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Ink costs wildly inconsistent

US inkjet paper supplier Red River has run some bench tests to attempt to get a fix on that most allusive of questions – how much does an inkjet-printed photograph cost?

The costly variable is of course the ink, with cartridges coming in a broad range of colours and capacities per inkset.

The good news is that the recently-released A2+ Epson Surecolor P906, pictured above, has the least expensive ink in the current lineup. The bad news is that its almost identical A3+ sibling, the P7o6, has the most expensive ink. Go, as they say, figure!

Red River chose a selection of of  current release and recent wide-format and desktop photo printers from Canon and Epson. It printed 200 copies of a standard test photo (‘a worst case scenario of ink usage’) on 8×10-inch paper through each of them and then calculated the cost of the ink used.

The results were wildly inconsistent. The cheapest inkset came from the venerable Epson Pro 3800 – now over 10 years old and superceded several times since in the Epson lineup. Cost for an 8×10 using this old workhorse was just US$0.45 cents. Next was its successor, the Epson Pro 3880 ($US$o.48 cents).

Red River also looked at more recent releases, such as the just-superceded R600 and R800 and their replacements, the R700 and R900. The A3+ P600 cost US$1.02 cents for an 8×10 while its very close relative,  the A2+ P800 was just 68 cents!

More relevant for prospective purchasers – given those two printers are heading towards back-catalogue-dom – are the costs of ink for the new P700 and P900. The Epson P700 is the most expensive to use of all those tested – the P900 among the least expensive. Unfortunately the A3+ P700 (P706 in Australia) will set you back US$1.30 in ink for an 8×10 and the A2+ P900 (P906) a far more affordable $0.56 cents, according to the Red River report. After a few hundred prints, the Total Cost of Ownership for the P706 will rise above that of the P906, making it a better buy – with the larger printing format a bonus.

This tallies with our report last week on Epson limiting the capacity of the P700’s cartridges to 25ml, while the cost is a roughly the same as the (otherwise identical) 50ml cartridges in the P900.

The Canon Pro 200 represents good value for money, with a relatively low cost for ink and a purchase price of just $800.

There was somewhat less variability in the ink costs for Canon printers. The most expensive (by far) is the A3+ Canon Pro-10, at US$1.12 an 8×10 and the cheapest was the A3+ Canon Pro 200, at US$0.59 cents. Most of the Canon lineup had ink costs within the US$0.70 – 80 cent-per-8×10 band.

The Red River report has far more detail than contained above, extrapolating ink costs for a range of paper sizes from 4×6-inch through to 13×19-inch and testing 20 different models. Where alternative blacks are used it measures the variable costs. Red River will be progressively adding to the lineup as new printers are released.

REVIEW: Epson Surecolor P906




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