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Accessories Reviews

Review Epson Stylus Pro 3880

Ernesto Santos (esantos)

Keywords: epson, stylus, 3880, printer, paper, non_nikon

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When I first heard that Epson was about to introduce a desktop printer in the 17 inch-wide category and after reviewing the specifications I was a little puzzled. At the time I owned Epson’s other 17 inch printer, the 4000 Stylus Pro. What made me skeptical was that the 4000 was the first and only (at the time) pro-line printer in the Epson line that allowed for both matte black and photo black inks to be installed simultaneously. With the subsequent release of the 4800 a couple of years later Epson went back to an ink configuration where the photo and matte blacks required swapping out. This was necessary in order to give one of the cartridge slots to a new light, light black in the new UltraChrome K3 inks.

Now here came along the 3800 which once again had all the inks on-board simultaneously. This printer featured automatic black ink switching which involved flushing and priming a single black ink line shared between the photo and matte black cartridges triggered by the user’s selection of paper in the printer driver. This was all good and well even in the midst of knowing that some amount of black ink would be wasted in the flushing/priming process, but there was something else that did not sit well with me. There was no support for the use of roll paper. How could Epson build a Stylus Pro printer that did not support the use of roll stock? That made no sense to me initially. Even with my limited experience with the pro line at the time I had already gained a big appreciation for the convenience of roll paper.


The 3800 was also different in its design. This printer definitely had the pedigree of a Stylus Pro but you could immediately tell this one had somewhat of an independent streak. This printer played by a different set of rules. For one it was small and compact for a 17 inch printer. When I took delivery of my 4000 it arrived by truck on a wooden shipping palette. It takes two people to move it and unless you have a very sturdy and large counter or desk you would be wise to purchase the optional rolling stand. The 3800, on the other hand, could fit on an average sized desk or table and with the top load and catch trays for the paper retracted it is not much bigger than a typical 13-inch wide printer.

It is actually these design characteristics that really make the 3800 line of printers so attractive to such a large audience. It is almost the perfect combination of professional performance and compactness. It takes a lot less commitment on the part of the photographer to own this printer than with the other pro line models, and let me tell you the print quality is just as good. The upside is you don’t have to rearrange the furniture to get this printer into your digital darkroom. So you lose a little utility (no roll paper support) but for many who are not printing large volumes of prints this is not going to be missed. And for those with the big printers in their studios it is very convenient to run smaller prints or proofs on a smaller printer that is up and running in seconds. Now that I have had a chance to review the latest 3880 Stylus Pro my skepticism has been totally eliminated.

Epson Ultra chrome K3ink
(4 Votes )
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Originally written on February 10, 2011

Last updated on June 4, 2014


Victor Hebert (Victor777) on August 22, 2014

Thanks Ernesto. Your review is practical and assuring about this printer.

Rick Spehn (PSAGuy) on August 11, 2014

Great review Ernesto....Mine is in a box right here in my office . I need to clean a bit (clutter on my work surface) before I unleash this great tool to replace my 2880 which is still working I might add after 6 years and thousands of prints. I cannot wait.

Bruce Blackstone (weevil) on February 5, 2014

Thanks Ernesto for a great review. I really want this printer there are many sites that sing praises for it. However, I am troubled by a consistent handful of users that complain about the printer's short lifespan, print head failures and poor support from Epson. I just don't want to get burned. This is a lot of money for me to invest in a printer. I want it to last. Thoughts anybody?

Robert Barnes (barnesrl) on December 9, 2013

Ernesto: Thanks for your help with my questions on my 3880! You cleared up several of my questions. Thank you for the review on the 3880. It was very informative to me. Thank you again.

michael m. maziasz (mikemaz41) on September 2, 2013

I am "considering" an upgrade from my 2880 to a 17 inch printer and have looked at both the 3880 and the 4900. And I have read both your reviews of those particular printers. Your review of the 3880 impresses me since I have not yet found the need to use the roll paper feature of my 2880. I am looking at the cost structure of the ink cartridges for both the 3880 and 4900 and see that a larger cartridge does have its cost advantages. But I am not a professional so high volume is not a requirement. Thanks again for your insightful reviews of both printers.

Stephen W Burnes (in4apenny) on July 3, 2013

Ernesto, at the conclusion of your review, what went through my head is "wow, thank you Ernesto" Your examples convinced me. Will be ordering one soon

Jeff Natrop (Jeff_thoen) on May 21, 2013

I found the printer to make good prints but... Do not expect any quality service / support from Epson. They are hard nosed and could care less about your situation. Here's my experience with two printers; a 3800 and a 3880 is they have a short life span. I purchased a 3800 (new) and paid for the extra 3yr extended warranty. It was a $1200 printer so I thought it was worth the extra for the extended warranty. After 3yrs and 8 months the printer started dumping 1 inch long by 1/8 in wide black ink blobs, and the Photo Black cart on the LCD read 90% full when the cart was actually empty. Epson support said it needed a new printer head. The cost was the same price a new printer. Because it was now past the extended warranty they would do nothing else for me. (Shouldn't a pro printer at $1200 last more than 3.75 years of moderate use?), I guess not. I then purchased a new 3880, but did not get the extended warranty. After 2 yrs and 2 months, this 3880 started doing the exact same problems as the 3800: dumping 1 inch by 1/8 inch wide black ink blobs and the LCD showed the Photo Black cart at 90% full, when it actually was empty. I spoke with Epson support as well as next person up the line. Epson response: "Because it is out of warranty we will do nothing for you". Despite the fact that this is the 2nd 38xx series printer that had the same problems. Note that Epson will only warranty this printer for a maximum of 3 years - if you purchase the extended warranty, costing several hundred dollars - not cheap. You can not extend the warranty past the 3 years. Given that short time frame you can see that Epson does not expect the 3880 (3800) to last much more than 3 years. If it does, you were lucky. If not, buy a new one or... change to another brand. Given the fact that I had this same problem on two different professional printers - 3800 & 3880. Knowing that these are not $100 disposable printers, but $1200 pro printers; and as a professional customer that had already given Epson several thousand dollars for their printers, and thousands more buying their ink; I had expected Epson Professional division to provide better support and work with me to fix the problems. I had been told that Epson customer support really sucks. Now I must agree with that statement. If you can risk dumping $1200-$1500 every 2 - 3 years on an Epson Pro printer, then you may be happy with the 3880. If you can't, then look at anther brand. I've heard that Canon makes a good pro printer.

User on November 4, 2012

FYI: I got something in mail that said the rebate of $300 is still in effect until 11-30-12 ... I'm about ready to order, too.

User on October 21, 2012

Ernesto... thanks so much for the review... I've been going back and forth from the 3880 to the 4900... I'm moving into a semi-pro range now, e.g. more than a hobby...and it seems that the 4900 would be the next logical step should I make the move...but, for what I plan on doing...e.g. 50-100 prints per would seem this printer would meet the bill... Looking mostly to do some portrait and family studio stuff along with Pet Photograhy...where it would be nice to have the printer on site and sell a photo at the dog groomers location. Your thoughts?

Scott Sternberg (Bump57) on July 14, 2012

Awarded for his high skill level in Landscape and Nature Photography and willingness to share his learning experiences to help others. Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014 Laureate Ribbon awarded as a winner in a Nikonians Best of Images Annual Photo Contest

Hi Ernesto, This was a very informational review, thank you for putting in the time to put it together.

Bob Brandoff (digitalandfilm) on January 2, 2012

As of 1/1/12, there is still a $300 rebate..

Joseph Nowak (prophotoman) on July 16, 2011

Initially I had color problems with the printer... however, I found out that the problem with it was NOT the color space I was using... it was clogged nozzles that was causing poserization in the shadows. After running the STANDARD nozzle cleaning routine a couple of times, the colors are superb, especially when I print directly froom CNX2! There is just no way you can go wrong with choosing the 3880 printer.

Debra Gillilan (dgillilan) on June 5, 2011

Great review, Ernesto. I wondered what the new K3 with vivid magenta inks would add, and you pointed out the blues and violets are better. I have noticed that the violets pose a problem sometimes,but I have encountered that with all three of my Epson photo printers, including the 3800. Thanks again, Debra

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on March 23, 2011

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Winner of the Best of Nikonians Images 2018 Annual Photo Contest

Thanks for the report Pete. I wouldn't knock Kirkland paper I hear it is very good, I just don't have a Costco in my area, otherwise I would have tried it already. You are right about ink use, I am still on the original cartridges of the 3880 I am using. Thanks for following my reviews. More to come soon, working on the Epson 4900 as we speak.

User on March 23, 2011

Ernesto, I bought a Stylus Pro 3880 approximately 14 months ago, and just could not be more pleased with it! For "serious" prints, I mainly use either Epson's 17x23in. Premium Lustre but I also use some of Red River's papers. Results are absolutely superb. I use LR3 and/or CS5, a 30in Apple monitor and a ColorMunki for color management. It has turned out to be an excellent combination for me. Previously, I used Epson and Canon printers, but quickly retired everything apart from the 3880 and a B&W laser. For "hack" stuff on the 3880 (mostly shots of the grandkids for family members), I use Costco's Kirkland 8.5x11 Photo Paper. Don't knock this material - it offers extreme value, although it's only available in gloss. I can't be certain how many 17x23 prints I have made, but it seems that it could be 50+, together with LOTS of family stuff. There are some inks that I haven't replaced yet from new! Ink costs are the lowest of any printer I have ever owned. The inks run out at significantly different rates, obviously depending on what's being printed. BTW, the 3880 can handle cut sheets up to 17x37.4ins - which is big enough for a pretty reasonable panorama! Occasionally, I wish I had gone for the 7900(24in. and roll-capable) but ultimately the very compact size of the 3880 governed my decision. IMHO, the 3880's print quality is exemplary! Keep up the good work! I love reading your reviews. Pete

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on March 22, 2011

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Winner of the Best of Nikonians Images 2018 Annual Photo Contest

Scott - Fortunately you won't have to buy all the inks at once. Each color depletes at different rates. There have been many attempts to track ink use to determine the cost per square cm or inch. I think it is really focusing on the wrong issue. The amount of control one gains by printing themselves far outweighs the cost of media and ink. Additionally, you have so many more choices of paper than at the typical commercial lab. In my experience you can take the cost of your paper and multiply it by a factor of 1.5 to 2.0 and get a reasonably accurate cost of ink. Use the higher number for less expensive papers and the smaller number for the costly fine art papers. The bottom line is that we print all types of subjects under different lighting conditions with different palettes of color - some in black and white as well. Then there is ink usage by the printer during maintenance routines. Different papers use different Media Type profiles that instruct the printer how much ink to lay down. Unless you collect a lot of data over a long period of time you can't get precise usage rates. In the end is the effort worth it? There are a few brave souls who have developed complicated Excel spreadsheets to track all this. As a financial professional for over thirty years my personal opinion is that this is a colossal waste of time and NOT the reason you buy a printer as good as the 3880. Use my factoring rates and enjoy your printing efforts.

User on March 19, 2011

Ernesto - inks on this printer look like they run about 50 bucks each. With 9 ink cartridges, that's $450. I realize that every print is different, but has there been any benchmarking about how often ink must be replaced and what a price per page would be?

Ernesto Santos (esantos) on March 15, 2011

Nikonians Resources Writer. Recognized for his outstanding reviews on printers and printing articles. Awarded for his high level of expertise in various areas, including Landscape Photography Awarded for his extraordinary accomplishments in Landscape Photography. His work has been exhibited at the Smithsonian. Winner of the Best of Nikonians Images 2018 Annual Photo Contest

Thank you Chuck. Going to the 3880 from the 2200 you will see an incredible improvement in function, output, and efficiency.

User on March 15, 2011

Ernesto: Thank you for an excellent review. Very objective and with terrific examples, especially the photo of Guadalupe Peak. I ordered my 3880 this morning from Epson. $200 rebate is a help. I expect delivery Wednesday. It will replace a 2200. All the best,

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