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Review of the Epson P5000 printer

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Printer review: Epson SureColor P5000

Printing with the Epson 17″/A2 P5000 printer


Keith has been using the Epson P5000 printer for several months, both for this review, and as his day to day printer.

Not long after getting the printer, Keith wrote up a detailed P5000 installation and setup guide, which if you have just got the printer, would be the best place to start.

This review covers some aspects of setup, but in nowhere near as much detail as Keith’s setup guide.

The icc printer profiles created for this review are available on request, free for non-commercial use.

Epson P5000

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P5000 at: B&H | Adorama | Amazon US | Amazon UK

Testing the P5000

The P5000 is an update for the SP4900 I reviewed a few years ago. During testing for my SP4900 review, the printer performed very well, but over the years I’ve seen a few comments about it being prone to clogging. In fact this is the most common question I’ve had since announcing I had a P5000 to test. I’ll deal with this in more detail in the conclusions, but I thought I’d address this right up front.

All printers like this require regular use and in the few months I’ve had it, I’ve used it most weeks. A couple of times I’ve been away for a 1-2 weeks and the printer has been left switched on. Suffice to say I’ve not had one single nozzle check print fail after the first few weeks of use and initial ink charging.

I’m testing the printer without the optional SpectroProofer unit – this is essentially the same as I covered in my SP4900 review if you’re interested. I’d note that this accessory is aimed at the proofing market, not making your own ICC printer profiles.

The P5000 – what do you get?

The printer is a hefty beast for its size. If you’ve used the Epson P800 as a 17″ printer, then expect to need more space and a suitably solid table. At over 50kg, you may well want help in its unpacking and moving.

This delivery shot gives an idea of the packaging – the driver gave me a hand moving it, yours may not be so helpful.

unpacking the p5000

Ensure you have space around the printer.

P5000 space required

 

You may need more space at the back too, if you’re going to be manually loading media from the front using the straight through print path (the printer prints on board).

rear space

The printer comes with a set of (80ml) starter ink carts – lower capacity, but still capable of plenty of printing before you first need a replacement.

Inks are loaded at the front, at either side (full details in my P5000 installation guide)

add left carts

The printer comes with the option of using violet ink in one slot, or a light light grey (LLK).

I’ve seen confusion about this, since the Violet option is for expanding the printer gamut (for proofing) and people erroneously think this is ‘better’ than the LLK ink option. No, the best quality print (smoother gradations and tones) comes with the LLK option.

You get the option to choose at setup – don’t get it wrong (it asks for confirmation).

pick ink set

If you’re curious, I’ve more about this in my 24″ Surecolor P7000 review

The spectroproofer unit fits the front of the printer, as it did with the SP4900 (it’s covered in the 4900 review and P7000 review)

Two P5000s – with and without spectroproofer.

spectroproofer on P5000

One warning note, when installing inks.

The front panels covering the ink carts are spring loaded and I found are easy to release accidentally when leaning over the printer. Doing this whilst the printer is charging ink will interrupt the process.

I did this by mistake and two of the startup carts (VM/C) were emptied rather more than the others as a result.

interrupted charge

The ink levels are those reported after setting up the printer.

Connectivity

The printer is supplied with USB2 and Gigabit EtherNet ports, there is no Wireless connectivity.

I connected up the USB lead to my MacBook Pro for configuration, although I could have set up the EtherNet network from the front panel if needed.

Network and printer configuration are covered in detail in my setup guide

setup printer workflow

The printer runs its own web server, which you can access via any browser.

After setup, it’s worth running an adjustment print.

adjustment print

You might then want to consider a calibration print (full details in the setup guide)

calibration print

Setting up the printer took less than an hour.

I’ve now got the printer drivers set up on my Macs, a roll of paper loaded and ready to go.

Using the P5000

The P5000 has had a lot of changes over the SP4900, many of which are designed to increase its reliability and reduce the build-up of dust and paper detritus inside the printer (there is a whole section on cleaning in the manual).

One change you’ll note, if you are used to the smaller Epson printers, is that there is now a printless nozzle check option. The printer will fire nozzles and be able to check if there are any clogs. I’ve set the printer to also automatically clean the relevant head if it detects any problems.

There are options in the printer setup, to change how often this will run and how thoroughly it will clean.

You can of course run the traditional nozzle check on paper, either from the front panel or the printer utility software.

printer utility

This is the point where I have to repeat that -all- inkjet printers need to use up some ink to keep them running optimally.

This ink use is a cost of running the printer. I know some people whinge about ink costs on forums, but the perfect printer that only uses the ink needed for a print doesn’t exist (this goes for all the big printers I’ve reviewed over the last few years).

Cleaning options

In the week or so after setup, I had a couple of times where the auto cleaning function indicated blockages – fixed after a simple clean. In the three months subsequent to this, not a single clog has been reported.  The printer is in another room so I may have missed an auto clean or two, but it’s doing well. This is but one printer, but I’ve no reason to suspect it’s special…

The new paperless nozzle check option works really well and warns of any issues.

I’ve the auto cleaning set to run periodically, after a period of having it run for every job (overkill I found, but it inspired confidence).

periodic clean

The initial problem was with just the two channels (both in the same channel pairing).

auto check

A short while later

cleaning needed

I ran a test print just to check.

blocked

You can select which nozzle pairs to clean.

select nozzles

A short while later, all is well.

The ‘Normal’ cleaning setting was all I needed – there is a ‘Heavy’ option and even more in the Admin menu (use with care).

There are a number of menu options relating to power saving and cleaning.

menu options

To minimise auto-cleaning getting in the way of print jobs, I also set the cleaning attempts to three

The White Cap cleaning feature

Looking at the various menu options I noticed a ‘White Cap Cleaning’ option in the Admin menu.

white cap cleaning

It’s not actually listed in any of the versions of the manual I have…

As I expected, activating it moved the print head out of the way, letting me access the capping station and areas where the print head rests when not in use.

white caps in P5000

Do not just go poking around unless you are familiar with what’s in there – damage will be expensive!

Updating Firmware

With printers like this one that have not been around too long, it’s worth checking every so often for updated firmware.

firmware available

Personally I wish manufacturers would be more open about any changes in firmware, since if it was my printer, I’d likely wait for reports from other people as to whether to update (an application of the ‘if it ain’t broke’ principle).

The firmware installer comes in Mac and Windows versions.

firmware updater

The software will find your printer and offer to update, if needed.

firmware update

The process takes a while (10-15mins) so be careful if it’s a shared printer, since it will be restarted and you will lose any print jobs.

Changing inks

The orange printer warning light (raised so you can see it from any angle) starts flashing once an ink cart is classed as ‘low’.

As with most printers, take this as a reminder to have a spare ready, rather than a need for immediate replacement.

By the time the printer informed me that the PK ink needed changing, several others were flashing.

The carts contain ~200ml of ink.

The empty starter cart I’m changing below had no more than 1-2ml of ink left when I opened it up.

ink swap

After changing, the new (PK) cart shows ‘full’ immediately.

inks low and new cart

I printed over 30 largish prints from when the black was first indicated as low.

Maintenance carts

There are two carts, one (~£18) takes ink used in cleaning, ink swaps and and setup.

Lift the front and pull forward. The waste ink goes into it at the back.

maintenance tank

The ‘capacity indicator’ on the display went down by a third after my somewhat extended setup.

By the time the first ink cart needed changing, it was just below 50%

The second one (~£12) catches overspray when printing borderless. It sits under the print area and is accessed by removing the output tray and moving a small locking lever under it.

second maintenance tank

Not being a fan of borderless printing, this one received minimal ink during testing – it would last me for years.

Black ink swap

Different papers look best with either the matt or photo black ink set.

You can set the swap to be automatic, depending on paper selection, but given the time taken (a few minutes) and the ink used up (a few ml.), I prefer to switch manually.

The button at the lower left can be used to initiate the process.

mk to pk

You’ll get a period of the printer whirring away…

changing ink

You’re now ready to go with Pk loaded.

swap finished

I’ve heard arguments from Epson as to why this is still a feature, relating to their studies of how most customers actually use the printer, but from my personal POV it is still an annoyance to have to swap black inks from Matt black (Mk) to Photo black (Pk) as needed for different types of media.

It’s not just the amount of ink (a few ml.) but the interruption in my print workflow, which seems to split 60/40 in Pk/Mk usage.

Media/Paper loading

The printer supports a wide range of media sizes.

paper sizes

With different borderless options

borderless sizes

Note that borderless printing on sheets only refer edge to edge.

See this example (for A4) from the setting the size in the driver

borderless paper

For true borderless you need roll media, which gets cut to borderless (see B&W examples later)

roll print borderless

Printer borders (if not borderless) vary with media – several times I reduced border size and saw no issues with print quality. If you’ve media with any significant curl though, consider flattening it first. Whilst head strikes are of less concern than with older printers, you really don’t want ink/paper/head interaction…

For roll paper:

roll paper borders

For sheets:

sheet paper borders

There are three ways of getting sheet media into the printer. The graphic is from the 192 page user manual – take time to read through it – you will find answers to a lot of the commonly asked questions about media handling.

paper feed

One feature of the P5000 that trumps the larger printers I’ve reviewed is that paper tray (1), a great time saver if you have to print a batch of prints.

However, there is no print catching, so watch for multiple large prints falling out the front, even with the tray extended.

Paper in the print path is held flat by a vacuum system, whilst you can change the strength of this, it’s still best to avoid media with a heavy curl. Avoiding head strikes is always a good idea…

Roll paper

With roll paper, there is a facility to print a bar code on the end of a roll of paper. This allows for the printer to be able to tell you how much paper is left on the roll – this defaults to off, and I leave it there, both because the waste of paper is a minor annoyance and because over the years I’ve got pretty good at estimating how much paper is on a roll – YMMV

Roll paper (2″ or 3″ core) is loaded on to the supplied spindle. The paper holder has a clip-on attachment for setting core size, and a circular plate that is required for borderless printing on some paper sizes.

Note the spindle drive gear at the right. The paper take-up and feed is motorised with the P5000 (it isn’t if using the optional roll holder for the P800)

loading roll paper

The paper here is a roll of Epson PGPP250, where I’ve left the protective brown paper in place until the roll is in the printer.

I need to check the menu to see that roll paper is selected as a paper source – I’ll also select the Auto-cut option.

roller gripPressing the roller grip button readies the printer to accept paper for auto loading.

I see that auto loading is not recommended for paper such as Epson USFA – a heavy art paper

Note: I only just read this when writing up this review, which suggests that if your paper if not heavily curled, the auto feed will actually work just fine.

The warning light appears and you feed in paper until it’s detected.

initial loading

Pressing the roller grip button then auto feeds the paper.

auto load

It comes out the front some distance.

paper feeding

The paper runs back and forth a few times as its alignment and width is checked.

After a while, you can set the paper type.

Whilst not essential, this is one of the things that can help avoid wasting paper, when you forget just what paper is loaded in the printer…

paper type

The printer’s now good to go.

roll ready to print

Partly my (initial) slight paranoia about the efficacy of auto-cleaning and also because I’m going to be printing some profiling targets leads me to a nozzle check print.

nozzle check

Nope, no need to worry ;-)

Roll paper cutting

P5000 roller cutterThe printer has a built-in cutter (a user replaceable item … ~£150 though)

It’s now closer to the front of the printer and easier to access for cleaning.

It will cut the odd sheet of canvas, but if you are going to be running canvas through the printer every day, buy some good quality shears (I use wallpaper scissors).

Cutting for borderless prints

There is a ‘double cut’ option available in the driver settings.

This will start a borderless roll paper print a couple of inches into the paper, and trim this off as the print comes out of the printer.

The print will also be trimmed at the top end after printing finishes.

Note that a similar strip of paper is left on the roll after printing. This means that if the next print was another borderless one, you’d not waste another thin strip of paper.

Here are some of my experiments with borderless printing (expanding the image or not).

borderless testing

There are two versions fully borderless (the extra bits at top and bottom have been cut off in ‘Double Cut’ borderless mode).

borderless prints

My takeaway from this is that it works well, but do read the manual first – there are a lot of options…

Loading via the top slot

For single sheets of heavy art paper (in fact most times I just wanted the one print) you can load via the top slot.

paper guide adjustment

With larger sheets take care that the guides allow for a smooth movement of the paper – too wide and the loading process can introduce a bit of page skew.

The paper type needs to be set to sheet, from the front panel

You can push the paper in until it meets the grey rollers in the printer (click to enlarge)

top paper feed limit

This is important to get right – not being careful enough here was the main cause of skewed sheet loading as I got used to the printer.

Next, tell the printer to load the paper.

start sheet load

The paper will load and sit ready for printing.

sheet height

Watch out for things like that shelf at the back – I had to move the printer forward.

Front loading thick media and board

The front slot is for media from 0.8mm to 1,5mm thick. The examples below are from loading a sheet of thick art paper.

Once the roller grip is raised, you can set the edge of the paper from the guide marks at the front.

line up front feed

It’s also possible to push paper up to the grey roller if not raised – the other side from that shown earlier in the top loading.

This shows what happens if the paper is a bit warped – you need to flatten it to lodge just under the rollers.

front paper setting

Just don’t forget that space at the back.

rear paper space

One thing I noted when looking at the sheet of paper (a profiling target) coming out of the printer is that the ‘pizza wheel’ paper guides are only active towards the end of a print (this is partly what allows borderless print).  The vacuum system holds paper flat, but rollers are needed to advance the paper as it’s printed.

These three shots show the start, middle and end of a print.

paper 1 manual feedpaper 2 manual feedpaper 3 manual feed

Now, I’ve never had ‘pizza wheel’ marks on a print during my testing, but it’s something I do get asked about.

Using the paper cassette

The tray is adjustable in size for up to A2 size paper.

Here, I’ve loaded A3 plain copier paper.

paper tray

The paper needs to be in good condition – reloading some plain sheets to print on the reverse led to a few snarl-ups due to bent corners.

paper jam

This never happened with any new paper…

There are some guides and instructions inside the tray.

Just one other thing to remember … the print side of the paper should be DOWN

(Yes… with some sheets of glossy paper … the ink doesn’t dry well, it makes a right mess)

Printer testing

The printer was on our Gigabit EtherNet network and mostly driven from my main Apple Mac (OS X 10.11) using Photoshop CS6

The driver software installs a good collection of ICC profiles (you want the LLK not the V versions). These work well, but I usually make my own using ~3k patch targets with X-rite’s i1Profiler package.

installed profiles

Don’t dismiss the Epson profiles out of hand – they are built with more knowledge of the printer characteristics than my (very good) DIY ones – if you find an image that shows up problems with a custom profile, try an appropriate Epson one, it -might- look better. It will usually be images with extreme colours, but if it looks better…

Test Images

I’ve a series of known test images that I always start off printing for a new printer, I know what these images look like on different types of paper and many different printers.

I always suggest using such images when testing new papers, rather than your own favourite photos. If you can print an image you like the quality of, from these, then it makes refining the printing of your own work so much easier.

The images (and many others) are available for free download on this site.

black and white printer test imagedatacolor test image for printer profilie evaluation

Both images have lots of components to specifically test different aspects of printer performance.

I also use both for testing the performance of printer profiles. If you make use of them, then do be sure to read the explanatory notes that go with them.

Papers tested with this printer

My initial testing was with a range of Epson media – both with my own and Epson ICC profiles

  • Epson Cold Press Natural
  • Epson Hot Press Bright
  • Epson Exhibition Fiber (Epson Traditional Photo Paper in the UK)
  • Epson Enhanced Matt Poster Board
  • Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art
  • Epson Velvet Fine Art
  • Epson Premium Glossy Photo 250
  • Epson Premium Lustre 260

I also had several other papers in stock and some new ones to try out

  • Innova IFA-11
  • Innova IFA-22
  • Innova IFA-26 – Soft textured bright white 315gsm
  • Innova IFA-37 Matt canvas
  • Olmec OLM-59 – bright 300 gsm lustre
  • Olmec OLM-72 -Photo metallic Lustre 260
  • Innova IFA-59 (super glazed gloss – no longer available I’m afraid)
  • Pinnacle Lustre 300
  • Pinnacle Baryta 300

Custom media types

There is the option to set your own custom media types for the printer.

You can use the Epson LFP Remote Panel 2 software that gets installed, or directly from the printer control panel.

LFP remote panel

The custom paper is based on a reference paper type such as photo paper or proofing paper, the thickness of the paper and an optimised paper feed adjustment.

custom settings

A feed adjustment print is measured by the printer to fine tune paper movement (I’ve not seen any banding issues at all though).

feed adjustment

The example above is of a second custom setting I made for a thick new art paper, directly from the front panel.

feed adjust a

There’s a test pattern for print thickness too

thickness test

although I find it easier to use my digital micrometer/caliper

test print and caliper

In picking the media reference type, I can make test prints with different settings, if I’m not sure which to use.

media type

I know from using the same software on the P7000 printer last year that the option to produce sample prints at a range of settings sounds useful, until you actually do so and find that differences between them are so subtle that with out additional testing and measurement you’ll not gain very much.

In this example I’ve created the custom setting on my laptop, for the 300gsm Baryta paper I’m looking at (Pinnacle baryta 300).

custom media

In the paper type  select ‘custom’

paper type custom

The paper is in slot #1

custom number one

The lack of custom name is irksome here. I’ve 10 custom slots – am I expected to have a post-it note on the side of the printer, telling me what paper is Custom #7 for example?

There are useful features in the custom media option, but I can’t help feeling it is functionality that hasn’t been developed that fully.

Printing with the P5000

Most of my prints were directly from Photoshop. Setting up prints is explained well in the manual with the different options for Mac and PC use covered thoroughly.

If you’ve looked through the paper feed options above, you’ll see there are plenty of different ways of getting the paper through the printer.

In general, not a lot caught me out given my policy of saving printer driver presets on my Mac.

Typically this means I’d have a preset named something like  ‘A2 USFA sheet‘  that would work for printing colour photos on A2 sheets of fine art paper that used the USFA media setting. This preset contains all my printer driver choices, such as sending 16 bit data, paper type, size and source.

I’d have another ‘A3plus USFA sheet‘ for smaller paper, or ‘A3plus USFA sheet ABW‘ for a B&W print using the ABW print mode.

Here are some from when I was profiling papers at the start of my testing.

paper presets

If you print at all often, and change papers/sizes, then it’s the best way I have of ensuring consistency and not messing things up.

Making use of custom paper sizes for roll paper led to presets such as ‘USFA 120‘ which was for a 1.2m long print on 17″ art paper.

Here, I’m using it to print a panoramic shot of Derwent Water, from a recent trip to the Lake District (click to enlarge).

usfa 120

The colour profile is one of my own for Innova’s IFA-22 smooth bright rag paper (using the USFA media setting).

print settings

The image is a stitched panorama (hand held 50MP shots) from ‘Friars Crag’ and some 22,000 pixels wide. I’ve used the large Pro-Photo colour space and 16 bit partly to retain some of the detail and very dark colours from what was a rather wet day. I know that the heavy matt paper limits things a bit, but I’ve also printed it on a baryta paper, where the overall contrast (and gamut) is much higher. Which looks best is very much a matter of personal taste and room lighting…

Take care with borders on sheet paper, since it’s easy to be caught out if there is any asymmetry in border dimensions.

See how I’ve manually centred the image (click to enlarge)

picture centring

You may also note that the image (a 50MP one) is being printed at 97% scaling and a resolution of 497ppi.

I know a lot of people suggest using the Epson default of 360ppi, but having looked at scaling images before printing and even the differences between setting the printer driver to 2880dpi over 1440dpi, I’m more than ever convinced that most people couldn’t reliably spot the difference even if you paid them…

Now that’s definitely not to suggest that you shouldn’t experiment with your own images to find if any settings work better for you, but that rather more attention to the actual photography and editing, especially when and how to use sharpening, may be a more effective way to get better looking prints.

friars crag, Derwent Water

Friars Crag, Derwent Water, Lake District

The image above is from the print file for the print on the cotton rag paper – note how the colours are a bit more saturated than you might use for web display (tastes vary, but they are more saturated from my POV) This gives a better rendition of the scene on paper – remember that the best looking version of a file on screen, does not automatically make the best looking print. Soft proofing may help, but I still prefer looking at print samples.

The Derwent Water shot above (120cm wide – click to enlarge) was printed at 1440dpi on the matt art paper and 2880dpi on the baryta – I think the 2880 makes a bit of difference on the lustre surface – it was slower to print though.

As I’ve realised over the last few years, bad prints are increasingly difficult to blame on the printer/inks/paper.

I know Epson’s marketing can’t say this to customers, but if your print sucks, it’s likely your fault – this is a very fine printer.

Ink usage

It’s possible to get the printer to print out the amounts of ink used for its last ten print jobs.

I’ve scanned some printouts…

This is the ink usage for the Friars Crag print shown above, on matt paper.

This is the ink used for the B&W image (below in the Epson print layout section) using ABW and a lustre paper

bw print ink usage

I see that tiny amounts are used for all active inks, but the main ones used with ABW are LLK/LC/VLM/LK/PK

I’m curious as to the actual use of the other inks (nozzle check prints show o.01ml usage per colour, but note that this is the smallest non-zero number available in the printout).

Other software packages

Some of the other software you can use with the printer.

Epson Print Layout

This is a plug-in for Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. Epson says:

  • By operating with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom, you can easily perform colour management.
  • You can check the adjusted image for black-and-white photographs on the screen.
  • You can save your preferred paper type and size and load them easily.
  • You can easily layout and print photos.

I’ve had somewhat variable results with such print software in the past, but the Print Layout software seems to have had quite a bit more care in its design.

When using from Photoshop, the current image (or images) is exported to the application.

The window displays a preview and settings, with the currently loaded images at the bottom (click to enlarge).

print layout

There are a lot of setup options for printing – you can save your own presets as well.

epl settings

I noticed that the image processing for gallery wrap canvas was there as well, although I always think that a 17″ width printer is a bit limiting if you are going to be making canvases.

layout options

One of the most interesting features for myself, was the ability to ‘Soft Proof’ adjustments in the ABW black and White print mode (click to enlarge)

abw preview

Now I’m going to say that this is what you should be doing in your editor, and trust to your print setup, but I know that not everyone has the inclination to be as exacting in B&W print as I am…

So, an eminently usable print package – what’s not to like?

Well, a decent manual would help. I found this page at Epson UK which gives a good overview of what the software can do, as does this one at Epson US

Yes I found it intuitive to use, but I spend a lot of time testing new software pre and post release, and used to work in usability research.

LFP Accounting Tool

A potentially useful package for working out print costs, but since Epson only provide a Windows PC version, it remains untested…

Layout

I needed a large number of small prints of a family event, and was able to use ImageNest perfectly well.

imagenest

ImageNest uses the Epson driver – note how I’ve selected a 16″ x 125″ (3.2m) custom paper size for the sheet of prints – cutting them up later is left as an exercise to the person who wanted the prints ;-)

Whilst I wasn’t able to test it with the P5000, I’m told that the Mirage software I tested last year also works well with the P5000 (I did get to test it with the much larger P20000 I reviewed recently).

Profiling / B&W

Just after I’d loaded the roll of Epson PGPP250 shown earlier, I connected my MacBook Pro (USB) and printed off a ~2900 patch profiling target.

profiling target on roll paper

I use the Mac’s own ColorSync utility for printing targets.  Software such as the Adobe Color Print Utility is another option.

profile printing

Do be sure to select the ‘Print as color target’ option and make sure the print is at 100% size.

I build my profiles with i1Profiler, which means that choosing RelCol or Perceptual rendering intents can give a distinctly different look to a print – there’s no ‘correct’ choice of intent.

When using RelCol, I do enable BPC – this is important for matt papers.

All my colour profiles are available by request for non commercial use – do say which ones you need though.

I’m not a great fan of charts and graphs for colour management, but a few observations do stand out.

The orange and green inks expand the gamut noticeably in those areas – this looks good until you realise that not that many natural photos have colours  that push into these areas.  The results with the P5000 showed improvements for some images of intense autumn colours and sunsets, much as I found with the P7000.

If you knew what you were looking for and had good lighting, you could see a difference in some areas of my test image compared to some prints from my P800 testing a while ago. The numbers tell me that blacks are darker with the P5000 too, but I didn’t have any suitable prints from the P800 that would show it.

In terms of smoothness of tone, none of the real world images I printed showed any issues – I’m sure that with synthetic, specially constructed photos you could find nits to pick, but that’s for a very different approach to printer evaluation than I choose to follow ;-)

Black and White

I’ve made use of  the printer for a lot of testing of B&W print performance with different papers, using Mk and Pk inks.

Here are a few of the test sheets looking at B&W print quality

bw test prints

I’ve printed both with my custom ICC colour profiles and the Epson ABW print mode. I even tried creating some custom profiling targets with lots of extra greys in them (it didn’t actually make much difference).

Although I measured some prints using the 51 step wedge on my test print, for most of the prints I used the simpler 21 step version.

measure BW prints

Measuring is quite rapid with the X-Rite i1iO [notes on its use], and allows for multiple readings of each patch and averaging of the results.

I’m disinclined to publish vast spreadsheets of numbers, since I find rather too many are inclined to view the numbers with a spurious and unwarranted relevance to actually making prints.

I’ll just show some of the measurements from Epson Premium Lustre and Cold Pressed Natural, when I measured the darkest (100%) patches. These are measurements at M0/1/2 with an i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer.

First the black patch for Epson Cold Pressed Natural – using my own ICC profile

profile black cpn

next, the same CPN paper, but using ABW (dark)

cpn abw

Well, small differences in darkness and the colour of the black.

Given the sizes of the differences and dependence on how much UV is used in the measurement, I’m happy to say both are very similar for this paper.

OK, now for Epson’s Premium Lustre 260 paper.

First, using my ICC profile

Next, the ABW mode

pl260 abw

The most striking thing here is the identical results for ABW mode with the different spectro measuring modes (amount of UV included)

ABW mode doesn’t use any Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Orange or Green inks to make the print – it does use Light Magenta, Light Cyan and Yellow for any toning needed. ABW as such may be be more long lived (both will outlast me…)

I’ve dozens more sets of measurements which all suggest that for black blacks and neutrality, there’s not a lot of difference between the ABW/Profile choice and that a slight edge in the numbers for one paper is different with another similar paper.

With all this, you may be wondering why I bothered with all those prints and measurements?

One was to give me confidence when people ask questions about my testing, the other was to see how linear print output was and look at ways I could improve the reliability and predictability of my B&W printing (whether ABW or not).

If you’ve read my other printer reviews, you’ll know that I like to make use of the profile generation capability of QuadToneRIP (QTR) to make icc ‘correction profiles’ to linearise print output. The outputs from the profile making process (using data measured from the test charts) show the differences between ABW and using a profile a bit differently.

Using the i1iO for B&W linearity

Here’s the (51 step) output for Epson Hot Press Bright – a bright white smooth cotton rag paper I find suits some B&W images very well. This is using the ABW mode.

The paper has some optical brightener in it, so the ‘b’ line drifts off to the left as expected for lighter greys (more paper showing through) but from 50% to 100% it’s pretty neutral.

The ‘L’ line is a bit dark (to the left) in the bottom half, leading to a distinct crunching of shadows in the 90-100% tones.

HPB abw

Let’s now look at a similar curve for the paper, but this time printed (RelCol and BPC) with one of my ICC profiles.

The ‘b’ curve is now straighter – probably showing how i1Profiler was handling neutrals for what is my default way of making profiles for colour work.

The ‘L’ line is straighter, but from 85% to 100% there’s a distinct change, leading to blocked up shadows

HPB profile

Different papers show the slight compression in the shadows by different amounts whether for profile or ABW use.

Despite all my tinkering with profiles and ABW prints, the simplest way of linearising for print turned out to be making a simple adjustment curve for my chosen paper/print mode. It helps of course that I only use Photoshop here, since the curve can be saved as a preset and loaded as an adjustment layer before print. I can edit away on the screen, decide what I want, apply the curve and print with the Profile or ABW.

Here’s my ‘correction’ curve for Innova IFA-11  (essentially the same as Epson Hot Press Natural) when printing with ABW (neutral/dark) and using the USFA media setting.

ifa-11 abw curve

The curves can be quite simple, such as this one for Innova’s OLM-59 lustre paper and ABW (dark) – this gives a nearly perfectly linear output.

It’s so close that it’s difficult to see the difference with normal images – reminding me that it’s what the print looks like that trumps any notion of ‘perfection’.

olm59 curve

The points on the line are manually set from the numbers from the QTR output – I’ll put some more detail about this in another article, since I’m aware that this is a relatively limited interest issue ;-)

So, ABW or profile for B&W?

My personal default is for the ABW mode coupled with a look at my B&W test image to see if there is enough non-linearity to warrant an adjustment curve. If it’s significant, I’ll also check how my ICC profile handles the paper and also decide if that might benefit from a curve.

The key is to remember that all papers behave slightly differently and that if you need a hefty curve to correct things it’s a hint that there may be other areas not quite right (media setting for example).

There’s also always the possibility that that forum post you saw extolling the virtues of paper X was for a different printer/ink set, or from someone less critical than yourself ;-)  Some papers ‘don’t work’ – accept it and move on…

If you use the Epson Print Layout software, then the different ABW print modes (and any adjustment/toning) are shown as a soft preview. This may be one of the main reason that some might choose to use this software. I’m not a big fan of routinely soft proofing images for print, but I know that some prefer printing B&W with colour ICC profiles for just this reason – If so give the Print Layout software a go?

My own preference is to build up experience of just how what appears on the screen will look as a print – it means you spend longer actually looking at your prints and understanding how tones appear and relate to each other. You also get to appreciate what you see on screen as only a step on the way to a great print, not the end point.

Conclusions

The printer is a replacement for the SP4900 I reviewed a few years ago.  Whilst superficially quite similar in design, there are a lot of improvements aimed at improving quality and reliability. Many interior parts have been redesigned to minimise dust ingress and buildup.

The new HDX ink set does indeed give slightly deeper blacks when using PK inks, although you’d need to compare prints in good lighting for it to be noticeable. The yellow ink is now also rated with a longer resistance to fading. I’m testing a printer that has the LLK ink option installed – if you print photos, this is what you want, not the Violet option.

Where I think people with experience of the 4900 would take notice is the refined maintenance and cleaning options. The printer is more proactive in its cleaning and printhead testing, with a paperless nozzle check meaning you don’t need a pile of copier paper next to the printer just for head check pattern prints.

Print heads

The print heads have been significantly re-designed – this photo shows the head assembly, from when I attended the UK launch of the printer in January 2017.

P5000 printhead front

After the first few weeks of use, I’ve not had any indications of the heads needing a clean. The automatic processes seem to have handled things just fine.

The printer has been left switched on (in another room) and I’ve often heard it start up, make a few noises and go quiet again.

Ease of use

A somewhat personal category (testing a lot of printers as I do) but apart from the front ink covers being prone to popping open if you lean over the printer and touch one, nothing jumped out at me.

Paper loading was consistently reliable, the only problems coming with not so flat paper.

If you want borderless printing on a roll then expect a bit of experimenting, but as I found, reading the manual is a help…

The print output tray can be extended, but feels rather light and is prone to sticking if you don’t push it back in evenly.

The printer menus seem well laid out – if you’re used to Epson printers not too much should come as a surprise.

The printer manual is available [ftp download]

Printer use and you

The P5000 is a heavy duty printer designed for regular use on most days.

In Epson’s launch info they mentioned that they expect 70% of printer sales to be in the Packaging proof/Contract proof/Design market and 30% split between Photo and Fine art work.

I’ve used the printer quite a lot, but with more (paying) work over the summer months, and a holiday, it’s been idle for periods – 10 days in one instance.

The good news is that I’ve had no cleaning issues whatsoever, and I’m running very much at the light use end of its ‘usage envelope’.

Annoyances and quibbles…
  • I know that many users of printers like this rarely (if ever) change the black ink, but I’m one of those that like to use a range of papers and may only do a few prints on one paper before swapping rolls or loading a single sheet that requires me to swap black.
    The relative costs of such swaps diminish rapidly with the amount of printing you do, so if you’re producing hundreds of prints at a time, it’s pretty minimal. Once again, it’s a reminder that this is a printer intended to be used a lot.
  • The accounting software is Windows only, so of no use in our business.
  • The Epson Print Layout software looks excellent – where is the user guide/manual though?
  • The custom media function should be fleshed out – it would be nice to have the media name appear on the LCD display for example.
  • No storage? For a printer at this level I’d have expected some internal storage options. It can help with throughput in shared environments and re-printing jobs.
  • The ink carts hold 200ml of ink – that’s good compared to the 80ml of the P800, but the space available in the printer made me wonder if larger cartridges should be an option.
Print Quality

As with the Epson P7000 I tested last year, the ink set with its additional orange and green inks, and range of greys, gives excellent prints with smooth gradations. It’s easy to profile, and even the ‘canned’ profiles provided are much better than you used to get with printers (mainly due to modern printers being much more consistent and linear).

For want of repeating myself, if you can’t make great prints with the P5000, then I’m afraid the problem is far more likely to be with your own skill levels (I apply this to myself as well…)

You will need to put in the effort into preparing your images to print their best. In many ways this is the answer to someone with say a P600 or P800 who wants to step up their print quality and move to a more ‘professional’ printer (assuming you print regularly enough).

With its paper tray and roll support, it’s far more the sort of printer I’d have here for my own use.

If you’re looking to make lots of top quality prints of your photos, both colour and black and white, the SureColor P5000 looks a good choice.

–ooOoo–

Places to get a P5000 for yourself : B&H | Adorama | Amazon US | Amazon UK

You can leave comments/questions about this review below

Summary

Successor to the SP4900. An 11 ink 17″ width printer, supporting roll and sheet media, with a straight through print path for thicker media. A sheet media cassette holds paper up to A2 in size.

The UltraChrome HDX ink set improves on the gamut of the SP4900, whilst the printer has numerous design changes to improve reliability and reduce dust ingress.

There is an optional SpectroProofer and violet ink option for proofing support. For photo and fine art applications, the Light Light Black ink set option is to be preferred.

P5000 specifications

Printing Method: Epson Micro Piezo TFP print head

Ink Technology: UltraChrome HDX

Paper Formats: A2, A2+, A3+, A3, A4, Letter, 17 ” (43.2 cm), User defined

Print Margins Sheet Media: Mode 1: 3 mm (top), 3 mm (right), 14 mm (bottom), 3 mm (left)

Paper Tray Capacity: 250 Sheets Standard, 250 Sheets Maximum, 100 Photo Sheets

Compatible Paper Thickness: 0.08 mm – 1.5 mm

Duplex: No

Number of paper trays: 1

Energy Use: 52 Watt, 5 Watt (economy), 0.5 Watt (standby)

Supply Voltage: AC 100 V – 240 V, 50 Hz – 60 Hz

Product dimensions: 863‎ x 766 x 406 mm (Width x Depth x Height)

Product weight: 52 kg

Sound Power: Operation: 6.2 B (A)

Noise Level: Operation: 47 dB (A)

What’s in the box

Driver and utilities (CD), Individual Ink Cartridges, Main unit, Power cable, Setup guide, Software (CD), User Manual (CD-ROM), Warranty document

Memory: Printer: 256 MB, Network: 1 GB

Emulations: ESC/P2

Compatible Operating Systems: Mac OS X 10.6.8 or later, Windows 10, Windows 7, Windows 7 x64, Windows 8, Windows 8 (32/64 bit), Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 x64 Edition, Windows Server 2003 (32/64bit), Windows Server 2008 (32/64bit), Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 (64bit), Windows Vista, Windows Vista x64, Windows XP, Windows XP x64, Windows server 2003 R2

Warranty: 24 months On site service

Media Handling: Auto Sheet Feeder, Auto cutter, Borderless print, Fine Art Paper Path, Manual duplex, Roll Paper, Thick Media Support

Printing Resolution: 2,880 x 1,440 DPI

LCD screen: Type: Color, Diagonal: 6.8 cm

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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  • Matt Wreford

    Hi Keith, Thanks for taking the time to post all this information, an incredible resource. I currently print on 3880s and an SC-P800. I print double sided and borderless and the 3880s are great for this with the rear feed. The SC-P800 front paper feed is terrible though, you are really feeding the paper through the guts of the machine and when printing the second side almost invariably with glossy papers you scratch the first side. Using the sheet feeder can result in skew plus you can’t use Fine Art papers in the sheet feeder, so I’m a bit stuck with this machine. So from your experience of these machines would you say using the front feed of the SC-P5000 is a smoother entry than the SC-P800? It would be good to be able to try these machines out somewhere (Canon’s too I’d be interested to try out a Pro-1000) but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere you can do this. Any advice much appreciated.

    • Keith Cooper

      The paper handling is a distinct step up from the P800, I’ve put paper as thick as EAM in the paper cassette and single sheet loading works well. The powered roller and feed system are very easy to use.

      I’ve not tried double sided print so can’t be sure of it on this or the PRO-1000 – which also has a vacuum paper holding system, but watch for the max page length issues I mention in the review

      • Matt Wreford

        Thanks for the quick reply. When you say the Canon “also” has a vacuum paper holding system do you mean the P5000 does as well? I do suffer from pizza wheel marks on certain papers so vacuum transport would be preferable.

        • Keith Cooper

          Sorry I’ll add a mention in the review.

          There is no such thing as ‘vacuum transport’ – all it does is suck the paper flat. You still need rollers to move it

          Look in the review above and you’ll see the wheels that drop into place for the end of sheet fed prints – they need to be there to print borderless (how else will the paper move forward). Same goes for the PRO-1000. If you want borderless at the trailing end of a sheet, something needs to touch the print towards the front to move it forward.

          This feature is not there in the bigger P7000/9000 for example, so they won’t print borderless on sheets

          • Matt Wreford

            Thanks for clarifying. Yes I guess that’s the compromise for borderless prints although it looks like they just track the trailing edge rather than the whole print which is good.

          • Matt Wreford

            Hi Keith, I went to take a look at a P5000 at Epson yesterday and they seemed unable to show me how to print a borderless A3 sheet. There were borders at the top and bottom which they couldn’t eliminate. Is this your experience? Is the borderless just side to side on sheets, not top and bottom? It’s a deal breaker for me for buying one…

            Also the top/sheet feeder skewed the page – and the front feed was not very positive in terms of registration as it didn’t have a hard edge to load the paper against like the P800 does. Did you get consistent and straight results with this?

          • Keith Cooper

            Full borderless is only available with cut media (I’ll update the review to clarify this)
            Paper loading is very good, but like all printers takes a bit of practice to get spot on every time. The top guides need setting with care and the paper pushing in correctly.

            Manual front loading works fine – once again a bit of practice with scrap media will help.

          • Matt Wreford

            Ok thanks. So to confirm it is possible to print borderless on cut sheets on all four sides? Just because the guys at Epson UK said it wasn’t!

          • Keith Cooper

            No, only for roll paper – sorry for the mistake

            There is a a waste tank just for borderless overspray. You may need the small spacer on the roll holder for some paper sizes.

            Look at the B&W print on the far left in the example in the review – you can see the paper chopped off at each end – you use the ‘Double cut’ option. I’ll add another image to make this clear. There are several ways of getting borderless, each loses a bit of the image – it’s all in the manual ;-)

          • Matt Wreford

            Ok great thanks Keith

          • Matt Wreford

            Ok yes just for rolls makes sense then. Shame for my purposes but good to know. Thanks again for all the info.