Epson Stylus Pro 3880 review
Epson Stylus Pro 3880 review
Using the SP 3880 A2 (17″) Printer
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We’ve recently had an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 printer on loan from Epson UK for a few weeks.
Keith reviewed the original 3800 a while ago and we were keen to see what Epson had changed, from what was a very nice printer.
The printer was tested on our Apple Mac network, printing from Photoshop (CS3) – features are virtually the same if using Windows PCs.
There is a wider discussion of using the printer in the conclusion section.
Epson SP 3880
The printer is aimed at higher print volumes (and maximum pages sizes) compared to the A3+ SP R2880 that we looked at a few months ago. The ‘next size up’ would be the A2 SP4880, and above that, the 24″ SP7880.
I’ve looked at this test of the SP3880 from the point of view of someone wanting to produce large high quality prints for sale and exhibition (which is part of my work at Northlight).
The picture to the right shows the print head assembly for the 3880 – this is not something you’d ever expect to see, since Epson print heads are not a user replaceable part (they should last the life of the printer).
What do you get with the 3880?
The 3880 is an A2+ (17 inch max. width) printer for the desktop.
If you want more technical specifications and Epson information, I’ve included it at the end of this article.
The key specs (from Epson) are
- 17” Print width (A2+) Cut Sheet
- 8 colours (9 inks on printer) with new Vivid Magenta for a wider colour gamut
- Three Level Black ink technology
- Auto Switcher between Matte and Photo Black
- 80ml ink cartridge capacity
- 2880 x 1440dpi maximum print resolution
- 3 paper feeding paths
- Accepts up to 1.5mm thick media
- Advanced LUT technology for smoother gradations, reduced grain, colour fidelity
- Up to 85 years lightfastness in colour and up to 406 years lightfastness in black & white
It’s positioned between the 2880 and 4880 in Epson’s range, but unlike those two printers, it addresses what some might consider to be Epson’s ‘Elephant in the room’ problem – it has both photo and matte black inks and allows swapping between them relatively easily. I’ll look at this in more detail, but if you are looking for just one printer for a variety of work, then it can be an important feature.
In the picture below, you can see that despite the print capacity, the 3880 does not take up too much desk space. However, roll your mouse over the image and you’ll see how much the print tray pulls out at the front to hold A2 size prints.
The feeder at the back is the detachable rear manual feed one – normal sheet feed is via the pop up load tray in front of it.
I’ll show some more examples of this later, but remember that A2 sized sheets of paper need to go into and come out of the printer.
USB 2 and 100/10 Ethernet connectivity are available.
The printer was tested with a direct USB connection to my old G4 PowerBook (OSX 10.5) and over the office Ethernet network from an OSX 10.6 Mac Pro.
The printer found itself an IP address from our DHCP server (your router may well sort this out if you don’t have any such servers), but there are network admin. tools supplied via the printer’s software CD (Windows and Mac).
Although supplied on the CD, I downloaded the latest drivers from the Epson (UK) web site for each of the two computers. I do this for all our reviews, so as to make sure I’m testing current software (April 2010 for this review).
The 3880 is very similar to the 3800 in many ways. This is no criticism since I found that printer produced excellent results.
Unlike smaller printers, the cartridges are located away from the print head and accessed from the printer control panel.
The 80ml cartridges are the same size as with the 3800.
It will take some 10-15 minutes to set up the printer out of the box, since the printer goes through quite a lot of activity when first loading ink from the cartridges.
One major change is a reformulation of some of the inks. In particular, the magenta and light magenta inks are now described as ‘vivid’.
In practice, this slightly increases the range of colours that the printer can produce.
I should add though, that if you took an average landscape print made with the 3800 and 3880, the differences would be difficult to spot (I’m minded to think that in a blind test, very few people could spot the difference from colour gamut alone).
I’ll come back to print quality later, but just remember that as printers get better and better, it should become harder to see improvements. This is not something that marketing departments will like, but is becoming quite noticeable as I look back over reviews I’ve written in the last 5-6 years. I’m also of the opinion that it makes detailed tables and graphs of gamut volume and the like even more irrelevant to real world printer use.
The image below shows the access to the ink carts (move mouse over image)
The default display shows small bars for each cart (you can see them above)
The printer’s LCD display can also give a detailed display of cartridge ink levels (right). I like this level of detail, since it gives a good feel for how ink usage is going.
The display is easy to read in normal working conditions, and I found no difficulty in navigating my way round the hierarchical menu structure.
Then again, I’ve used a number of similar printers over the years (we have a 7880 in the print room) so it might be worth giving the manuals a read, if you are new to this sort of printer (software manuals, not printed).
If you’ve not used the printer for a while, or just changed the black ink type, then I’d definitely suggest printing a nozzle check print.
You don’t have to include the auto cleaning, but I find that such quick checks can save producing a messed up print.
Perhaps not so important to remember for smaller printers, but once you buy an A2 sized box of top quality paper, the cost of ‘scrap’ goes up quite a bit.
If you read the forums then you’ll find regular discussions about head clogs and the like, however just remember that such discussions are inherently self selecting for stories of problems – when did you last post about doing a whole day’s printing with no problems?
As far as I can see, such issues are strongly related to average humidity. If you live in a dry climate, then it may be worth looking into ways of altering it (I heard of someone in New Mexico who kept their printer in a huge plastic bag when not in use – with a cup of water). Suffice to say, I’m in the UK and humidity levels are rarely very low ;-)
The 3880 has improved head coatings, which are supposed to reduce clogging and need for cleaning (with associated ink use). During my time of using the printer it didn’t fail a head check once – not a rigorous test, but a good sign.
A big feature of the 3880 is the ability to swap black ink types, between photo black and matt black.
Why the swap? Well, different papers respond best to different types of black ink.
I like printing some of my black and white work on heavy cotton rag papers. These require matte black ink.
For a lot of colour, and some monochrome prints, I like to use fibre type papers. These, with their surface coatings tend to work best with photo black ink.
The driver software will also instigate an ink swap depending on the media type selected when printing.
I rarely change inks on our 7880, since it wastes rather too much ink. It’s usually set to use photo black, whilst my older 9600 has matte black.
- See the links at the end of this article for alternative ink swap methods for Epson printers.
On the 3880, the change is carried out from the front panel
The process takes a few minutes of assorted whirring noises from the printer.
After a while, it is complete and you can print using the new ink.
It would appear from the specifications that the 3880 takes a bit longer to swap, but uses similar amounts of ink.
- 3880 Photo Black to Matte Black takes 2 min. 30 secs and uses ~1.6 ml of ink.
- 3800 Photo Black to Matte Black takes 1 min. 55 secs and uses ~1.52 ml of ink.
- 3880 Matte Black to Photo Black takes 3 min. 30 secs and uses ~4.6 ml of ink.
- 3800 Matte Black to Photo Black takes 2 min. 55 secs and uses ~4.5 ml of ink.
When cartridges are low, a warning is displayed on the printer, and via the print monitoring software during printing.
You can carry on printing, but eventually the printer will stop (running on empty is not good for the print heads and ink supply system).
In the picture below, the printer is needing a new photo black cartridge (at position #2).
A while later I happened to be printing some sample prints from my own recent wedding, and the light black ink has run out (position #3).
Since these are test sheets to send round to the assorted relatives and friends who came along, I decided to see how many A2 prints the printer would manage after flashing up a warning.
- Note, wedding photography is one business activity I avoid doing at Northlight, the majority of the pictures are from Craig Camp – a Leicester based portrait and wedding photographer and friend.
- The print layout was set up using the ImageNest RIP V2 (Mac OSX)
The printer has just ground to a halt part way through the 5th A2 print.
If you look very carefully, and get the light reflecting at a particular angle, you can see the place the ink ran out.
This is on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper.
The vivid light magenta ink ran out later, and I can’t see where it happened on the print at all.
This suggests that with black and perhaps magenta/cyan it’s worth changing before the ink runs out mid print.
Since a bit of ink is used on start-up, levels will drop over time anyway.
One other part of the ink system will need replacing after a while, this is the maintenance tank.
It’s accessed behind a cover at the right front of the printer.
Move your mouse over the image to see.
It takes a while to fill, and the replacement warning will give plenty of time to get a spare.
- You can see an example of a full maintenance tank from my 9600.
The printer is shown below with the main sheet feed loader flipped up. The manual feed guide behind it, is detachable and used for single sheet feeding of thicker papers.
The image below shows a sheet of A2 paper fed through the printer (move your mouse over the image to see)
The loading slot you can see above is not for heavy matte papers.
There is a warning sign to remind you, although it’s worth pointing out that the printer driver settings will enforce certain page size restrictions for different media types.
It’s worth remembering that you have to get this right when setting the print size in, for example, the Photoshop print dialogue.
I’ll show some more details of this stage later, but you should remember that this is not the sort of printer that you just load a pack of paper into and then forget.
OK, it can take 140 sheets of plain copier paper, but I’d not normally think of using the 3880 as my office printer…
The quantity of paper of any type that you can stack, is limited by both the size and type of paper.
For photo paper (PGPP), the limit is 20 sheets at A4, 10 sheets at A3 and only one sheet at A2.
As an experiment, I loaded 15 sheets of A2 Premium Glossy Photo Paper (for those wedding pictures).
All fed through perfectly well – I’d not recommend this, but it helped confirm my impression that the sheet feeding of this printer has been improved from the 3800.
For single sheet feeding of heavier papers you have to use the rear slot.
When you insert a sheet of paper, it is detected and loaded into the printer.
I found that it needed a slight pressure to reliably load every time.
After loading a few sheets of paper I’d got the knack of getting it right, and had no loading problems with sheets of Velvet Fine Art paper, and some miscellaneous third party papers I tested.
I didn’t print enough ‘fine art’ sheets with this printer to get a truly meaningful measure of whether it had improved from the 3800, but I did make sure that sheets were not showing excessive curl before loading.
I remember from testing the 3800 that I had a few minor issues with paper curl, but it’s difficult to compare the precise behaviour of two review machines (which get shipped about a lot) over two years apart.
- I’ve since heard of some people with problems loading 3rd party art papers, where errors are thrown up and the paper won’t load. One suggested fix (apart from making sure there is no curl or dust to build up) is to turn off paper size detection. Go to the printer Menu then Printer Setup then Paper Size Check. Turn Paper Size to Off. I didn’t try this but it might be of help for persistent load errors with some papers?
The A2 box of Epson PGPP paper I’d been sent from Epson, had been dropped at some time, resulting in a slight bending at one corner.
As I said, the wedding prints were just for sending around as samples, so I wasn’t too bothered about the crumpled corners.
However, this is what can happen with non flat paper. The print head has hit the paper surface.
You really do need to make sure that paper is flat.
Paper can also be directly at the front of the printer. This is primarily intended for extra thick media (up to 1.5mm).
You should note though, that using such a feed path requires plenty of space at the back of the printer with large media.
There is no roll paper support with the 3880, with media lengths being limited to 37″ (just under a metre), so for big panoramic prints you may want to look at another solution.
- Note that 3rd party print drivers (such as a RIP) will often allow longer prints. You just need to be very careful with paper feeding.
The 3880 has a huge collection of available print sizes, particularly once you include borderless print options.
Here are just a few for A2 size paper.
- Mac users should remember to select the 3880 as their printer in the Photoshop page setup, or you will get a subset of paper sizes, and potential layout errors. Remember too that the Windows versions just look a bit different to the screen shots here – functionality is the same.
In the example below, I’ve selected a printer profile in the Photoshop print dialogue (back window) and the correct paper type (Premium Luster) in the driver setup.
I’ve picked ‘No Color Adjustment’ in the colour management settings, since I’m printing with an ICC profile.
I’ll return to colour management issues later, but suffice to say, I found the supplied Epson profiles produced very good results.
For larger prints I often prefer a lustre finish paper, which here, matches the printed area very well, with no undue gloss differential.
Apart from liking this particular photograph (Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon), I know that it shows up printer deficiencies quite readily.
If you are looking at a new printer, I’d always suggest a test print or two with known good test images, as well as your own work.
For looking at colour and black and white performance I’ve initially used the Datacolor test image for colour, and my own black and white printer test image.
The images (and many others) are available for free download on this site.
You’ll notice that the driver offers ’16 bit’ printing – it’s greyed out for ABW mode.
Of course, the original image has to be in 16 bit mode, and I still have to admit that I’ve not come across an image of mine that -clearly- showed the difference.
However, I take the general attitude that any small step that improves quality is potentially worth taking
…if it does not hamper other aspects of my work.
I still see debates about whether to work in 16 bit after converting raw files. I’ve seen banding appear in 8 bit B/W files after applying extreme curve adjustments to parts of images. This didn’t happen at 16 bit, so I take 16 bit working as one of those minor steps (often not readily visible) that contribute in a positive way to total print quality. Others may think differently, but I believe they help…
One option that I did decide was -not- worth the extra print time was printing at 2880dpi rather than 1440dpi. With a few quick tests I couldn’t see any visible difference, however like with most alternatives, I’d seriously suggest you do your own testing.
Just remember that -real- people who might buy your prints don’t take out a magnifying glass to study fine detail.
It’s very difficult and as I mentioned, getting more so, to be able to say that printer model X produces better looking prints than printer model Y, particularly when looking at an evolutionary step, such as the 3800 to 3880 change.
It’s even more difficult to show differences here in an article on the web.
I’ll limit this discussion to a more qualitative one, since I’m firmly of the belief that people who just look at numbers for describing print quality, run the serious risk of missing the whole point of why you choose to print an image in a particular way and on a particular media.
I’ve now printed many dozens of prints with the 3880, both colour and black and white.
They have all looked just fine.
I use a 7880 for much of my commercial work, so I know the sorts of images that suit different types of paper.
The picture of Southwold beach to the right looks great printed on Premium Lustre, where it’s captured the feel of a brisk March day on the Suffolk coast.
The photo of the beach huts below, comes from my ambivalent view of the traditional English seaside holiday.
You have to have a degree of optimism to spend time on the North Sea coast, and it’s no surprise that amongst the key items you’ll find in one of the beach huts, will be the stove, the kettle and the teapot.
Although, since it’s Southwold, I should probably include an espresso maker…
“Look, it’s brightening up a bit…”
Printed on Velvet Fine Art paper.
These images are also part of a recent article I wrote, concerning the difference between prints you like and prints that sell.
I tried profiling a number of different papers, to see how the printer performed with other ‘art papers’.
The prints below are profiling test targets, printed from my G4 laptop (OSX 10.5) and using Photoshop CS3
Just as with the 3800, I found that it was important to get the correct media settings before profiling.
I’ll not go into detail of my testing, other than to say that results confirmed how you really do need to experiment with media setting before profiling, and that the suggestions for settings from the paper suppliers should be treated as suggestions…
The sample to the right shows over-inking in a target I printed with the Velvet Fine Art media setting, as opposed to the Water Color Radiant White that I found the best.
If you are profiling papers, I’d still suggest a look at one of the articles on media settings selection I wrote when looking at the 3800.
I tried the printer with quite a range of Epson media, and found the supplied ICC profiles pretty much spot on in terms of print quality, although some seemed a little optimistic when used for soft proofing (then again, this is always an area that you need experience to get the hang of).
The glossy wedding pictures passed the test of being handed around where, as you’d expect, the only problems noticed were related to subject matter, not print quality…
What does this mean in practice?
Well, I take a bit more care in profiling and printing to make sure that skies don’t shift slightly in hue to the magenta, since the slight sheen could make this a bit more visible.
I’m also more careful if printing an image that’s in the large ProPhoto colour space, since the combination of Perceptual rendering intent and out of gamut colours might just show a hue shift.
Then again if you were not expecting such potential issues, what were you doing trying to print from such a huge colour space in the first place ;-)
A warning though – I’m really being quite picky here and you shouldn’t think that these comments mean for one moment that I wouldn’t be happy to use this printer to produce prints to sell.
An excellent, solidly performing printer for people wanting to produce relatively modest volumes of larger prints.
Excellent colour and B/W performance coupled with larger ink cartridges mean that I’d suggest people looking at a R2880 seriously consider the step up to the 3880 – particularly if you want to print on a wider range of papers.
The lack of a roll paper option and 37″ maximum print length (with the Epson drivers) may be a problem for some.
The supplied print plugin for Photoshop has a rather complex interface, but could be of use for handling more complex print layouts.
Questions? Comments? Feel free to ask via this article’s Comments page.
|PRODUCT NAME:||Epson Stylus Pro 3880|
|SIZE||17 inch wide (A2+)|
|INK MODE||8 colour|
|RESOLUTION||2880dpi x 1440dpi with Epson Variable-sized Droplet Technology|
|9-Colours pigment ink (C, VM, Y, LC, VLM, LK, LLK, Photo K, Matte K) with 9 slots 8 colour printing
Auto switching between Matte K and Photo K
Individual high capacity ink cartridge
Ink Capacity 80ml
|4″x6″ Colour Borderless||1440dpi x 720dpi: Approx. 1.17 minutes (Premium Glossy Photo Paper)|
|A4 Colour||1440dpi x 720dpi: Approx. 2.02 minutes (Premium Glossy Photo Paper)|
|A3 Colour||1440dpi x 720dpi: Approx. 3.35 minutes (Premium Glossy Photo Paper)|
|A2 Colour||1440dpi x 720dpi: Approx. 5.80 minutes (Premium Glossy Photo Paper)|
|PRINTER DRIVER||Windows 2000 / XP / XP64 / Win7, Mac OS X 10.4.X|
|HEAD CONFIGURATION||180 nozzles x 8 with VSDT|
|CUT SHEET||Paper Size||Borderless 4″ x 6″, 5″ x 7″, 8″ x 7″, 8″ x 10″, A4, 11″ x 14″, A3, A3+, A2|
|Thickness (ASF)||0.08mm to 0.27mm|
|Thickness (manual feed front)||1.2mm to 1.5mm|
|Thickness (manual feed rear)||0.29mm to 0.5mm|
|PRINTING AREA (CUT SHEET)|
|Width: 89mm to 431.8mm Length: 127mm to 950mm|
|TOTAL PRINT VOLUME||12,000 A2 sheets|
|CONSUMABLE PARTS||Maintenance tank|
|MAINTENANCE PARTS||Pump unit, flushing box, head cleaner, cap assembly|
|LANGUAGES||ESC / P2 Raster|
|USB2.0 high speed (Compatible with 1.1) 10/100 Base-T/TX (Ethernet)|
|VOLTAGE / CURRENT / FREQUENCY||220 – 240V version|
|PRINTING||25W or less|
|STANDBY||5W or less|
|POWER OFF||0.4W or less|
|STORAGE||684mm(W) x 376mm(D) x 257mm(H)|
|PRINTING||684mm(W) x 1042mm(D) x 550mm(H)|
|WEIGHT||Approx. 19.8kg (excluding Ink and Media)|
|LIGHTFASTNESS TEST CRITERIA (INDOOR DISPLAY CONDITION)|
|1. Under fluorescent light (Indoor Display Condition) with glass mount
2. The data is calculated by Epson’s accelerated test and it does not mean Epson guarantees periods.
3. The estimated longevity does not indicate the colour changing and the durability of the paper itself.
|Light Source:||Florescent Light|
|Glass mount:||2mm, soda lime|
|Fade criteria:||Pure YMC 30% loss at OD = 1|
|Display-life calculation:||Total illuminance/(500lux x 10hours x 365days = 1year)|
Epson supplies for the 3880
|Epson PAPERS||PRODUCT CODE|
|Archival Matte Paper A3 – 50 Sheets||S041344|
|Archival Matte Paper A3+ – 50 Sheets||S041340|
|Archival Matte Paper A4 – 50 Sheets||S041342|
|Enhanced Matte Paper A2 – 50 Sheets||S042095|
|Epson Traditional Photo Paper – A2||S045052|
|Epson Traditional Photo Paper – A3+||S045051|
|Epson Traditional Photo Paper – A4||S045050|
|Premium Glossy Photo Paper A2 – 25 Sheets||S042091|
|Premium Glossy Photo Paper A3 – 20 Sheets||S041288|
|Premium Glossy Photo Paper A3+ – 20 Sheets||S041289|
|Premium Glossy Photo Paper A4 – 20 Sheets||S041285|
|Premium Glossy Photo Paper Photo Size (4 x 6″) – 50 Sheets||S041867|
|Premium Glossy Photo Paper Photo Size (5 x 7″) – 20 Sheets||S041464|
|Premium Luster Photo Paper A3+ (50 sheets)||S041407|
|Premium Semi Gloss Photo Paper A2 (25 Sheets)||S042093|
|Premium Semigloss – Photo Paper A3 – 20 Sheets||S041334|
|Premium Semigloss – Photo Paper A3+ – 20 Sheets||S041328|
|Premium Semigloss – Photo Paper A4 – 20 Sheets||S041332|
|Proofing Paper Semimatte A3+||S041744|
|Singleweight Matte Paper A3+ (100 sheets)||S041909|
|Velvet Fine Art Paper A2 (25 Sheets)||S042096|
|Velvet Fine Art Paper A3+ (20 sheets)||S041637|
|INK CARTRIDGES||PRODUCT CODE|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Photo Black/80ml)||T5801|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Cyan/80ml)||T5802|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Yellow/80ml)||T5804|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Light Cyan/80ml)||T5805|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Light Black/80ml)||T5807|
|Epson UltraChrome Ink Cartridge (Matte Black/80ml)||T5808|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Light Light Black/80ml)||T5809|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Vivid Magenta/80ml)||T580A|
|Epson UltraChrome K3 Ink Cartridge (Vivid Light Magenta/80ml)||T580B|
|Large Format Printer Options||PRODUCT CODE|
|Epson PageProofer for Windows||3100026|
|Maintenance Tank for Stylus Pro 3800 & 3880||T582000|
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