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HP B9180 vs Epson R3000 vs Canon 9500 Mk II A3+ Photo Printer Review

HP B9180 vs Epson R3000 vs Canon 9500 Mk II A3+ Photo Printer Review - A printer buyers dilema: which of the three big A3+ photo printers is the printer of choice for photographers? Brian Wadie finds out.

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Category : Inkjet Printers
Product : Epson Stylus Photo R3000
Price : £508
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A comparison of three A3+ photo printers: the Canon Pixma Pro 9500 Mk 2, Epson Stylus Photo R3000 and HP Photosmart B9180 from the standpoint of the owner of the HP Photosmart B9180:

Print making is my passion and for me the image isn’t complete until I hold the finished print in my hand, only then can I judge the quality and emotional impact of the image. The sale of my prints is also the way in which I make money to pay for this expensive hobby of mine.

HP Photosmart B9180
The HP Photosmart B9180 - Read our review. (Image: HP)

My current printer is the HP B9180 which I purchased shortly after it was released to the market. The reliability, consistency, ease of use and print quality, particularly on fine art papers continues to satisfy my needs and it’s a pleasure to use. The print quality I get from it still attracts positive comments from customers who buy my work and fellow print makers who use the equivalent Canon and Epson printers. However, it is no longer produced and I have been pondering over what to replace it with when it eventually fails.

Epson Stylus Photo R3000
The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 - Read our review.

I was therefore delighted when Joshua Waller, Technical Editor of ePHOTOzine, invited me to review both the new Epson Stylus Photo R3000 and the well established and respected Canon Pixma Pro 9500 Mk 2.

Canon Pixma Pro 9500 Mk 2
The Canon Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II - Read our review.

This has provided me with the chance to start seriously considering the replacement question with some hard evidence to hand and I think I have finally come to a conclusion.

In this comparison my benchmark is my existing HP Photosmart B9180 and some of the factors I have considered are:

Ergonomics / Ease of Use:


I really want a printer that is “invisible” in use, I don’t want to be constantly thinking about how to change the settings for different papers or having to check profiles for colour consistency etc. I’m also working with a fairly constrained printer station area so need the printer to be compact in use with both stiff papers / board going through the flat paper path and not too much height when the rear tray support is extended for use with the thinner papers.

The lack of a front LCD panel on the Canon is something I missed when operating the printer, otherwise I would rate the Canon and Epson equal. (The simplicity of use of the HP B9180 with thick board is markedly better than either the Canon or Epson). The easy to use roll print facility on the Epson R3000 is a definite plus point for my use.

Connectivity:


This is one area in which the Epson R3000 is the clear winner (comparable to the HP9180). The lack of Ethernet connection on the Canon 9500 Mk 2 is a real negative for my needs as my printer stand is on the other side of the room from my PC workspace - I carried out the review of the Canon 9500 Mk 2 using a 5m USB 2 cable draped across the room, not good Health and Safety! The ability to use Wireless connection is not something I need at the moment but is nice to have against possible future need.

Noise in Operation:


As I work in one of our spare bedrooms it is desirable not to make too much racket. My HP B9180 clatters and bangs like an old Ford model T and whilst it's good to be able to tell by the sudden quiet when the print run stops from downstairs it's not a pleasant sound. This printer also shows the effect of the mass of the print heads charging back and forth as it prints, so much so that I had to build a reinforced work station to stop it vibrating so loudly! In contrast, both the Canon 9500 Mk 2 and Epson R3000 printers were so quiet that at times I had to check that they were printing.

Range of Printing Media:


Both the Canon 9500 Mk 2 and HP 9180 are capable of being used with a wide range of print media, both own make and from other suppliers. Whilst Epson have an enormous range of own brand materials available - their Traditional Photo Paper producing some of the best prints I have ever achieved, with each of the 3 printers. I was a bit disturbed by their apparent insistence that the R3000 is only suitable for use with their own materials and that use of papers from other sources could result in problems.

Quality of Output:


Seen in isolation each of the printers produces very good print quality but judging the same print from each machine on the highest quality paper matched to the printer does highlight some differences.

Black and White Original Image: Click to view. Prints below scanned at 300dpi, click to enlarge.
HP Black and White Epson R3000 Black and White Canon 9500 Mk 2 B&W PT101
HP B9180 B&W Photo Rag Epson R3000 B&W Traditional Canon 9500 Mk 2 B&W PT101

For Black & White printing the Epson R3000 using the Epson Traditional Photo paper blows away the best results I have been able to produce from either the Canon 9500 Mk 2 or HP 9180 (both of which produce similar quality prints). You would have to see and handle these prints to appreciate just how magnificent they look and feel and a lot of this is down to the quality of the paper. There is a depth and tonal range to the prints that is as good as anything I have seen produced by traditional Wet processing.

Strong, Contrasty Colours Original Image: Click to view. Prints below scanned at 300dpi, click to enlarge.
HP B9180 Colour Photo Rag
            Epson R3000 Colour Traditional Canon 9500 Mk2 Colour PT101
HP B9180 Colour Photo Rag Epson R3000 Colour Traditional Canon 9500 Mk 2 Colour PT101

For strong and contrasty colours the Epson R3000 also out performs the Canon 9500 Mk 2 and HP B9180 although the margin of difference is smaller here. Once again the Canon and HP produce prints of comparable quality.

Printing on Glossy papers again shows the Epson R3000 has a small advantage over the other two printers both in the level of gloss produced (never a strong point with pigment inks) and prints from it also appeared to show less Gloss Differential / Bronzing.

With satin, matt and fine art papers the Epson R3000 was marginally better than the other two printers but they all produced first rate prints.

Running costs:


It's difficult to judge this accurately on the small evaluations I did but so long as care is taken to limit the cartridge swaps on the Epson R3000 and the smaller Canon cartridges are purchased taking advantage of some of the low price sources now available I estimate that there will be very little difference in price / sq inch printed. Too much swapping of the Epson’s matt and photo black cartridges and buying the Canon cartridges at full price would however increase the print costs of both these printer above the, relatively, frugal HP B9180.

Reliability:


Here I have to be a little subjective as I only have limited experience with the Epson R3000 and Canon 9500 Mk 2. The HP B9180 just keeps on banging out prints of exceptional quality and, despite having had to have my first machine replaced after 3 years of heavy use I have no qualms that it will ever let me down if I need to do a sudden print run.

The Canon 9500 Mk 2 and Epson R3000 review machines were both delivered to me after others had been reviewing them and both had the print cartridges already installed. The Canon printer was immediately ready for use and I saw no problems with print head blocks, paper handling or anything else. In contrast the Epson had serious head blocking + paper feed problems (the latter turned out to be probably the result of damage to the paper handling path in transit). Likewise it is possible that some of the head strike problems I encountered may have come from the same source. Looking on the Web showed that more people seemed to be reporting problems with the Epson printers (2800, 2880 series - it's too early for there to be any reported for the Epson R3000) than were commenting on problems with the Canon 9500 Mk 2.

Verdict:


These are three seriously good printers and if a more up to date version of the HP B9180 were available I suspect that would be my next purchase. It isn’t, so I have to decide between the Canon 9500 Mk 2 and the Epson R3000, which is not easy.

Epson Stylus Photo R3000

On balance I will choose the Epson Photo Stylus R3000, despite some concerns about long term reliability. This is on the basis of the exceptional Black & White print quality possible with the Epson printer, the added benefit of a roll print facility and the Ethernet connection capability. For anyone looking for a cheaper A3+ printer, then the Canon Pixma Pro 9500 Mk 2 would also make a very good choice, although the lack of ethernet, and roll print could put some off.

I still hope that my HP B9180 has many hundreds of prints still to come from it, but should it fail I feel comfortable that a suitable replacement has been identified. Read our full reviews of the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, Canon Pixma Pro 9500 Mk 2, and HP Photosmart B9180.

Printer Specifications:


Printer: HP Photosmart B9180 Canon Pixma Pro 9500 MkII Epson Stylus R3000
Price £573 £495 £569
Contact www.hp.co.uk www.canon.co.uk www.epson.co.uk
Size 673 x 429 x 241mm 660 x 355 x 193mm Closed: 616 x 369 x 228mm, Open: 616 x 814 x 424mm
Weight 17.1kg Approx. 15.2kg Approx. 15kg (without ink cartridge)
In the box HP Photosmart Pro B9180 Photo Printer, HP 38 Ink Cartridges (1 each photo black, matte black, light gray, cyan, magenta, yellow,
light cyan, light magenta), HP Photosmart Premier and Essential software on CD, Quick Start booklet, User’s Guide, Power cord
Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II Printer, USB Cable, Power Cord, Quick Start Guide, 10 Individual Ink Tanks, Set-up software and user's manual CD-ROM, EWS Booklet, Canon UK Warranty Card Epson Stylus Photo R3000, warranty card, AC cable, 'start here' guide, software
Printing      
Max document size 330 mm x 482 mm A3+ Cut Sheet : 89 to 329mm (3.5 - 13 inches)
Ink system/type HP Thermal Inkjet InkJet 10-ink with minimum 3 pl Micro-Nozzles & FINE print head Epson Claria Photographic Ink, On-demand inkjet (Piezo electric, Variable-sized Droplet Technology, 180 nozzles for each black ink, 180 nozzles for each colour ink
Quantity of inks 8 10 9
Monitor LCD (2 line) None 6.3cm, 2.5inch
Print speed - photo   High-quality A3+ Photo: 7 minutes 55s High-quality A3+ photo takes around 195s
Resolution 4800 dpi x 1200 dpi Up to 4800 x 2400 dpi 5760x1440dpi
Pictbridge No Yes Yes
Roll media No No Yes - Width = 329mm only, 2-inch core
CD/DVD printing No Yes Yes
Connectivity USB 2.0, Ethernet 10/100Base-TX Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Hi-Speed USB, 10BASE-T/100BASE-TX, Wi-Fi
Software HP Photosmart Premier and Essential software on CD, HP Photosmart CD, Drivers Windows: Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, Easy-PhotoPrint EX, CD-LabelPrint, Adobe Photoshop Elements, Mac: Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, Easy-PhotoPrint EX, CD-LabelPrint, Adobe Photoshop Elements Epson Web Support, Epson Easy Photo Print, Epson Print CD, EpsonNet setup, Online guide, Network guide, CD installer

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Comments


brian1208 e2
11 10.3k 12 United Kingdom
2 Jun 2011 11:04AM
Since writing this article I see that Canon are now offereing a 100 cash back on the 9500 mk2 which makes it an even better proposition. (I wonder if this means they are planning to release a newer model? A canon 9500 mk 3 with larger cartridges + ethernet connection - now, that would be tempting!)

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VSS 5 13 United Kingdom
5 Jun 2011 8:00AM
Brian, Canon offered a 100 cashback on the 9000 MkII and the 9500 MkII around Christmas 2010 as well, so I don't necessarily feel a new model is on the horizon just yet.

I love my 9000, with the only disappointment being the lack of roll paper handling.
brian1208 e2
11 10.3k 12 United Kingdom
6 Jun 2011 11:21AM
I can dream can't I Grin
KeithOT 8 10 United Kingdom
8 Jun 2011 9:08PM
I love the output from most Epsom printers BUT everyone I've used goes through ink cartridges like they are fitted with drain taps.
I'm using a 'cheap' HP B8550 no complaints from customers, prints on almost anything (not board) ink seems to last for ages only 5 cartridges HP reliability legendary!? no matter what I try I seem to always return to HP - 20 years+ experience still using a Designjet 750C Plus for big stuff, it's 14 years old still going strong near photo quality? OK for photo poster stuff as I'm retired now so unlikely to replace it when (if) it expires.
8 Jun 2011 9:33PM
Not directly related but on ink costs my 2440 works out at 80p per A4 print (with borders) at 10 a cartridge from 7day - with no switching of cartridges for B&W work.
If the R3000 cartridges become available at 18 (the VAT free threshold) from 7day or Amazon it would be worth knowing.
8 Jun 2011 10:44PM
I have 2 of these B9180 printers and they have combined to put me off HP completely!
I boughtthe second one because my first one stopped printing with the flat paper path and despite buying 3yr extended warranty, HP can find no record of that.
The ink is so expensive that it was cheaper to buy a second machine than ditch my ink stock.
The print quality is good, but not as good as the 9500 which I had previously and ditched because of the small ink tanks and also a bit slow if you had many prints to wait for.
The HP software has been a constant source of annoyance and since switching my (HP Pavillion) PC to Win7, I have aged dramatically. Despite installing the fix to cure this problem both printers can tell me they are not conected to the PC. This can take an hour or two to fix...FOR NOW!
9 Jun 2011 9:41AM
I'm also a happy B9180 user, and can't believe that HP have been so dumb as to abandon a product that had the potential to easily become the #1 choice for serious photographers, due to some poor QA and small design issues that could easily have been resolved with a Mk2 model. Luckily my printer is still going strong after 3 years (but one swap out under the essential extended warranty), but in looking at potential replacements I'm still dismayed.

The R3000 obviously does produce the best prints, esp. B&W, but at a cost of a poor reputation for clogging and less than frugal ink usage. As someone who frequently prints an image on glosssy/pearl and matt papers to judge the surface that best suits the image I feel the Epsons cart switching would cost me dear.

The Canon is really an also-ran - no ethernet is a problem here also - but I feel on a cost basis I'd probably go for that if I had to. I did own a Canon S9100 dye-ink printer for a few years and it performed faultlessly. If a Mk3 9500 comes out that would probably clinch it.
johnp 10 140 United Kingdom
10 Jun 2011 12:04PM
Anyone thinking of buying an A3+ Epson should seriously think about the 3880. OK, I agree that it's an awful lot dearer, but the cartridges are a lot bigger. I did the arithmetic to work out the cost of a 2880 plus enough Epson cartridges to give the same amount of ink as the 3880 with its supplied cartridges. I was careful to use cheapest available prices for everything. The difference overall was 15. From there on it is a lot cheaper per ml to buy ink in large cartridges than small ones. Never buy anything on the basis of up-front cost. Buy on the basis of lifetime cost.
John
PS The 3880 is pure magic!
brian1208 e2
11 10.3k 12 United Kingdom
11 Jun 2011 1:03PM
I've just read the June "Digital Camera" review of A3+ printers (+ Epson 3880) and see that they also rate the Epson 3000 as best A3+ printer, with particular comment on the quality of B&W prints. They rate the 3880 highly if one needs the larger sizes but say that the quality of the prints from it are just a shade behind those from the 3000 (but still very, very good).

I'm tempted by the 3880 but would find the upfront cost a negative (its a bummer being a pensioner sometimes!) even though the larger print size and lower ink costs are a real bonus
Boc 3 United Kingdom
22 Aug 2011 4:09PM
I've had two HP B9180s and I'm gutted they're out of production. They were fantastic.

The Epson specs showed that it couldn't handle high gsm papers and as I use Permajet 271 for everything (easily the best paper on the market in my view), it wasn't an option for me.

I took delivery of a Canon Pro9500 mkII this morning, and so far I'm very disappointed. The "pro" plug-in for photoshop couldn't be much more amateur if they tried. The auto-scaling options don't work too well, there are very few media type options and so far I haven't got it to use my icc profile (the default profile isn't suitable for skin tones). Add to that the inconvenience of having to rasterise every vector layer seperately for printing (I use a lot of layers!), and I'm not a happy bunny right now. This may turn out to be an excellent printer, but the user interface and control options are very poor. I'm considering sending it back after 5 frustrating hours with it.

If anyone has tried using heavier papers on the Epson, can you let me know how well it handles them.
my b9180 has just died! you cant get any parts. So having to buy a new printer. what does anyone think of the eco flo system from permajet to go with the epson 3000

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