Ink consumption and cartridge capacity
Enough said about installation and driver, let me switch to various observations I made as user of the Pro 3880. Firstly, about ink consumption and cartridge capacity.
The large 80ml cartridge capacity provides for many, many prints. When I received the device, most cartridges were drained about half and I still managed to print roundabout 40 borderless sheets of DIN A2 size without a need to replace any of those cartridges. In the course of testing it became obvious that LLK is the most heavily used ink, being employed in both colour and B/W printing.
When the ink level drops below 5%, the printer starts issuing pop-up warnings. You should be able to make full use of the cartridge capacity and continue printing until the printer pauses at Zero ink level, waiting for the operator to replace the cartridge and resume the print job. Since we are not dealing with paper-soaking dye ink, a break of a few minutes should not affect the image quality at all.
As a device constructed for professional print environments, the Pro3880 not only features robustness and stamina but enables detailed analysis of utilization and ink consumption. I have not looked deeper into those options; it just became obvious that one can go as far as to retrieve the exact consumption for a certain print job and bill a customer accordingly, if desired.
Print quality and reliability of Photoshop soft-proof preview
A lot depends on how serious you are about colour management and image data processing. On a colour-managed computer system with calibrated monitor, the similarity between printed and displayed image is pretty darn good. Well treated images yield excellent print results. Period. Anything else would be a surprise. I did not spot any unexpected hues on any of my prints. Have some confidence in the Photoshop proof preview; image sections that appear flawed in soft-proof will print flawed. Tonal separations and colour blotches visible on the monitor will be printed as blotches and separations. A source file containing large amounts of non-printable colours (exceeding the gamut of ink and paper) cannot result in a pleasing print. From experience I can say that highly saturated blue and magenta hues are the Achilles heel of matte print media; therefore I strongly recommend careful inspection of all images containing deeply saturated tones utilizing the softproof capability of your image editing software. Also, carefully check and toggle the possible rendering intents since, depending on the image content, there might be a world of difference between “relative colorimetric” and “perceptual”.
I am quite a fan of employing the gamut warning feature of Photoshop before printing colour pictures, solely because the grey patches raise awareness for possible problem areas that might require further processing. Even though I selected perceptual rendering, one of my sample pictures contained such a large amount of off-gamut colours that it took further processing (careful selective adjustments of hue, saturation and brightness) to yield a print that retained the overall appeal.
Don’t worry too much about the somewhat faded hues while working in proof preview with paper white simulation enabled. I got the strong impression that this is closer to the reality of the final print than the more contrasty regular proof preview. In particular, if you do fine tuning of image data, the paper simulation anticipates the result better and helps expecting too much from a print. It should be clear that reflective media are never as saturated and contrasty as self-luminescent displays.
My recipe for preparing a print is: enable soft-proof preview and check which rendering mode appears to suite best. Usually I toggle between “relative colorimetric with blackpoint compensation” and “perceptual without blackpoint compensation” which is quite easily done in Photoshop once you create user-defined print profiles for your selection of media.
Images containing lots of saturated colours will probably benefit best from perceptual rendering. The principle of perceptual rendering is mapping those colours exceeding the printer or media gamut into the available gamut at the expense of compressing all other hues sharing the same colour range. Imagine the media gamut being like a suitcase which you start filling with cloths until you reach the point where the nominal capacity is used up. If you continue squeezing more cloths into the suitcase, those well-ironed shirts already inside will start to suffer shape and appeal. Something very similar happens to the tones which fit the printable gamut. They become re-mapped and compressed in order to create space for the outbound hues.
Here comes an example: a section of an image that contains strong blue hues exceeding the print gamut, therefore perceptual rendering is the obvious choice.
Above you see the screen capture of a proof preview using perceptual rendering, below the same image with relative colorimetric rendering.
Relative rendering does not re-map the dark blue tones, thus yielding ugly blotches.
The obvious advantage of perceptual rendering come at a price: the reddish strip lines turn towards cold hues. You should be able to see the change between the two pictures. For comparison, here comes the original picture in regular view (proof preview disabled):
Having depicted the side effect of perceptual rendering, you will understand why I consider this rendering mode critical for images where skin tones are involved along with highly saturated colours e.g. in the background of a portrait. Perceptual rendering might easily throw an unfriendly cast onto the delicate skin tones. In such a case I would suggest sticking with relative rendering in order to preserve the skin tones. Carefully adjusting tonality and saturation of the background may help maintaining the overall appeal of the picture. It is best to perform this kind of selective manipulations in 16‑Bit colour depth mode, even if your source image is an 8-Bit Jpeg, because this enables the rendering algorithm creating finer interpolation and remapping of RGB-values, yielding smoothest possible tonal distribution.
Concerning rendering methods, my personal rule-of-thumb is:
- B/W always as “relative colorimetric with blackpoint compensation”
- “perceptual” rendering for colour images containing a noticeable amount of highly saturated colours exceeding the printable gamut
- Colour images of people using “relative colorimetric with blackpoint compensation” to preserve skin tones; this is also my preferred default.
It helps the resulting print quality if you start thinking about the final image presentation already at the time you take the picture. Vivid colours and strong contrast may look great on the monitor but is difficult to print, especially if we are talking about matte media. This type of media just cannot replicate the “Fujichrome Velvia” effect. You may reduce post-processing trouble by adjusting the in-camera settings towards reduced saturation and contrast if it is clear that a vividly coloured/high contrast scene shall be printed on matte media. Increasing contrast and saturation in post is far easier work than rescuing an oversaturated high contrast image (an undertaking that often fails).
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