arrive at the final image density and hence how much ink gets used on average to create any given color. Then too, even simple CMYK printers perform GCR (gray component replacement) to varying degrees, meaning that the black channel can be substituted for ,C, M, and Y coverage when making low chroma colors, and ink channel substitution  gets far more sophisticated when considering printers that can substitute red/orange, green, blue/violet inks for Cyan, magenta, and yellow combinations. A red/orange ink for example, can be used substitute to varying degree with magenta and yellow inks, when building skin tone colors, but only if the ink channel algorithm allows it.  Thus, how much ink channel substitution occurs to produce any given color depends on the firmware LUTs and software media settings built into the printer by the color scientists who designed the RGB to printer color channel conversion tables for that printer.

What is clear to me from the spreadsheets and from various printer amortization studies I have doing lately, is that none of these printers is capable of competing economically with 4x6 RC photo paper sizes readily obtained from major photofinishing service bureus, yet every single one of them is fully capable of ultimately matching photo lab prices when printing RC photo paper enlargements, especially 8x10 or larger if you make enough prints regularly. 

Moreover, if you choose to print on fine art media, say Canson Rag Photographique or Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Pearl, then DIY printing can pay for itself in just a few dozen prints because a custom lab that offers these fine art media is going to charge 10x or more over the cost of printing on inexpensive RC photo paper, but the increased paper price doesn't account for that markup.  This conclusion, does of course assume you know how to print in a fully color managed workflow and aren't wasting a lot of ink and paper trying to get the colors and tones where you want them in the final prints.  That said, you'd have similar disappointment in print quality handing off your image files to a pro print Lab if you don't know how to prep files correctly for said print provider. Some good pro labs will of course make additional corrections and even handle file prep from start to finish for you, but that's even more expensive.

How fast a home printer gets you to a break even point compared to outsourcing the work is actually more a function of the initial cost of the printer, not the ongoing consumable charges, and of course, how much printing you do.  So, an inexpensive inkjet photo printer will reach break even on 8x10 RC photo print pricing in a few hundred prints while a more expensive printer model like the Canon Pro-1000 is going to get there at around 1200-1500 8x10 equivalent size prints. They all get there eventually, but the best advice I can give to anyone thinking of bringing photo printing in house is to have a serious discussion with yourself about how much printing you are likely to do in any given month and how important is it to you to craft your own prints from start to finish. Again, if you intend to routinely print enlargements of 8x10 or bigger on high quality fine art media rather budget RC photo paper, you only need to think in terms of a few dozen prints per year to easily justify the total ongoing costs of printer, ink, and media... printer and media choices playing the more dominant role in total cost of ownership amortized on a cost per print basis, notwithstanding how most endusers obsess about OEM ink prices.

cheers,
Mark
http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 03:09:19 PM by MHMG »
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Ferp

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #17 on: September 03, 2017, 06:06:50 PM »

But using less of the other, more usual CMYK inks, thus equal amounts of ink to make the same color. No?

As Mark explained, no.  At least not in the lighter colors. 

Mark's post is very helpful, but in this and the related "need a new printer" thread, to paraphrase Shakespeare, to print your own work or not to print your own work, that is not the question.  Rather, for those who wish to, it is which printer makes most sense and why?

People trying to make a living from photography, but which I mean the taking and selling of images, are usually told in professional courses to outsource any printing.  It's not just the cost of the materials and equipment, it's the cost of their time as well.
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NAwlins_Contrarian

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #18 on: September 03, 2017, 06:52:56 PM »

Quote
That's not an unreasonable question, but it will take some actual testing.

Sure. More testing would probably be more informative. Good testing is neither easy nor cheap. The best, and most frequently-discussed, testing of which I'm aware is the Red River Paper testing, which was the starting point of the analysis.

Quote
Quote
the more colors of ink a printer uses, the more ink it uses for printing a given area.

Are you sure this is true? If more ink were used, wouldn't the result be darker?

In response to some of the questions and statements, and thinking Mark has hit on the main point, let me modify my statement: I think that when a printer adds more ink colors that are basically lighter versions of existing colors--which is what most but not all of the inkjet printers with more than the four basic colors (CMYK) do--then all else being equal, it will use more ink. A printer can simulate the lighter color with some ink of the darker version of that color plus some unprinted white space (i.e., no ink used) or a larger amount of ink of the lighter version of that color plus less or no unprinted white space. The Epson P400 is the notable current printer that does not use lighter versions of colors. Among current pigment-ink printers, the Epson P600, P800, P5000, etc.; the Canon Pro-10, Pro-1000, Pro-2000, etc.; and the HP Z3200 series, all use multiple light colors of ink. Among current dye-ink printers, the Epson Artisan 1430 and Canon Pro-100 feature multiple light colors of ink (and the Canon iP8720 / 8750 / 8760 uses one light color, adding gray to black).

As for costs: they vary considerably by country. Also, I think the basic economics point is the same regardless of whether the lab is making wet prints (RA-4 process) or inkjet prints (like with the Fuji DL series, whose guts are widely reputed to be basically Epson inkjets). But at least in the U.S., I don't think there is any inkjet photo printer that can print high-quality* 4x6 inch prints as cheaply as you can get decent to very good 4x6 inch prints from reputable labs and many drugstores. Conversely, as long as you print enough (and in the case of pigment-ink printers, often enough), starting with 5x7 inch prints and increasing as the prints get bigger, it is very possible to amortize the cost of a home photo inkjet printer and print at lower expense (printer amortization + ink + paper) than any reputable lab or drugstore. In any particular use case, the 'right' and/or economical home printer choice might be anything from a Canon TS9020--Amazon had then for $110 the other day--to an Epson P7000 or Canon Pro-2000 or HP Z3200ps, or even a larger printer. Much depends on how often you print, how big you want to print, and what you want to print on.

*If you use no-name ink and cheap paper, you might get a lower cost. But then you'll probably have prints that are somewhat unlikely to look as good at the outset, and highly unlikely to last as well.
« Last Edit: September 03, 2017, 06:56:20 PM by NAwlins_Contrarian »
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MHMG

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Re: Injet ink costs and use, Red River tests, comparative metrics
« Reply #19 on: September 03, 2017, 07:49:36 PM »


People trying to make a living from photography, but which I mean the taking and selling of images, are usually told in professional courses to outsource any printing.  It's not just the cost of the materials and equipment, it's the cost of their time as well.

This is a whole other can of worms. Many buyers of original content photography (as opposed to stock photos) today only expect digital image delivery. They are happy to view their hired photographer's work on iPhones and iPads. If they do at some point want a print or two, they may well outsource the job themselves. That said, I believe photographers have an opportunity to market custom printing, and if they are successful at marketing this value-added service to their clients, then eventually bringing that printing in house and under their direct control is a definite consideration, especially when providing output on high quality fine art media rather than budget priced RC photo media. It's in this higher quality end of the print production cycle where the money is to be made and bringing the print production know-how into one's own studio pays off in the longer run.

cheers,
Mark
http://www.aardenburg-imaging.com
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