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Epson SC-P20000 printer review

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Epson SC-P20000 printer review

Looking at the 64″ print width 10 colour large format printer


Recently, Keith Cooper had a chance to spend some time at the Epson UK head office, and try out the 64″ width SC-P20000 printer.

This review is obviously not quite as detailed as our normal printer reviews, since you couldn’t get a P20000 into our house, yet alone the area Keith usually tests printers. It’s also much easier to make lots of tests and measurements when you have the printer for more than a day or so.

That said, you can learn a lot about a printer quite quickly if you are used to testing them, and this printer proved to be capable of some very nice output.

If you wanted an Epson P10000 review – you pretty much substitute any mention of 64 inch here, with 44″

P20000 printer

Get a P20000 for under $10000 at B&H \ Adorama

Keith’s SC-P20000 review

I spent a day trying out the P20000, and managed to run off rather a lot of very big prints. The most obvious limitation was that I was printing with Epson media (no real problem of itself) using Epson’s own icc profiles for printing, rather than my own custom profiles, which I normally make for reviews.

The printer was driven via my oldish 15″ MacBook Pro, via the normal Epson Mac printer driver and Adobe Photoshop CS6. Given the printer was on Epson’s corporate network, my connection was limited to USB. This and the speed/capacity of the MacBook meant that the printer spent far more time waiting for the data to ‘catch up’ than if it had been used with a faster Mac and Gigabit EtherNet.

I do have some colour management and print related info from my testing, but this is of necessity a bit more limited than usual.

The good thing is that I found all the supplied profiles produced very good looking prints, and the printer driver’s ABW black and white print mode made very effective use of the three grey inks and improved density blacks.

Two other changes of note for other (smaller) Epson printer users are that the default print resolution is now in multiples of 300 (600×600 default) rather than the 360 it has been on every other printer in the past. I’d note that this number is the same as you get on Canon and HP printers I’ve looked at.

What do you get with the P20000?

First up, this printer is huge – there is no way you’re not going to need several people to unpack and assemble it. It stands some 46″ high and is 95″ long (~2.4 metres). This is though a printer you’re more likely to be buying from a dealer, so check carefully for delivery and installation charges.

The specs list the box it comes in as 2985 x 1140 x 1060 mm and ~310kg – not the sort of package you want dropping off in the street…

There is of course the 44″ SC-P10000, but even that is a fair size – note that my review notes here pretty much apply to the P10000 as well in everything but width.

Key features – from Epson

Printhead

  • Single plate with 10 printhead chips for accurate alignment
  • Strong and stable head plate
  • True circle precision dot placement

Ink

  • Higher density photo and matte black
  • Improved light fastness
  • Optimised halftone module

New media feeding system

  • Paper Feed Stabiliser: new automated real time feedback system
  • Media Inductive Roller System: newly-developed skew reduction system

This is a printer that’s designed for heavy duty use – running all day long.  It’s fast too, with a default (600×600 8 pass) speed of 13.7 square metres an hour, rising to 17.5 for it’s fast print mode (600×600 6 pass). To put that in context, the very useable 24″ P7000 I reviewed last year manages 3.4 square metres an hour at its default (720×1440).

Unless you are just using it for smaller prints you may want to consider the optional take-up spool unit (not fitted below).

This picture (click to enlarge), shows a 64″ square print coming out of the printer, being ‘caught’ by the fold out paper basket.

P20000 printing 64 inch width paper

Handling prints like this is tricky – I’m 6 foot tall with long arms, and found moving such prints tricky.

A second person helps avoid ‘krinks’ in prints, but if you are making fine art prints this size, you need to pay careful attention to their handling after printing.

Performance is improved with the built-in hard disk for spooling and repeat job printing. This is also available as a PostScript processor, should such features matter to you.

Quick specifications

Full specs at end of article

  • Max media width 64in (1,626mm)
  • Max resolution 2,400×1,200dpi
  • Min cut sheet A4
  • Max rigid media thickness 1.5mm
  • Speed 17.5m2/hr at 600x600dpi
  • Feed Roll-to-sheet, roll-to-roll, sheet, card slot
  • Printheads Wide-swathe Epson piezo greyscale PrecisionCore microTFP
  • Ink type Aqueous Epson Ultrachrome Pro K4
  • Colours 10: CMY, light cyan, light vivid magenta, photo black, matt black, dark grey, grey, light grey
  • Connectivity Ethernet
  • Options: Auto take up reel, 320GB hard drive, Adobe PostScript module

Printhead

tfp printheadHere are the TFP printhead and the PrecisionCore MicroTFP one of P20000 compared.

The TFP type is found in the P7000 and the the 17″ Epson P5000 I’m currently testing here at home

The P20000 is a much larger assembly.

P20000 printhead assembly

 

Epson also give these specification differences – note the change in base resolution, but remember that dots can be overlapped, so this is not the same as the finest print resolution available.

head print capacity

Note that the specifications for the P20000 have 3.5pl as minimum dot size – the numbers above are for the head technology.

The big difference comes in print speed.

print speed

Ink types

Oh, yet another version of UltraChrome I thought… Well, actually some differences of note.

The basic setup is similar to the UltraChrome HD ink set I looked at in the Epson P800, but with the addition of another grey (dark grey) and darker blacks (Mk and Pk) – Oh, and no black ink swapping.

Yes – a fine art quality (esp B&W) printer from Epson that doesn’t need the black ink swapping for Mk/Pk. I have heard people from Epson explain the black ink swap, but take it from me, this is an ongoing sore point for many photographers like myself who want to print on a range of papers.

Epson point to these features…

ink set PRO

The comparison given for deeper blacks is with the older SP11880, with dmax (glossy paper) going from 2.4 to 2.83 on the P20000.

Connectivity

  • Hi-Speed USB 2.0
  • 1000Base-T Ethernet

Media feeding

If you look at the paper during printing, you can see a small blue square of light – this is coming through the paper from underneath.

The photo (click to enlarge) shows part of a print, with the paper moving out from under the rear roller set.

paper movement check

Underneath the paper, there is a camera system taking a photo of the back of the paper 60 times a second – it recognises features in the paper and works out how far the paper has actually advanced. The printer knows how much it wanted the paper to move, so able to calculate feed errors and compensate for them between sweeps of the printhead.

Add to this the ‘Media inductive roller system’ which compensates for roll paper feed tension and sheet skew, and you have a paper transport system quite a lot more complicated than in smaller printers.

Nozzle checking has an automatic check feature as well as the normal nozzle test print – you can set the number of auto-cleaning attempts so as to minimise the number of times user intervention is required.

As you can see (click to enlarge), the nozzle check pattern is a bit bigger than the smaller printers.

nozzle check pattern

Using the SC-P20000

The printer has alignment and setup options and can make use of Epson’s colour calibrator software (see the P7000 review for more about this)

The printer control panel is clear and easy to use, with all the key controls directly available.

set for premium lustre paper

A convenient reminder that I’ve a 1120mm wide roll of Epson Premium Lustre paper loaded.

The lead at the side is the USB cable from my laptop (only USB2 though).

The menu system should be pretty familiar to previous Epson users – It has a feel of being even more focused on relevant info to the use and maintenance of the machine, with the clear and bright LCD very readable in what was quite a brightly lit room.

The 5 top level menu categories.

queue status

Print queue status

paper details

Paper status (the size is measured)

ink levels

Ink levels (the printer had a mix of 350ml and 700ml carts loaded.

three maintenance carts

The status of the three waste ink maintenance carts.

setup menu

Setup info

Printing from my Mac

Despite the printer’s size, the driver for the P20000 is just like you’d use for smaller printers.

I suspect not many P20000 users will be running it from a laptop, but as long as you have enough memory to open big enough files, it will work just fine.

The circular image being printed in the photo at the top of the article is a ‘small world projection’ panoramic shot taken from the top (~180 feet) of a church spire in Leicester.

laptop setup

I’ve resized the 43″x 43″ square file to print out at 62″ x 62″ square on 64″ paper.

64inch preset TPP

I’ve saved all my print settings as a preset, here with Epson TPP paper (aka Exhibition Fiber in the US)

I’ve created a 64″ x 64″ custom paper size.

Just in case you weren’t sure how big the prints are that you can get, here is Karen (my wife and Northlight’s marketing director) inside the print… [click to enlarge]

karen and print

A somewhat smaller (44″ x 44″) print, this time on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper (PGPP 250) [click to enlarge]

44 inch premium glossy paper

As you can see, if you’ve more resolution available, it’s possible to bump up the detail.

print resolutions

One setting I’d not come across before is the paper ‘edge quality’ – this improves print quality at the beginning of a print but is slower to print. The differences are slight but might be useful with large expensive media.

paper edge qualities

The print quality on the PGPP paper was excellent, with minimal gloss differential and bronzing [click to enlarge]

detail of glossy print

P20000 Inks and cleaning

The printer takes 10 ink carts, available in 350ml and 700ml sizes, although in Europe there are only 700ml ones available.

5 carts go either side of the printer.

At the right, I notice that there are actually six cart slots [click to enlarge] – you can also see a closed maintenance cart slot just to the left of the carts.

ink carts at right

At the left, also the spare slot.

In this shot [click to enlarge], you can also see two of the three maintenance carts partly removed.

ink and maintenance access

Note also the open panel above the ink carts.

A special start-up sequence will move the print head right over to the far left. Remove the panel and you have access to the underside of the printhead assembly for cleaning.

Here’s the view inside [click to enlarge]

head access

You can also readily access the capping stations and cleaner blades at the other end of the printer, for more cleaning.

This image [click to enlarge] reminds me to take some lights next time (dark inky bits inside a white box)

capping station

I’m currently looking at a P5000 back at home and one of the differences I’ve noticed between it and the old SP4900 is the amount of care given to reducing dust buildup inside the printer. This is taken to even greater lengths with the P20000, including a brush for the cutter unit, antistatic cloth (user replaceable) in the paper feed slot and greater attention to sealing to prevent overall dust ingress.

If you were printing on fine art cotton rag papers a lot, I can see this making life a lot easier.

Changing inks

During one particularly large print, the grey ink ran out, with the magenta also showing at ~1%

A quick swap of the two carts and printing continued – with not a mark on the paper.

I’m told this needs to be done relatively quickly (minutes) rather than coming back after lunch to find the printer has stopped…

I pulled apart one of the carts, where you can see the ink pump mechanism (left) that forces ink out of the carts [click to enlarge]. This is different to the air pressure system used in smaller printers (see a similar photo in the P7000 review)

opened ink carts

The [flagged as empty] grey ink cart had no more than a few ml of ink in it, when taken apart.

Cleaning

The printer can automate some aspects of nozzle checking, whilst you can still do the traditional nozzle check print.

nozzle checking

If autocleaning doesn’t work you can specify which colours to clean.

select nozzles for clean

Of course, with this printer, you can also shift the carriage over to the far left and actually check for assorted gunk on the printhead.

Media handling

You don’t get a printer like this for printing A4 sheets, so most of my testing was with roll media.

The paper is held using a spindle-less system that fits into either end of the roll [click to enlarge]

roll paper holders

The holders simply clamp the rolls and lock into place at the back of the printer (see the raised cover to the back).

You can see two supports that the paper is resting on.

These are adjustable (and removable) and support your roll.

roll spindle attached

Here’s a 64″ roll ready to load [click to enlarge] – these rolls are not light

64 inch paper roll

If I had a minor concern, it would be that you will need to be careful in lifting the roll into place if the paper is at all fragile – it’s easy to damage some papers.

The printer can support 170mm diameter rolls at up to 24kg.

Another job much easier with an assistant…

The paper loading procedure is clearly explained on the LCD screen.

paper loading guide

You can set the paper type on loading – there are also custom media types available. I didn’t test this, but it works the same as with the P7000 I reviewed last year.

paper menu

Black and white

I do a lot of black and white printing, which in the past could really stretch the capabilities of printers.

One of the areas of steady printer improvement over recent years has been a greater concentration on B&W printing functionality.

With the P5000 I’m currently testing, I have black (Mk or Pk), a light black and a light-light black

With the P20000 I have black (Mk or Pk), dark grey, grey and light grey

The only other printer I’ve seen with 4 ‘blacks’ in action at the same time is the Canon PRO-1, which I reviewed back in 2012 (13″ width – no roll support)

I’ve printed some of my B&W test images to look at B&W performance in detail, particularly using the printer driver’s ABW specialist B&W print mode.

At high print quality settings the B&W prints look superb…

This view of Swithland Woods in Leicestershire [click to enlarge] was printed at 60″ wide on 64″ Epson TPP paper, using the ABW print mode – it’s a multi-shot panoramic, so has more than enough real resolution at this size.

swithland woods

I’ve part of a shot (taken with my MP-E-65 macro lens) of some of the leaves on the ground

This is 5-6 millimetres across

detail of print

This view [click to enlarge] shows tiny marks on the surface of the lustre paper, and individual ink dots.

print detail

The print was made at the ‘SuperFine’ 1200 dpi setting.

I also have prints of my standard B&W test image on a lustre and matte fine art paper

BW test image mk.2

Measuring the step ramp (I used the 21 step version for the i1iO) lets me see how linear the B&W printing is and look at subtle variations in tone.

For the B&W aficionados, here are the measured 21 step patch values, fed into the QTR profile generation software for the test image printed on Epson USFA (smooth matt) and Premium Luster Photo Paper 260 media. [See the i1iO article for far more about these graphs and what I use them for]

Each print is made using the ABW print mode and the supplied Epson profile (rel col+ BPC)

B&W with icc profile

usfa icc

B&W with ABW mode

usfa abw

Note how the shadows are very definitely blocked up when using the Epson supplied profile for B&W on Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper.

I’d want to test this further with my own bespoke profiles, but the ABW mode is working well with a dMax of ~1.69

Moving to the Premium Luster 260 paper, I note a dMax of ~2.64 and once again a bit of shadow crunching if using the icc profile.

The negative ‘b’ values here show the distinct presence of OBAs in this bright white lustre paper.

plus260 abw

The ABW mode is much more linear – I’d personally create a Photoshop curve adjustment layer to linearise it a bit, but even ‘as-is’ prints look good.

Here are detailed shots of the ink dots for the 25% grey patch.

(the colour is accentuated to show the dots – these look solid grey to the naked eye)

dot placement

Conclusions – the P20000

First up, the obvious:

The printer is huge – it needs a dedicated print area that not only fits the printer, but ideally has a table big enough to look at prints you’ve made.

Here’s a 60″ x 40″ print [click to enlarge]  of an image produced for a trade show –‘making of’ article)

gummi bears

Just standing prints on end invites creases and folds.

print storage

Print speed is faster than any of the Canon/Epson/HP large format printers I’ve reviewed in the past, but if print speed matters you need to investigate print quality settings and whatever software you are going to drive the printer with.

I’m quite aware that most users will not be using Photoshop as I was, but remember that my reviews are always oriented to the quality end of printer performance, not speed. There is some management/usage/accounting software provided for the printer, but since it’s Windows PC only, I can but note its existence…

The maximum print resolution of 2400 x 1200 dpi should be more than enough at this size.

The specs put the maximum roll print length at 15 metres, although third party software may extend this.

The printer has a lot of features aimed at keeping it clean and working optimally – if you’re printing a lot of dusty media and using the cutter, then this will definitely help.

Paper loading is quick and simple – there wasn’t a take-up spool on this printer to look at, and I can testify that prints of more than a few metres length become tricky to handle without one.

One other point I can’t miss noting is that the Epson black ink (Mk/Pk) ink swap is not a feature of this printer.

Colour gamut seems to be broadly similar to the 17″ Epson P800 [review]  with the additional grey ink working to smooth deeper coloured areas. The printer does not have the orange and green inks of the P5000/7000/9000 or their optional violet ink – these printers are aimed at fine art and proofing markets – I can’t say that compared to my P5000 and P7000 test prints I could see any obvious issues caused by the lack of the extra inks.

Making an ICC profile with Premium Lustre (260) and Ultra Smooth Fine Art papers lets me make a quick comparison of printer gamut with some of the other printers I’ve looked at.

This comparison is for illustration only – please don’t read too much into it

I’m comparing the gamut of the P20000 (solid) and P5000 (outline) on PLPP260

The extended gamut given by the Orange/Green inks of the P5000 is clear, but the P20000 still looks fine, and maybe an edge with darker colours.

plus260 compared

Comparing it with other recent Epson printers I’ve profiled, the closest comparison for colour would be the 17″ Epson SC-P800

A similar comparison with the USFA profiles suggest that it’s only the Or/Grn inks extending the gamut a bit.

So, if I printed a colour 44″ square print on a P9000 and a 64″ square print on a P20000, what would most people notice?

The P20000 print is a lot bigger and came out of the printer a lot faster.

Having tested the P7000 and P800 in the past I can say that images that will clearly show the benefits of the OR/Grn inks do exist, but they are not common. The extra grey of the P20000 might also make for smoother colour transitions – but remember I only had a limited time o check out all this stuff…

For B&W printing, the four blacks (greys) give a very smooth gradient, especially with the ABW print mode.

In terms of print longevity you’ll need to research further for testing, but I’m confident of B&W prints on archival papers easily outlasting me…

Would I like one?

Of course I would, but only if I had a much bigger house and offices, and was running a business much more heavily based on print sales. The printer is currently around £9000 +VAT here in the UK.

karen and print

In the UK, I’m limited to buying 700ml ink carts (no 350ml), but I guess this printer isn’t aimed at the ‘light use’ market. Just beware the 110ml ‘starter’ carts and buy a set of spares when you first get the printer.

I note too that the internal 320GB disk is an option for the printer (as is the PostScript compatible version) – I’d have thought that a small disk like this would be standard for something like the P20000 (it’s not listed as an option in the US)

One tip, since I don’t sell printers… If you’ve experience of using Epson large format printers, then think carefully before being sold any additional ‘training’ for this printer – I was able to print with it in minutes and didn’t even have the manual to read.

Yes, it’s that easy to use :-)

I’d also thank Epson UK for letting me come down and ‘play’ with one of their huge printers, along with the supply of ink and paper.

Questions/comments? – see the foot of the article


Get a P20000 for under $10000 at B&H \ Adorama

Specifications (US spec)

Printing Technology:
Advanced PrecisionCore MicroTFP Print Head
10-channel, piezo inkjet print head

Minimum Ink Droplet Size:
Enhanced Variable Droplet Technology as small as 3.5 picolitres

Maximum Print Resolution:
2400 x 1200 dpi; 1200 x 1200 dpi; 1200 x 600 dpi; 600 x 600 dpi; 600 x 300 dpi

Print Speed:

  • 16″ x 20″ prints from 1:47 to 3:17 Production is 2:09
  • 20″ x 30″ prints from 2:55 to 5:33 Production is 3:40
  • 40″ x 60″ prints from 8:33 to 16:30 Production is 10:52

Nozzle Configuration:
Colour and Monochrome; 800 nozzles x 10 channels

Ink Type:
Epson UltraChrome PRO pigment inks
Printer is designed for use with Epson cartridges only, not third-party cartridges or ink.

Ink Palette:
C, LC, VM, VLM, Y, LGY, GY, DGY, PK, MK

Ink Configuration:
10-ink, 9-colour

Replacement Ink:

  • Photo Black T800100
  • Cyan T800200
  • Vivid Magenta T800300
  • Yellow T800400
  • Light Cyan T800500
  • Vivid Light Magenta T800600
  • Dark Gray T800700
  • Matte Black T800800
  • Gray T800900
  • Light Gray T800000

Fade Resistance / Print Longevity:
UltraChrome HDX, our next-generation pigment ink technology, is independently rated by Wilhelm Research for up to 200 years for colour prints and up to 400 years for black-and-white prints

Ink Supply Fill Volume:
Initial cartridge fill volume: 110 ml x 10 total colours (used for initial fill at setup)
Cartridge fill volume: 700 ml each x 10 colours total

Ink Shelf Life:
2 years from printed production date or 6 months after open

Maximum Paper Width: 64″

Minimum Cut-sheet Size: 8.5″ x 11″

Minimum recommended cut-sheet: 13″ x 19″

Minimum Paper Width: 10″

Maximum Printable Width:
64” in BorderFree print mode
63.75” in standard print mode

Line Accuracy:
+/- 0.2% of specified length
+/- .26mm minimum

Maximum Printable Length:
Cut-sheet: 80″
Roll: 590.55″
As allowed by the Epson MAC and PC printer driver. Application, version of application and Operating System version may limit maximum length.

Sheet Loading:
Top-loading if less than .5mm thick

Thickness:
0.8mm to 1.5mm

Single Sheet, Top-loading:
Up to 44″ wide

BorderFree Print Widths:
Left and right borderless “bleed” printing on sheet and roll for the following media widths:
10″, 11.8″, 12.95″, 16″, 17″, 20″, 23″, 24″, 28.86″, 29″, 33.11″, 36″, 40.55”, 44”, 50” 54” and 60”

Left/Right Margins:
3mm each side; 6mm or 0.24″ total

Top/Bottom Margins:
3mm / 15mm (0.12″/0.59″)
15mm / 15mm (with centring)

Operating Systems:
Apple macOS 10.12, OS X: 10.11x, 10.10x, 10.9x, 10.8x and 10.7x
Microsoft Windows: 10, 8.1, 7 (32-bit, 64-bit)

Temperature:
Operating: 50° to 95°F (10° to 35°C)
Operating Recommended: 65° to 75°F (18° to 24°C)
Storage: -4° to 104°F (-20° to 40°C)

Humidity:
Operating: 20 to 80% (no condensation)
Operating Recommended: 40 to 60% (no condensation)
Storage: 5 to 85% (no condensation)

Sound Level:
Sound Pressure Level: Less than 51.1 dB(A)
Sound Power Level: approx. 65.3 dB(A)

Dimensions:
Basket Open: 95.1″ x 38.4″ x 45.1″ (2415 x 980 x 1168 mm)

Weight:
377 lbs (171 kg)

Printer Language:
Epson Professional Photographic Drivers standard; optional internal Adobe Postscript 3 print server1

Interfaces:
USB 2.0 (1 port)
1000Base-T Ethernet (1 port)

More print related information

For information about other printers, paper reviews and profiling (colour management) see the Printing section of the main Articles and Reviews page, or use the search box at the top of any page. There are also specific index pages for any articles connected with the following topics:

More of Keith's articles/reviews (Google's picks to match this page)


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