Epson Stylus Pro 4880 user printer experience report
Part four: swapping matte and photo black inks

I wanted to conduct tests to see if there is any difference between 8–bit and 16–bit printing (i.e. if 16–bit drivers are better in reality or only in theory), as well as whether switching from Adobe RGB to Pro Photo RGB colour space would improve quality of output. This kind of test is best done on glossy paper because it has a wider colour gamut and higher contrast. As I initially installed matte black ink, a swap to photo black ink to print on glossy paper was called for. At the same time, I was quite curious as to how bad the black ink swapping problem actually is and how much ink is wasted in the process.

The process of changing from matte black to photo black ink took just under 15 minutes. All this time you have to stand by the printer and implement its instructions (basically, lowering and raising ink levers back and forth). The screenshot below shows how much ink was left before the swap; roll your mouse over the image to see how much ink was left after the changeover. Apart from the matte black ink (#1; 220ml) all cartridges were 110ml; note that the photo black ink cartridge (#1; 110ml, too) was new and full before the switchover, i.e. when mouse is rolled over the picture shows how much ink is required to fill in the ink line.


Epson 4880C: the amount of ink wasted when switching from matte to photo black ink

The first thing you notice is that swapping the black inks does indeed squander a lot of ink—roughly 13% of each 110ml cartridge (I measured cartridge #8 only; unfortunately Epson software does not show the amount of remaining ink in %). 13% is roughly USD9.10 per 110ml cartridge—and this is the cost of one–way trip only.

The second thing you notice is that all eight ink lines were purged (some online reports erroneously suggest that only four ink lines have to be flushed out, which probably is derived from the fact that the printer's black ink conversion kit contains only three empty cartridges). Also notice that maintenance tank service life has decreased from 72% to 55%.

After switching to photo black I printed a dozen of A4–sized photographs and decided to change back to matte blank ink. The screenshot below shows how much ink was left when I attempted to do so. The reason I say "attempted" is that when I actually tried I received a warning that there was not enough ink in cartridges #5 and #7 (light black and vivid light magenta)—despite the fact that they were still more than one–third full. It was enough to continue printing but insufficient to swap inks. Imagine my frustration at being stuck in this awkward situation and having to prematurely buy new cartridges...


So I buy and install two new cartridges (this time around they are 220ml—as I mentioned earlier, Epson do not sell 110ml cartridges in China) and finally switch back to matte black ink. The screenshot below shows how much ink was left before the changeover; roll mouse over to see how much ink was left after the swap (once again, cartridges #2, #3, #4, #6, #8 and photo black are 110ml; cartridges #5, #7 and matte black are 220ml).


Epson 4880C: the amount of ink wasted when switching from photo to matte black ink

The process of changing from photo to matte black ink took just over ten minutes. Again, a lot of ink was wasted and maintenance tank service life was further decreased. Moreover, I am now left with two open 220ml cartridges and two unfinished 110ml cartridges of the same colour that still hold somewhere between 1/3 and 1/4 of ink.

In the final analysis, swapping black inks is a stinging pain you–know–where indeed. So much for curiosity—I will stick to matte papers and not swap the inks again unless I really have to (or someone pays for it). If you envision switching between glossy and matte papers on a regular basis, I would advise to consider the Canon iPF5100 instead.

Part one: why Epson?

Part two: Epson 3800 vs. Epson 4880

Part three: unexpected surprises

Part four: swapping photo and matte black inks

Part five: printer driver

Part six: 8–bit vs. 16–bit printing

Part seven: print head clogging

Part eight: final thoughts