Not content with developing some of the most popular printers available today, Epson have now released the Pro 3800 with the Ultrachrome K3 technology. A network connecting A2+ monster packing nine 80ml colours and able to print on paper up to 1.5mm thick.
Epson Stylus Pro 3800 Specification
- Epson UltraChrome K3 ink technology
- Smallest A2+ footprint in its class
- Nine high capacity pressurised ink cartridges
- Automatic Photo black - Matte black ink cartridge switching
- 2880 x 1440 dpi max resolution
- Network connectivity
- Prints on sheets up to 1.5mm thick
Epson Stylus Pro 3800 Build and handling
The Pro 3800 is heavy, weighing in at 19.5kg without the inks. A hernia later, I had the printer on a table with the driver installed and I was ready to go. Clicking the collection tray lets it smoothly drop down. The collection tray is quite nifty as it extends from the base of the unit large enough to catch an A2 print and is solid even when fully extended. Closing the collection tray can be tricky as it needs a positive push directly in the middle to allow the catch to hold the door. Closing the door by pushing it either side will result in it flopping open again.
The size of the printer is actually quite compact. Then the trays have to be extended and they are oversized to cope with the larger format paper being used and they can take up quite a lot of desk space. The front collection tray can extend out considerably which is good to make sure your pictures don't fall on the floor, just make sure you have a big office or you may have to take up Limbo lessons.
The controls available on the printer are Power, Delete - which has a three second delay in case it is caught by accident, Ink access - which also has a three second delay then pops up the ink cover, Paper feed, Menu which also doubles as a head cleaner if held for three seconds, a fourth button for navigation in the menu and Return. The nine inks are Matte black, Photo black, Light black, Light light black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Light cyan and Light magenta. These are listed on the screen with the levels displayed for convenience.
The inks cost around £36 each with the maintenance tank at approx £14. This could get expensive, but if you're willing to pay £999 for the printer, you obviously want your pictures to be the best. The printing screen on the computer will show the lifespan of the maintenance tank and a notice is sent with the printer warning that the first set of tanks will go down quicker.
Epson Stylus Photo Pro 3800 Performance
The printing process is easy for simple tasks and the printer will automatically switch the black inks over depending on the task although this can take a few minutes which you may want to use to skim through the 198 page user guide that automatically installs itself onto your desktop. Using Photoshop 7 and selecting a profile is performed by going to Print Preview, switching from Output to colour management, changing the profile to Pro38 and the type of paper, which has been abbreviated so VFAP would be selected for the Velvet Fine Art Paper. Page set up needs to be selected and then into the printer properties. After selecting the media type ensuring that it matches with the profile selected, Custom must be selected to bring up custom settings option and in the advanced screen, the Printer colour management will allow no colour adjustment to be made. This allows the image to come out as it is on screen which gave a massive difference on our test prints compared to using other management options in the driver. The primaries were heavily saturated to the point of a peacocks chest producing a purple colour. Selecting colour controls will allow manipulation to Gamma, Brightness, Contrast, Saturation, Cyan, Magenta and Yellow. However it doesn't specify what the values are measured in, making adjustments is trial and error. Other options are Photo enhance which has a digital camera correction and skin smoother and ICM which is Image Colour Management and by adjusting the values set to the media type, the image should print up perfectly.
Two other options are available for printing and they are Advanced black & white and Black. The Advanced black & white option produced an image that had contrast but, expectedly, blended the blue and green of the peacock's plume into one dark grey.
The black option is a lot lighter on the tones to the point where the image looks under exposed or that the black inks were running out. This option, however, does give more detail in the feathers of the bird but lacks the punch that you would expect from a black and white image.
The printer seemed to suffer with the sensors as it consistently complained of not having the paper loaded correctly regardless of how assertively it was inserted. The Velvet fine art paper can only be loaded one sheet at a time and the single load tray, which is supplied, needs to be installed on the back of the printer. The 3800 has a front loader which sometimes pop down if it is caught and the printer will automatically prioritise this feed tray so even if paper is loaded in the back, the printer will complain that the loading tray is empty.
The print speed for a colour A3 print was five and a half minutes which is reasonable compared to other A3 Epson printers and the image reproduced well. All prints were produced in roughly the same time with A2 taking approximately one minute longer which is nothing to grumble about.
The 3800 has a droplet size of 3.5pl, which is large by today's A3 printer standards, but for an A2 printer a tiny droplet size is not necessary as the images produced will not be looked at closer than arms length.
The peacock on this image came out as it was on screen.
When the profile had been selected, the image came out more saturated.
Epson Stylus Pro 3800 Verdict
The print quality is very good as would be expected from a printer of this class and it also has a high build quality. The prints are well balanced and have a nice saturation of colour. Lightfastness is 75 years for colour prints and over 100 years for black and white as long as the images are not subjected to sunlight.
To get the best results, images should be printed at 300dpi, but to print to A2 at that resolution would require a camera with around 34Mp, which is medium format scan territory. The images I printed came from a Canon EOS 350D shot on JPEG at 8Mp and the prints produced were perfectly acceptable.
The speed of the printer is good and it worked very quietly. I don't know where the print goes to inside the printer, but most of the sheet disappears into it before appearing out the other side and at first I thought it was getting jammed, but luckily not. This printer is ideal for a professional wanting to display his images and the Velvet fine art paper is a nice textured soft paper to print onto. It gives the photograph a feel as though it's been drawn and it softens the image down too, so beware if softening the image in photoshop.
Large capacity ink tanks
Thicker paper capacity
Automatic ink switching for best results
Overly sensitive sensors
Doors won't close unless done precisely
The Epson Stylus Pro 3800 costs around £999 and is available at the ePHOTOzine shop here.