One of the things I was looking for at MWSF2003 was a good 11x17 full bleed photo printer. Here's what I found.
A funny thing happened while I was looking for an 11x17 (min) full bleed photo printer at MacWorld San Francisco in 2003. Much to my surprise, I got the truth from representatives of no fewer than three printer manufacturers!
At the show, Canon, OKI, Xerox, HP, and Epson were all there showing printers (along with a few other stragglers that I won't bother to mention). OKI and Xerox really weren't showing appropriate technology there, and since I wanted a hands-on demo, I passed them by.
This left HP, Canon, and Epson. Since I thought Epson had some really interesting stuff in the archival ink and cool paper areas (thanks Amanda for steering me in the right direction on this), I went to see the Epson booth first. They had some very interesting stuff there. New inks, cool papers, and a variety of photo-quality printers from cheap to huge (and expensive). Of particular interest were the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 (12x18 capable, 7 color printer) and the Epson Stylus Pro 7600 (24" wide format roll printer with 6/7 colors and photo quality). However, the booth was very crowded, so we left to go see the other offerings.
Upon reaching the HP booth, we talked to one person who sent us to the "Business Printers" section. Upon our description of needing photo-quality full bleed, they sent us to the DesignJet folks (who handle large-format and prepress-quality printing). When I asked the question about recommended printers for our application, I was told "Frankly, we're working on that, but right now you're better off to go with Epson, they're right over there". I was floored. I thought this would be the case, but never imagined an HP rep would tell me that. He offered that for larger format (24"+), they could help, but the lack of archival inks was going to be a killer if we wanted to hang stuff on a wall (as an example).
On to Canon. Canon was showing a wide variety of devices from video to still cameras and many printers and photocopiers, including some full bleed 11x17 tabloid printers. We sidled up to them and asked about our requirements. The gentleman at the booth said "Come out of the booth for a moment, so that I can answer your question accurately." We left the booth (by about 2') and he said "For your requirements, you really need to go talk to Epson, our devices are great for pre-press, but the inks are going to be crucial for your application".
At this point, I was completely flabbergasted. I wanted to buy things from HP and Canon just to reward them for being honest and helpful. However, instead we went to the Epson booth to check out their offerings in more detail.
I'll say, the Epson offerings are indeed quite impressive. Exceptionally high resolution, great papers capability, and some of the most beautiful and colorfast inks I've ever seen. Although I shoot in color at almost all times, the test prints on the 2200 in Black and White were absolutely gorgeous.
So, it looks like the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 will be in my future unless I can find a good reason (and some financial backing) to get a 7600.
To find out more, visit Epson.