EPSON EXPRESSION PREMIUM ET-7750
When the A4 EcoTank printers were announced, just for fun, we tried one out to see if it was any good at photo printing (it wasn’t bad). Now Epson has got serious with the concept and introduced an A3 EcoTank model that’s actually designed for photographers. Happy days.
The evolution of the inkjet photo printer in all its formats moves along at a steady pace and then occasionally takes a significant step forward. As consumers, what we’d like to see in a printer might be little more than wishful thinking, but eventually the manufacturers deliver the goods.
By adding bulk inks to an A4 multi-functional printer two major wish list items were satisfied with cheaper inks and more continuous usage. Now for the first time in the Epson EcoTank printer family, A3 printing is included. The nearest ‘all-in-one’ Epson printer is the Workforce 7510 at $722. It has A3 capacity and pigmented inks, but runs only off small cartridges.
The key points of the ET-7750 are the sheer convenience of a bulk ink system and the economy derived. Usually a printer comes with just one set of inks but the ET7750 comes with two, to total 840 millilitres of ink or the equivalent of about 30 sets of cartridges! The double ink set creates another first in inkjet printers, yet it is not an achievement Epson has highlighted. Having the capacity to print up to 14,000 pages for black and 9000 for colour (but basically text pages – not photographs) without needing to buy more ink is a welcome feature bound to attract a great deal of attention.
oUT of THe BoX
The box contains the printer itself, the power cable, a guide sheet for the printer set-up, a software CD, warranty document, two sets of ink bottles (black as a 140 millilitres pigment with cyan, magenta, yellow and photo black dyes at 70 millilitres each) and a maintenance box.
The printer already has a maintenance box in place so what is provided is a replacement unit that is inserted when the printer indicates. A USB cable is not included. A two year warranty is available if the printer is registered within one month of purchase.
The ET-7750 is finished in black with some panels in gloss and others matte. A footprint of 526x415 millimetres doesn’t take up too much desk space and the weight of 10.5 kilograms means it’s comparatively easy to move. Up front and centre is the adjustable control panel with a 6.8 cm LCD colour display screen. To the left of this screen is the On/ Off button illuminated in green when switched on (and which flickers during printing) supported by the ‘Home Screen’ and CD/DVD buttons. To the right of the screen is a set of buttons which includes four-way directional keys, plus and minus keys (for selecting the number of prints) and a ‘Previous Screen’ key. An orange ‘Cancel’ button and ‘Print Start’ button complete the controls.
The front-facing ink tanks are housed at the bottom right of the printer and the USB slot at the bottom left with the SD card port above. For printing without a computer connection, these two inputs link to the LCD screen where images can be selected and printing parameters established. The folding cover for the copy area can accommodate books up to about 35 millimetres thick.
The rear paper feed handles up to ten sheets of photo media in sizes up to A3 and panorama sheets as large as 297 millimetres wide and 1117 millimetres long. It is also the appropriate feed position for heavyweight papers that could jam up in the front paper cassette trays. The rear paper feed folds down into a rather neat box compartment. All the paper trays are flimsy and need to be treated carefully. The smaller cassette number one will accommodate 20 sheets of 13x18 centimetres Premium Gloss paper while cassette number two handles up to 100 sheets of plain paper. Paper is placed coated side downin the cassettes. The paper receiving tray resides on top of the cassettes and the CD/DVD tray is located underneath.
All four trays at the front are so close together they can be awkward to use by all except those with very nimble fingers.
If the paper receiving tray is not extended correctly, the printer will advise. Ethernet, USB and power connections are located at the back of the printer.
Epson proudly claims the Mopria-certified ET-7750 to be a complete solution covering standard USB cable connection to a computer, Ethernet for multiple computers, Wi-Fi Direct and printing from remote devices such iPad, iPhone, Android tablets and Smartphone.
Prior to making a start on the setup procedure it’s most helpful to view the YouTube Epson support videos accessed by searching ‘Epson ET-7750 setup’.
The set-up routine is a little bit more involved than for most printers as it requires an initial charging of inks and then a top-up. To avoid any likelihood of spillage in transferring ink from bottles to printer, there is a special coupling system. This will be welcomed by all except those who might be thinking about the use of thirdparty inks to further reduce running costs. The system doesn’t entirely negate the use of other inks, but does require the transfer of ink to the original Epson bottles in order to access the printer’s tanks.
Getting the printer ready for work starts either with the instruction sheet or via the CD. If the instruction sheet is followed, everything begins by opening the scanner unit lid and ink tank cover. The inks can be loaded in any order, but most will start with the pigmented black ink. The bottle is held upright and the lid unscrewed without shaking or squeezing the bottle. Each ink bottle has an autostop ink fill feature that is uniquely keyed for filling each colour tank so there is no likelihood of getting it wrong. After inserting the bottle, it will drain to a point where it will automatically stop just below the upper line. This will take about 30 seconds. The caps on the ink tank and the ink bottle are then sealed. After all the tanks have been filled, the ink cover and scanner lids are closed, the power cord is connected, the control panel raised and the printer turned on.
A small amount of ink is used to charge up the printer and will slightly lower the ink levels that must then be topped up. After ‘OK’ is pressed to accept ‘English’ (or other) the instructions on the LCD screen will advance to a point where the ‘Start’ is pressed to commence the seven-minute installation process. When completed, press ‘OK’. The scanner lid and ink cover are re-opened and each ink tank topped up. After yet another hit of ‘OK’, the left and right arrows are used to check each colour and then the ‘Start’ button to reset the ink levels. Finally, press ‘OK’ and ‘Adjust’ and follow the on-screen instructions. The CD can then be inserted in a computer for the driver, operational manual and software programs to be installed.
The best way to go about the set-up is to insert the software disc in the computer and follow the instructions for ink installation and finally the printer driver. Otherwise, follow the instruction sheet for the ink procedures and then insert the CD to confirm what has already been done.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SPEED AND THE QUALITY SETTINGS IS NOTICEABLE TO THE POINT OF STRESSING THE NEED TO ALWAYS GO FOR THE BEST QUALITY UNLESS TIME REALLY IS AN ISSUE.
For those using the latest computers that no longer include a CD/DVD facility the installation can be carried out from the Epson website.
The comprehensive 205-page manual for the printer is accessed via an icon on the desktop. This is very much a reference manual and not something that most will attempt to absorb in every detail. By clicking on the required page number in the index, the manual goes directly to that page.
Paper types are listed as ‘Plain’, ‘Epson Ultra Glossy’, ‘Epson Premium Glossy’, ‘Epson Premium SemiGlossy’, ‘Photo Paper Glossy’, ‘Epson Matte’, ‘Epson Photo Quality Ink Jet’, ‘Epson Photo Stickers’ and ‘Envelope’. Print quality is listed as ‘Draft’, ‘Standard’, ‘High’, and ‘More Settings’. The ‘More Settings’ is a three-step adjustment between ‘Speed’ and ‘Quality’. Under ‘Additional Settings’ there is the option to turn ‘High Speed’ printing off.
If Epson Matte paper is selected, the quality setting is ‘Standard’ and there is no way of moving up to ‘High’. It seems odd that the matte setting has a limit on print resolution, but it is likely that Epson has adopted a conservative approach in seeing a possible ink bleeding situation with images containing large black areas on some types of matte paper if ‘High’ was applied.
For the sake of a little experimentation, a sheet of A4 matte paper was printed as Epson Gloss at the ‘High’ quality setting and with ‘High Speed’ switched off. This certainly provided a finer dot structure, but a magnifier is required to see the difference. Such is the forgiving nature of dyes, but it still comes down to individual user tests.
Postcard prints from paper placed in Cassette 1 took 20 seconds using ‘Standard’ quality with ‘High Speed’ which increased to 32 seconds with ‘High Speed’ switched off. Stepping up the ‘High’ quality setting resulted in times of 45 seconds and 70 seconds with the higher resolution producing a better outcome.
On A3 size Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy, a print using ‘Standard’ quality with ‘High Speed’ on took just 80 seconds. The print time increased to 5:40 minutes with the ‘High’ quality setting and ‘High Speed’ switched off. The difference between the speed and the quality settings is noticeable to the point of stressing the need to always go for the best quality unless time really is an issue. When a successful print routine has been established all the attributes can be saved under ‘Printing Presets’ and ‘Add/Remove Presets’. This allows quick printing of all regular routines without needing to go through all the settings at each new printing session. For further information ‘Help’ can be accessed by right-clicking the mouse over any feature in a print panel.
One of the key questions asked by serious print-makers concerns the longevity of these bulk inks. The nearest ink set from Epson would appear to be the four inks of the L355 series (which is not available in Australia). Wilhelm Research has ratings of two years under glass for plain paper and up to seven years for Premium Glossy paper. Figures for dark storage have not as yet been published.
This is hardly encouraging news. Enquiries to Epson Australia regarding print longevity have been forwarded on to Japan with any results not available at the time of completing this review. In the meantime, Epson UK indicates prints will “…last up to 300 years in a photo album”. Certainly a very bold statement.
While most users will opt for the ‘Auto’ mode or ‘Easy Photo Print’ (part of the installation) for general printing, more precise settings are available for those who carefully prepare print files.
The pathway is ‘More Options’, ‘Colour Correction’, ‘Custom’ and ‘Advanced’.
In ‘Colour Management’ choose ‘Colour Controls’ and then, in ‘Colour Mode’, choose either ‘Standard’ for sRGB files or ‘Adobe RGB’ for files with the Adobe RGB (1998) colour space. Any alterations made to overall colour, brightness, contrast, saturation and density may be saved for future printing sessions.
In appraising dye-based prints it’s important to let them thoroughly dry down before an assessment of colour can be made. What the printer immediately turns out may be slightly red, but should be ‘normal’ later.
In times past, serious print makers would have scoffed at the thought of using a four-colour inkjet printer. Although the four colours of the Epson ET-7750 cannot match the capacity of printers with six or more inks, the image quality is remarkably good and certainly good enough for many tasks. The dyes can be more vibrant than pigments, especially on gloss and semi-gloss papers, while the very fine dot structure (5760x1440 dpi) cannot be matched by pigment printers.
An A3 size print made on Epson Premium Gloss and using the maximum quality settings took 5:40 minutes. The print file size of 95 MB contained plenty of detail and the high resolution of the printer rendered that detail extremely well. To gain impact in the file, some tonal scale was sacrificed.
THE SHEER CONVENIENCE OF BEING ABLE TO MAKE A HUGE HEAP OF PRINTS BEFORE INK TOPUPS ARE REQUIRED AND THE LOW INK REPLACEMENT COSTS COMBINE TO MAKE A FORMIDABLE PACKAGE.
This did not put any undue strain on the four-colour inks and the resulting print was just about the equal of those printed with a ninecolour ink set. Top quality prints can be obtained from print files that don’t contain a vast range of subtle tones and detail in both highlights and shadows. The perfect surface of the dyes and their brightness might just be characteristics that sway photographers who may conclude that, if the print deteriorates after seven years under glass then it’s cheap enough to just produce another.
A3 prints made on Epson’s Archival Matte (189 gsm) paper and printed at the ‘Standard’ quality setting with ‘High Speed’ switched off took 2:25 minutes. When, as outlined earlier, the matte paper was deliberately printed as gloss in order to use the ‘High’ quality setting, it took 5:40 minutes
Using a basic four-colour ink printer with fine-art paper would seem to be an over-reach, but for the sake of the exercise some Epson Cold Press Bright sheets were printed from the rear tray. At 340 gsm this paper is about as heavyweight as it gets, yet the printer accepted the paper and turned out a good result as well.
The ET-7750 doesn’t have the capacity for the colour management precision of dedicated photo printers using ICC profiles and multiple inks. Nevertheless, it does produce a remarkable print that would cause the scoffers of yesterday to applaud. Most people and organisations who will purchase this printer don’t expect the utmost in quality or saleable long-term print life. The ‘all-inone’ functionality combined with relatively inexpensive and plentiful ink are the important factors.
BLACK AND WHITE
Using four colours for monochrome printing will usually result in a colour cast. The black and white prints (files allocated the sRGB colour space) had extensive tonal scale, but appeared dullish grey all over. However, there is a way of achieving neutral results by applying the old technique of forcing the use of the black ink only. This approach may not appeal to everybody, but it’s handy to know there is an alternative. It’s worth experimenting with the ‘Plain Paper’ setting to bring the black ink pigment into play along with the ‘High’ quality setting (with ‘High Speed’ switched off).
A standard greyscale A4 print on Epson semi-gloss was produced in 3:15 minutes using the ‘High’ quality and with ‘High Speed’ switched off. The same image on the same paper using the same settings, but with ‘Plain Paper’ type took 55 seconds. At the A3 size, the time was 1:25 minutes. By using ‘Plain Paper’ type only the pigmented black ink is used. This immediately brings in far greater longevity, neutral ‘colour’ and a very fine black dot structure rather than the microweave patterning of inks as per the standard ‘grayscale’ method. By reducing brightness by a -8 value, and contrast by -7, some excellent results were achieved.
The pigmented black on a semi-gloss surface did not exhibit any signs of gloss differential or bronzing. It’s a fascinating comparison between the two methods for making black and white prints and one for the individual to decide if the black-inkonly approach is worthwhile.
Custom paper sizes may be established via ‘Main’, ‘Paper Size’ and ‘User-Defined’ where the width can be from 89 to 297 millimetres and the length from 127 to 1117.6 millimetres. A panoramic image sized at 267x750 millimetres was printed on matte paper at 297x900 millimetres. The printing time with the ‘Standard’ quality setting was just 2:50 minutes. The paper was held by the rear tray without any support and the printer accepted it without any problem. All that was required was the need to catch the paper when it was released. Devotees of panoramic printmaking will be pleased.
Panoramic prints created at the maximum length will need to use paper cut down from rolls. In order to avoid any likelihood of head strike marks, it is recommended the paper be flattened down to avoid curling.
The capacity to be able to work with custom page sizes up to A3 is a distinct advantage for D-I-Y bookmaking. Two 210x230 millimetres books were produced from A4 sheets of Epson’s double-sided 178 gsm matte paper. The first was designed from Adobe sRGB profiled images and the second from Adobe RBG 1998 images. In each case, the appropriate ‘Colour Management’ and ‘Colour Mode’ resulted in accurate results.
To achieve the highest resolution available the gloss paper type was selected to override the ‘Standard’ quality normally locked into matte paper. Although this is a complete mis-match the results were excellent, thanks to the forgiving nature of dyes. The A4 paper was ‘fanned’ to prevent
the likelihood of multiple sheet in-take jams and stacked in the rear paper feeder. No problems were encountered in continuous page printing.
Based on this experience, the Epson ET-7750 is ideally suited to D-I-Y bookmaking and associated projects such as calendars and mini posters. Custom-size pages, high print resolution, vibrant dyes, plentiful ink and the claim (albeit questionable) of ‘up to a 300 year life’ in dark storage could be reason enough to acquire one.
DOING THE SUMS
A3 format multi-functional printers are now available for as low as $200, but only come with small cartridges which aren’t cheap and require regular replacement. It wouldn’t take long for you to have paid more for ink than the printer’s purchase price.
The EcoTank bulk ink system means long-term printing at a far more economical rate per millilitre. Now it’s up to the individual to determine the number of prints likely to be made in a week or month to see how the $200 printer and a pile of cartridges stack up against the initial higher price for the Epson ET-7750 and the cheaper on-going ink costs.
An outlay of $999 would go a long way elsewhere, either towards an A3+ or A2 format inkjet printer with multiple inks sets or a combination such as Epson’s Expression HD XP-15000 model at $499 (replacing the Artisan 1430) with Claria inks rated at 98 years under glass and an A4 multifunctional with bulk inks such as the Epson ET-4550.
Other Epson printers such as the Workforce WF-7610 is A3+ format at $299, the ET-4500 is $499, the SureColor P405 (A3+ with eight pigmented inks for $899 )and the P600 (an A3+ machine with nine inks at $1299) should be considered when you’re working out the comparative economics.
The 70 millilitre ink bottles retail at $22.99 each which works out at about 43 cents per millilitre. It is not uncommon to have an ink cost of over $2 per millilitre for the small cartridges so the cost saving is appreciable. To put this into perspective, some third party inks can be 15 cents per millilitre, but going down that road can have other complications.
Our test Epson ET-7750 was given a thorough workout for two weeks to tackle a variety of projects, including display prints, panoramic prints, A5 greetings cards, book production, post cards, CD/DVD labels, business cards and basic photocopy and scanning. As a four-colour dye-based printer it does a remarkable job, especially when used at the ‘High’ print quality setting with gloss or semi-gloss media.
The ET-7750 is moderate in size and weight and runs quietly, but could damage easily with careless handling of the lightweight plastic trays. The versatility of this printer in having all three trays loaded up at the same time is a boon to print production. A typical arrangement might be to have A4 plain paper in the cassette for copy work or reports, the smaller tray devoted to postcard or 13x18 centimetres photo sheets with the rear tray dedicated for photo printing up to A3 and panoramas. The sheer convenience of being able to make a huge heap of prints before ink top-ups are required and the low ink replacement costs combine to make a formidable package.
Advances made by both Epson and Canon with multi-functional printers have been significant with the bulk ink systems a key component. What hasn’t been adequately addressed as yet is the longevity of the dye ink sets in this category of printers. If Epson can introduce a Claria-type ink set in bulk ink form, it would not only have a winner, but the cheaper third-party ink people could be pushed ‘right out of the picture’. The bottom line is that the ET-7750 requires a lot of printing to make it a viable proposition and here is where small businesses, clubs and schools, for example, would find it to be a very handy facility. However, photo enthusiasts might consider it only as a support unit for a dedicated photo printer that offers larger print-making capabilities, ICC profile management and far greater print longevity. The support role would be for general office duties and printing where long-term print life is not a requirement.
The bulk ink and A3 printing capacity of the ET-7750 create yet another member of the Epson family of home and small business printers. For some it will be the perfect solution and for others it will only make the Epson range of inkjet printers all the more difficult to sort out.
All the contents of the ET-7750’s shipping carton are well wrapped up in sealed plastic wrap.
The two cassettes removed ready for paper loading.
Easy and foolproof ink tank loading via dedicated bottles ensures no spills.
The ET-7750 shown with all the paper trays and the scanner lid open.
Front view of the Epson ET-7750 showing the control panel and colour LCD display panel.