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The Epson Stylus Pro 9800 is a professional wide format printer that prints on various media from 10″ wide up to 48″ wide. For all of that, it is very compact. The printer is 67″ wide and only 20″ deep. I suppose one could set it up on a table, but Epson offers it with a custom stand that provides for a “drop” area for the prints to slide into, along with a ‘catch’ bin made of a soft material and held in place by two simple rods that snap into place on the custom stand.
Set up on the stand with the catch bin it stands 46″ high to the top of the printer, and from the back of the feet of the stand to the front of the catch bin it is 43 ½”.
This printer uses eight separate inks including black, light black, and light-light black. This provides for excellent shading and gradual transitions form shadow to highlight. The other inks are yellow, magenta and cyan. Magenta and cyan also have a light version for a total of eight ink cartridges.
The proprietary Epson inks are what they call Ultrachrome, pigmented inks, and have up to 200+ years colorfast rating on Epson media in archival conditions.
The print heads spray out ink droplets at 3 picoliters, which is extremely small, and produce the smoothest, almost unbelievably sharp prints.
I run a high end portrait studio in Honolulu, Hawaii, and am very particular about the quality of the products I deliver to my clients. So particular in fact that I held out on changing to digital capture and output until I could see with my own eyes, and with my own images that digital could at least match what I was getting with a medium format negative and wet lab process prints. That happened in 2000.
So in 2000 I switched from film to digital capture, but still had most of my work printed by wet lab process. Only canvas prints I would have printed on an Epson pro printer, and those I also had done by an outside printer service. Back then the model was 9600 or 7600, and while the inks were pigmented, they weren’t Ultrachrome. That came later.
My first Epson pro printer was a Stylus Pro 1700, which printed up to 17″ wide. Like it’s big brother the 9700, and now the 9800, the 1700 also printed on a variety of media and would handle sheets or rolls.
It’s easy enough to look up all the technical data for these printers, so let me tell you about the quality, reliability and service.
After less than a year the 1700 developed a problem with the print heads that couldn’t be solved by the Epson technician over the phone directing me in running cleaning and then “power cleaning” cycles. So the solution was to replace the printer.
To facilitate the replacement, Epson Fed Ex’d a new printer to me right away. All I had to do was to pack the faulty printer into the box the new one shipped in, and have Fed Ex pick it up. The replacement didn’t cost me one dime! Epson paid everything including shipping.
The new 1700 ran perfectly for over a year and a half before I decided to buy the new 9800. In fact the 1700 is still going strong now, another two years after I bought the 9800.
I’ve had the 9800 now for two years, and while it is past the warranty period, Epson still provides tech help over the phone any time I need it…weekdays and business hours.
Primarily I print on Epson’s Ultra Premium 260 gm satin finish photo paper, and Epson’s Premier Art Canvas, but the Stylus Pro printers will also print on a wide variety of papers and even vinyl and backlit material.
To say that I am pleased with the printer is a gross understatement! I love the prints I get with it, and so do my clients. It is easy to use and has required no maintenance at all as long as I’ve had it.
The inks are rather costly, but the paper is reasonable when you compare with light sensitive photo papers and chemicals for wet lab process. And when you compare the cost of materials, (ink and paper), to what you have to pay a lab to produce prints, it’s a bargain.
To me, the biggest advantage is that I have complete control over my images and final prints. I no longer have to deal with uppity photo lab personnel and declining quality control. Yes, it takes more of my time, but as an artist the quality of the products I deliver is paramount, so it’s well worth the little extra time I have to put in.
The Epson Stylus Pro 9800 is the best printer I’ve ever seen, and produces the finest quality prints I’ve ever seen. At $5000 to $6000 it is a very good investment. If it’s good enough for the Smithsonian Institute, it’s good enough for me!
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