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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 - Tech Support Response

As I mentioned in my last post, one of the major problems I have been having with my new Epson 7900 has been what I described as 'scuffing' of the deep blacks on third party media. This consists of lighter, whitish, linear areas of lower ink density in the direction of printhead travel. Since I wrote that, I have come to realize that the problem exists when printing all solid colors in the Epson color driver as well as with black and white images using the ABW driver.

I contacted tech support and spoke with someone who seemed quite concerned about the issue. In fact, he requested that I send him sample prints demonstrating the problem as well as a few sheets of media for him to test. I did this, and, for consistency, also sent the actual files that I had printed from Photoshop for him to use. I will admit that it does appear that this problem does not seem to occur when I print on the Epson media that I have. It has, however, occured with every third party paper I have tried including Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, Harmon Gloss FB AL, Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta, and Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta....all very popular media that have undergone extensive reviews on multiple websites with reportedly superb results.

I was contacted very promptly by the person I spoke with after he received the material I sent. In fact, he could easily see what the issue was on the samples that I sent, though it was not immediately apparent to him what the cause was. He did not think the problem was caused by head strikes. Now here is the part that I find disturbing. He was able to print the files that I sent on his Epson 7900 using the same media that I sent with NO evidence of scuffing at all. My immediate conclusion was that if the same paper and same file that is giving me a problem is coming out perfectly on his printer, then there must be a problem with mine....issue solved!

Needless to say, things are not so simple. He stated that this was his initial conclusion as well, but that he was told by the other agents he was conferring with that this was not the case. Their conclusion was that since the problem does not seem to occur with the two Epson papers I tried (Luster and Exhibition Fibre), that the problem must be in either the third party media or with the printer settings. He agreed with me that it wasn't the media, as it doesn't seem possible that I would have gotten four separate medias that were all defective. I had already tried changing the platen gap setting, the paper thickness setting, the high speed on/off setting, the drying time setting....in short, every setting there is, but to no avail. So I said 'fine, tell me the settings that you have your printer set to and I will set my printer to the same setting and we will see if that fixes it'....logical, right? Apparently not so!

I was told that each printer is different and that a specific setting on one printer might not yield the same effect on another (though I have always been told that the profesional printers are built to very tight tolerances). I told him that I didn't think he himself actually believed what he was telling me. There was a sort of silent aquiesence and hethen said that this is what the support staff he was working with felt was the case. They were going to send me various Epson media to see if the problem occured or could be reproduced by me on the various Epson papers. As an aside, he told me that his best guess would be to reduce the paper feed by about -2. I told him that on my 7600 I had printed on many different media and never had to change the paper feed. Nonetheless, I gave the change in paper feed a shot and, needless to say, it made no difference at all. If anything, the output looked even worse.

I understand, to some degree, where Epson is coming from in that they do not feel a need to support non-Epson papers. However, this professional grade printer is widely used to print on third party media and the media I have been using are extremely popular and certainly not obscure. If their printer could not consistently print on third party papers I doubt they would sell as many of them as they do. The fact that their printer does not cause the problem seems to indicate to me that mine does have a problem which they are not acknowledging.

However, all is not yet lost. When I discussed with the support tech that I have been having a recurrent problem with nozzle clogs despite multiple cleanings he did offer that this was not normal for a new machine and was an indication to have a service rep come out to the house. He did say that while the only objective problem that Epson would support is the nozzle clog issue at this point, if I asked the rep to do so they would be able to perform full diagnostics on the printer and make any repair required if something were to objectively test abnormal. However, they could not directly address the third party media issue despite the fact that they agreed that the prints I sent clearly demonstrated a problem.

We will see what happens when the rep comes out. I am hoping to have them come to check the machine early next week. The saga continues, but, to be honest, I am not really pleased with the way things seem to be shaping up......