Do you need a printer in the house?

Back in 2010, when I retired my HP9180, I asked myself and others whether or not a printer was really necessary any more — and here it is 2012, and I have a definitive answer for that question.

For me, at least, the answer is a definite yes. I’d been considering buying one for a while, when Mark’s new Epson 3880 convinced me it was time to get serious about this. The 3880 was beyond what I wanted to spend, but I’d been arguing with myself about it’s slightly littler brother, the Epson 2880. Much to my surprise, Adorama had a few as manufacturer refurbished for about $90 off the new price, and that was enough to convince me to grab one (that deal is no longer available, however).

Personally, I wouldn’t buy a used printer (your mileage may vary), given the usage and wear printers go through, and if this was a revenue generating printer I wouldn’t buy refurb, either, but as a low-volume, primarily hobby device, I’m comfortable with this choice. It comes with a warranty, so if I run into issues, I have options.

Why the 2880? I wanted something from a good manufacturer (which, for photo printers, IMHO, means Epson, Canon or HP); I ruled out HP because I find their inks brutally expensive (I don’t work there any more, I can say that now) and their low and medium end devices don’t tickle my toes (and I’m unwilling to pay $3500 or more for a printer yet).  I wanted a wide format printer, this one will do up to 13×19, which is great, as my favorite print sizes are 11×14 and 11×17. And it supports roll paper, which allows for panorama prints, something I really want to explore, and which can be cheaper than pre-cut paper. And the print costs seem reasonable. I really like the Epson UltraChrom Inks, too, and as I explore black and white printing, the Epson inks seemed to be a better choice.

Having said all of that, it was primarily lack of roll paper support at this price point that made the difference between Epson and Canon, FWIW. Canon has some nice models, too.

The printer is on a truck, trundling this way. I’ll probably be unpacking this weekend and starting to explore.

What do I plan on doing with this? Make prints. Put them up on my wall. Give them away. Expect to see some opportunities on this site for prints once I get settled in.

Why do this? Why not lab prints?

Well, it’s complicated. Maybe for some people lab prints are an option, but one thing I fell in love with using the 8190 were art papers. Big, thick, textured hunks of paper that bring a different look and life to an image. I miss that, and using a lab to print on Hahnemuele German Etching or Photo Rag Pearl is between impossible and unaffordable.

Besides, I enjoy geeking the printer and working to make my prints better.

And that’s the other, bigger aspect of this — I lost an aspect of the quality of my images when I stopped printing. I got comfortable with a “good enough for Flickr”. Over the last few months, I’ve bent taking a close look at what I’m doing and why, and why I haven’t been as happy with the results as I want to be — and I came to realize that when I stopped printing, I stopped getting better, and in fact, my photography regressed. When you only look at your images online — you can get satisfied with the quality a lot sooner in the production process. Putting it on paper, especially at larger sizes, means you can’t tolerate the flaws.

So I came to the decision that to drive my imagery forward again, I had to start putting it on paper again, and I needed to do it myself and not depend on a lab to do it.

Besides, I like giving prints away… (and maybe selling the occasional one).