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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Epson 7900 Experience - Setup

I have had a million things to do lately, so I haven't managed to spend as much time with the 7900 as I would like to. In fact, I haven't printed anything just yet, but I have gotten it set up. I had originally planned to purchase the printer later this year but did so at this time to be sure to get the Epson $500 rebate which "ended" 3/31/09. Why is the word "ended" in quotes? As I suspected, though I don't see it on the Epson website at the moment, I have heard that the rebate period has been extended (I believe until May)! However, as I don't yet see that on their website there is a need for confirmation....I heard it on a printing newsgroup.

So, on to setup. My son had a few friends stop by and as soon as they stepped in the door I grabbed them to help me hoist the printer up on the stand. Though it wasn't quite clear to me from the pictures in the instruction book exactly how it would sit on the stand, it actually was quite easy to get it up, in, and sitting properly to be bolted to the stand. Once on the stand two things stand out: 1) it really is quite sleek and modern looking in design and 2) did I mention that this thing is HUGE!

The first step was to charge it with ink. This was really quite simple and is the first time the machine has actually been turned on. It takes a few minutes to charge and all the while it makes quite a number of different futuristic sounds. At one point I actually thought the phone in another room was ringing. It was only when I walked out of the room that I realized that the soft ringing sound was actually coming from the back of the printer.

One thing bears mentioning. The printer comes with 110 ml ink carts for priming and a good deal of ink is used in the process, as is a portion of the maintanance tank. Want to replace those 110 cc cartridges? Lets see, Shades of Paper doesn't have them, B&H doesn't have them, Adorama doesn't have them.....nobody has them. They all carry the 150, 350, and 700 ml carts, but no small 110's. Whats that you say, nobody has them because they aren't manufactured for sale! For heaven's sake, you would think Epson would at least give you regular ink carts....even the 150 ml ones, which are the smallest they regularly make.....with the printer. But no, they special manufacture 110 ml carts to ship with the printer to prime it. WHAT'S UP WITH THAT!!!! You buy a printer of this caliber and they short you on the ink that comes with it to get you to purchase more ink sooner than later!

Here is a little hint for Epson....anyone that buys a 7000 series printer is a) serious about digital imaging and b) going to be buying a lot of ink. The little bit extra ink sale you get by supplying less ink with the printer, while it earns you a few more bucks, doesn't exactly give the consumer a warm, fuzzy feeling. I think supplying 150 ml ink carts would be good public relations and remove the appearance that you are out to get the consumer as soon as the box is opened.

Yes, it probably is a trivial thing in the big picture, but it does make you feel like they went out of their way to get you, especially when you have to order that full set of 11 replacement ink carts at once. Yikes....it's like liquid gold.

Next, on to the driver installation. I didn't bother with the one on the enclosed CD as it was out of date. I downloaded the most recent printer driver and it identified the attached printer and installed without a hitch.

The next step was to check the firmware version and, noting that it was outdated, install the new version. While the driver installed seamlessly, the firmware update had a few little hitches. Perhaps hitches is too strong a word....a few quirks might be more accurate. Let me cut to the chase. Bizarre as it might seem, you MUST have paper loaded into the printer in order to do the firmware update. The first three times I tried, the software updater failed to communicate with the printer. It was only after I found a Word file that downloaded with the new firmware version (and installed into the same folder as the firmware file on the C drive without telling the operator that there was even such a file to explain the error statements) that I figured that out. It seems a bit counterintuitive, but that was the problem. Once the printer was loaded with paper, the firmware updater recognized and communicated with the printer and the firmware was successfully updated. Even upon finishing the update there was a quirk in that,though the printer panel stated that the update was complete, the software updater said the update was still ongoing until I tried to close it, at which point it said the update was complete.

One more little piece of information about this process that was also not intuitive. When checking the firmware version on the printer panel to ensure the update took place, I found that although the firmware version changed, it hadn't changed to the version number indicated by the firmware update file. The first several letters and numbers were the same, but the rest of the numbers were different. It was only after checking the same hidden Word file that I learned that the firmware version displayed on the printer panel was not supposed to be the same as the downloaded file number.....hmm, well then why make them so similar with the first several letters and numbers being exactly the same? Seems like a little common sense might have made it a bit more user friendly.

Nonetheless, despite the few little quirks I note above, the setup was reasonably quick and painless. The next step is to more carefully go through the manual and learn how to fine tune the settings for various paper types, do an auto head alignment, set the printer utility preferences and see how it prints!

As an aside, I am really looking forward to having those head alignments done in an automated fashion, as doing them manually on my 7600 really made me crazy. It used to take me 30 or 40 minutes and make me crazy looking at those patterns with a loupe and deciding which one looked best.