Epson’s 44-inch 9900 inkjet printer – Some Initial Impressions

Epson 9900 Inkjet Printer
Epson 9900 Inkjet Printer

I jumped into inkjet printing with both feet in September, 2002 when I purchased a 44-inch Epson Stylus Pro 9600 Ultrachrome printer. I sold the 9600 in March, 2006 and upgraded to an Epson 9800, which I used until July of this year. I used the 9600 and 9800 to make hundreds of prints for clients and exhibits. Both printers provided flawless service and superb print quality. A regional Epson service center is located less than 3 miles from my home in northeast Ohio, but I never needed a service call during the 11 years I owned the 9600 and 9800 printers, which are the epitome of rugged design and have paid for themselves in print sales many times over.

My printing “studio” is the basement office in my home, and there is only room for one 44-inch printer at any time. Epson announced their new 9900 printer in 2009, but I waited until this summer, when my dealer, Laube Imaging in Copley, Ohio offered me an excellent rebate on a 9900, a company in Indiana offered me a good price for the 9800, and I had two large sets of prints to make that would help justify a printer upgrade. The Epson 9900 is shipped by truck in a very large container that weighs in at more than 400 pounds. It takes several people to move the box, and I needed to unpack the printer, accessories and stand in my garage in order to move them down the narrow stairway to my basement office. Home delivery added $50 to the cost, plus another $50 for a truck with a tailgate since I don’t have a loading dock at my home. The stand is easy to assemble, and I hired a local moving company to move the 330-pound printer from my garage, through the kitchen, and down the steep and narrow flight of stairs to my basement office, where they placed the 9900 carefully on its stand. The rest of the printer assembly can be done by one person and is straightforward, though the basket assembly is quite complex. Fortunately Epson provides an excellent user manual and there are numerous YouTube videos devoted to unpacking and assembling large Epson printers. The “dtgweb” videos are especially useful, and I reviewed them several times while I was assembling the printer.

Many of the prints I sell to hospitals and other large organizations are 30×40-inches or 40×50-inches, and a 44-inch printer is needed to produce these prints. If you don’t need to make prints this big, the smaller 24-inch Epson 7900 or 17-inch Epson 4900 printer will meet your needs and take up a great deal less space. The Epson 7900 includes a stand, and the 4900 can be placed on a sturdy table or desk.

The Epson 9900 uses eleven colors of Ultrachrome HDR ink, which is an improved version of the earlier Ultrachrome K3 ink used by the 9800. These inks are incompatible. You must use the newer HDR inks in the 9900. The colors are Photo Black, Matte Black, Light Black, Light Light Black, Vivid Magenta, Vivid Light Magenta, Cyan, Light Cyan, Yellow, Green and Orange. The Green and Orange inks are new, and mainly designed to improve the quality of yellows in a print. Unlike the 9800 and 9600 printers, in which switching from Photo Black to Matte Black was time-consuming and used up a lot of ink, the 9900 automatically selects Photo Black or Matte Black based on the paper in use, and virtually no ink is wasted in the changeover, which takes less than a minute.

The Epson 9900 inks are available in 150ml, 350ml, and 700ml cartridges, and the printer is delivered with a full set of “starter” ink cartridges. Most of the ink in these cartridges is used up to charge the plastic tubes that carry the ink from the cartridges to the print head. For the color landscape images that I mostly print, Light Black is used up at the fastest rate, and I needed to replace the Light Black cartridge after making only three or four small test prints. When I mentioned this on the phone to a customer service technician at Epson, she graciously mailed me a brand new Light Black cartridge at no cost. The 150ml, 350ml, and 700ml cartridges are interchangeable and you can use any combination of the three sizes in the printer. A full set of the 150ml ink cartridges costs about $850, a set of the 350ml cartridges costs about $1375, and a set of the 700ml cartridges sells for about $2300. This works out to $0.51 per ml for the 150ml cartridges, $0.36 per ml for the 350ml cartridges, and $0.30 per ml for the 700ml cartridges. The 700ml cartridges may make sense for color labs who are making lots of prints every day, but for more casual users like myself the 350ml size provides almost the same cost per ml as the 700ml size, so I ordered a full set of the 350ml cartridges shortly after I installed the printer. I have now made around 60 prints, mostly 16×24-inches through 24×30-inches in size, and I’m still using the starter ink cartridges, except for the Yellow, Light Black, and Light Light Black, which have all been replaced with 350ml cartridges. The Epson 9900 is very efficient with regard to ink consumption.

Do the newly formulated Ultrachrome HDR inks provide better print quality? Perhaps, but it’s a subtle improvement, at best. I made a print of a test image obtained from the website of Bill Atkinson, one of the world’s color printing experts, and compared it to the same print made on my older Epson 9800. To my eye, the two prints looked the same. The hundreds of prints I made on the Epson 9800 were of superb quality, and my decision to upgrade to the Epson 9900 was made for several other reasons.

One reason was speed. The Epson 9900 has 360 ink nozzles per inch for each color, twice as many as the 9800. As a result, the 9900 is roughly twice as fast as the 9800. For example, printing in High Speed mode, in which the print head prints in both directions as it travels, I was able to produce an 11.5×14-inch print in 2 minutes 49 seconds. In addition, the 9900 is virtually silent when printing, except for some minor background noise from the vacuum control that holds the paper flat in the printer.

The built-in paper cutter on the Epson 9800 was not very impressive, and incapable of cutting thick paper or canvas. So I purchased and installed the optional manual paper cutter from Epson, which cost about $300 but did a superb job of cutting roll paper when making large prints. The Epson 9900 has an excellent built-in, heavy duty paper cutter that will handle thick papers and canvas with ease, eliminating the need for a manual paper cutter. Great feature, Epson! 

Another new feature is a much more efficient way of handling rolls of paper. With the Epson 9600 and 9800, each paper roll needed to be loaded onto a metal spindle, which was then inserted in the printer. With the newer Epson 9900, the spindle has been eliminated, replaced by plastic holders that are inserted into each end of the paper roll, adjustable for 2-inch and 3-inch diameter cores. Then the roll and holders are loaded onto the printer. It’s no longer necessary to line up the leading edge of the paper roll with a mark on the printer platen; just pull the edge of the paper down to the platen area, press a button, and the paper is automatically aligned. When you have finished printing from a paper roll, the Epson 9900 will also print a bar code on the leading edge of the roll so you know how much paper is left for printing, and you can set up the printer to alert you when the roll reaches a predetermined length of paper remaining. Another excellent feature from Epson.

The Epson 9900 has an improved method of checking and cleaning ink nozzles and aligning the print head. So far, my 9900 has functioned flawlessly in this regard. That said, this was never a problem with my Epson 9800 either, and I don’t recall ever having to do a major “power cleaning” to clean out the ink nozzles on the 9800.

Finally, the console display on the Epson 9900 is in color, and the layout and commands are easier to use and arranged more logically than with previous Epson printers.

Printing a Panoramic Print on the Epson 9900
Printing a Panoramic Print on the Epson 9900

Epson has been steadily improving the quality of the software that comes with their inkjet printers, and I have no doubt that the Epson 9900 is better than the 9800 in this area. However, I can’t really comment, because for more than a decade I have been using Colorbyte Software’s ImagePrint RIP, which is a superb system. ImagePrint is not inexpensive – I paid about $2500 for my version, which was about half the cost of the printer. In return ImagePrint provides a user-friendly program that facilitates and simplifies every conceivable printing task that you might want to perform, including sophisticated page layout and multiple print options, superb print color, shadow and highlight detail and sharpness, and flawless black-&-white prints with many options for toning. In addition, an ImagePrint license provides access to thousands of paper profiles, made using state-of-the-art equipment, including multiple profiles for different kinds of viewing lighting. It was simple to switch ImagePrint from the 9800 to 9900 and I didn’t need to do any reprogramming or reinstallation of the software.

The three major manufacturers of inkjet printers are Epson, Canon, and HP. Each of these companies makes great printers, though other reviewers, notably Michael Reichmann on his Luminous Landscape website, seem to give the edge to Epson in terms of image quality and other printer features. I have not used Canon or HP large-format inkjet printers, but using Epson’s superb 9600, 9800, and 9900 inkjet printers has been one of the most pleasurable aspects of my career in landscape photography. Epson’s inkjet printers are the epitome of ruggedness, efficiency, and state-of-the-art design, and I urge you to check out the 4900, 7900 or 9900 if you are in the market for a new inkjet printer, based on the size of prints you need to make. These are the best inkjet printers ever made, and I plan to enjoy using my new Epson 9900 for many years to come.       

 

                    

 

       

 

 

                                                                              

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Hello ~ It is so nice to see a good review on the Epson 9900. I have ordered one for our studio. Are things still going well with the printer? I have read a lot of people have serious issues with the ink clogging the nozzles. Do you have to print daily or at least weekly to prevent clogging? One more question; did you ever purchase the costly warranty?

  2. Hello ~ It is so nice to see a good review on the Epson 9900. I have ordered one for our studio. Are things still going well with the printer? I have read a lot of people have serious issues with the ink clogging the nozzles. Do you have to print daily or at least weekly to prevent clogging? One more question; did you ever purchase the costly warranty?

  3. Colleen: I love the Epson 9900. It has never clogged, and automatically does a nozzle check before each print is made. I make prints every week so the nozzles do not clog. No, I decided the Epson 9900 is so reliable that I did not want to invest in the warranty.

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