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Matt Grayson gets to grips with the monstrous A2 Pro3880 printer from Epson.
The Epson Stylus Pro3880 follows on in the footsteps of the Pro3800 and takes advantage of the same 9-ink system with the exception that one of the colours has changed from magenta to vivid magenta. The aim of this is to aid in brighter blues and purples while expanding the gamut of colour available. There are also four black inks to ensure that black & white images are printed to the best possible result.
Epson Stylus Pro3880: Features
The Pro3880 boasts 1440 nozzles to pump out the ink from the larger 80ml ink tanks. This works out at around 180 nozzles per colour and the printer has a droplet size of 3.5pl. Much larger than an A4 printer, but then the images are also larger, so there's little need to produce droplets so small. Print resolution is set to around 2880x1440dpi and isn't optimised.
Larger 80ml ink tanks are used in the Epson Stylus Pro 3880.
Controls will allow you to perform basic operations on the printer.
The Epson Stylus Pro3880 can print borderless images and will do that from a minimum of 4in to a maximum of 37.4in. Perfectly acceptable for A2 as the dimensions are 16.5x23.4in. Ensure you get the right dimension crop on your image or clipping will occur.
There are very few options on the printer to do anything. It allows you to delete a current printing exercise and perform a print check. There are a few buttons that say 3sec under them. This is to indicate that you need to hold the button down for three seconds to action the command. This is to avoid accidentally pressing the delete button and ending your current print job right in the middle.
Epson Stylus Pro3880: Handling
The Pro3880 has a pretty good footprint when the unit is closed at 376mm front to back. However, to cope with the large format paper, this folds out to 1040mm. The good thing is that some of the panels can be left in if you're printing a smaller sized paper.
Throughout the test, I found the ink consumption very good. After printing around a dozen A2 prints and twenty or so A4 prints, the ink tanks were still half full.
Loading paper into the printer is an easy affair and the lack of a roll or rear feeder means that you only have to worry about the sheet feeder. I didn't encounter any problems with the paper loading into the printer but on the first five or six prints, I found the head struck the paper leaving a messy corner. It's good to check that the paper isn't curled at the edges to obviate this issue and performing the two second check prevented the problem again. There are no other ink leaks from the unit.
To ensure that I got good quality prints, I used large file images to print. The downside with these was that it took over 20 minutes to print and slowed down the most basic of requests such as changing from portrait to landscape orientation.
There are several options for adjusting the print speed in the page set-up window. In print quality you can choose Speed, Quality or Quality Options which pops up yet another window. There are five steps to choose from on a slider that gradually choose quality over speed. Below that, you can also prefer high speed, edge smoothing and finest detail. An A2 print at High Speed printed a photo out in 10min 16sec while the same image at the same size took 21min 14sec without high speed on. There's little difference in quality between the two prints, maybe a mildly sharper image on the slower option so it's best to use the slower option if you have the time. All the paper I tested emerged touch dry, even the different branded papers and surfaces.
Epson Stylus Pro3880: Performance
Photographs were printed in a variety of settings. The Agfa test print is a 17.3Mb file, the colour shelf RAW image was taken on a Sony Alpha A850 24.6Mp DSLR. The file can be downloaded here:
Sony Alpha A850 RAW file colour test.
Other images were chosen for variety with a selection of colours and contrast.
Click the thumbnail to open the full size images.
You can change colour options in the page set-up area in the same way as lower specification printers such as the recently reviewed Epson Stylus Photo PX650 where you select the printer to control colour, Photoshop to control colour or have no colour management at all. There are also four ways that the printer will deal with the gamut of images called Perceptual, Saturation, Relative colorimetric and Absolute colorimetric. There's little difference between these four options with except a slightly punchier yellow and darker red in Absolute colorimetric.
Skin tones are realistic and portraits are rendered true to life of the originals in the default Relative colorimetric setting. I love the amount of detail that the printer records, even on fine detail prints, the Epson has coped really well.
Detail is recorded very well on the Pro3880 shown on this intricate photograph.
Skin tones are recorded accurately and detail is retained well.
The 3.5pl droplet size copes admirably with small detail images even at A4 although with small font sizes, the wording can get a little broken up especially on brightly coloured backgrounds.
On printers that I've reviewed in the past, blacks and whites have been printed using the colour inks and in this test, I was curious to see if, with all the black inks that are used, would adjusting the colour control affect a monotone image. The short answer is no. There's a lack of contrast that is seen on the original but there's no cast and no visible colouration when colour is handled by either the printer or Photoshop.
Printer manages - black & white.
Photoshop manages - black & white.
No colour management - black & white.
There are several options for adjusting the print speed in the page set-up window. In print quality you can choose speed, quality or quality options which pops up yet another window. There are five steps to choose from on a slider that gradually choose quality over speed. Below that, you can also prefer high speed, edge smoothing and finest detail. An A2 print at High Speed printed a photo out in 10min 16sec while the same image at the same size took 21min 14sec without high speed on. There's little difference in quality between the two prints, maybe a mildly sharper image on the slower option so it's best to use the slower option if you have the time.
To see the differences between the colour managements, I printed the images at A4 so I could scan them for the review.
Epson Stylus Pro3880: Verdict
There aren't a lot of other A2 printers around at this kind of size which makes comparing it to rival units pretty tricky. Canon have the image PROGRAF iPF5100 at around £1649 but is a large format printer with it's own stand, not the desktop type.
Inks are priced at around £47 from the Epson shop but may be cheaper elsewhere although beware of compatibility issues if you decide to take that route.
The prints that I got from the Pro3880 are excellent and worthy of putting in a portfolio or to exhibit with the quality it's produced. If the head strike issue is a continuing problem through all models then it's something that Epson need to address. A2 paper is expensive and it's not good going through half a dozen sheets before it stops happening.
This is a printer that I would use if size was an issue. For a photographer wanting to print out images in an office, a large format printer that needs a stand may be too much to handle so a desktop variety is just the tonic.
Epson Stylus Pro3880: Pros
Small footprint for a large format printer
Wonderful quality images
Good colour reproduction
Epson Stylus Pro3880: Cons
Head strikes ruined some paper
Epson Stylus Pro3880: Specification
|Max document size||A2|
|Print speed||A4: 2880x1440: 3min 27sec, 1440x720: 2min 02sec
A2: 2880x1440: 10min 23sec 1440x720: 5min 54sec
|Ink system/type||Epson Ultrachrome K3|
|Quantity of inks||9|
|Amount of nozzles||1440|
|Capacity||120 A4 sheets|
|Size||257x684x376mm (closed), 550x684x1040mm (open)|
The Epson Stylus Pro3880 costs around £989 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Epson Stylus Pro3880