My P900 experience

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Kumsa
Kumsa Contributing Member • Posts: 822
My P900 experience
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Some weeks ago my P800 died and I ask this forum for experience on some options (thank you, everyone). In the end, I selected the P900 w/the motorized roll paper feed. I thought I'd share my initial experience.

What I like:

  • Center feed and powered roll feed. I’m hoping for less skews in prints, and hopefully no pizza wheel marks.
  • It's a very clean design. Looks like lab test equipment.
  • Powered roll feed. It lacks a spindle, so the rolls should be removed between jobs to prevent imprints on the paper.
  • Humongous panoramic printing is preserved. It’s the primary reason I didn’t go with a Canon.
  • Love the new GUI. Very professional. For larger prints, it’s helpful that there is a countdown indication for estimating the time to print.
  • Lots of details in the 179 pages of the online manual. And, a listing of all known problems.
  • The setup for the print head adjustment went very quickly.
  • It has dedicated channels for Matte Black and Photo Black inks, eliminating channel sharing and switching that consumed time and ink on previous Epson models.
  • There are advances in the print head: 3 droplet sizes per nozzle in a single pass; variable droplet sizes as small as 1.5 picolitres; ink repelling coating to reduce clogging risk.
  • Borderless 17” prints and with roll paper. That is a very nice option. I’m not a big fan of borderless (and I’ll need to check on ink pad maintenance), but I will be trying out a 17” borderless.
  • So far, no skews.

Mixed:

  • Very shiny plastic top that I bet looks attractive on the sales table, but it’s just gonna get all scratched up in daily use. On the upside, there is an internal light and part of the lid is just transparent enough that you can see through the top as it’s printing. I like that a lot, as I don’t have to expose the printer to check on printing.
  • Smaller ink cartridges. Right off reading that the P900 ink cartridges hold less ink seems like a cheat. But the P900 ink cost/cartridge is less than the P800. What’s the end result in terms of total operating cost ? For a 13x19 print, the P800 ink cost is $2.35. The same size on the P900 is $1.74 (https://www.redrivercatalog.com/rr/epson-surecolor-p900-cost-per-print.html).
  • The new Carbon black and Glossy smoothing settings will require some testing for a specific image on a specific paper. I have yet to identify anyone documenting a visible improvement. I also suspect the “Carbon black” option is more marketing than technology in an attempt to defend against Jon Cone’s excellent B/W Epson carbon inks.
  • The motorized paper roll works great. However, feeding in something thick (Red River Artic Polar Luster @ 75lb, 11.8mil) takes patience.
  • Ok, this isn’t something peculiar to the P900, it is the Epson Print Layout (EPL) software, which is just terrific. The version at this time is 1.5.7 and it includes a link to a 50 page PDF. I’m dropping it into the “mixed’ category because certain paper settings have been removed (e.g., paper thickness). Epson has new configuration software to manage paper settings and adding 3rd party media: Epson Media Installer (EMI).
     
    • This means that my BreathingColor or RedRiver papers require some additional configuration external to EPL. Epson does provide some videosand RedRiver provides all the required files and they have a nice summary, too. Maybe the EMI is amazing, and I’m going to love it. Right now, it feels like an extra step. And, I miss being able to simply add the “wide” setting. Because head strikes are best controlled through the platen gap, it’s important on thicker papers.. EMI gives an incremental platen gap configuration. That’s nice, except too large a platen gap will reduce the sharpness. And I don’t really want to be guessing. Also, I’ve been told that head alignments must be done with a given platen gap.
    • EMI offers two ways to add 3rd party papers. 1. Select a pre-existing paper profile w/in EMI, copy it, edit it with a new name and select the correct ICC. 2. Import the EMY file from the 3rd party paper manufacturer.
    • Not quite done. When it comes to setting the “color density,” that requires one more step. For printing from EPL, a new custom profile will have to be created from the work completed by EMI, and the custom EPL can set the color density. One example is BreathingColor’s River Stone Rag.

Not so good:

  • The rear pop-up paper guide has way too much slack. It’s quite easy to disengage and pop loose.
  • The initial set of cartridges are not full. After priming, they are at ⅓ of capacity.
  • The maintenance cartridge is much smaller, and can’t be tricked out w/a trimmed sheet from a paper towel. Not a big deal, as the cartridge is inexpensive.
  • Not a vacuum feed system for managing the paper, so there is the opportunity for the pizza wheel marks on baryta type papers w/some prints. I’ve rarely seen it on my P800. For the P900 the recommendation is to use the front paper feed and set “No Eject Roller(Glossy Paper)” in the Paper Setting menu. A few caveats on the new “No Eject Roller” setting:
     
    • This option can’t be used for borderless printing.
    • This option is restricted to the front paper feed.
    • This option prints much slower (to be expected).
    • The printer requires the correct paper and size to be selected when putting in the paper, even if EPL has the “App paper Settings Priority” enabled. Consequently, when loading the front paper feed, the printer needs me to select “glossy” or when it starts to print, it will reject the print job. That’s just fussy.
    • This option forces larger top and bottom margins ! Let me explain: the normal minimum margin gap is .12”. On any other setting (Rear, Front - fine art, etc.) my image can be laid out w/a .12” margin. However, once I select the “No Eject Roller” choice, the top and bottom margins are immediately reset to .79” (side margins remain at .12”). The printer’s GUI does tell me that, as I’m putting in the paper.
  • So, the pizza wheel marks are present on glossy black papers. I had hoped that the motorized roll paper feed would obviate the presence for the pizza wheel marks. Nope. Only the “No Eject Roller” corrects the pizza wheel marks (and I’ve already itemized its caveats).

Mysteries:

  • Epson sells paper, really great paper. Why not include a sampler with the printer ?

Summary:

My first impression was that the P900’s imagined audience was more for print dilettantes. As I use the printer more, I’m appreciating the improvements and frustrated by a few limitations. I don’t mean that to be faint praise, I like the printer and I expect to get some improved output from it. Ink cost appears lower, a dedicated matte black channel, and there are some new features of gloss protection. One quick example of an improvement is the setting for glossy/luster prints “Bottom Edge Print Quality Priority” that improves “unevenness in printing at the bottom of the paper.” Hmm. Yes, I have had a few instances on large prints where the very last inch of the print showed “faint bands.” Basically, on glossy/luster paper I will always default to this new setting.

Probably my biggest disappointment is the persistence of pizza wheel marks on glossy, resin papers with an image containing pure black sections (or a background). It’s a very subtle imprint, but it makes me grimace when I check over my prints. I can give up the .12” margin, and accept slower print speeds, but to restrict the pizza correction to a dedicated configuration of the front feed is annoying.

I didn’t have to go with the P900, I did also think hard about the P5000, which is definitely a more robust 17” printer. But, Epson offered a nice rebate on the P900, and not on the P5000. Besides, I accept the vagaries of behavioral economics, in that I still really want to get a 24” someday. So, maybe I’m looking at this P900 as a bridge printer until both the availability of a 24” occurs and my printing demands line up for me to go 24”.

Finally, for those that want a real review, there is one by Keith Cooper and one by Mark Segal that are terrific in detail.

 Kumsa's gear list:Kumsa's gear list
Canon EOS 6D Canon EOS R Tamron AF 28-75mm F/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) Sigma 70-200mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM Sigma 2x EX DG Tele Converter +10 more
Nikon Coolpix P5000 Nikon Coolpix P900
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