Printing advice. Labs or home?

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3,851
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Scott
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#1
Hi Guys,

I've been doing a fair bit of photos for school kids and babies and I'm at present collecting from Loxley. I use DS Colour when I send away batches of school photos but for the kids who come to me the 6.99 postage is a pain as it eats into my profit.

Loxley are much pricier per photo but this is cancelled out by me collecting and also I can usually collect next day. I'm finding it difficult to make time for the 12 mile round trip though so I've thought about purchasing a printer for printing at home. Obviously though it'd have to be a good quality printer and ideally a 12x8 print would have to cost less than £1 to print.

Questions

Is this realistic?

What would you recommend sub £1000?

I know I could raise my school print packages to cover the postage but I'd rather not as I'm comfortable with the prices as they are. I could also offer digital files only but I'm not keen on this at all.


Regards

Scott
 
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6,405
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Bazza
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#4
i have always used home printers currently an Epson XP-950 which prints up to A3 yet still the size of an A4 printer. Yes more expensive than sending away, for me that is the end part of being a photographer, printing your own work. now what is called "continuous ink flow" is available which makes things a bit cheaper if doing a lot of printing that is
 
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#5
I found home printing the most frustrating part of digital photography (I used to have a darkroom in my film days) It was possible to get an excellent print eventually but it always involved a full waste paper basket! Things may have improved now with profiles etc, but I prefer to just use a good printing service even if the finished article is only 95% of what it could be.
 
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3,536
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droj
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#6
Mitsubishi CP-3800DW - reliable and quick, but it'll break your budget.

But for wall display purposes (some customers will want to do that) - a pigment ink printer.
 
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11,749
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Rich
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#8
Just got a secondhand Canon Pixma Pro 10, prints are excellent, undoubtedly more expensive, but its added another dimension to my hobby.
Don't think you would be disappointed with the quality from this printer, but not sure it would be economical enough for business use
 
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scottduffy
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Scott
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#9
Cheers guys. I've been reading reviews all morning and think I'll stick with Loxley. It's a pain getting to and from there but at least I don't have to wait in for the post from DS Colour and the costs are so similar to home printing that the initial outlay for the printer and inks will probably never be recouped anyway.

Great advice as usual.
 
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11,945
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Jim
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#10
Cheers guys. I've been reading reviews all morning and think I'll stick with Loxley. It's a pain getting to and from there but at least I don't have to wait in for the post from DS Colour and the costs are so similar to home printing that the initial outlay for the printer and inks will probably never be recouped anyway.

Great advice as usual.
I was going to throw in my tuppence worth but I think you have made the correct decision.
 
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3,536
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droj
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#11
But DSCL stuff seems to come the next working day pretty well, or give it an extra day to cover it, and when and how is the postage "6.99"?

My recent batch of A3 prints from them was £4.98 including VAT for postage.
 
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11,945
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Jim
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#12
Royal Mail Recorded From £6.99 per order

Like First class, this is the most cost effective method of delivery that is tracked. Please Note: The recorded tracking service is only a confirmation of delivery service, and cannot be tracked in transit like our Courier service. This service can take between 1 - 10 days. If you require a Nextday service please use either Special Delivery or Courier service.
 
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5,721
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Lewis
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#13
Have you got a decent local lab? I use One Vision Imaging in Coventry as I can just pick up the prints from them.

I used to do a lot of printing at home with an A2+ But found it way more expensive per print before even factoring in buying the printer.
 
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scottduffy
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3,851
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Scott
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#14
Have you got a decent local lab? I use One Vision Imaging in Coventry as I can just pick up the prints from them.

I used to do a lot of printing at home with an A2+ But found it way more expensive per print before even factoring in buying the printer.
Yes mate Loxley is a few miles away.
 
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scottduffy
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3,851
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Scott
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#15
But DSCL stuff seems to come the next working day pretty well, or give it an extra day to cover it, and when and how is the postage "6.99"?

My recent batch of A3 prints from them was £4.98 including VAT for postage.
As admiral says it's 6.99 and can take up to 10 days which is far from ideal.
 
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1,772
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Brian
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#16
Much as I'd like to have the control of printing my own images at home, I simply do not have the space to set up an A3+ printer, and it's not practical to set one up and pack it away again after use, so I decided lab prints are my best option.
For the price of a decent A3+ printer, plus the paper and ink needed, I can get a lot of commercial prints.

I had been using DSCL and was happy with their results, but several people, including members of my photo club, have reported a deterioration in DSCL, both in print quality and return delivery times, although I had not experienced any problems myself.
Prompted by these adverse reports, I decided to look around for an alternative and I tried SIM Lab, who have delivered me some excellent prints.
SIM Labs print pricing structure is similar to DSCL, but their print return service is really excellent.
Although very slightly more expensive than DSCL (£5.50) if they receive your images before 1pm, they offer a next day return service by courier, which has an email update service showing the time slot the delivery will be made to you.
I have recommended SIM lab to a couple of club members, and they both mentioned to me this week that they were very impressed and happy with the SIM labs service.

I have no connection with SIM lab, other than as a satisfied customer.
 
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Jasmine
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#17
We used to use DSCL for some of the paper options they had but not going to do it with them again. Print quality/damage was on the increase and delivery times became too long. Add in a long delivery time, a damaged print so then a reprint and then another long delivery time and it became ridicules. Having to wait a full 10 working days to see if lost prints eventually turn up in the post before they would consider a reprint, then waiting for a reprint with a long delivery time also just became unacceptable. Now we are mostly Loxley with Simlab as a new option as well as a few others.
 
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Beth
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#18
I've used DS Colour Labs a few times and it's been fine, but not used them very recently. 5quid for delivery first class I'll not complain at.

However I know I'm not going to Sim lab due to their rip-off shipping. I live on mainland Scotland, near Inverness, yet they'll charge 14quid instead of £5.50 for delivery. Cheaper to order from Ireland than it is the same blinking island/country.
 

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Krispy and Kremey
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33,027
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Nod (NOT Ethel!!!)
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#19
In a hurry and/or want complete control over the process? Home printing. Otherwise, commercial and wait and hope!
 
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1,416
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Mike
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#20
Not wishing to start a new post as my question is along similar lines, can I ask how do images printed at home compare with prints done in a lab such as those from DSCL? I'm thinking of printers in the £500 plus bracket.

Printers have come a hell of a long way since I last had one at home when prints never seemed to dry or would smudge at the slightest touch and then, if they ever dried, suffer badly from the colours fading. Do modern printers such as Epson and Canon produce the same "hard wearing" prints as a print house? In recent years I've been buying prints in from different labs. I'm now getting in to print competitions with local clubs and would like a bit more control over my prints, mainly from the ordering point of view and reliable delivery times. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
 
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3,886
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Ian
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#21
Not wishing to start a new post as my question is along similar lines, can I ask how do images printed at home compare with prints done in a lab such as those from DSCL? I'm thinking of printers in the £500 plus bracket.
My prints (Epson SP4800 w/OEM inks) are a metric ton better than DSCL (subjectively speaking!). As to the quality of the finished print, that's mainly down to paper. DSCL charge 65p for an A4 print and if I use the same terrible paper, it's about the same cost. However just upgrading to something decent (Fotospeed Plat Etching, 79p/sheet) gets far superior results. At fine art level, they're totally over-priced. A4 on Hahnemuhle (dunno which one) paper is £7.99/print vs £1.60/sheet for the most expensive Hahnemuhle paper if you buy a box yourself.

If you want low cost, high volume, and don't really care about paper, DSCL (or similar) is the way forward. If you want choice and control over your final print, and want to go fine art, with decent paper & archival inks, then buy a printer and DIY. In terms of print-in-your-hand though, printing yourself is never going to be cheaper than the labs. It's only once you add quality into the mix that it becomes competitive. Another downside to DIY, is the faff of getting the printer up and running, the desk space you lose, the ongoing maintenance, and the large up-front cost.
 
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scottduffy
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3,851
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Scott
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#23
My prints (Epson SP4800 w/OEM inks) are a metric ton better than DSCL (subjectively speaking!). As to the quality of the finished print, that's mainly down to paper. DSCL charge 65p for an A4 print and if I use the same terrible paper, it's about the same cost. However just upgrading to something decent (Fotospeed Plat Etching, 79p/sheet) gets far superior results. At fine art level, they're totally over-priced. A4 on Hahnemuhle (dunno which one) paper is £7.99/print vs £1.60/sheet for the most expensive Hahnemuhle paper if you buy a box yourself.

If you want low cost, high volume, and don't really care about paper, DSCL (or similar) is the way forward. If you want choice and control over your final print, and want to go fine art, with decent paper & archival inks, then buy a printer and DIY. In terms of print-in-your-hand though, printing yourself is never going to be cheaper than the labs. It's only once you add quality into the mix that it becomes competitive. Another downside to DIY, is the faff of getting the printer up and running, the desk space you lose, the ongoing maintenance, and the large up-front cost.
Totally hit the nail on the head. For large volume school stuff like I've been doing them DS Colour are the way to go.

For the baby stuff I'm getting into I can see me definitely headed to Loxley or buying a home printer. A few quid here and there won't matter half as much as a really good quality print in the clients hands.
 
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#24
I had been using DSCL and was happy with their results, but several people, including members of my photo club, have reported a deterioration in DSCL, both in print quality and return delivery times, although I had not experienced any problems myself.
Prompted by these adverse reports, I decided to look around for an alternative and I tried SIM Lab, who have delivered me some excellent prints.
I'm interested that people have noticed a deterioration in DSCL print quality. I can provide a possible reason.

Unlike SIM Lab (who I believe accept image files profiled to sRGB), image files for DSCL standard C-type prints must be pre-profiled to their profile. There are different profiles for each paper type (lustre, gloss, pearl etc). If you upload files profiled to sRGB, the colours will be wrong. e.g. if printing to lustre the saturated colours will suffer large hue changes, particularly noticeable with yellows.

If you've been profiling correctly and you were previously using the Java Kiosk but now use the web uploader, here's the likely problem:-

With the Kiosk, files get sent unmodified to DSCL. With the new web uploader, files get converted to sRGB before being forwarded to DSCL. This means DSCL print your file profiled as sRGB, and it looks wrong.

If you're using Photoshop you can convert your image to their paper profile, then save the image without embedding the ICC profile. Then the web uploader won't realise the profile isn't sRGB and won't attempt to convert it. DSCL will therefore receive the correct profiled data. However, it is very bad file management to have image files on your system without embedded ICC profiles, if they are anything other than the default sRGB.

If you're using Lightroom, I'm afraid I can't see any way of saving the file without embedding the ICC profile. Therefore the only alternative is uploading via the Java Kiosk, which means you can't combine an order for standard prints with any of their other products, because they're not supported by the Kiosk.

If you have Photoshop and want to simulate it, open an image in sRGB, then assign (not convert) the profile to the DSCL profile. If that looks like the image you're getting back, there lies your problem!

I have been in touch with DSCL about this and hopefully they will rectify the problem, by not converting profiles for their standard print process. However, I find it extraordinary that this must have been happening for a year or two, perhaps longer, and not been picked up on. It must have cost them business. If you look at the technical support page on their web site it doesn't inspire you with confidence that they're fully on top of colour management. e.g.

"DON'T FORGET TO SAVE YOUR IMAGE IN sRGB AND USE THE CORRECT PAPER PROFILE"

What does that mean? Save profiled to sRGB or save profiled to their paper? It can't be both.
 
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490
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Jasmine
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#25
I'm interested that people have noticed a deterioration in DSCL print quality. I can provide a possible reason.

Unlike SIM Lab (who I believe accept image files profiled to sRGB), image files for DSCL standard C-type prints must be pre-profiled to their profile. There are different profiles for each paper type (lustre, gloss, pearl etc). If you upload files profiled to sRGB, the colours will be wrong. e.g. if printing to lustre the saturated colours will suffer large hue changes, particularly noticeable with yellows.

If you've been profiling correctly and you were previously using the Java Kiosk but now use the web uploader, here's the likely problem:-

With the Kiosk, files get sent unmodified to DSCL. With the new web uploader, files get converted to sRGB before being forwarded to DSCL. This means DSCL print your file profiled as sRGB, and it looks wrong.

If you're using Photoshop you can convert your image to their paper profile, then save the image without embedding the ICC profile. Then the web uploader won't realise the profile isn't sRGB and won't attempt to convert it. DSCL will therefore receive the correct profiled data. However, it is very bad file management to have image files on your system without embedded ICC profiles, if they are anything other than the default sRGB.

If you're using Lightroom, I'm afraid I can't see any way of saving the file without embedding the ICC profile. Therefore the only alternative is uploading via the Java Kiosk, which means you can't combine an order for standard prints with any of their other products, because they're not supported by the Kiosk.

If you have Photoshop and want to simulate it, open an image in sRGB, then assign (not convert) the profile to the DSCL profile. If that looks like the image you're getting back, there lies your problem!

I have been in touch with DSCL about this and hopefully they will rectify the problem, by not converting profiles for their standard print process. However, I find it extraordinary that this must have been happening for a year or two, perhaps longer, and not been picked up on. It must have cost them business. If you look at the technical support page on their web site it doesn't inspire you with confidence that they're fully on top of colour management. e.g.

"DON'T FORGET TO SAVE YOUR IMAGE IN sRGB AND USE THE CORRECT PAPER PROFILE"

What does that mean? Save profiled to sRGB or save profiled to their paper? It can't be both.
Color rendition was mostly fine but it was other quality issues we had with them. Throw in really poor and arrogant customer service as well and... well, they lost us as a customer.
 
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5,721
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Lewis
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#26
My prints (Epson SP4800 w/OEM inks) are a metric ton better than DSCL (subjectively speaking!). As to the quality of the finished print, that's mainly down to paper. DSCL charge 65p for an A4 print and if I use the same terrible paper, it's about the same cost. However just upgrading to something decent (Fotospeed Plat Etching, 79p/sheet) gets far superior results. At fine art level, they're totally over-priced. A4 on Hahnemuhle (dunno which one) paper is £7.99/print vs £1.60/sheet for the most expensive Hahnemuhle paper if you buy a box yourself.

If you want low cost, high volume, and don't really care about paper, DSCL (or similar) is the way forward. If you want choice and control over your final print, and want to go fine art, with decent paper & archival inks, then buy a printer and DIY. In terms of print-in-your-hand though, printing yourself is never going to be cheaper than the labs. It's only once you add quality into the mix that it becomes competitive. Another downside to DIY, is the faff of getting the printer up and running, the desk space you lose, the ongoing maintenance, and the large up-front cost.
I agree with this. My Dad and I had an Epson large format printer, a range of Hahnemuhle papers etc and we made some great prints. However, they weren’t cheap prints and we found that only doing occasional prints burned through loads of ink, making it even more expensive. We have since sold the printer and now use a local lab, who do fine art prints on Hahnemuhle paper, the quality is just as good and the total cost is much less.
 
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Andrew
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#27
Printers have come a hell of a long way since I last had one at home when prints never seemed to dry or would smudge at the slightest touch and then, if they ever dried, suffer badly from the colours fading. Do modern printers such as Epson and Canon produce the same "hard wearing" prints as a print house? In recent years I've been buying prints in from different labs. I'm now getting in to print competitions with local clubs and would like a bit more control over my prints, mainly from the ordering point of view and reliable delivery times. Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
If you use he manufacturers' inks and decent paper then prints from the Canon and Epson phot printers appear to dry quickly last well. In practical terms it seems that modern dye inks last well - so are a reasonable choice along with the pigment ink based printers. I've never had a print smudge in the last few years unless I made a mistake with the paper being fed in wrong side up.

You have to be careful about cost and space and time. Even at the £500 level the rule that the cheaper the printer - the more expensive the ink is per ml still stands as far as I can tell. The more expensive printers have more expensive cartridges but they usually contain proportionately more ink. Bear in mind that your outlay will presumably include a stock of paper and spare cartridges. You need to store this stuff and have space for the printer. If your wanting control involves producing additional test prints then factor in the costs. Also factor in the time. You also need space.

I think the economics of these printers are poor for home use. But that's offset by the fact you have the facility to print conveniently - do test prints and refine the output - and experiment with paper. Though it's worth noting that while I see mention of matt and specvialist papers on the internet - the few photographers that i have met and talked with while out and about who own and use photo printers tend to mainly use more 'mundane' lustre and gloss papers when I ask.
 
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14,344
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Nightmare
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#28
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#30
Get them done commercially. The time messing about with your own printer is better spent elsewhere. You've found someone good and they will always be cheaper than home printing. In my humble opinion obviously.
In my experience printing at home using a good Epson or Canon photo printer gives excellent results. Once you've calibrated your monitor, and mastered the use of correct ICC profiles for the paper in use, you'll get results equal, or superior, to a commercial lab. These results are reliable (and instant) time after time.

HOWEVER, it's always going to be more expensive to print at home. We all have different expectations and requirements. It's your choice - personally I print at home; that's my choice.
 
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Gez
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#32
Once set up you find that even using original inks it will only cost about £1:50-2:00 per A2 plus paper cost with the best papers costing £4-£6 per sheet. Try beating that from a good online printer.
 
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1,772
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Brian
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#33
Price is not an issue, but there's one thing that everyone seems to be overlooking in the choice of a home printer, and that is the size of the thing.
I for one, simply do not have the space to set up an A3+ printer and the sheer bulk of the item makes it impractical to keep setting it up and clearing away again after use.
I have an A4 printer that I use occasionally and a Canon "SELPHY" dye-sub for 6x4 prints, but for club competitions I need something larger than A4.

I decided that for the cost of an A3+ printer, paper and inks, I could get a lot of commercial prints made, which are fine for our club competitions.
An A3 "C"type print from DSCL or SIM Lab costs just over a Pound and I'm sure I couldn't produce an inkjet print at home for anything like that.
 
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14,344
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Nightmare
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#34
Once set up you find that even using original inks it will only cost about £1:50-2:00 per A2 plus paper cost with the best papers costing £4-£6 per sheet. Try beating that from a good online printer.
If you print regularly you won't beat that unless your printer requires frequent expensive repairs or replacement. This should be factored in at some stage.

As an occasional user you may run into things like clogged up lines, dirty heads - even if it is an extra auto clean every week it still adds to the cost. You will also occasionally have a piece of dust or some edge dirt ruining a particular photo so the cost doubles for that one. These should be a one of but if that is the only one that week you get the point.
 
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Gez
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#35
I get the point... I’ve also been printing for nearly 20 years and the head problems seem to have (touch wood) disappeared. Larger printers ink wise cost less per print and the scp800 has quite a small footprint for an a2 printer.
 
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