Has anyone ever broken down the cost/benefit of producing your own prints vs. using a lab? Does the recurring cost of ink and paper, plus the initial cost of the pritner outweigh the lab costs?
Yes, definitely. MarkDS has written some articles on this site about computing the costs (over the long term) of inkjet prints, FYI.
In my case, I used a fairly simple model that nonetheless answered the question for me. My favorite lab is WHCC (www.whcc.com
). An 8x10 from WHCC costs $2. This is the "sweet spot" in price for WHCC. Going above or below an 8x10 means that the cost/unit area goes up.
I considered getting an Epson 2200 ($700 at the time). I guesstimated that it would cost about $0.60 to print an 8.5x11 on Ilford Smooth Pearl, based on stats that I had gathered on ink costs for a friend's 2200, plus the cost of the paper itself.
So I wanted to know how many prints P I would have to make in order to make the Epson worthwhile (from purely a cost point of view). So I wrote
700 + 0.60 * P < 2 * P
700 < 1.4 * P
P > 500
So if I make more than ~500 prints of size roughly 8x10, the Epson will be cheaper. Since I often print bigger than 8x10, even fewer than 500 prints were needed to make the Epson more attractive from a cost point of view.
So I got my own printer.