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Accessories Reviews

Color Management and the Epson Stylus Pro 7900 Printer

Hal Becker (HBB)


Keywords: epson, stylus, 7900, printer, paper, non_nikon

Show pages (7 Pages)

Introduction and Color Management Overview

Over the last several years, I have progressed through a number of Epson large format printers including the Stylus Pro 4000 (seventeen inch carriage), the Stylus Pro 7800 (twenty-four inch carriage) and currently the Stylus Pro 7900 (twenty-four inch carriage), which I have reviewed for this article. I have included the following brief overview of color management because I believe that anyone getting into large format printing needs to commit the time necessary to develop a personal color management philosophy, work flow, and operational procedures if they are to produce optimum results.

Some digital photographers report great success with large prints produced at local laboratories, camera stores and other sites that will accept camera memory cards, CDs, and thumb drives, and return finished prints in an hour or so. Other users of these services are less than enthusiastic. The joy of producing that first large format print on your own system that motivates people to gasp when they see it cannot be matched.

In spite of the rapid and continuing advancements in large format printing technologies, the process has not yet been reduced to the point and click state. It still requires user involvement and understanding at several levels, and a fairly solid grasp of color management fundamentals, which will not be developed overnight.

My approach to color management is based primarily on my work with digital photography, beginning several years ago with my transition from a pair of Nikon F3 cameras through a Nikon D100, a pair of D70's, to the Nikon D2X, D3 and D3X models I now use. It has evolved considerably over intervening years and continues to change in response to evolutionary and revolutionary advances in digital camera, image processing software, printer hardware, paper, and ink technologies. The dynamics of these technologies are far from static, and the only absolute that I see for several years in color management and large format printing is that there are no absolutes.

There are many paths to successful large format color and black and white printing, influenced by individual preferences and desired goals. Any number of books, workshops, seminars, web sites, and educational programs are available for those motivated to experience the joys of large format printing. While these tools will provide insight and guidance to large format printing, users must still be willing to dedicate the time and exhibit the patience necessary for success.

One of the keys to developing a successful color management workflow is an awareness of light and its role in digital photography and large format printing.  This awareness extends to the quantity of light, its quality, direction, color temperature and other factors. The difference between an ordinary and an exceptional print often revolves around an understanding of light and related illumination factors.

The light illuminating a subject or a scene can be bright and harsh, or soft and diffuse. It can range from the crisp, cool, blue of noon daylight in the shade, to the warm yellow/red glow of tungsten lamps or candles. It can be ambient sunlight, streetlights, moonlight, interior room lights, etc., or supplemental hot, always-on studio lights, studio strobes, portable speedlights and others.

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Hal Becker - Grand Canyon Arizona 2010

Other key factors include the various perceptions and interpretations of the original scene or image, throughout the color management process, that is to be printed and ultimately hung on a wall somewhere for viewing. Many of these interpretations are produced by various hardware systems involved, beginning with a digital camera, progressing through a computer with its color monitor, eventually to a color printer with a specific paper and ink set, and hence to a wall in a home or gallery under the ambient lighting. Throughout the process, several perceptions of these interpretations are produce in the eye/brain system of the color printer user.

For many users, the ultimate goal of sound color management workflow and practice is to reproduce an initial scene as perceived by the photographer with as much realism and fidelity as possible on a finished print hanging on a wall, under the available illumination. The interpretations and perceptions encountered along the way include the following list. Note that the final print may, or may not, be produced by the photographer.  One or more graphic artists may be involved in the sequence, and their eye/brain perception of color may be different that the photographer's.

  1. Initial scene as perceived by the photographer.
  2. The scene as interpreted by the sensor and related hardware/software technologies in a digital camera.
  3. The image as interpreted by a computer monitor, prior to software manipulation and perceived by the photographer or graphic artist.
  4. The image as interpreted by a computer monitor following software manipulation, and perceived by the photographer or graphic artist.
  5. The image as interpreted by a specific printer using a specific ink set on a specific paper and perceived by the photographer or graphic artist.
  6. The image as perceived by the photographer or graphic artist immediately following printing and under the ambient illumination of the printing studio.
  7. The image as perceived by the photographer or graphic artist following the required drying time for the print, under ambient studio illumination.
  8. The image as perceived by the photographer and others when hung on a wall under the intended illumination, which may, or may not, be close to the illumination of the scene as initially perceived by the photographer in step 1), above.

As noted above, several stages of the production process involve the photographer's and/or graphic artist's perception of images interpreted and presented by various technologies.  At each stage, the original image is modified either by the various hardware/software systems, and/or by the photographer or graphic artist processing it.


 

Color management practitioners should be aware that the human eye/brain system performs considerable "processing" of perceived scenes, colors and images.  For example, to the human eye/brain system, a white shirt appears white regardless of the color temperature of the illumination source; bright blue sunlight to reddish/yellow tungsten lamps.  Digital cameras and color printers have no such innate ability and the photographer's or graphic artist's perceptions and image manipulations are required to achieve the desired color fidelity.  With practice, large format color printer users will become aware of these often subtle differences, and make the appropriate adjustments in their color management workflow.

Photographers and graphic artists should also be aware that each of the interpretations presented by the various technologies in the above eight stages is slightly different than the others.  The digital camera interpretation is recorded in a semiconductor sensor and displayed on a very small, relatively low resolution LCD screen on the back.  The computer monitor interpretation is a much higher resolution, more faithful image generated with projected light produced by small red, green and blue pixels.  The color image produced on a sheet of paper by a printer is illuminated by reflected ambient illumination, which is usually quite different than that produced and perceived at the original site, or by a computer monitor.  The printer user's goal is to be aware of these differences and apply the procedures necessary to retain the image's resolution and color fidelity throughout the color management process and workflow.

From another perspective, the human eye/brain system has a much greater dynamic range than current generation digital cameras can capture, current computer monitors can display, and current generation color printers can reproduce.  These differences also contribute to the differing interpretations and perceptions that occur during the color management interval and sequence.  In time, camera, computer and printer technologies may overcome these limitations.  For now, numerous color management techniques, including High Dynamic Range (HDR) software applications and printer ink sets can be applied to the task.

In time, and with practice, as their color management philosophy and workflow evolve, digital photographers and large format color printer users will develop a much more discerning eye with respect to scene illumination, color temperatures, white balances and other related parameters.  It will take time to learn the many parameters involved and their interrelationships.  It may be frustrating and discouraging in the early stages, but with patience and persistence, the end result will be well worth the effort.


The Epson Pro 7900 and Pro 9900 printers are identical in almost every respect, except their width, weight and a few other minor details. The same instruction manual comes with both models.

I ordered the Pro 7900 from an out of state dealer for four reasons:

  1. Very competitive price.
  2. No sales tax.
  3. No shipping charge.
  4. Four hundred dollars worth of roll paper of my choice included in the quoted price.

Epson was also offering a rebate at the time. I suggest shopping around for the best price, and waiting for rebates if possible: It pays dividends.

The Pro 7900 weighs 222 pounds (100.9 kg) including the printer, stand and paper basket, but not the ink cartridges. It comes in one very large box that requires delivery by a truck with a lift gate. I paid a $75.00 US charge for the lift gate delivery truck.

When mounted on the stand, the Pro 7900 is 48 inches tall (1,218 mm), 53.4 inches wide (1,356 mm) and 26.26 inches deep (667 mm). It is considerably larger in all dimensions, and heavier, than the Pro 7800 that preceded it. Two or more (Epson recommends four) capable people are required to lift the printer out of the shipping carton and place it on the assembled stand. The Pro 7900 stand has been improved over previous large format printers, as there is much less side to side vibration when it is printing.

If the printer is to be used some distance from the unloading area (down a long hallway, or on another floor) I suggest carrying the printer and the stand to this area for assembly and mounting. For long distances, a wheeled dolly for the printer would be very useful. The size of the shipping carton precludes moving it indoors for unpacking and assembly, unless a freight door, or double doors without a middle jamb are available.

Once on the stand, the unit was easily rolled into the house and on to the designated room. Epson suggests at least twelve inches clear space on all sides. This is a sizeable printer and space should be carefully considered before ordering.


 

The stand consists of two sides and a lateral strut, which are easily assembled using the included hex wrench. An instruction manual holder is clipped onto one of the sides, a couple of cable clips are inserted, and assembly is complete.

Once in final position, the cloth paper basket is assembled and attached to the printer. This basket folds up and out of the way under the printer when not in use. The casters should also be locked at this time to keep the printer from moving while operating.

All moveable components are held in place for shipping by several strips of blue tape which should be removed, including a small tab that holds the print head in place.

Startup

I always power my printers through an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) for several reasons:

  1. To protect the printer from power line surges, which are very common in this area.
  2. To protect the printer from power outages (also very common here) while printing, which wastes paper and ink.
  3. To assure that the printer will not be shut down prematurely. Epson recommends always shutting the unit down by using the power on/off button on the console, assuring an orderly shutdown procedure. Power strips and externally switched circuits should not be used.

Once the power cord is connected, the printer is turned on at the console, the “Install Ink Cartridge” message appears in the LCD display, and the ink cartridge doors (one left and one right) are automatically opened. It is not possible to open the ink doors manually as in previous Epson printer models. The Pro 7900 (and Pro 9900) ink cartridges are pressurized and must be depressurized prior to removing them. Hence, the change in door opening procedure. When replacing exhausted ink cartridges, a button on the console is used to access an on-screen utility and select left, right, or both doors for opening.

The Pro 7900 uses eleven ink colors. An initial set of eleven 110 ml cartridges are included and installed at this time. The ink colors and their abbreviations include:

Left Side Right Side
1) Cyan (C) 7) Vivid Magenta (VM)
2) Orange (O) 8) Light Black (LB)
3) Yellow (Y)  9) Green (G)
4) Light Cyan (LC)  10) Light Light black (LLK)
5) Matte Black (MK)  11) Vivid Light Magenta (VLM)
6) Photo Black (PB)  

Like all color printers, the eleven 110 ml cartridges will not be used at the same rate, depending on individual users images and printing practices. Replacement cartridges are available in 150, 350, and 700 ml sizes. As the 110 ml cartridges are depleted, selection of replacement cartridges can be determined: smaller cartridges for the less frequently used colors, and larger capacity cartridges for the more frequently used colors. I am not a production printer, and have settled on the 150 ml cartridges for the less frequently used colors, and the 350 ml cartridges for the more frequently used colors.

Prior to insertion into the designated slot, each ink cartridge should be rocked gently form end to end to distribute the ink pigments in the liquid vehicle. Cartridges should not be vigorously shaken, as this may introduce air bubbles in the pigment/vehicle mixture that might cause problems later as the bubbles make their way through the lines to the print head.

Epson ink cartridges have a shelf life of two years, and a use-within period of six months for installed units. It is possible to remove cartridges, gently agitate them, and replace them should the six month period expire before they are depleted.

Once all ink cartridges have been installed and the doors closed, the ink charging procedure begins. This procedure will take several minutes

At this time, the printer can be connected to either a USB interface (1.1 and 2.0 compatible) or an Ethernet 10/100 Base T cable. The Pro 7900 manual suggests a maximum cable length of “10 feet (6 m?)”. I have been using a USB 2.0 cable approximately 16 feet long (5 m) with no problems of any kind.


The software disc includes drivers for Windows and Macintosh systems. The Windows version installed quickly, and without issue, on my four processor 64-bit hardware system, running Windows XP Professional, 64-bit operating system. A lengthy list of Epson sheet and roll paper profiles was installed with the driver. If the Ethernet cable interface is used, it is necessary to configure the printer’s network adapter at this time.

Paper Handling

The Pro 7900 will accommodate sheet fed papers from Letter size (8.5 by 11.0 inches) up to 24 inches wide by 36 inches long. Roll papers from ten inches wide up to 24 inches wide can be used.

The sheet feed mechanism has also been improved over previous models. In nine months of use, I have not experience a single misfeed, or misalignment of sheet paper of any size. The paper sheet is lowered into position and aligned with an index mark on the right side. When prompted, a single button push positions the paper, ready for printing.

The roll feed mechanism has been greatly improved over previous large format models. The long spindle with the end caps has been replaced by a pair of adapters that mount in each end of a paper roll. These adapters can be set to accommodate rolls with either a two inch or a three inch diameter core. Once the adapters are in place, the roll of paper is placed in a tray on top of the printer, rolled into position and moved to the right, onto a short spindle. The roll paper holder is them moved into place on the left end of the roll and locked into position.

Before feeding the roll paper into the printer, it is necessary to push the paper release button on the console. The paper is then fed down through the printer, aligned with an index mark, and the paper release button pushed a second time.

All papers, sheet and roll, fed through the Pro 7900 follow a simple, straight path. Cut sheets will be held in place following printing, and paper feed button must be depressed to release them. This prevents them from falling on the floor, or into the paper basket if it is in position. Roll paper can be cut automatically, or manually, at the user’s option. If the auto cut option is selected, the finished print will drop into the paper feed basket. A manual cut button is provided on the console if that method is desired.

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Hal Becker - Grand Canyon Arizona 2010

The paper cutter on the Pro 7900 is a new, rotary version that is very fast and cuts all papers easily, up to and including canvas.

A bar coding option is included with the Pro 7900. Once a new roll of paper is installed and the option selected, the width, length and type are selected at the console. When the last print has been made from a roll and the paper release button is pressed, a bar code is printed on the edge of the paper indicating its type, and the amount of paper remaining on the roll. The next time this roll is mounted, the bar code is scanned and the amount of paper remaining is displayed on the console. Prior to printing, the two or three inch bar code section is automatically trimmed off. During setup of this feature, the desired remaining length prior to a Roll Length Alert message is entered. When that roll reaches that length, the Roll Length Alert Message appears. For users with several different types of roll paper, switched frequently, this is a very useful feature.

Platen suction used to hold the paper in position under the print head can be varied over a wide range of paper types. For thinner papers, the suction is reduced, and for thicker papers it is increased.

For most papers, the Standard platen gap setting is used. The platen gap can be similarly varied manually for unusually thin or thick papers. It is narrowed for thinner papers and widened for thicker papers.

For most papers, the settings are automatically set when the paper type is selected. For special needs, or non-Epson papers, it is possible to set up custom paper configurations, with user specified paper type and platen gap. As part of this procedure, a paper thickness test is run to select the optimum thickness for the new paper. Additional custom settings include:

Color density: Controls in saturation level.

Drying time per print head pass: Up to five seconds delay per pass, to avoid ink smearing on non-Epson media.

Paper Feed Adjustment: Helps reduce banding on prints.

Paper suction.

Roll Back tension: Helps avoid wrinkles on paper.

Up to ten custom paper settings can be configured and stored within the system. Once a paper has been loaded and identified, the custom configuration settings are called up and the unit is ready to print. The stored paper configurations can be printed for use if desired.


 

Printing with the Epson Driver for Windows

The Pro 7900 accepts both the Matte and Photo Black inks. It is no longer necessary to swap ink cartridges and recharge the lines when switching between them, with the resulting loss of considerable ink into the maintenance tank. Switching one way or the other now requires just a single button push. Switching from Photo to Matte Black requires two minutes and 1.2 milliliters of ink. Switching from Matte to Photo Black requires three minutes and 3.4 milliliters of ink. A vast improvement!

Large format printing is quite different from small, desk top printers. When setting up a print, a number of basic parameters must be addressed. Each of them entails a number of decisions which will vary from user to user as a function of their individual color management workflow, style and type of printing. Rather than address them here in this review, these details are left to the user.

Basic parameters include:

Sizing images for borderless, or bordered, printing.

Choosing basic print options.

Choosing color management options.

Choosing cut sheet or roll paper options.

Choosing page layout options.

Choosing advanced black and white photo settings (if used).

Choosing paper configuration options.

Saving, exporting, and importing groups of settings.

Managing print jobs.

A frequent source of problem concerns which software will be managing color: The image processing software being used (e.g., Photoshop), or the printer's software driver. It is important that one, or the other, but not both, be used. For most users, turning the printer's color management off in the driver, and using the image processing software, will provide optimum results. Advanced users may want to reverse this choice, and use the features provided in the printer driver.


The Epson Pro 7900 exhibits greatly reduced clogging frequency compared to earlier models.  Following a few weeks of initial use, I turned the automatic cleaning options off completely.  Instead, when not printing for an extended period, I run a simple nozzle test on a sheet of copier paper once a week, which takes a couple minutes or so and uses a miniscule amount of ink.

If the test print shows all nozzles clear and I am going to print, I load the selected paper and proceed with the print job.  If the test print shows one of more nozzles clogged, one of three cleaning utilities can be run:  Normal Cleaning which cleans all nozzles, Cleaning Pairs of Nozzles, and Power Cleaning.

The normal cleaning cycle cleans all heads with minimal ink usage.  This would be used when several heads appear clogged.

For one or two clogged heads the Pro 7900 allows nozzles to be cleaned in predetermined pairs, thus eliminating the need to clear all nozzles.  This feature saves ink and reduces the time required for nozzle cleaning.


 

For really stubborn clogs, that cannot be cleared with three normal cleaning cycles, a power cleaning cycle can be run.  This cycle uses considerably more ink and requires that all cartridges be at least fifty percent full.  It may necessary to replace the existing cartridge(s) with a full one(s) to run the power cleaning utility.  Following power cleaning, the old cartridge(s) can be reinserted.

In my nine months of use of the Pro 7900, I have never run the normal or power cleaning cycles.  All clogs have been cleared by using the cleaning pairs of heads utility.  It has never been necessary to run this cleaning cycle more than once to clear a clog.  I believe the practice of running a nozzle test print once a week is key to avoiding stubborn clogs.


Control Console

The Pro 7900 control panel is 8.25 by 3.25 inches (210 by 83 mm), with a 2.0 by 1.5 inch (51 by 38 mm) color, liquid crystal display.  All menus are clear, readily accessible, and logically arranged. Indicator lights and buttons are also well designed:  not too many or too few.  The color display greatly enhances the readability of on-screen messages.

 

Instruction Manual

The spiral bound (it lays flat on the desk) instruction manual is 208 pages, and includes instructions for the Macintosh and Windows operating systems, and the Pro 7900 and Pro 9900 printers.  It is well organized and written, with extensive illustrations and a nineteen page Solving Problems chapter.  A smaller 22 page Quick Reference Guide is also included which can be hung on the printer using a supplied hook.

A third small manual is included which outlines the Epson Preferred Plus warranty service that comes with the printer (one year), a toll-free phone number, warranty coverage, terms and conditions and related verbiage.  One and two year Epson Preferred Plus Service Plan extensions are available for a fee.

An extensive list of error messages covers a multitude of conditions.  The list is organized in a very logical Message, Explanation and Response format.  In nine months of use, I experienced only one error message (paper jam which was my fault for loading a curled sheet of paper) and the expected Ink Low messages as cartridges neared depletion.

Large format Epson printers include a maintenance tank which receives ink used during the head cleaning and matte/photo black switching processes.  The Pro 7900 has a single maintenance tank, and the Pro 9900 has two.  To date, the single tank in my Pro 7900 is about half full.


 

Printer Drivers

Anyone familiar with other Epson large format printers will find the transition to the Pro 7900/9900 drivers very easy, as they are clearly based on their predecessors.  Forward compatibility was obviously a design guideline.  Once my Pro 7900 was up and running, I had little need for the manual, with the exception of the new features.  As individual color management and printing practices will vary widely between users, a complete review of all facets of the drivers is beyond the scope of this review.

First time large format printer users may find the sequence of menus and windows involved in setting  up a print job a bit intimidating.  All of them are necessary to encompass the many details involved in producing gallery quality, large format prints.

 

On-Screen Progress Meter

The printing progress meter that appears on the computer monitor is clean and well organized.  It includes the basic information including media type, paper size, moving bar for print progress, and vertical bars indicating remaining ink capacity for all eleven colors.  The progress meter can be minimized if desired.

 

Ink Type and Paper Check

Prior to printing, a message appears on the console indicating the paper type that the printer used last.  If this paper is still being used, a simple push of the “OK” sets the printer to Ready status and printing can proceed.  If the paper is changed, it is a simple matter to select the new type and press “OK” to achieve

 

Ready status.

The Printer driver will inform the user if a paper type and ink mismatch exists (e.g., photo black ink and matte paper), which helps prevent wasted paper and ink.  A small, almost always present, symbol on the control console LCD indicates the type of black ink  currently in use:  Photo  (PK) or Matte (MK).

 

Noise Level

The Pro 7900 is noticeably quieter that the previous Pro 7800.  Most of the noise is produced by the paper suction system, which has been considerably dampened.  The sound produced by the print head as it passes across the paper is barely audible.

 

Printer Firmware and Profile Downloading

I updated the Pro 7900 firmware shortly after receiving it, using detailed instructions in the manual.  The download and installation procedure was trouble free.  Profile downloads are also easily obtained from the Epson web site and installed.


With appropriate color management and workflow procedures, and a calibrated/profiled monitor, the image quality of the Pro 7900 is the best I have ever experienced with Epson printers, including the Pro 4000 and the Pro 7800 models of previous years.  Very subtle gradations in color are now visible.  The easy switch between matte and black inks motivates me to try different images on coated and matte papers, switching inks as necessary.

To date, I have used several Epson papers with the Pro 7900, including: Premium Luster (sheet and roll), Velvet Fine Art, (available in sheet only), Somerset Velvet (roll), UltraSmooth Fine Art (roll), Premium Semigloss (roll), and Premium Glossy (roll).  I also tried a sample pack of the new Epson Hot Press Bright and Natural, and the Cold Press Bright and Natural papers, one sheet each in 8.5 by 11.0 inch format.  After drying, the comparison with other papers was inconclusive for two reasons:  1) The image I chose was not a good test, and 2) I suspect that a better test image printed at a larger size (e.g., 16 by 20 inches) will be more revealing.

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Hal Becker - Grand Canyon Arizona 2010

Last year, I printed some black and white female nude images on the Pro 7900, using 17 by 22 inch sheets of Epson Velvet Fine Art paper and the matte black ink, with the models against a solid black background.  The deep, rich blacks on these images are stunning, and must be seen to be believed.  These same images on earlier models produced dark gray  blacks.

When printing on matte papers, it is important to keep the paper dust free prior to insertion in the printer.  A small speck of dust adhering to the paper can be easily dislodged following printing, leaving a white spot.  While on the subject of dust, it would be nice if Epson made covers available for the large format printers.  For now, following trimming to size, I use the large clear plastic sheet that the printer was wrapped in for shipping.

Also note that most, perhaps all, matte papers have a print and a non-print side.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to identify which side is which.  I discovered the hard way that printing on the wrong side produces less than optimum results.  Velvet Fine Art sheet paper has a warning label inside the envelope indicating which side is the print side.

I recently started printing on Epson Premium Canvas Matte.  Changing only the paper type and profile, and comparing with the same images on Epson Velvet Fine Art paper, I found I was losing detail in some of the subtle mid-range areas.  With further testing, I suspect this will be corrected with a mid-range curves adjustment layer in Photoshop.  I also suspect that the texture of the canvas contributes to this effect.  Additional testing is required.

Canvas prints have their own appeal, and are usually stretched and framed without mattes or glass.  Prior to framing, they should be coated with three coats of one of the available materials that provide ultra violet protection, water and stain resistance, and resistance to cracking that can occur over time due to shrinkage in drier climates.  These coatings can be rolled on or sprayed.

Prior to the Pro 7900, I was generating my own print profiles using the Monaco system.  I tried a couple of the Pro 7900 profiles that installed with the printer driver and quickly discovered that they are very accurate.  I no longer generate my own profiles.

I recommend handling all papers with soft, white, cotton gloves.  The oils and salts in fingerprints are readily absorbed by the papers, and can result in a variation in color when the ink is applied.


 

Print Out-Gassing

Pro 7900 prints are dry to touch when they emerge from the printer.  Prior to framing, they should be allowed to dry thoroughly.  If this is not done and a print is matted and framed under glass, ghosting of the image may appear on the inside of the glass as the volatile liquids that carry the ink pigment to the paper continue to evaporate.  Based on experience over time with my custom framer, I let matte paper prints dry for a full week, and coated paper prints for two weeks, prior to turning them over to the framer. 

For drying purposes, I use large sheets of blotter paper that can be obtained at art supply stores.  I purchase 24 by 40 inch sheets, some of which I use full size for very large prints ( 24 by 36 inches).  Others are cut in half (20 by 24 inch) which are used for prints up to that size.  I start with a layer of blotter paper on the bottom, and alternate between blotter paper and print layers, with a final cover sheet of blotter paper on top, until all prints have been positioned for drying.


I conducted this review using my own Epson Pro 7900, ink and paper, and did not receive any compensation, paper, ink, or loan of equipment from Epson.

That said, the Pro 7900 is the best yet in the series of Epson Pro series large format printers that I have owned.  Installation, ease of use, image quality and other factors are all improved over previously owned models.  Recognizing that all the related technologies are constantly changing, I suspect the next generation of Epson large format printers will be even better.


 

The Epson Pro 7900 was clearly designed for use in a production environment, where it is run daily for extended periods.  With a well grounded approach to color management, workflow, and operational issues, it is also an excellent system for the occasional user wanting the highest quality large format  images.

My experience with the Pro 7900 is obviously colored by my years with other Epson large format printers.  Over this interval, I have developed my own color management philosophy and work flow.  The only time I reprint is when I have changed my mind about a print:  a slight shift in white balance to accommodate gallery or home illumination color temperature, slightly different crop, different paper, etc.  With these exceptions, the first print is the keeper.  For new users of large format printers, there is no quick shortcut to this state.  It will take time and study, but the effort is worth it.

Fortunately, there are many fine books on the various aspects of color management and the Nikonian site includes several members who are experienced large format printers.

 

Hal Byron Becker

 

April 14, 2010

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Hal Becker - Canyon de Chelly Arizona 2008

 

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Show pages (7 Pages)

Originally written on May 7, 2010

Last updated on June 6, 2014

Hal Becker Hal Becker (HBB)

Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Phoenix, USA
Basic, 8923 posts

11 comments

Robert DeBellis (tsafplnikon071012) on September 11, 2012

I have owned this printer for 1.9 yrs. I went on vacation for 2 wks and when I got back I had permanent clog on the Cyan nozzle. No matter how cleanings, normal or power, it will not clear. The printer has had light use since I've owned it. I've run through about 400 mls of C/VM ink to try to solve this. The cost to have it repaired to repair is astronomical, exceeding $2200 ( $1800 parts at $175 labor). To add insult to injury, Epson won't allow users to purchase parts or the software required to do the repairs myself. I can not in good conscience recommend this printer to anyone unless they are rich. A boat or a drug more economical. Bob DeBellis

Hal Becker (HBB) on December 20, 2010

Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Martin: Sorry for the delay in responding to your question. There is so little action here, I forget to check. The 7900 comes in a very large box strapped to a wooden shipping pallet. The printer is 54 inches wide, by 48 inches tall by 28 inches deep, and the box is correspondingly larger. The printer weighs over 200 pounds and you will need help in assembling it on the stand and moving it into its designated space. Let me know by private email if you have any additional questions. I check that daily. Regards, HBB in Phoenix, Arizona

Martin Best (wildpix) on November 15, 2010

Hi, many thanks to all for some great info. Have decided on the 7900 as a result. Onkly one issue, Im in kenya, and can get various delivery options(greatly varying costs as well), but i need to know box dimensions to best ship. can anyone help? cheers martin

Hal Becker (HBB) on September 13, 2010

Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Gilbert: Sorry, I haven't tried to create custom settings for metallic media, but am aware that there are several traps to avoid when setting anything up on the P7900, including: 1) Paper type in both the driver and on the printer must match. 2) Ink type on printer must be appropriately set: Matte Black or Photo Black. 3) Roll vs Sheet feed must match on printer and in driver. 4) Have you downloaded the most recent P7900 driver and LFP firmware? 5) ... I stick pretty closely to the Epson papers for most of my printing. Suggest you post your question on the Printer Forum and see if Ernesto or others can help. More members visit the Printer Forum than come here, as this is so hard to find. Regards, Hal

User on September 12, 2010

Hi Hal, great detailed review. I am a 7900 owener myself and am loving it. Up to now I have been using only Epson media but have recently purchased some new metallic media to replicate the old cibachrome prints in the wet world. I have been supplied with a .icc profile for this new media but have not been successful for creating a custom media setting that details this paper. Just like I would select Epson Premium glossy 250 paper and all it's associated settings. When I use the Epson LFP remote panel 2 application to create a customer paper setup, i get an error message that say the printer is not ready. Not sure if it's a communication error with the printer or if I am missing a step in the procedure. Have you tried this with any success? thx Gilbert.

Hal Becker (HBB) on June 21, 2010

Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Mark: Thank you for your kind words. They are appreciated. The reason I dry my prints for as long as possible, is to avoid the "outgassing" problem I mentioned briefly toward the end of the 7900 review. In the early days of my large format printing, I dried them for a couple days or so and took them to the framer for matting and framing. After a year or so, a couple of framed prints came back to the framer with a ghost image on the inside of the glass. It was hard to see at first, but it was there. We looked at a number of framed prints still on the gallery wall, and there it was also. Areas where the ink was densest/darkest in color were the most visible, while lighter colored areas were not so visible. The framer opened up the frame, washed the glass and put it back together again. Once I started using the longer drying time, the problem disappeared. Outgassing is a function of several variaables; ink/paper combination, and most significantly, the humidity in the room where the print hangs. Very dry climates, e.g., Phoenix, where the humidity today is 11.0 percent, accelerate the evaporation of the vehicles (liquids) used to convey the ink to the paper. Higher humidity climates will slow the process down accordingly. In my observation, matte papers seem to dry quicker than coated papers, which take longer. Coated papers have a series of resin costings which absorb the ink and retard the drying time. Matte papers are also coated, but it is much different than the resins used on coated stock. If you are selling your framed prints, you may want to consider a test to see if the outgassing occurs, and how long it takes. I trust you always place a matte between the print and the glass such that the print never contacts the glass, or plastic in your case. Somewhere on the Epson web site is a two page discussion of the outgassing issue. I haven't looked for it in a while, but if you can locate it, it is worth reading. Thanks again for your comments. Regerds, HBB in Phoenix

mark richman (mdjak) on June 21, 2010

That was an excellent and compelling writeup. First, thank you very much for taking the time to do so. I started with a 13x19 Canon printer some years back, graduating to the Epson 4000 followed a year or so later by the 4800. They were and are workhorses, but I always wanted larger. Size does matter. So, once I heard of the rebates, I too shopped online and found the printer for an excellent price, no tax, free shipping, and a very handsome rebate which Epson promptly made good on. The 7900 was delivered and it indeed took four people to carry inside and place on the stand. As you state, setup is straight forward and well documented. I absolutely love mine. I did not update the firmware but probably should, I don't use mine that often as I'm strictly amateur. When I have family and friends over, I take portraits, group and single, with my 5DII, and then come inside and print them. I haven't found it necessary to allow drying time at all, though I am in no way challenging your knowledge on same. I buy large poster frames at AI Friedman which have plastic instead of glass, so perhaps that explains the lack of problems. My wife bought me the 30" Rotatrim cutter at B&H for Father's Day, but gave it to me weeks ago. It is a must. Thanks again, Hal, for a great review. Mark

Hal Becker (HBB) on June 21, 2010

Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Jim: Agreed ... rolling the protective coating on canvas is a bother at best, but worth the effort. Should I find myself printing a lot of canvas, I will investigate a LPHV spray rig. Meanshile, I found that using the smaller, six inch wide foam rollers eliminates the lint problem entirely. I dilute and thoroughly mix the material as recommended and apply three thin coats, letting them dry between coats. When first rolled on, you will see streaks and small bubbles, which do flatten out as it dries. It took a bit of experimenting to discover proper technique with these rollers, but it all worked out nicely in the end. Yes, I always let prints, including canvas, dry between acid free blotter paper sheets for at least a week or more, if possible, before using coatings of any kind. So far, I have not experienced the ink transfer process you describe. While I have tried the canned, spray-on coating on Velvet Fine Art prints, I do not use it for two reasons: 1) It lightens the deep, dark, rich black backgrounds sightly that the P7900 can produce on matte paper with matte black ink. 2) All of my paper prints are matted and framed under glass, so a protective coating is not necessary. I understand the clogging issue. I had a P4000 for a couple years that would clog just by looking at it. I saw large air bubbles in the lines that I suspect were part of the problem. No ink in the lines will show up just like a clog ... missing colors ... right? I'm just guessing at this. Long story short, Epson, to their great credit, swapped the 4000 out for me three or four times at no charge, no questions asked, sending me a 4800 the last time. I had already decided to move to the 7800 by that time, so I sold the 4800 to a friend. A year or so on the 7800, skipping the 7880, and on to the 7900 which has been the best one yet. Thanks for your kind comments. Let me know if you have any additional questions. Regards, HBB in Phoenix, Arizona

Jim Stamates (Jimi) on June 21, 2010

Hal, Lots of great information. Thanks for taking the time to write and post this. I'm still with one of the first 7600s to reach our shores and I've printed so many 100 foot rolls I could start a tube company. Clogging is a problem on these earlier models. I do shake the heck out of the ink if it has been sitting a while. (2 month trips out of country) then I let them sit overnight before printing. (works if you have back up ink around too long, too) Also, I've printed on canvas and from my experience I hate rolling on coatings. No matter how careful I am I always get specks of fuzz? and have to pick them off. But the big problem I had was the roller would pick up the blue ink and lay it back down, noticeable on white. Now the question, I use paper between the prints and dry them for a day or two, longer if I have the time. Are you saying you have to dry them between paper for a week or two? That long? Thanks again,

Hal Becker (HBB) on June 21, 2010

Hal is an expert in several areas, including CLS Awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Resources. Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015

Kristofor: Ideally, you want to view the dried print (at least 24 hours) under the same illumination that will exist at the final site on a wall where it will hang. A color temperature meter is very useful for determining this. Here I have a set of tungsten track lights at about 3200 Kelvin, and another room with overhead fluorescents at about 6000 Kelvin. The appearance of a print when viewed under these two sources is dramatically different. This has proven to be a very useful exercise to demonstrate the point about the color temperature of a light source and its effect on a print. Natural daylight around 5500 Kelvin is probably a good starting point. One can adjust from there depending on the final site for the print. I have tested a few of the relatively new compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL), rated at 5000 Kelvin, and found that they start much higher (one sample at 6000 Kelvin plus), and drift down slowly over a few hundred hours to their rated color temperature. Color management and color temperature workflow are like photography itself: A journey with no conceivable destination. Thanks for your comments. HBB in Phoenix, Arizona

Kristofor Jensen (kkjensen) on June 21, 2010

Great write-up! Is there a particular kind of home (or studio) type of lighting that you prefer for consistency? With the recent flux of compact fluorescent lights on the market I've been appalled at the variance in their color temperatures and am not sure what direction to go. Halogen?

G