Ink efficiency – class action lawsuit or storm in a teacup?

Over the past week, a couple of articles and videos have gone around the web, essentially alleging that Epson printers waste between 10 and 25% of their ink, depending on the printer model. A few comments are in order.

Innards of an inkjet printer. The evil ink cartridges are at number 3.
Innards of an inkjet printer. The evil ink cartridges are at number 3.

In tests I’ve read, Epson printers have consistently won for print quality and longevity. Epson apparently sells quality pigment inks that resist fading for a hundred years or more, under normal exposure conditions.

In the same tests, cartridge efficiency is often considered. Nothing special is done in the test, the cartridge is used as normal and any wastage that would normally occur, also occurs in the tests. Epson does not, based on such tests, have a reputation for being much more expensive to print with than other companies – be they Canon, HP or Lexmark.

Essentially, when you buy an Epson photo printer (and I don’t mean the small ones, I mean A3+ or bigger), it’s because print quality is your prime consideration. You want to use the best pigment and are willing to put up with the occasional maintenance that these divas require. It’s a considerable investment, and you SHOULD be an informed customer. This is not the kind of item you pick up out of boredom while waiting at the supermarket check-out.

Natural ultramarine pigment. It makes things blue.
Natural ultramarine pigment. It was used by Renaissance painters to make things blue.

Now, there is nothing written in law or anywhere that gives you an entitlement to being able to use 100% of what’s in the cartridge. Most people would realise that there will be some residue. Alleging a conspiracy by Epson to not use the cartridge fully is just taking this way too far.

Yes, in a theoretical world where 100% of your cartridge could be used, your prints would get a little cheaper, so by all means let’s put some pressure on Epson and other companies to improve the ink efficiency, not least for general environmental reasons (although obviously the overall impact from photographic printing is negligible, given it’s such a niche activity), but let’s also hold back on calls for heads to roll, because that’s just silly.

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