I have felt fortunate to make my living by selling my photographic prints to the general public for the last 20+ years, but doing this has required close scrutiny to material cost and efficiency.
When I talk with my photographer peers the conversation usually comes around to the price of ink at some point. Conventional wisdom has been that the modern pro printers with single 350 ml carts are much cheaper than the Epson 1280 that I have been using for years to print many of my images. Last month i decided to buy a new 7890 Epson. I had hoped that I could use this for small and large prints alike and save enough money on ink to pay for the printer . I had been using a Canon IPF 5000 for larger prints but found the user interface to be difficult and also felt it used a great deal of ink, so used it seldom.
The Epson 7890 gave me trouble from startup with a defective cart that had to be sent back. It was replaced and sent next day by Epson so it wasn't a big hassle, but recent reading has led me to believe this is not an isolated incident.
I sell approx. 450 different images in various sizes resulting in many thousands of prints per year. These have all been tweaked to give good results on the 1280. So, this past Sat. I decided to try to match the results of the 7890 to my 1280. Now, one might assume that a modern printer would exceed the results from an old 1280. Such was not the case to my eye. The dye/pigment ink of the 1280 gave slightly richer looking prints on premium presentation paper at 720 ppi no matter how I adjusted the gamma, contrast, brightness, or saturation values on the 7890.
Loading single sheets of letter paper into the 7890 turned to a nightmare and either I have a defective printer or the software needs modification. Following the manual closely resulted in an ERROR message "Paper Loaded Incorrectly". I called Epson tech and was rerouted 2 times to get the proper telephone # then was told to load a different way by a somewhat snippy support person. It did not work. I still got an error message. I did manage to get single sheets to feed but only after a significant amount of messing about. I still get an error message every time I load a single sheet.
The real surprise to me came with ink usage. I checked the percentage of ink in the 7890 carts after charging the tubes and have kept careful track of the prints that I have made and the percentage of ink used. When compared to the 1280 the 7890 ink is costing me almost 5 times what I now pay. I will continue to keep track of the usage and try to get a more accurate account for the 7890, but right now it breaks down like this:
1280 =$.00723/square in
Retail price..about $3000.
Single sheet feed... difficult ... at least with letter size on mine.
The relatively few prints I have made has required 3 nozzle cleanings
Price per square inch 5 X as high as 1280.
Will not print under 10 inch hight on roll paper resulting in paper/ink waste for smaller test prints or one offs.
Prints slightly less rich....(lower Dmax ?) than 1280
Larger prints 24"X whatever
Better print longevity.
No particular color bias that 1280 experiences.
print longevity 25 years on matte paper
color shift when not under glass
13" print width
Retail price of printer new...about $350.00..(out of production.)
Ink cost 1/5th that of 7890
stack paper with auto feed
ran all day yesterday (100's of prints) with no nozzle clogs.
slightly "richer" looking prints.
Even though the 1280 prints lack the longevity of the 7890 pigment ink prints I feel that in todays consumer economy it is a minor point. I sell to the general public where people redecorate more often than that. I have never had a print returned from the 1280 for fading or shifting issues. I used a 1270 before the 1280 so the prints have been out there 10 years or so from these printers.
At $.36 for a 5x7 print on a 1280 vs $1.24 for the same size print from a 7890, when multiplied by thousand of prints a year equals real money differences in my pocket vs in the pocket of Epson and their stock holders.
My 1280's are not going to E-bay auction any day soon!!