Epson Ecotank ET8550 - First Print Impression

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Marc Heijligers Contributing Member • Posts: 603
Epson Ecotank ET8550 - First Print Impression
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Introduction

If I have to believe my own interpretation of the serial number of my new Epson ET-8550 printer, I have the 30th printer that rolled of the fabrication line. Whether true or not, the printer is just a few days for sale, so I’m anyway an early adaptor.

The reason I dared to buy the printer “ blindly”, is because I already deep-dived into the 7750. My old Canon Pixma printer was already complaining with a lot of error B200 calls (which bricks the printer if you don’t know the trick to unblock it); and it could only print reasonable in High Quality mode because otherwise it would start to miss colours in one print direction of the printing head. But more and more artefacts became apparent, and photo printing was a thing of the past, hence a new one was on the Wishlist. Especially during the intensified home office times (Covid-19), my interest was in low costs per page, double sided printing etc. etc. My comparisons with ecotank printer from Canon and Epson gave me the believe that the Epson 7700/7750 gave better colours on photos, but depte all the tests on the web, no conclusive call on print quality was available.

The announcement of the 8550 did also show some good stuff; better quality plastic for paper storage and printer results, remote start of printing possible, a nicer design, an LCD display, more silent, 6-colours of ink, and a print head using a new droplet technique to size the ink more accurate. Assuming this printer would never be worse than its predecessor, I took the gamble.

In a nutshell, I’m happy. It’s far better than my Pixma-4950 has ever been (I always suffered from too red tints in skin tones; I was never to get rid of it).

Printing Tests

I did some printing experiments on photo paper, and as I have benefited a lot from the experiences shared by others, I thought it is time I share mine.

The experiments I have done are far from scientific correct (I’m not an expert in this field), so don’t draw hard conclusions out of them. To get an idea of the process and the assumptions, what I have done:

  • Use the same test photo as used in RTINGS printer tests: https://www.rtings.com/printer/tests/printing/photo-printing-quality
  • Print on Epson Photo Glossy paper, 10x15 (although it is an ecotank, I don’t want to spend too much ink and paper on tests)
  • Do some experiments with 2 different printer drivers and settings, as it makes quite a difference according to https://www.colourphil.co.uk/printing-mac_colour_problems.shtml (it does)
  • Print from 2 different apps, Preview and Photoshop (both Apple OS-X 10.14)
  • Make a photo of the prints with my Sony A7RIII, fix the ISO 100, and colour balance. It was cloudy weather (my Colorchecker card told it was between 6000-6200K), and I photographed nearby a window (resulting in some brightness gradation over distance; I told you it is not scientific)
  • Process the images in Adobe Lightroom (apply Sony Neutral profile, re-fix white balance, adapt the exposure, a twiddle a bit with the curve to get as close as possible to what I see when comparing the photo. Apply that setting to all photos made, so it is at least consistent (with the exception of exposure, that varied a bit, so that I manually adapted slightly; I told you it is not scientific)
  • Crop, and combine with the original picture to make comparisons.
  • In general the prints have more pop/contrast and saturation than the photographed version I can see on my screen (iMac Retina); so in real life the results look better as what I show here (I told you that…)

RGB versus CMYK

First a small piece of “science”.

The colours on your computer screen are made by combining red, green and blue pixels that emit active light (RGB). With that concept, it can create a certain amount of colours, also known as the gamut of the display.

A printer works by (typically) printing cyan, magenta, yellow and black on mostly paper, and it basically filters the light that is radiated on that piece of paper. That’s why a photo looks different in the sun that during a cloudy day, or under artificial light, or when printed on different paper.

The gamut that can be reached with printing is overall smaller/different than what can be reached by an RGB display, i.e. a picture on a screen with a huge variety and range of colours and intensities will look different from the printed version. An example using the test picture shows the effect (on top the original RGB picture, below the CMYK version of that picture). See for instance the impact on the green and cyan colours; it is quite substantial.

This means that the chain from computer up to printer will decide how to print certain colours. There trade-offs need to be made how to print a certain picture, and every part that is in the chain may influence it. The test below will show different setups of that chain, and I will compare the result with the CMYK version of the original picture for the reasons mentioned above.

Epson ET-8550 AirPrint Driver

When installing the printer (which is really well-guided with the installation app), by default the AirPrint app is installed (Apple folks; not sure how things are for Windows). In the reviews of the 7750 I mostly did see that the pictures looked pale, not contrasty, and not reaching the colours of the original (in line with was is explained by ColourPhil).

The picture underneath show the original (in CMYK) on top, and the photo I made of the print on the bottom.

It is indeed obvious from the results that the colours are off and more pale (the exposure of the photographed print is a bit off, so you need to see through it, I told you this is not a scientific test),

  • the strawberries have some magenta cast,
  • the sky is pale and lacks magenta
  • the faces are a bit pale and miss contrast
  • the upper magenta and green boxes are almost similar to the box below
  • the color balance in general is off (a bit more blue; less clear on the picture)
  • (Intermezzo: this happens occasionally, there are black patches on the print, which is residue from previous prints. I accidentally reversed the photo paper initially, and the first result was a bit messy, I hope it vanishes over time; otherwise I will issue a case at Epson as I don’t want this to happen regular with for instance expensive A3 photo paper. I understand a cleaning cycle can make things worse)

Overall the result is OK-ish, but not good enough for a €699 photo printer.

Epson ET-8550 Printer Driver

As tipped by ColourPhil, I’ve searched and installed the printer driver I found on an Epson website. When switching to that one, you can disable the printer color management, and switch to color management of the printer only (this is not possible with the AirPrint version of the printer).

I’ll save you all the other settings you need to set as well to make sure it understands you are printing to photo paper, but show the result immediately:

Much better colours and contrast, closer to the original. Again, in real life the photo looks better than shown here. The main visible effects are that the strawberries are a bit more contrasty on the original image, and the blue sky is a patch more saturated (this especially looks worse on this picture of the print than in real life). Also the white balance is way more accurate, a very slight magenta shift in the photo, you really have to put them side by side to notice (and I am very sensitive to color artefacts). With this result I’m more than happy for my type of consumer usage.

Epson ET-8550 Printer Driver with Photoshop

All the above is printed by the Preview app on OS-X. Let’s now use Adobe Photoshop, the king of colour managent. The printer driver even greys out the Color Management options, computer Colorsync is selected, Photoshop takes full control here. The result:

Even a bit better on the contrast of the strawberries. The white balance is a bit more off though, on the reddish side.

Underneath you can see the Preview app versus Photoshop app differences for convenience.

After inspecting more closely, I made one observation that might interfere with the overall impression of the Photoshop result. I already wondered why some prints came out pretty fast (although I put it at max printing quality), and the Photoshop print took a lot longer to print. Well, when you zoom in full resolution into the picture I took from the 10x15 prints, you see the one from Photoshop (left) is much sharper and smooth than the one printed with the Preview app. I can imagine this also adds to the perceived difference in contrast, maybe even more than the difference in apps (I told you, this is not scientific, and a first impression; can you imagine about all the other tests on the web…)

What is pretty spectacular to me, the size of the segments is 3,5cm wide (and about 8cm high). The amount of details in the busy scene is stunning to me (look at the metal texture of the vase, the towel behind it, and the digits of the clock, those digits are close to 0,1mm on the 10x15 print!!!).

Conclusion

Overall I’m happy with the results, and when I fiddle a bit more with some settings I can probably get things better. For the moment I get the best results when printing with Photoshop and the dedicated Epson driver, and for my usage it is more than good enough to get crispy and nice prints. After some time, when I have more prints and observations

 Marc Heijligers's gear list:Marc Heijligers's gear list
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