March 25, 2008

Cheaper Ink


Photo by Scott Bourne

(Shot in Denali National Park, 08/06, Canon EOS 1D MK IIN – Gitzo Tripod – Wimberley Head – Aperture Priority – f/8.0 – 1/200th Second Exposure – Sigma 300-800 mm Zoom Lens at 575 mm.) 

Photographers with inkjet printers would prefer less expensive inks, survey shows!

A survey conducted by I.T. Strategies, Hanover, Mass., USA, asked photographers with inkjet printers to determine the use of inkjet printers in their businesses. More than 1,400 photographers responded to the survey.

In the survey, photographers were asked to indicate the one change they would make to their inkjet printers. More than one third listed “less expensive inks” as the one change they would make. Faster print speed was mentioned by 17 percent. Fifteen percent chose the “other” category, which for the most fell into six basic categories: improved black-and-white printing, better paper handling and selection, increased ink capacity, more reliable hardware, improved image quality, and better software.

This brings up an interesting question…what do you want in an inkjet printer? I realized that my two main desires were faster print times and better driver software. I’d even pay MORE for inks if I could get the two things on my list.

The fact that these kinds of surveys are being commissioned bodes well for the future. Usually companies don’t spend the money to do these surveys unless they plan to implement changes based on the result.

And for those of you who do indeed want cheaper inks, make sure you’re very careful about actually BUYING cheaper inks. If you buy refilled ink carts or third-party inkjet carts for your inkjet printer, just because they’re cheaper, you’ll rarely (if ever) end up with results anyone would call professional.

Join the conversation! 10 Comments

  1. I really appreciate all the specific info about your equipment. I totally enjoy Scott and Alex’s
    videos. thanks joanlvh

  2. I’d prefer to pay for the printer and not the ink. The printer is much more sophisticated then ink cartridge and its ink. I don’t care how long the prints take. I care about how good they are and how long they last.

    I understand the printer company needs to make a profit. It’s just sits better with me if they’d make their profit more from the product than the consumables.

    I don’t want a $15 Blu-Ray burner if it forces blank discs to be $80.

  3. I would guess the first thing to go with ‘cheaper’ inks would be color stability. This is also the biggest problem with cartridge refills. Wilhelm Research did a study on ink refills that showed a reduction from 50-100 year stability for canon and epson, to .5-2 years for refills. A pdf (sorry, all I could find) is available here.

  4. I’ve finally hit the point where I’m willing to pay a premium if I think the product is going to work better for me (and not just with photography, where I’ve been introduced to the financial dangers of the red stripe). I’m not yet to a point in my photographic career where I can justify the extra cost, but that’s a different issue. Ongoing ink costs are certainly a concern for me, as well as other consumables (large-format paper isn’t cheap either). All of the factors the survey mentions, Scott, are really important to me.

    At the end of the day, what I’m looking for in any product is something that works well the first time and every time thereafter, and doesn’t take a rocket scientist to get working. Not requiring third-party software, in the case of a printer, would be a huge boon (I want to install the driver *without having to reboot*, plug in, and be done with things), and is my only major concern right now that’s not specific to the quality of entry-level printing gear.

  5. I want more expensive ink! (Just kidding). I love Epson printers: have a 120 for documents, and an R1800 to make prints. They both have issues about not taking certain papers — like they will not feed them, or will just spit them out. Seems like that’s an issue they could address. Do HPs have that issue?

  6. Actually Joe most of the R&D of the printer is in the cartridge. The ink and the nozzles. All the rest of the printer does is hold the media (paper or CD) in the right spot.

  7. Just one of the reasons that I bought the Epson Pro 3800 over others. The larger cartridges are much cheaper (per ml of ink) than the smaller cartridges in my Epson 1290 and R800. Of course, being able to print large was also a consideration. :)

  8. James,

    I read somewhere that if you go deep into the printer driver there is a “Thick Paper” check box that allows the R1800 to except paper as thick as canvas…..Wish I could remember where I read that :(

    The printer companies have been getting blasted by the green folks for the prices of ink. When you can buy a new printer that comes with ink cheaper then buying new ink….well that adds up to a lot of machines in your local dump.

  9. Although ink cost is quite high, I would prefer more reliable paper handling, regardless of size and thickness (Epson R800 and R1800 issues lately) and nozzles that don’t clog quite so easily.

    Can’t argue with the results either printer produces, however.

  10. I once sat in on some expert testimony concerning printer inks. There is no doubt in my mind that refills are bad. Not only do they degrade the product in the areas of quality and longevity but also damage the head with clogs. This was several years ago and I remember an engineer describing inks as “There are horses for courses. Sometime you need a mudder sometimes you need a speedster it all depends on the track, the same case apples to print heads.”

    Ink costs should be part of the buying decision. If you make that decision than protect your printer with the right ink.

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