OK. So, here’s the deal. For more years than I can remember, I have tried to muscle great prints out of mediocre printers. Granted, the printers I have had never were designed to be able to print at the level I wanted. A few years ago, the Epson Stylus 1270 did its best to accomodate my unwieldy and over-the-top demands.

Late last year, I finally looked in the mirror, and told myself that I had to buck up and get a “real” printer; one that would print images up to 17-inches wide. For the better part of last year, I had my good buddy and designated fine art printer Pat Carr very capably doing my printing. I was totally satisfied until one day he told me that he thought it was time for me to acquire my own printer. When I asked which one I should get, there was little hesitation before he recommended the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 (left).

I had tested a few other printers, working with slightly-toned prints (see “Maria #3010, below) above) and just couldn’t get the shading I wanted. Working with the 3880, however, has been a virtual treat. As some of you might know, I am not a “read the instructions” kind of guy. All I do is get confused when I open up the manual. I think I try to operate equipment and software without directions just to see if I can. Sometimes I get lucky, but most of the time, I usually end up picking up the respective manual. The 3880 was a pleasing exception.

Once I received the printer and had it set up in my office, which only took a few minutes, I called Pat and asked him to come over for some pertinent pointers. He was only in the office for less than a half-hour, showing me the basics of setting up the image, making sure all the settings were correct for what I wanted to print. And, I have to say the first print out of the chute (left) was perfect! So much so, in fact, that I could hang it in a recent show in which I participated.

All the manufacturers I requested paper from came through (Hahnemühle, Epson, Canson, and Red River). Now, I was ready to do some “real” printing. Whew! I now had the printer, the papers, and the photographs. There was only one thing left to do: print! No excuses.

I chose a picture I shot of my friend, and fellow Albuquerque photographer, Minnie. We did two shoots. the first one is the sitting that produced my test print, Minnie and the Mask #5384 (below, left). I printed all the test images on 13×19 paper, because that is the size at which I will be printing my pictures. Almost all of my fine art nudes are toned slightly, prior to printing. I like to have a soft feel to the image, and that is why I also chose matte papers, except for one of the Red River papers, which has a semi-gloss surface.

The papers I used are: Hahnemühle Photo Rag, Extra Smooth ($78.55/20 sheets), 305gsm (weight); Canson Etching Edition Rag, Smooth texture, 310gsm ($78.79/25); Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper, Matte Finish, Cotton Rag, 260gsm ($69.95/20); Red River LuxArt Satin Rag, Shiny, textured, coated, 270gsm ($105/20); Red River Aurora Art Natural, 250gsm ($66.15/50, double-sided); Red River Aurora Art White, 250gsm ($66.15/50, double-sided).

As you can probably tell, this is not a technnical review, but what I call a “personal review.” One that is done so as to tell the user whether or not the printer or paper(s) they have chosen to use will work for them. I am not well-versed enough in technical nomenclature to write a review that talks about pixels, grain, dots, etc.

The main reason I chose the above image was because of the shadow effect, as well as the soft lines of the body, and the texture of ths skin. I tested it in both black and white and toned, with the B&W being the first through the gauntlet. For the B&W image myself, as well as two unbiased people who were in my studio at the time of writing this review, Pat Berrett (photographer) and Emily Fine (New Mexico Ballet, Executive Director) picked the Canson paper because of its rendering of the shadow on the left, and the subtle texture of the back. For the toned image, we all chose the Hahnemühle paper. There was a softer, yet clearer dilineation of the back, and the shadow lines were cleaner.

I also chose to test a photograph (left) I took at a nearby sandy location that had some weeds poking up through the sand. I took this image into PS5 and drew some random lines and squiggles, inverted it and turned into a black-and-white picture. The winner, again, was Canson, although the Red River “Aurora” papers held up a lot better than I thought they would. The lines on the Canson paper were a bit sharper, and the contrast was better than from the other papers.

Now, lest you think I only tested boring tones and black-and-white images, I also did some testing on a colorful acrylic painting done by the painter, Ann Hart Marquis  (below, right). Since the acrylic canvas maintinas a semi-glossy finish, the Red River paper came out on top in this test, because the printed image was more closely representative of the original work.

I realize that I chose the papers based on what I thought I would like to use for my own printing. As such, even though some of the papers didn’t “pass” my test doesn’t mean they won’t be right for you, or that I may have even selected the wrong papers. The prices listed are from the manufacturers. Overall, if I did have to choose one paper for my printing, it would probably be the Canson paper. Besides my own positive results, Pat Carr (Carr Imaging) uses Canson for quite a bit of his fine art printing for a variety of artists in the southwest. I thank Epson, Canson, Hahnemühle, and Red River for contributing to this project, and I encourage you to do your own testing with your pictures to determine which paper is best for you. These four papers are just a sprinkling of what is out there.

In this addendum to the original review of the 3880, my overall opinion is that while the more expensive papers seemed to perform a bit better (Canson, especially), the newly acquired, less expensive papers from Red River weren’t far behind, especially on the toned prints. The second image from the top of this page, Minnie and the Mask #5384, printed extremely well with the Red River Papers. I see no reason to spend more money on other papers, when I think the quality offered by Red River is very comparable to its competition in this test. Besides the fact that the Red River “Aurora” papers can be used to print on both sides.

One consideration I was unduly concerned about, however, was how quickly ink would evaporate. My concern was unfounded. Not only did I find ink consumption somewhat miserly, but I have printed several print runs, plus a wide variety of test prints, and I have only used barely half my ink supply. The regular price for a 3880 is around $1,300, but you can pick one up for around $929.00 at B&H. That’s the best price I have found.

If you have a printer you really like, let me how it works for you. You can go to this great blog, ronmartblog.com, to read an in-depth review of the 3880.

Good luck!

  • Xzone9

    I have an Epson R800 and while I am very happy with its performance, results, and abilities, the ink disappears so rapidly that I hardly have enough time to keep it from going empty. I hardly use the printer each year, only printing occasional CD/DVD labels and covers, as well as contracts and once in awhile a full color photo not even more than twice a year. Each cartridge (this has 7), are over $15 each.
    If I were using this printer for production. I am afraid it would have to go with a replacement that would be far more miserly with ink consumption.
    Lately with turning my office temperature down at night, I now notice if the ink is cooler I have to run the cleaner program which uses a lot of ink in itself to run and/or test. Another minus for ink.
    Way too costly.

  • Vered galor

    I have an older Epson Stylus Photo 2200 that will give me prints up to 13″x19″ or I can use a roll of paper for longer work. I loved it but has issues with calibrating it with my new Imac 27″. If anybody has tips on the issue I will appreciate it. I would like to keep the printer but it is not doing what it used to or supposed to.
    Vered Galor

    • Ruth

      I have taken my epson 2200 completely apart and replaced the pump and the assembly cap. Also I drilled a hole and diverted the waste ink into an outside container. Keep googling your question – someone out there will have resolved the same issue. I found everything I needed to know by researching on the internet, but I did not have calibration issues.

  • Ruth

    What is the cost of a cartridge of ink and how many cartridges in the printer.
    Thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Epson Stylus Pro3880 has fast speed of printing and we can easily install this printer.I use the network settings, so I can print from my both PC on my home network. Therefore, no need to buy another printer. So it saves my money of another printer.

    123inkjets coupon code

  • Anonymous

    It is a good  printer.It is little noisy, but the quality of printing is good.For
    scanner, you need to use manual settings, if you want a good copy. Its performance is
    really good.The printer looks very stylish.

  • Hi, 

    Its brilliant post guys about Epson Stylus Photo 3880 inkjet printer.

    Thanks for it.

  • Jeff090756

    Short Life Span…
    Do not expect any quality service / support from Epson. They are hard nosed and could care less about your situation. Here’s my experience with two printers; a 3800 and a 3880 is they have a short life span. I purchased a 3800 (new) and paid for the extra 3yr extended warranty. It was a $1200 printer so I thought it was worth the extra for the extended warranty. After 3yrs and 8 months the printer started dumping 1 inch long by 1/8 in wide black ink blobs, and the Photo Black cart on the LCD read 90% full when the cart was actually empty. Epson support said it needed a new printer head. The cost was the same price a new printer. Because it was now past the extended warranty they would do nothing else for me. (Shouldn’t a pro printer at $1200 last more than 3.75 years of moderate use?), I guess not. I then purchased a new 3880, but did not get the extended warranty. After 2 yrs and 2 months, this 3880 started doing the exact same problems as the 3800: dumping 1 inch by 1/8 inch wide black ink blobs and the LCD showed the Photo Black cart at 90% full, when it actually was empty. I spoke with Epson support as well as next person up the line. Epson response: “Because it is out of warranty we will do nothing for you”. Despite the fact that this is the 2nd 38xx series printer that had the same problems. Note that Epson will only warranty this printer for a maximum of 3 years – if you purchase the extended warranty, costing several hundred dollars – not cheap. You can not extend the warranty past the 3 years. Given that short time frame you can see that Epson does not expect the 3880 (3800) to last much more than 3 years. If it does, you were lucky. If not, buy a new one or… change to another brand. Given the fact that I had this same problem on two different professional printers – 3800 & 3880. Knowing that these are not $100 disposable printers, but $1200 pro printers; and as a professional customer that had already given Epson several thousand dollars for their printers, and thousands more buying their ink; I had expected Epson Professional division to provide better support and work with me to fix the problems. I had been told that Epson customer support really sucks. Now I must agree with that statement. If you can risk dumping $1200-$1500 every 2 – 3 years on an Epson Pro printer, then you may be happy with the 3880. If you can’t, then look at anther brand. I’ve heard that Canon makes a good pro printer.

  • dharmvir

    problem with my epson stylus Pro 3880

    after a lot of researh i bought an Epson stylus Pro 3880
    which was recommended as the best by most users. I myself am very disappointed. After appr .2 months it started giving severe problems. All my print outs shows double lines, letters and figures. It also dont print straight lines but print them as broken lines. I tried all possible settings out without any succes. Maybe it is a mechanical problem ? can anyone please recommend me what to do ? I would be very grateful as i don’t know further how to fix this problem ?