Epson Stylus Pro 4880 printer user experience report
Part seven: final thoughts

I wanted to have sufficient experience with the printer prior to making final conclusions and am writing this final part of the report after having finished printing the first 30–meter roll of photo paper.

First and foremost, and this has nothing to do with this particular printer, I would like to encourage you to do your own printing if you are serious about photography and not doing it yet. The reason for that is not so much convenience but the fact that there are very many things that can be learned from doing your own printing that are difficult, or nearly impossible, to learn otherwise. For example, what do the differences between printing resolutions (180dpi vs. 240dpi vs. 300dpi vs. 360dpi) translate into on paper in different types of photographs? Is the noise (or grain) that you see in a 100% enlargement on your screen going to be bothersome, only slightly noticeable or completely invisible in a real–life print? What is the most appropriate photograph size for a particular image? The list goes on and on... One might argue that you can prepare test files and print them at a pro lab; in practice, however, you are highly unlikely to run to the lab every time you want to do a small test; also, sometimes you have to make adjustments on spot. Once again, there are very many learning benefits in doing your own printing.

If you have read the previous parts of the report you probably have the impression that I am not entirely happy with the printer. Indeed, most of what I said earlier concentrated on its drawbacks and problems. It needs, however, to be understood that my approach to using photo equipment is to first learn what shortcomings a piece of gear has and then either find a way to work around them or learn to live with them. After that is done, I simply use the gear with the knowledge obtained through initial testing. And the Epson 4880 is no exception.

Now that we have a sufficient understanding of the printer's drawbacks I should give emphasis to what the Epson 4880 excels at: producing top–notch quality prints in a consistent and efficient manner, which, of course, is what owning this printer is all about. Colour gamut is excellent, neutral colours are clean and Dmax (the blackness of the black) is great. In case you are wondering just how good the quality of inkjet prints can be, here is a feedback comment from a reader who bought one of my prints (sorry for what might seem like a shameless plug but I am only trying to illustrate how gorgeous inkjet prints really can be—provided you know what you are doing, of course):

It is SO beautiful! (...) I feel this is first professional print I have ever had. It is totally different from the ones I got from COSTCO or Snapfish, or my own HP Color Laser Jet 8500. And the difference is like between the sky and the ground!

The quality of the profiles that come with the printer is very high, too. If you use Epson inks and papers, as well as presuming that your workflow is colour–managed, prints from the 4880 will be a perfect match to what you see on your monitor (notwithstanding the differences inherent to reflective (photo paper) and fluorescent (LCD or CRT monitors) reproduction media, of course). In my opinion, if you stick to Epson inks and papers, the use of custom profiles (and investment into printer calibration equipment) is not really necessary.

In the final analysis, while the Epson Stylus Pro 4880 offers superb print quality, potential owners should have a very close look at its drawbacks to see if any of them might be deal–breakers. As far as I am concerned, buying the printer was certainly the right decision and this impression grows with time as I continue to use it and extract more and more value from the initial investment.

Part one: why Epson?

Part two: Epson 3800 vs. Epson 4880

Part three: unexpected surprises

Part four: swapping matte and photo black inks

Part five: printer driver

Part six: 8–bit vs. 16–bit printing

Part seven: print head clogging

Part eight: final thoughts