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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: More Frustration

About 2 1/2 years ago, when I first bought my Epson 7900 printer, I did a series of posts related to my unhappy initial experience with the output related to what appeared to be linear 'scuffing'.  At that point, since the machine was only days to weeks old, it was still under warranty.  After several 'house calls' by the service team the printhead was finally replaced, as nothing else seemed to do the trick.  As soon as the printhead was replaced the machine worked perfectly and delivered beautiful output.  I have to say that it wasn't as easy as it should have been to get the repair done because I wasn't using Epson paper and the service agents, over the phone, kept repeating that they could not warranty the machine for output onto non-Epson media, which was, of course, total nonsense. They finally agreed to service this brand new machine after I mailed them the output, including output on Epson media, showing that it occurred on their paper as well. Now, as I need the printer more than  ever since : i) I am trying to finish the project I have alluded to in this blog several times and ii) it appears that a nearby institution might make a sizable purchase of my artwork.....I have discovered a problem.  I noticed horizontal banding, mostly in the highlights limited to neutral coloration and when I print in black and white.  Printing a gray square showed why.  There is severe horizontal banding when I print gray/light black that is not present in other solid colors.

A nozzle check revealed a small area of nozzle clogging in the Light Light Black ink. The clog would dissolve with regular and power cleanings, though even when open the line of the nozzle pattern 'stairstep' seemed light, and then some nozzles would drop out a minute later.  A small fortune of ink and a maintenance tank later (related to power cleans) it still prints with gross horizontal banding.  This persists even with two head alignments.

Of course the machine is now out of warranty.  Though the printer has been used only very lightly, complex machines break and I would just attribute it to bad luck.....and bad luck always comes at the worst times.  However:

i) When I look 'out there' on the internet it appears that this is a known problem with the 7900, specifically in the Light Light Black channel, possibly attributed to the chemical composition of the ink.  It does not seem to happen in the other channels.  It does not seem to be a simple 'clog', and my experience bears that out.  Simple nozzle clogs are easily removed with the regular cleanings and don't recur within seconds.

ii) Once Epson tech support recognizes that the machine is out of warranty, they do very little to help except set you up with a service visit.  This too is well reported on the internet (with the realization that people don't usually take the time to post about good interactions in forums).

iii) Epson has a service agreement with only one service company (they don't do the repairs themselves), so there is no competition.  The cost, in this instance?  The charge will be $100 for them to travel here (even though there is a local office), $175/ hour labor and they want to start by charging my credit card for $1712 (yes, you read that right) in parts to be shipped by Epson, with the caveat that they will refund the cost of parts they don't use.  The whole printer cost $2500-3000 when I bought it.  The repairs are rapidly approaching the cost of the printer itself and may even exceed it when you start counting in the price of the ink/tank used for the initial cleanings.  This seems like highway robbery, but what else can one do except go along with it (or buy a new printer)!