The cost of printer ownership
Printers have fallen dramatically over the past five years, you can pick up an entry level All in One A4 printer for less than £50 at most computer stores. Photo Quality A3+ printers start at about £250 but expect to pay between £450 to £700 for a higher quality printer. Canon, HP and Epson all offer models at various price points.
The Canon Pixma Pro 1 at £799 is fitted with 12 pigment ink cartridges, each cartridge contains 36ml of ink and cost £29.99. Print colour quality is outstanding although 12 inks is perhaps too much of an overkill.
The HP B9180 at £575 is built like a tank and should easily withstand heavy studio use. The printer uses 8 pigment inks each cartridge contains a generous 27ml of ink and will cost £25 per ink. This printer also has four user replaceable print head cartridges.
The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 is their top of the range A3+ printer that costs £670. This printer is fitted with 9 pigment inks but only uses 8 at any one time. Each cartridge contains 25.9ml of ink and costs £23.98.
The Epson Pro 3880 A2 printer at £1400 is an exceptionally good printer. The printer is fitted with 9 pigment ink cartridges, these include four black inks, Photo Black, Matt Black, Light Black and Light Light Black. Only eight cartridges are used at any one time, Photo Black is used on Glossy media and Matt Black with Matt Art media. The 80ml ink cartridges cost £48.58 each.
Epson also has a more advanced A2 printer, The Epson Stylus Pro 4900 costing £2154. This uses 11 UltraChrome pigment inks and can also use an optional SpectroProofer for consistent colour accuracy. Inks are supplied in 200ml cartridges and cost £80.76 per cartridge.
Each of the three major printer manufacturers also list a number of larger format printers. Epson has several Stylus Pro models including: Pro 7890 a 24” 10 colour printer costing £2754, the Pro 9890 a 44” printer costing £5034 through to the Pro 11880 a 64” printer costing £10,194. Other versions of these printers which incorporate Epson’s SpectroProofer are also available. Ink prices for 350ml cartridges are £128.20, or £240 for 700ml cartridges. These large format printers each use 10 inks which will cost £1282 and £2400 for a complete set of inks.
HP also has an impressive range of large format printers which includes the HP Designjet Z3200 a 24”,12 ink pigment printer costing £3100 which includes a built in Spectrophotometer for creating custom profiles. HP Designjet Z6200 is a 42” wide printer which uses 8 pigment inks costing £6700. Ink prices are £70 for a 130ml cartridge.
Be aware before buying a large format printer that your consumables are going to be expensive. A printer that uses 12 x 700ml cartridges at £240 per ink is going to cost you £2880 to fill up again. Media costs are also high, a 12 meter 44 inch roll of Hahnemühle Photo Rag media will cost around £145, the same 24 inch roll will cost around £92. Having said that, high quality large Fine Art prints should fetch a premium price.