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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.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Disaster - Epilogue (Part 2)

Part 1 of this post about my experience with Canon and my ImagePrograf 2000 printer can be found here. At this point I will simply carry on with the story.

After two boxes of printer parts had been confirmed as having arrived at my home, the repair appointment was scheduled. When the repairman opened up the machine he found something very unusual and unexpected. We had thought that the ink was being 'sucked' out of the cartridge and being deposited in the maintenance tank (the tank where excess and discard ink from cleanings etc goes). But there it was. The ink. All pooled INSIDE THE PRINTER and contained within a portion of the machine's 'innards'. it wasn't in the maintanance tank at all.

Before explaining what happened, I need to explain a bit about how the printer works (at least this is the way it was explained to me). Each ink color has it's own sub-reservoir. A volume of ink is drawn into the sub-reservoir from the main ink cartridge and, when you print, the ink going to the print head is drawn from the sub-reservoir tank and when that tank reaches a certain level it draws more ink from the main cartridge. The printer is engineered this way so that when the chip on the main cartridge reads 'empty' things don't come to a grinding halt. There is enough ink left in the sub-reservoir to finish the print job and even to continue with some printing until you can get a fresh ink cartridge of that color. Only when the sub-reservoir is near empty do things come to a grinding halt.

Apparently my printer developed a leak in the sub-reservoir tank (I presume around either the intake valve drawing ink into the reservoir or around the exit valve that feeds the ink down the tubes to the print head). All the ink leaked around this valve into the bottom of the part that holds half the sub-reservoir tanks (there are two groupings of six inks, each of the six with a sub-reservoir tank). Once this was figured out, the repairman knew what parts of the printer needed to be replaced. Of course, nobody anticipated this as the problem and the parts had to be ordered. And there were a lot of parts that would need to go into this 'hemi-transplant'!

Several days later I received three more large boxes of printer parts delivered to my home and another repair was scheduled. This time a huge 'hunk' of printer was replaced, including the sub-reservoir tanks on the side that serviced magenta ink.

So two questions remain: 1) how did this happen and 2) did the fix work?

How did this happen? Nobody seems to know the answer to this question! The repairman and the slew of engineers he spoke with say that they have never seen this happen before, though this model printer is relatively new. In fact, they wanted the parts that were removed as defective to be shipped to them so that they could examine them and perhaps get some type of idea regarding if this was a 'freak' one-time occurrence or if there was a potential manufacturing and/or design problem. 

Did the fix work? I am glad to say that thus far it does appear to have eliminated the problem. Before the fix my large magenta cartridge would be empty within 48 hours of inserting it into the printer. The printer has been 'post-op' for 5-6 days so far and the magenta ink level on the software monitor seems stable. Although nothing was done to the print head, I do notice that on my test prints there is a slight color shift in the highlights, where the yellows are slightly more magenta. I can tell this by comparison to some old test prints I had kept. But I suspect that this color shift (which is very mild) will likely be resolved by recalibrating the printer and making new color profiles.

So far so good.....it looks like I have my printer back. Not, however, a fun ordeal! And now we will see how easy or difficult it is to get Visa to pay for it using the extended warranty benefit.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Disaster - Epilogue (Part 1)

Back in May I had written a long post about the apparent demise of my Canon ImagePrograf 2000 printer. For full details, those that are interested can revisit that post. Suffice it to say that I switched over to Canon because of multiple head failures on my Epson 7900 (a well known defect that Epson has never owned up to - just Google Epson 7900 print head failure), with the Canon having a user replaceable print head. While I found the prints from the Canon to be every bit as good as the ones that rolled off my Epson, the printer developed a 'terminal' problem just when it was out of warranty.

The printer seemed to empty my magenta ink cartridges in 24-48 hours instead of the almost a year that the ink cart should last. Nobody at tech support could figure out what was going on and I wasted several hundred dollars in magenta ink. Because the printer was out of warranty, Canon wanted $1500 to come fix it without providing much in the way of a warranty for their work and without knowing what the problem was. When I complained about the price, they said I should call my local Canon Worldwide authorized repair service and maybe they could determine what the problem was when they came and examined the machine. They were going to charge me $1500 because they didn't know what the problem was but, if the problem was identified then perhaps it could be fixed for significantly less. I did what Canon suggested, and while the local repairmen weren't sure what the problem was for sure, they thought they might be able to fix it with a $30 part and a $180 visit to install the part. But, of course, there no guarantees. Nonetheless, I took the gamble. But two days after their 'repair' (replacement of the print head service module) the machine 'gobbled up' another $175 magenta ink cart. The printer was far from fixed.

Enter my 26 year old son......

"Hey dad, too bad you didn't use one of those fancy credit cards to buy the machine. You know, the ones that extend the manufacturer's warranty"

Turns out I raised a genius :)  It just so happens that the credit cards that offer that benefit don't have to be all that fancy. And when I checked, I had 'unwittingly' purchased the machine on just such a Visa card! After submitting the appropriate paper work, and after a few delays and missed deadlines on their part, followed by my making several phone calls they agreed that this fit into the manufacturers warranty extension benefit and that they would cover the cost as long as I got it repaired within 6 months. 

So I made a call back to Canon to get the $1500 repair deal. Except now the cost 'would have been' $1000.....would have been because Canon claimed that since I already had 'someone else' work on the machine they could no longer get involved with the repair.

WTF? I follow their instructions, call who THEY suggested, get the machine worked on by an authorized Canon Worldwide dealer who charges me over $200 and still doesn't get the machine functional, and have now poured several hundred dollars worth of magenta ink into the printer and now Canon can no longer work on it because 'someone else' initiated a repair???? I asked to speak to the tech support supervisor. He couldn't help me but said he would bump it up to a customer service supervisor. That supervisor said they couldn't help me but said they would bump it up to another supervisor. Finally, after pushing through three supervisors they agreed to repair the machine for $1000 paid up front (which I planned to submit to Visa once all was said and done). The repair was finally scheduled.

The first step was to speak with a very interested and supportive repair person who, like the others, said they had never ever heard of this happening but that he was going to call some engineers to get some ideas. He called back and said that two boxes of parts would be arriving at my home before he was scheduled to have a look at the printer.

Want to know what the problem was and how/if it got fixed? Tune into the next post for the answers. After all, one post can only go on for so long :)!

Problems With My Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Large Format Printer

RANT WARNING:

Just under two years ago, after going through three print heads in about four years on my two Epson 7900 large format (24 inch) printers, I said that I had had it with Epson and their quite clearly faulty 7900 print head design (there were hundreds, if not thousands, who were having similar print head problems and at that time there was even a class action suit brewing). So I purchased a Canon ImagePrograf 2000 24 inch printer. The Canon has a print head that is easily replaceable by the user, and with the print head being the part most likely to develop problems (and also among the most expensive of parts), I thought that even if the print head went bad it would be easy to swap out (albeit at $650 a pop). I was looking forward to years of printing with the new machine.

I do need to say that the print quality, both color and black and white, with the ImagePrograf 2000 is fantastic. Every bit as good as the Epson (to my eye anyway) and I have no complaints about the quality of the output. Early on (while still under warranty) the print head did develop a clog that would simply not resolve in the yellow channel (part of the nozzle check pattern was fine, but part refused to print no matter how much I cleaned the head). I use the printer essentially daily, so remaining idle was not the problem (these big printers are meant to be used and if the ink stops flowing for a week or two it is very easy to develop clogs). Canon cheerfully sent me a brand new print head which I was able to easily pop into place.....problem resolved and to this date has not come back.

Unfortunately however, a new and seemingly 'terminal' problem has developed. All of a sudden, completely out of the blue, the magenta ink cart registered as empty. I changed the cart ($173 a pop for a 300 ml cartridge!) thinking I probably had simply missed the 'empty soon' warning. It registered as a full cart until the next day, when it suddenly went from being read as full to empty in a split second. That's 300ml of magenta ink that usually lasts me at least 6 months!

Canon tech support was very willing to spend a good deal of time with me on the phone, I will give them that....which is more than I can say about Epson support once your machine is out of warranty. They had me print out an error log from the printer, photograph it using my cell phone and send it to them.....there were no errors noted by the machine. They then had me update to the latest firmware. Another fresh cart of ink went in and registered as full.....it looked fixed! For a day. The next day the exact same thing happened (oddly without the maintenance cartridge filling up significantly with discarded ink as best one could tell) and another 300 ml cartridge was emptied and registered as needing to be replaced. In fact, whenever I lifted the cartridge out of the machine it did feel totally empty based on weight. But it was still printing and gave a perfect nozzle check. I was happy to keep printing since there was about a years worth of magenta ink that had been put in there somewhere, and as long as the nozzle check was OK I could ignore the 'cartridge empty' warning sound. 

That was until it developed it's 'terminal' problem. It wouldn't print anymore because it apparently finally 'thought' the magenta cart was empty. If I turned the printer on and off it sometimes bizarrely indicated full but usually indicated empty and, in either instance, the machine wouldn't print because of the empty ink cart (which by weight seem to be the case). If I tried to print I would get an error message saying that there was no magenta ink and printing couldn't continue.

Why do these things only happen when the device is just a couple months out of warranty? The machine is not even two years old. Canon USA wants $1200 pre-paid to come out and fix it (even though they say they have no idea what is wrong at this point)! Instead I called a local Canon authorized repair and maintenance company that actually has been a pleasure to deal with, but they had never heard of this happening before and couldn't guarantee what it would cost to fix. Nonetheless, the tech thought that it was possible that it could be fixed with a $27 part (print head management sensor) but the trip over and subsequent work was $180/hr. If that didn't work his next guess would be to replace the purge unit, a $300 part and $180/hr labor (the functional word here being guess), but that he couldn't be 100% certain that would fix it either. In addition, as I explained to him, there would need to be a wait between tries because I could just put a new magenta ink cart into the machine and it would register as full and work perfectly....for a day or two....so it would initially appear that whatever they did would work, but that the test would be with time. They did note that if they got it working (for even a day) that I could put it on service contract so that if it broke again a few days later it would be repaired. Great idea, but the cost of that would be $1200 for a single year of coverage! The machine itself was barely twice that brand new.

I decided to roll the dice and thought it would be worth giving them one chance with the best guess $27 part. I spent what was required to have them replace the print head management sensor and all was well. For a day and a half anyway, after which the machine emptied (presumably into the maintenance 'discard' cartridge) yet another $173 magenta ink cart....the third one since the saga began! However, I do have to say that the repair technician was honest and up front from the start and really did put in a good deal of time and effort before coming to my home to try to figure out what the problem was likely to be.

It was clearly time to cut my losses and not throw good money after bad. Between my experience with Epson, and now Canon, it does make me wonder if any of these large format printers are designed to really last more than a year or two. The extended warranties are expensive and seem necessary because, at least in my experience, it seems like the companies know the machines won't last. I could have gotten a 'lemon' once, but not all these times. To me, the whole thing just feels contrived. The problem is that I love making prints and enjoy making large ones. So I may be looking at yet another printer. 

It seems like the more electronic and 'better' printers get, the more likely they are to fail. The last printer I had which was replaced electively and only because I wanted to 'upgrade' was an Epson 7600. It has been downhill after that :(

At this point I am considering a return to Epson even though the  Surecolor 7000, which is the replacement for their 'ill-fated' 7900, uses the same print head the 7900 did, albeit with some minor revisions I am told. That, and the ink has been reformulated. I am a bit uncertain where this will lead me, but I am certainly very disappointed with Canon! 

I will post an update as to where this leads.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Review - Part 5

Way back in August and September of last year I wrote a four part review of my new Canon ImagePrograf 2000 wide format printer. I had bought the new printer following three print head failures in two Epson 7900 wide format printers over several prior years. Therefore, I think it is only fair that I provide a follow up to my Canon review (you will see what I mean shortly).

The print quality of the ImagePrograf 2000 has been excellent, both in black and white and in color. I have not done formal testing of any sort comparing Canon to Epson, but I can say that, to my eye, the print quality of the Canon is every bit as good as the Epson. If one reads reviews on the internet you can learn how one machine handles a specific color a bit better than the other and vice versa. But the bottom line is that both brands make professional level printers that are capable of producing excellent quality prints in both color and black and white. 

I could quibble a bit with the method of loading sheet paper in the Canon. The Epson method is easier (at least in their wide format models) but it's no big deal really. I also find that if one is using thick art paper in roll form that the auto paper load for rolls often fails.....but, no matter, you can still load it manually quite easily.

But here is why I thought I needed to add a part 5 to my review of the Canon ImagePrograf 2000. I had an early head failure after approximately 8 months of using the machine. There was loss of small segments in the nozzle check pattern of the yellow channel that would not come back with multiple cleanings, though I have to admit it was hard to tell there was a problem in the prints. Nonetheless, I could not restore a completely normal nozzle check pattern. Shades of the Epson 7900, though head failure in the Epson's always led to visible banding on prints.

Here is the difference though. With the Epson (once off warranty), the cost to replace the head by an authorized repair person (which was only guaranteed for 30 days post replacement if I recall correctly) was enough that you might as well toss the whole machine and buy a new one. Plus, besides the frustration, I also needed to pay a mover to get a new replacement machine where it needed to get to. All in all, an expensive proposition.

The Canon experience was different though. First of all, the machine was still on warranty and Canon had no problem sending me a new print head. So no scheduled repair people, no need to be home, no need to see your printer dismantled and lying in pieces. If the machine wasn't on warranty the replacement would cost a not insignificant $675, but still dramatically less than a replacement printer. And forget the inconvenience of needing a mover like I did when the Epson needed a new print head and I had to replace the whole thing.

And here is the best part.....replacing the print head was EASY. It took about fifteen minutes without having to undo as much as a screw. Just set the menu to replace, open two latches, pull the old print head out, drop the new one in, close the two latches and you are good to go once the machine does an auto adjustment and color calibration. Problem solved. 

Yeah, it was a little discouraging that it occurred so soon, and I did choose to redo my paper profiles (which cost me some time), but I'm back making beautiful prints again without having had to experience major hassles!

Black And White With The Canon ImagePrograf 2000

As I have mentioned in a prior post, I have been very pleased with my new  Canon ImagePrograf 2000 large format printer. I started by using it for color printing and found it to be comparable to my Epson 7900, which is to say that it is able to produce very high quality, vibrant, sharp prints. So I decided it was time to try printing in black and white.

I took this photograph of One Mellon Bank Center in downtown Pittsburgh. I have always liked the lines and shapes of this building's architecture and wanted to relay the feeling of it being something of an impenetrable edifice. Rather than trying to keep the straight lines straight, I purposely tilted the camera as I thought the 'off kilter' look better conveyed the feeling I was after. 

 

One Mellon Bank Center    © Howard Grill

 

We're going to get just a little technical here:

The image obviously started out as a color photo which I converted to black and white. I wanted to try using the printer's 'Black and White' only mode, as opposed to sending the image to the printer in an RGB color space using a color icc profile. The reason for this is that using the black and white only mode supposedly produces blacks that are a bit darker than those that are achieved when printing a black and white image in the printer's color mode. At least that is what I have read. 

One issue to deal with when using the black and white printing mode is that it is somewhat of a 'black box', in that there is no ability to soft proof or correct the output using an icc profile (well, read on, there actually is a way) to ensure that there is linearization of the output (meaning that all the levels of black are equally spaced from a tonal standpoint) with the biggest potential problem being compression of the dark levels and loss of shadow detail. Truth be told, the black and white only modes of printers have generally improved quite a bit over the years, to the point where this is often not a problem. However, I recently purchased an X-Rite i1Pro2 spectrophotometer to make color profiles and fortuitously had read an excellent article by Keith Cooper at Northlight Images about making icc profiles for the black and white only mode using the spectrophotometer and Quadtone RIP shareware. These profiles can only be used for neutral, untoned black and white prints. Nonetheless, I really wanted to give it a try!

The only difficulty was that every article I could find on making such profiles (I found Keith's to be the most detailed and helpful) assumed some knowledge beyond the basics of how to use the i1 Profiler software (knowledge I didn't have). With a bit of Keith's help and a lot of experimenting, I did get it all figured out! In fact, I am thinking of writing a 'how to' post so that anyone else that is considering doing this but is a bit short on profiling experience can easily accomplish it.

So how did it all turn out in the print? I do have to say that the image printed using the profile I made did match the soft proof image to a closer degree than those made in the black and white only mode without the profile or by printing in the color mode using a color icc profile. It also had more tonal separation in the shadows. Not by a tremendous amount, but definitely visible. I made the print on Ilford's Gold Fiber Silk paper which has a slightly warm tone to it. I like the way it looks quite a bit.

Black and white turns out very well indeed using the Canon IPG 2000.

Coquille River Lighthouse

A couple weeks back, I posted about what I do with my images when I return from a trip.  You can read my  strategy in my post entitled "What Do You Do After You Get Home From A Photo Workshop?"

Here are the first two images I have processed from an Oregon Coast workshop I led with Linda Torbert back in August. They are both of the Coquille River Lighhouse near Bandon, Oregon, which was first lit back in 1896. Unfortunately, the light went out in 1939, when it was replaced with an automated light on one of the jetties. I do have some very nice views of the lighthouse in the fog from across the river, but these caught my eye as a starting point!

 

The Coquille River Lighthouse    © Howard Grill

 

I was particularly drawn to the contrast between the brightly painted red wall and the slate blue stairs:

 

Coquille River Lighthouse Stairs    © Howard Grill

 

I have many more photographs to process! Processing has just been delayed because I have been spending quite a bit of time profiling and playing with different papers and settings on my new Canon ImagePrograf 2000 printer.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Review - Part 4

Using The Printer

Prior portions of this review can be found her:

Part 1 - Getting It Into The House

Part 2 - Unboxing, Moving, And General Impressions

Part 3 - Setting Up The Printer

Rather than give a detailed review of the Canon ImagePrograf 2000 printer, I am going to give my impressions on the ease of use, the options, and the subjective print quality. For an extremely detailed look at the printer, and certainly if you are considering purchasing one, I recommend that you have a look at Keith Cooper's very detailed and extraordinarily well done printer review here and here.

So how do the prints look? This is obviously going to be very subjective, but I think they look great. I have not done any objective quantitative measurements, but, to my eye, they look every bit as good as the prints I was getting from my 7900. There are a couple of little glitches I do want to mention though, and they have nothing to do with the ultimate quality of the prints.

The Canon print driver does have a few, shall we say, quirks. For starters, when using cut sheets the printer requires a 3mm margin around the top, left, and right side of the print.....but a 20mm margin is required at the bottom. Using the "Center Print" checkbox in the driver or in the Photoshop print dialog centers the print not to the center of the physical page, but to the center of the printable area with the asymmetric margins. The long and the short of it is that your print is never centered on the page itself!  Really?? Who thought that was a good idea? 

There is a workaround though. In the Photoshop print dialogue tick the 'Center Print' box and see how many mm down from the top of the page is listed there. Then uncheck the center print box, add 9mm (0.354 inch) to the listed distance that the 'Center Print' dialogue had given you and fill that number in as the distance from the top of the page to place the print. Your print will now be centered on the physical page as opposed to centered in the printable area.  Just make sure the entire image fits in the printable area (you can tell on the preview image in the print dialogue) as there is still a need for that 20mm margin all around..

Another alternative is to install Canon's Print Pro Photoshop plug-in to print to cut sheets. This will allow you to print in the physical center of the sheet for cut paper without the asymmetric margins. The reason that I have not used it is that  the plug in does not allow black point compensation as part of its rendering intent.  But if they can center prints using their plug in why can't they do it for their main print driver.

I should note that the centering issue doesn't exist for roll paper, only for cut paper. Quirky!

In fact, the printer is clearly optimized for printing on roll paper.  Loading a roll is pretty simple and straightforward.  You can print on cut paper, and I certainly intend to, but it is a bit 'clunky' to do so.  There is no top or external feed for cut sheets.  You load sheets by opening the printer cover, opening the release lever, sliding the sheet under a portion of the platen, lining it up with several markings, closing the lever, and then closing the printer cover.  Works perfectly, but it's definitely a bit awkward.  And I wish there were a better lock or something of the sort to hold the cover open while doing the paper loading.  It is made to stay open, but it just doesn't feel that securely held open in place.  In fact, it did close on me on one occasion.

Of course, the print is the final product and they look great!

There is also a nice array of additional software that can be downloaded at no cost. This includes the Photoshop printing plug in I mentioned above, accounting software that can keep track of the costs of your paper and inks, as well as various types of layout software.  Of particular interest, though I haven't had a chance to use it as of yet, is the Media Configuration Tool, which allows you to customize third party papers in terms of optimal paper feed, ink density, etc and export the settings under a name you choose right into the printer driver.  Pretty neat!

Overall, I have to say that thus far I am quite pleased with the printer and find it to be a very worthy replacement for my Epson 7900.  No regrets.....

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Review - Part 3

Setting Up The Printer

Prior portions of this review can be found her:

As one can see from Parts 1 and 2 of this review, getting the printer to where it needed to go was no small task. It is very clear to me that there is simply no way the 48 inch Canon IPG 4000 could have made it up to my 'Photography Man-Cave'.  Perhaps one day in a different location.....

Moving the printer to where it needed to go required turning it onto its side and lifting it vertically to get it up a narrow and winding staircase. There is no problem doing this (assuming one doesn't drop the nearly 200 pound device.....between the weight of the printer and the size of one of the two the fairly burly people doing the moving, one of the wooden steps actually broke) as long as the printer is new and not charged with ink.  Once filled with ink you would do well to keep the printer fairly level.

Reading the setup manual that came with the printer made me a little nervous, as it sounded like it might be a bit complicated. There were three items that worried me.  Most concerning was the bit about installing the printhead by yourself.  Ah, that printhead......the Achilles heel of my old Epson 7900! Second, the ink cartridge insertion levers seemed far more complicated than my old Epson, where you just pushed the cartridges into the slot and were done with it.  Finally, there were some adjustment parameters to be made.

Well, as it turns out, the whole setup process was actually very simple. In fact, you could pretty much do it by simply following the directions that the printer itself gives you on its LED control screen. The screen tells you what to do step by step, along with images of what you should be doing. My concerns really were unfounded. This was very nicely done by Canon! 

As it turns out, the oh so delicate printhead was extremely easy to insert. You simply open two lever locks, drop it in, and close the two lever locks. That's it!  If you can manage to get it from the package to the printer without dropping it you are good to go. That was no easy feat despite the fact that it only weighs a few ounces considering that I just knocked my coffee over onto the keyboard of my laptop while I am typing this.....really!! How the laptop is still working must be a miracle.

Ink cartridge insertion was just as easy. The Epson cartridges were pressurized and could therefore be inserted on a horizontal plane by just pushing them in. I don't know if the Canon cartridges are pressurized or not, but they load on a vertical plane and the slot has to be deep in order to accommodate the largest size cartridges. This means that if you were using smaller cartridges you would have to stick your arm down into the slot if they were inserted by simply pushing. Instead, there is a 'carriage' which holds the cartridge and which is controlled by a lever that lowers the cartridge into place and then locks. Again, it is very easy to do and once you do one it takes only a couple of seconds to do the others. As a nice touch, there are little plastic tabs on the cartridges that match the ink color slots and prevent your inserting the wrong color cartridge into any of the slots.  I decided not to test this feature out :)

Lastly, the printhead adjustments......nothing to fear. They are all automatic. All you have to do is feed the printer paper (supplied with the printer) when the LED panel asks for it. Once again, the process was really quite easy and required no user 'decision making'.

The printer offers various options for connectivity including USB (2.0), Ethernet cable, and wireless. Since it sits right next to my computer and I intermittently have problems with my router I simply connected via USB. One thing that is very nice is that once connected you simply open your web browser and type in a URL that you are given and are presented with the latest driver to install along with a nice array of software.  This includes accounting software that lets you keep track of the cost of your printing, a media configuration kit that lets you put together printer settings for custom media (I mostly print on third party papers) and several other useful programs.

My next (and final) installment of this review will talk about using the printer (including an annoying quirk) and the admittedly subjective quality of the prints (spoiler....the print quality is really superb to my eye).

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Review - Part II

Unboxing, Moving, And General Impressions:

Part I of my review, Getting It Into The House, can be found here.

I have never been one to be overly excited about 'unboxing' information. But given the struggle to get this wide format printer into the house there is something to be said for assessing the packing material. In my mind probably the most important part of this involves how the printer is situated relative to the wooden shipping palette itself. In this case, the bottom of the wooden palette actually only has a very thin piece of cardboard covering it BUT there are two large pieces of Styrofoam that lift the printer off the surface of the wood and appear to provide good protection from palette damage. The top and sides of the printer are also well protected with Styrofoam, which has cutouts at the top to hold the supplied ink cartridges (starter cartridges only.....just like Epson....nobody wants to give the consumer a break!), printhead, and parts for the printer's stand.

Once the machine is unpacked and the stand assembled the next challenge is getting the printer to where you want to keep it. One no longer has to worry about a 300 pound palette. The printer itself weighs 'only' 185 pounds. Not too bad. However, it is VERY bulky and you have to be careful to lift it only from certain areas that can support the weight. There are very nice built in 'handle grips'. Two strong people can lift it, but more would be preferable.

But where to put it? Unless your home 'studio' or office is on the first level of your home, the machine is going to have to go up or down stairs. My situation was a real challenge. In the city where I live the homes can be very old and have a fairly unique architecture that is common in the region. My house is well over 100 years old and my 'studio' is on the third floor. Homes of this age are typically built with third floors! And worse, while the stairway to the second floor is normal in size, the stairway from second to third floor is extremely narrow and makes a 360 degree turn!. My Epson 7900 required professional movers to get the machine up to the third floor and I took the same approach with the Canon. It was NOT easy, but it was accomplished, though the machine did have to be turned on its side to traverse the 360 degree hairpin turn. Plan for the difficulty of moving the machine once unboxed!

In order to provide some information that I would have found very helpful, but was unable to locate on-line, I am going to give the maximal measurement for each of the machines dimensions (in inches) OFF the stand. The Canon website seems to insist on including the stand. The length is 43 3/4 inches , the depth (front to back) is 28 1/4 inches, and the height (top to bottom) is 25 inches. This information may be useful if you are trying to figure out if the printer will fit through a door or up a stairwell. The stand is no problem as it comes unassembled.

So what about the build, particularly as compared to my old Epson 7900?

The entire machine is structured very differently from the Epson printer. The ink tanks, paper roll holder, and paper feed are all in different locations. Once I get the machine going and get facile in its use I will be able to tell if I feel the arrangement is any better, worse, or the same. However, the Canon, to me, does feel somewhat 'flimsier' or more 'plasticy' than the Epson. Of course, this also contributes to its being a bit lighter, which is very helpful in terms of moving the machine to where it needs to be. Other than for protection while moving I doubt that the difference in build is likely to be meaningful in everyday usage.

The printer stand is solidly built and easy to assemble.

There are two items which I feel are missing and should have been supplied. First, no USB cable for connecting to the computer.....really?? And how about a printed manual. There is a small printed pamphlet on loading up the inks, inserting the printhead, and starting and calibrating the printer. But beyond that you are referred to the on-line manual. I do think that for a device as sophisticated as this, enclosing a printed manual (Epson does) is really scrimping in a foolish way.

Coming in August......firing up the printer, ease of use, and subjective print quality!

The Canon ImagePrograf 2000 makes it to its third floor 'resting place'

Canon ImagePrograf 2000 Review - Part I

Getting It into The House:

As I have mentioned in prior posts, after my Epson 7900 wide format printer died (again) I decided it was time to switch printer brands and ultimately decided to replace my Epson with the new Canon ImagePrograf 2000 wide format (24 inch) printer. This new printer is based on technology in the ImagePrograf 1000 printer, which has been out for months, and has received very good reviews. 

I have not been able to find any reviews of the ImagePrograf 2000 on line, so i thought it might be of some use for me to do a review of my own. However, because of various commitments which don't give me much block time until mid August, I won't be 'firing' up the printer until then.  I don't think learning a new device such as this should be done in short random increments. However, at this point I have unboxed the printer and had it moved up two flights of stairs. So I can talk about that now and return for more installments once I get the machine working.

Be prepared.....making the jump from a 17 inch to a 24 inch printer is a huge step that encompasses more than just another seven inches. The printer was delivered by a lift-gate truck on a wooden palette.  This 'big boy' weighs in at 300 pounds (including the palette) when fully packaged, though the printer itself 'only' weighs 185 pounds. The truck drops the palette on your sidewalk. Period. That's it. The rest is all up to you. You need to know what you are in for if you are a private individual, as opposed to a printing firm with a storefront.

So the first challenge is getting a 300 pound wooden palette into your home. In my case it involved getting it up two stairs at first, down a walkway about 15 feet long, and then up another 9 or so stairs and through the front door. Luckily my home is old and has a very large front door. Otherwise it would have to be unpacked and brought in without the packaging. Not good if it happens to be raining on the delivery date.

So how did I fare? Well, I arranged for the delivery to be on a day when my 22 year old son was home and I planned to see if the truck driver would help me if I paid him a bit on the side. In the past some drivers have been willing to help while others are not. Luckily, this one was. He had a palette lifting fork that could lift the palette about two inches off the ground. This was just short of getting the edge of the palette onto the first stair. But it did let two of us grab the edge of the wooden palette and get it onto the first stair while the palette lift was being removed. The three of us were then able to lift it onto the walkway, slide it forward, and then use the palette lifter to roll it down the walkway to the 'real' set of 9 stairs and to where the big challenge was.

The three of us could not simply lift the palette and walk it up. Even if we could lift a combined load of 300 pounds, it is just too big and bulky to be able to balance. With four people maybe. Maybe. My other concern is that the palette is meant to be lifted via fork lift, which supports the palette under its entire length. When people lift it, they hold the wooden palette by the edges which means that the weight of the device is borne by the unsupported center.  With the ImagePrograf 2000 this was fine and the palette held up. I would be pretty concerned though if this were the ImagePrograf 4000 48 inch printer. I believe that palette, when delivered, weighs in at about 450 pounds. That would have been essentially impossible to get up stairs and even if I had many friends help I don't know if the palette, held at the edges, would have held up without breaking. Perhaps it would have. 

So here is how it worked. Two people at one end of the palette lift and pull while the person at the rear pushes, in order to slide one end of the palette onto the stair and rest. Repeat. Nine times. At the bottom of the picture you can see how this type of activity actually broke a piece off the bottom of the palette. Then, at some point the entire palette is at a steep angle and the person in the rear has to ensure it doesn't slide down. Once it gets onto the top step lift from the back and push to get the palette onto the landing. Then tilt an end up and get a throw rug under the palette. Pull the palette into the house on the rug to protect the floor. We're in!

Sydney, the cat, halfway down the right side of the picture, was totally unperturbed by the whole process.

Canon ImagePrograf 2000, as delivered.

For the next installment, in a few days, I will describe the unboxing and my impressions of the general build. Then I will take a bit of a break from the review process until I get the printer functional.

 

Shades Of Paper

Some months ago, I wrote several posts about the 'death' of my second Epson 7900 printer (and third 7900 printhead) and mentioned that I didn't think I could bring myself to purchase another Epson printer again. The pricing is such that if the printhead 'dies' you might as well spend just a very little bit more and get a whole new printer with a one year warranty, as opposed to the replacement head with a 30 day warranty. If you search the internet you will find that there seems to be a very clear problem with these printheads (which are used in the newest generation of Epson printers as well). These problems were not and will not be acknowledged by Epson. It was for this reason that I decided that my next printer would be a Canon (which has printheads that are user replaceable).

At the time there were rumors of a new wide format Canon coming soon and that they would likely be very competitive in performance compared to the newest Epson printers based on the fact that they were an extension of the technology in the Canon ImagePrograf 1000 printer that had received very good reviews. I contacted Shades Of Paper, where I had purchased my prior three Epson printers, to see what I could find out. The purpose of this post is to tell you about a business where customers clearly come first!

From the start the customer service was superb.  I was able to get all the information I could ask for on both the new Epson and Canon printers. The Epson had already been announced and was available for purchase, while the new Canon was only a rumor. I was able to get a rough idea when the official announcement was anticipated; enough to know that it was worth waiting. As soon as there was any information available it was forwarded to me without my asking. Any questions were answered immediately via phone or within hours by email. We talked through the available options and decided that the Canon ImagePrograph 2000 wide format 24 inch printer would be the replacement for my Epson 7900.

The point is that the customer service at Shades of Paper is second to none and the printer price I got was as low as any price I could find elsewhere.  Even were the price a bit higher than their competitors (which it wasn't) it would be worth the extra for the customer service alone. I have purchased media from them in the past and their shipping is faster than 'the big boys'. 

I have no affiliation whatsoever with Shades of Paper. As they say, I am just a very satisfied customer.  I highly recommend you give them a try.

So what about the printer.........well, here it is:

 

Canon ImagePrograf 2000

 

It might take a bit of time to get movers to bring it upstairs and get it all set up. When I do, I will let you know what I think of it. The Epson did produce great prints, but I simply can't put up with replacing it every two or three years for mechanical failure.

Goodbye Epson

Several weeks back I had written a rather long post about my experiences with the Epson 7900 wide format printer. Unfortunately, I accidentally deleted that post shortly after it was up and simply couldn't muster the strength to rewrite it.  This was the first time I have accidentally deleted something like that. Oh well....

At any rate, the post had outlined how in six years I went through three 7900 printheads and two printers. The average lifespan of the printheads were two years and went from a minimum of a few months to a maximum of about 3.5 years. I was fully willing to attribute one printhead failure to random bad luck, but not three. The internet is rife with posts about the printhead failures with this generation of Epson printers, and there was even a class action lawsuit against Epson for this very reason which, my understanding is, was lost on a technicality (though I can't find definitive documentation of that). And,of course, despite all this, Epson says there is nothing wrong with them.

At the end of that post I mentioned that the new 17 inch Canon imagePrograf PRO-1000 printer had received favorable reviews compared to the comparable sized Epson printers (they were generally considered a bit better in some features and qualities and a bit worse in others). I was planning to wait for this technology to come to new Canon wide format printers, which were last updated about three years ago.

Well, the announcement has been made. The new Canon wide format printers, which employ technology similar to the PRO-1000, are 'real' and scheduled to ship at the end of June. Yes, it is a bit of a wait and I would also love to see some formal and unbiased reviews of these new models.....but I just don't think I am willing to go with another Epson unless the print quality were significantly better (which from all I have read, it isn't).  Every time I think about purchasing the new Epson SureColor model which replaces the 7900 (and which uses the same printhead generation as the 7900) I can hear The Who singing "Won't Get Fooled Again" in my head:

Fixing Epson Nozzle Clogs

If you have an inkjet printer you have inevitably had clogged nozzles.  My experience has only been with Epson printers, and it certainly occurs with some frequency.  The vast majority of times they are fixed with a cleaning cycle.....but sometimes you get a stubborn clog that just doesn't want to open up.  Want to see a great video on how to declog that clog???  Of course you do! The video is put out by the Pro Digital Gear group and is quite well done and demonstrates exactly what you need to know.

Mum

Sometimes things go contrary to what I had expected.  With a bright and colorful flower like this Mum, I had expected the final image to be in color. But as I processed the image, I realized that the photo was really more about shape and form than it was about color.  Though I think both versions work, I personally prefer the black and white one.

Mum, Color

Copyright Howard Grill

Mum, Black and White

Copyright Howard Grill

Producing both versions also gave me the opportunity to try black and white printing with Epson Hot Press Bright White paper, and, I have to say, the results are really exceptionally nice.

Epson Hot Press Bright White vs Hahnemuhle Photo Rag

Every so often I get the itch to try some new papers. I recently saw some positive reviews for Epson Hot Press Bright White paper. This piqued my interest because I like matte papers, but haven't done much matte printing lately. In the past I have usually used Hahnemuhle Photo Rag as my 'go to'  matte paper with good results, though I find that I usually have to really pump up the saturation and contrast to get what I am looking for in the printed output. I decided to try the Epson because of the reports of deep blacks and a wide color gamut, as well as descriptions calling it the closest matte to a luster type paper.  Last but not least, Epson Hot Press is significantly less expensive that the Hahnemuhle, which seems to increase in price every year. I gave the Epson Hot Press a try.  This is obviously not a formal review of the paper, nor would I be particularly qualified to perform one. However, I can offer my personal opinion and observations:

Feel: The Epson paper has a nice rich, soft quality feel. However, despite being a slightly heavier weight paper than the Hahnemuhle if you go 'by the numbers', it doesn't seem to have quite as luxuriant a feel as Photo Rag. I believe this may be at least partially related to the fact that (at least to my eye) the Epson paper has slightly less surface texture with a smoother finish to it. 

Profiles: In my hands and with my calibrated monitor and an Epson 7900 printer, the Epson profiles seem quite good and work reasonably well with soft-proofing. To me they seem more accurate than the Hahnemuhle supplied Photo Rag profiles when compared to the actual output print. Of course, there are many variables involved with this statement and I can only describe what my experience has been.  As they say, your mileage may vary!

Optical Brighteners: The Epson paper is manufactured with the 'dreaded' optical brighteners.  There are those that will not use papers with them because of concerns regarding fading over time.  I am just stating the fact that OBAs are used and have no wish to get into that argument! 

Hahnemuhle Photo Rag also has optical brighteners, but these are kept to a minimum, at less than 0.1%, according to the Hahnemuhle website. I have seen the Epson paper described as having moderate amounts and suspect that it has significantly more than Photo Rag.

Cost:  B&H Photo has Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 8.5x11 inches, 25 sheets, 308 gsm (the closest equivalent to the Epson) for $39.31 and a 24"x39' roll for $166.75.  The Epson Hot Press is $22.40 for the box of 25 and $104 for a 24" by 50' roll.  So the Epson is significantly less expensive. 

But wait, there's more.  Although the Epson is not advertised as a double sided paper, a bit of research shows that the production process places two finishing coats on the reverse and three on the front 'printable' side.  Appearently, an Epson spokesperson has said that the non-printable side will not give as good a quality print as the side designated as printable.  Perhaps true, but I really can't tell them apart very well so it seems to me the non-printable side can be used very nicely for proofing, creating even more value for the money.

The Print:  This is where the 'rubber meets the road'.  I can only report what my eye sees.  To me, it seems as if the Hot Press paper gives greater tonal separation and slightly improved sharpness and detail.  The output is really nice, especially for a matte paper. 

If you hold the same print side by side with a glossy or semi-gloss  paper like Ilford Gold Fiber Silk, you may well be disappointed.  However, if they looked the same then it wouldn't be a matte paper.  But for images that would be appropriate for the softer matte paper appearance, I don't think you can get much better (particularly for the value) than the relatvely new Epson papers. 

Although I have just tried the Hot Press Bright White, I now have an order in for the sampler pack so I can see and try out the Hot Press Natural as well as the Cold Press papers.

Addenda: Between the time I wrote the above review and the time I published it, I rceived my sampler pack. While I can still say that I really like the Hot Press Bright White (which will become my new standard matte paper), the same is not true (for me) with the Cold Press and Hot and Cold Press Natural papers. 

The Cold Press, in my opinion, has a texture that is far too deep and symmetric.  If the lighting on the image is straight on it looks ok, but for any angled lighting it looks like someone took a pizza wheel or a gear and rolled it over the paper in symmetric lines.  To me, it just doesn't look right or 'natural'.  The coloration of the Natural paper, both Hot and Cold Press, does not appeal to me either.  It has too 'creamy' an appearance and in some light almost seems to impart a slightly yellow-green, as opposed to neutral, color.

There is no question that paper choices are very individual and if these other papers didn't appeal to a large number of people then Epson would probably not be reselling them.  So, take the above as my personal opinion.....but I am sticking with the Epson Hot Press Bright White, a paper that I find extremely attractive.

Epson Woes Update

In past posts I have documented the woes I have had with my Epson 7900 printer. The first one I had required a printhead replacement within the first two weeks of use and the machine ultimately died an untimely death of printhead failure about three years later (far too prematurely for a machine of this price), but not before I got to sink close to $700 into repairs that did not fix the problem.  The repairs are criminally expensive, monopolied to one firm, and seem to follow a script of sequential and escalating repairs until the problem resolves, which is great if your machine is under warranty but, well, not so great if it isn't.  Rather than throw good money after bad, I elected to stop at $700 when the next step (replacing the printhead) was going to cost over $1800 when labor was included, with only a 90 day guarantee.  For little more I could buy a new machine with a one  year guarante, which is what I did.  Stupid, perhaps, but I went with another of the same printer thinking that the first was anomalous. The other day I ran across a great video on how Epson repair charges $300 for changing out a $13 part that literally takes 50 seconds to do.  Even if you don't have a 7900, this video is worth the very brief watch if only to see the absurdity of it all.  Now, if he would just tell us where one can purchase the $13 part!

Watch this great video on the Epson 7900 wiper cleaner assembly change.  The video looks like it is 'under construction' but if you just click the start button it plays.

Editing

I recently had the good fortune of selling a large number of prints to a local hospital system via a gallery they use to choose and install the artwork.  Because of the gallery's standards regarding artwork in health care facilities, there were certain types of scenes that they were particularly interested in and others that they did not want to display.  They therefore wanted print options for display beyond what I have on my website.  Based on their interests I had to go back through my archives and generate completed files from my unedited RAW files.......and I have to admit that for the most part I really liked the images choices I generated for them. But the point of this post is not that sale.  The point is that I had years and years of unedited images.  And by that I don't mean unprocessed, I mean unedited. As in picking the keepers from the throw aways, the wheat from the chaff, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  I realized that I have thousands of images (many of them duplicates with slightly different apertures, focus points etc) with no separation of the ones that might be worth showing or printing other than the ones that I thought were my absolute best images. It turns out that what I thought was my best was not always what they thought was my best.  And though they picked some that I thought were among my best works,  they also picked a good number that I would not have considered five star images.  But I still thought they were good.  And there they were, hidden among the hundreds and hundreds of other images.  And since I just went through them with an eye for the particular types of images they wanted,  I know there are other good ones in there that didn't fit what they told me they were looking for.  How much easier would it have been had I, years ago, done at least some sort of star ranking and not just print the few I thought were 'portfolio material', leaving the rest behind.

I am not talking about keeping lousy images or showing work that is garbage in the hopes that someone likes it.  I am talking about knowing which are your good to very good photographs.  Ones that you can still be glad to be associated with even if they are not your portfolio star performers.  I now recognize the importance of this for two reasons.  One, not everyone necessarily agrees with the artist's taste and ideas and the 'consumer' might absolutely love the photograph that you think is just good.  Peoples' tastes are different.  Secondly, there may be (as there was in this case) extraneous rules or limitations about what can be used by a potential client who may be looking for a very specific type of image that is not a 'star performer'.  The best chocolate cake in the world will not satisfy someone who is shopping for apple pie.

So, with this knowledge, I am changing my habits and changing them now.  About two or three weeks ago I went on a fantastic trip with two of my photography buddies to Smoky Mountain National Park.  The trip had initially been planned for wildflower season but, because of the unusually warm February and March, the April wildflowers bloomed a month early and we totally missed them.  Nonetheless, there were still abundant photo ops and we had a great time and came away with many good images.  However, as anyone reading this probably knows, to get many good ones you often take hundreds that don't quite make the cut and never see the light of day.  I will not let these 1500 or so images fade into obscurity.  It takes a good deal of time, but I am editing all of these and all  future  images as I go.  Though I may do preliminary processing on all the top picks I clearly will only print my favorites, which may only number ten or so.  But I will have at least separated out the really good ones into a Lightroom collection that I can show while having easy access to a number of images that are culled and ready to use.

I think this is a good practice that I had not been doing regularly.  If you aren't doing this perhaps you should consider it as well.

It Might Be Worth Knowing Your Inkjet Printer

I embarked on a small 15 minute project that I thought might be worthwhile  while I was reading Martin Evening's new book on Lightroom 4.  In it he notes that the printer profiles that one utilizes in Lightroom and Photoshop for specific printers and papers typically automatically map the very dark tones to levels where the printer can produce detail (ie a level of say 1-5 would be mapped by the profile to a new level where the printer can generate a bit of detail by visually producing differences in the black tones).  However, it is much more critical that one map the highlights to levels where the printer can produce detail, as profiles typically do not accomplish this very well. For example, 255 is pure white and any pixel at level 255 will print to paper white. This means that pixels at 254, 253, 252 etc SHOULD have some ink and that the levels SHOULD be able to be discerned from each other.....after all if you can't tell a 254 from a 253 then there will not be any ability to discern details or contrast in that region in the print.  But the SHOULD is not reality and all printers are different.  It seems it would be useful to know what level one's printer can start showing detail so that the brightest highlights with detail can be mapped to that level.

So I did a brief experiment.  I made a new file in Photoshop and with the marquee tool made multiple squares and then  using the Edit>Fill command filled the squares with neutral colors at 255, 255, 255 and 254, 254, 254 and 253, 253, 253 etc all the way down to the upper 240s.  My goal was to see where my printer started to produce printed patches that were able to be seen (thus, not printing paper white) and if one were able to denote differences between the patches (thus, denoting the ability to differentiate detail).

My results:

255, 255, 255 - appeared paper white with no discernible tone, as it should

254, 254, 254 - also appeared paper white with no discernible tone

253, 253, 253 - the very slightest amount of tone was visible under light and if you looked carefully you could make out the square

252, 252, 252 - this was the first patch you could see with a quick but directed look

251, 251, 251 - and lower were pretty straightforward to see and the differences between each were evident, ie 251, 251, 251 could fairly easily discerned from 250, 250, 250 and so on

Is this helpful information??  Maybe not groundbreaking , but I think it is helpful,  Now I know that the brightest level in an image where I still want some ink and not paper white should be 251, 251, 251 or 252, 252, 252.  Many books have advocated 248, 248, 248....but I think it helps to know how your particular printer acts and what it can do with the lighter tomes.  Of course, I believe the results might only apply to the particular paper and profile that you are testing, but nonetheless I think this is useful information to have.

I am using an Epson 7900 and would be interested in what types of results people get with other printers and if this is felt to be a worthwhile endeavor.

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)!