Last week Epson introduced a pair of new EcoTank printers that offer a more economical way to print quality photos by using a re-fillable ink tank system. While we covered the Epson ET-8500 ($599), which prints up 8.5 x 11-inch borderless photos, and the ET-8550 ($699), which prints up 13 x 19-inch borderless photos, on our sister site for consumers, Digital Photo, we think these printers might appeal to pro photographers as well.
On the one hand, it’s likely pros will already have a true professional-level printer such as the 13-inch Epson SureColor P700 or the 17-inch Epson SureColor P900 to do most of their premium quality print fulfillment. On the other hand, printing with those inkjet printers can get expensive because of their cartridge-based pigment ink system. Consequently, they’re not suited for everyday office usage (to say the least). Epson’s EcoTank printers could offer multiple printing uses for your studio’s office including photos, graphics, or even text-based documents.
Speaking of office use, the ET-8500 and ET-8550 offer something Epson’s SureColor printers don’t: the ability to scan photos and documents via a built-in high-resolution flatbed scanner. There’s also a 4.3-inch color touchscreen display and easy-access front loading media trays.
We could also see both Epson EcoTank printers giving pros an additional option for making low-cost proofs of photos either at up to 8.5 x 11 inches with the ET-8500, or 13 x 19 inches for the ET-8550.
The Epson ET-8500 and ET-8550 both use a six-color Claria ET Premium ink system. When one of the ink tanks runs out, you refill it with a bottle of replacement ink rather than discarding the entire cartridge as with cartridge-based printers.
Epson says their EcoTank printers with a full set of ink bottles will give you up to two years’ worth of ink, saving about 80% on replacement inks (or about $2000 with each set). This drops the cost of printing a 4×6-inch print to about $0.04 per photo using an EcoTank printer vs $0.40 per photo for an ink cartridge printer. To put that further into perspective, Epson says one set of replacement ink bottles for new EcoTank printers is equivalent to about 100 ink cartridges.
Along with offering a six-color inkset (which include Gray and Photo Black inks for better black-and-white photos), the Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and EcoTank Photo ET-8550 are compatible with Epson’s professional-quality Signature Worthy photo paper line and can print on specialty media up to 1.3mm thick. Both printers work with Epson’s easy-to-use Print Layout Software and can print directly and wirelessly from smartphones using the Epson Smart Panel app.
Pros should be aware, however, that the ET-8500 and ET-8550 use dye-based inks not pigment inks, so the prints won’t have as much longevity as photos from a pigment-based P700 or P900 pro printer. But if you see these two new Epson EcoTank printers as another output option to have in the studio or office, they could be worth exploring.