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Pro 3880
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EPSON Stylus Pro 3880 review

The Epson Stylus Pro 3880 is the new printer that supersedes the Pro 3800, and although on the exterior there isn’t much to indicate that this is a new model, other than the new number 3880, but below the bonnet are a couple of interesting tweaks. The Ultrachrome K3 inks have been re-formulated to now include a Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta. The print head has also been modified for these inks, which unfortunately means that the Vivid Magenta inks are not backward compatible with the Pro 3800, however all the other inks are compatible.

The Pro 3880 also has a new printer driver Look Up Table (LUT). This provides improved grain reduction, smoother halftones, consistent print quality across the various resolutions and improved colour accuracy.

Other than those two improvements, the Pro 3880 is identical to the Pro 3800. So for this feature I am going to look at the output quality of the 3880, together with some new Fine Art media from EPSON. You can see the full Pro 3800 review here.

Over the past seven years I have seen many improvements in print quality from each of the major manufacturers. I have long since run out of superlatives that I can use, the results that are now being achieved with an ink jet printer are nothing short of outstanding, and in quality terms, they overtook traditional wet chemistry prints a few years back. The number of ink cartridges fitted in a printer has steadily risen from 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12. The increase number of ink cartridges meant that printers could achieve a higher degree of colour accuracy. The light ink colours (Light Magenta, Light Cyan) help to produce greater subtlety with delicate colours. However, there comes a point at which it becomes more difficult to create profiles using more inks. EPSON has settled on eight colours as the most efficient. The two lighter shades of black used in the UltraChrome K3 ink set are a bonus for photographers who still want to produce Black and White prints, the lighter shades of black can also add extra depth to colours when needed.

The Pro 3880 uses eight inks although nine cartridges are fitted at any one time, the extra ink is either a Matt Black or Photo Black. On previous EPSON pigment ink models you had to physically remove and swap between the two blacks, depending on whether you intended printing on Matt or Photo media (glossy paper). This procedure wasted ink on each swap, as the residual black ink has to be purged from the print head. As with the Pro 3800, both the Matt and Photo Black can be fitted at the same time, which means you don’t have to swap out the ink’s. Unfortunately the printer still has to purge the residual ink out from the print heads before it can start printing with the alternative black.

23 November 2009

© Vincent Oliver 2010
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