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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 - Problems

I know that I mentioned in my last post that I was going to wait a bit before once again writing about the Epson 7900 printer I recently bought. However, I have run into a few glitches that I wanted to mention.

The first glitch seems fairly unusual and does not seem to have been reported previously. It involves black and white printing via the Epson Advanced Black & White Driver. Black and white printing, with the ability to easily change from matte to photo black ink without much waste, was one of the main reasons for my purchasing the printer.

However, I have run into a real problem. In areas of deep black I seem to be getting ‘scuffing’ of the ink resulting in relatively wide linear areas where the black ink is intermittently lighter in the direction of printhead travel. To be sure, they are not terrible in that you have to actually hold the print under a light at an angle to see them. However, as a professional and pricey printer, this should not occur. This problem has persisted despite opening the platen gap to its widest setting and increasing the paper thickness setting in the driver. It has also used up a great deal of my time as well as media etc, trying to make changes that might cure the problem. In trying to do so, I also have been getting head strikes and, in fact, I even wonder if the scuffing is, in reality, a gentle head strike.

I finally called Epson tech support today and have to say that I was very impressed with their handling of the situation (thus far). The person I spoke with did not try to explain it away or simply say to just use Epson paper. Since he had not heard of this problem before, the support person gave me the Epson Fed-Ex account number and asked me to send him sample prints that demonstrate the problem and will also accept a few sheets of the media I have been using to see if he can recreate the problem at his end. He spent a good deal of time with me on the phone and seemed genuinely concerned. Everywhere I look on the web, superb results have been obtained with the various media I have been working with and so I do wonder if there is a problem with the printer.

I also seem to have a problem which has been well reported on multiple internet printing forums. The issue involves the automatic nozzle check system. This is a system which automatically checks to see if the head needs to be cleaned and can be set to perform the check either before every print, intermittently, or never (turned off). There have been numerous reports of the printer performing very frequent cleanings that take 5 or 10 minutes to complete and wasting ink in the process.

I did mention this to the Epson tech and he said that the check did take 5 or 10 minutes, but that just because it says ‘cleaning’ on the LCD panel does not mean it is actually cleaning and using up ink. He said that the printer is actually slowly checking the ink two colors at a time by firing small amounts of ink which it electrically charges from the nozzles into a grid. It sounds like a feasible explanation. However, in thinking about it, I realized that even when I had the printer set to check the nozzles before every print it doesn’t seem to go through the ten minute cleaning cycle every time, which I would expect to occur if his was ‘the answer’. Sometimes the panel said it was doing the check and then went right to printing a few seconds later without doing what the panel says is a cleaning cycle. At any rate, I now have the automatic nozzle check option turned off.

So I have hit a very frustrating road block or two along the way here. I will report back as to what I am told after Epson has a chance to review the prints that I send them.

Addenda: Since I have written the above I have tried using the color driver to print color images with a large amount of pure black (flower against black background) and have found the exact same problem with third party papers despite a wide platen gap and thick media setting. I believe I see a trace of the issue with Epson papers as well. Will see how Epson responds.