Reviewed: Epson Stylus Pro 3880

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What do you want, and what should you get, in a photo printer? One that delivers the goods, right? The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 delivers that in spades. This is a 17-inch printer, producing gallery quality colour and black & white output up to 17×22 inches. That word “Pro” in its name means something.

It took me a few minutes and a couple of disappointing prints (manual? guys don’t read manuals), but I was soon churning out the most gorgeous prints from my digital files. That’s in good measure due to Epson UltraChrome K3 inks, with Vivid Magenta ink technology, an advanced print head, and some beautiful Epson papers. The 3880’s innovative pigment ink set delivers an extremely wide colour gamut with more dramatic blues and violets, while all-new image technology provides smoother colour transitions and better highlight and shadow detail.

Epson says this is a “compact” printer. I guess it is, compared to the plotter variety, but it is way larger than your average home printer, and in my home office it certainly was a dominate object. But it is a pro unit, definitely not designed for printing out your kid’s school essays.

The 3880 uses UltraChrome K3 inks, nine cartridges in total, including new Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta cartridges for more intense blues and violets: Photo Black, Light Black, Light Light Black, Matte Black, Cyan, Light Cyan, Yellow, Vivid Magenta, Vivd Light Magenta. Built on Epson’s heritage of professional ink technology, this pigment ink set is claimed to offer instant colour stability and exceptional print permanence ratings for colour and black & white prints. I certainly have no argument about the colours this printer produced for me.

Let’s get a bit technical. Created in collaboration with the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Munsell Color Science Laboratory, the 3880’s AccuPhoto HD2 Image Technology is a complex mathematical architecture and advanced screening technology, designed to ensure precision placement of each individual ink droplet for smooth, grain-free images. Epson says this advanced technology optimizes ink usage to maximize the colour gamut and provide smooth colour transitions and gradations. Apparently reduction of the metameric index makes it possible to achieve consistent colour under different lighting conditions.

The eight-channel, high-precision MicroPiezo AMC Print Head produces a maximum resolution of 2880 x 1440 dpi and variable-sized droplets as small as 3.5 picoliters, placing them with precision and accuracy. For decreased maintenance and increased reliability, the print head also incorporates an ink repellent coating.

B&W? Did someone say black and white? There’s an advanced Black and White Photo Mode. Exclusive Epson screening provides intuitive and consistent control for stunning neutral or toned black & white prints. You can choose from one of four pre-set modes – neutral, warm, cool, or sepia – and use custom slider bars and a colour tone wheel for advanced control. In addition, customized settings can be saved and recalled to achieve consistent
prints.

I’ve got to warn you about this next bit, because it caught me out, twice. The 3880 automatically switches between Photo and Matte black inks to produce the deepest blacks and richest colour on glossy, matte or fine art media. But unless you are paying close attention, you’ll swear the printer has hung up, because there’s a noticeable pause – up to almost 4 minutes – as it switches between those inks.

This printer provides broad media support with BorderFree cut-sheet media handling from 4×6 up to the maximum. The high-capacity paper feeder is designed for photographic weight papers, while the top-loading single-sheet feeder is optimized for fine art media. Also, the front loading straight-through path accommodates art board up to 1.5 mm thick.

This is a pro unit, and, with a suggested price of about $1,600, it’s priced like one. But if you’re after quality, long-lived prints and exhibition-sized prints, it would be hard to find something better.

One final thing, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with the printer’s output: I pulled about two handfuls of tape and cushioning material fromvarious nooks and crannies of the machine prior to starting it up. It is well protected for shipping, but you’ve really got to make sure you’ve cleared everything, otherwise that first print is going to be jammed, warped, bent, spindled and mutilated. And yes, I speak from experience. There’s a sheet that comes with the printer to show you where all the tape and foam are, but I swear there were a couple more than pictured. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

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3 thoughts on “Reviewed: Epson Stylus Pro 3880

    Fran said:
    January 3, 2010 at 8:51 pm

    Interesting review. I have Photo 1900 which is great except that I want to make larger prints than it offers. Does the 3880 print rolls longer than 44 inches? That’s my main beef with the 1900.

      grandpaparazzi responded:
      January 4, 2010 at 4:59 pm

      No, the 3880 is limited, in that respect. The 2880 handles rolls, but the 3880 does not.

    Pavel Muller said:
    January 10, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    (photophile2008 on Flickr). I have this printer and i love it for its BW capabilities. I had 1900, but my BW were not on par with the color. In part it is of course a skill thing, but the quality of my BW prints shot up immediately when I switched. Good neutral blacks, finer tonal gradation. I believe the darkest blacks are darker with 3880 than with 1900.

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