Musings on Photography

Z3100, Part the 1st

Posted in hp z3100 by Paul Butzi on September 12, 2007


My HP DesignJet Z3100 arrived yesterday. The story so far:

Living in a rural area and getting something big delivered is always a bit of an adventure. The shipping company’s tracking page on its website indicated that they’d be delivering the printer on 9/11/07, and listed interesting details (e.g. weight 225 lbs). I called them in the morning, to see if they could tell me what time to expect the truck. Even narrowing it down to just a few hours would help, I thought. They told me “between 12 and 4”. Ok. I asked them if they wanted directions to get to my place, or details about the driveway, road, etc. Nope, they had it all under control. “Uh huh,” I thought. Well, they had my phone number.

Around noon, the phone rings. The message is that they’ll arrive in about an hour. Sounds good. 45 minutes later, the phone rings again. It’s the driver. “Do you live on road xxx?” he asks. “No,” I reply, “I live on road zzzz, just like it says on the form.” It turns out that they’re reluctant to bring their big semi-tractor-trailer rig up the 2.5 miles of gravel road to my house. I don’t mention that there’s another stretch of gravel driveway – it doesn’t matter. Fortunately, my friend Bryan is there with me, and Bryan has his big van. So we arrange to drive down to town, rendezvous with the truck in town, transfer the printer, and come back. The transfer goes smoothly with the truck driver, Bryan, and I on hand to shift the 225lb huge palletized box.

So in short order, Bryan and I are back at my place, discussing how best to get the huge crate out of his van and into the studio. We get the big payoff from all the gravel work done this summer, because we drive the van around behind the studio and bring the crate (on a little cart) straight into the studio. We do this with no mashed fingers, no broken limbs, no injuries at all. The two of us had no trouble, but this is not a printer you want to take delivery of with just one person to shift it. Too big, too heavy.

Unboxing and assembling the printer went smoothly. All but a few steps of assembly (turning the printer chassis upside down, and then turning it right side up again to set it on the stand) could easily be done by one person.

This was followed by the ritual shaking and installing of ink cartridges, the ritual installing of print heads, and inducing the printer to do its initial calibration/head alignment/calisthenics/etc. This takes a surprisingly long time, and before it’s finished I have to leave to drive into the Really Big City to attend a meeting and see a play. When I arrived home post-play, it was bedtime.

So this morning I got up, and went through the process of installing drivers, etc. Having been warned off installing the drivers and letting them self-upgrade, I instead just downloaded the freshest driver package from the HP website, all 240 MB of it. Took half an hour, it did. But installing the drivers, etc. on the Mac Pro went smoothly and quickly once the download was done, and in no time at all I had the Mac Pro talking nicely to the printer (which is connected directly to my network using the 10/100-base t network connection, and NOT the USB connection). In fact, because the printer talks Bonjour/Rendezvous, the entire setup process takes about 15 seconds to get working – I fire up the setup app, it looks for the printer, finds it, and asks “Is this the printer you want to set up?” One click and I’m there. What a treat!

And in no time, I’ve got the printer calibrating and profiling the paper that came with the printer, which is a very glossy very white stuff. The first time through I got banding on the profile print, and the software suggested that I run a paper advance calibration followed by another calibration/profile to fix that. I ran it, and the banding mostly went away. Calibration and profling takes just about half an hour, so this total of two calibrations and the advance calibration took about an hour and a half what with fiddling around, etc.

And then it was time for the first print, which took only about four minutes (about 1/3rd the time it would take on my 9600). That print looked awesome, but of course it’s on very glossy stuff. The next step was to get it to print on some more desirable paper. So I fired it up on Epson Enhanced Matte. The first print after that calibration was not auspicious, and I finally figured out that the reason it looked so, um, bland was that I had not given the printer the right lie about what sort of paper it was. So I searched around on the HP website, found the document that details how to lie convincingly, and fired up another profile. The next print was better. Not great, but better. Finally, I figured out that I could make an even better lie, and the print is on a par with the 9600, maybe just a smidgen not as good. Remember, now – the claim to fame on this printer is not that it out-prints the 9600 on Epson media, it’s that it will out-print the 9600 on the best media for this printer.

Did I order such media, so that I would have it on hand today? Of course not. I forgot. And anyway, at this point my brain feels like it’s been vacuum extracted from my head and replaced with cotton wool and used coffee grounds. So I took a break. After the break, I fired the printer up profiling Epson Ultrasmooth. I’ll probably do at least two version of that, just to get a sense of how the various lies affect the result.

One startling discovery is that one sort of lie produces a profile which would be perfect for high key prints (large gamut at the light end, poor gamut at the low end) and another sort of lie (which results in laying down more ink) produces a profile which is better for low key prints but worse for high key prints. Talk about discoveries that make you say “Hmmmm.”

I’ve still got a long way to go. None of the media I have on hand is likely to be the media I will settle on in the end, but fiddling with what I’ve got and learning to get the best result is teaching me a lot about the printer’s controls. It most definitely is NOT the case that you can be all tuned up on another printer, switch to a new printer, and be up to speed on the new printer instantly. That might be true if I’d upgraded to an Epson 7800 or Epson 7880 instead of the HP, but the HP is a somewhat different beast and it will take me a little while to come up to speed.

Yesterday, when Bryan and I were first turning on the printer, I just plugged the printer into the wall outlet. At the time, I thought “Jeez, Paul, plug it into that spare UPS.” But I didn’t. Naturally this caused a power failure today, which the printer seems to have survived (I yanked the plug after the power went out and before the generator kicked in). The printer happily started right up when I attached it to the spare UPS and the generator was running, and didn’t glitch when the power came back and we switched off the generator and back to line power. No harm, no foul, that’s my theory. (no word from the power company on the cause for the outage. They rearranged various lines last winter, and assured us all the work would result in more stable power. So far, we’ve had more frequent outages since the changes. Go figure.) I apologize to all 200 odd Puget Sound Energy customers who lost power this afternoon because I failed to plug the printer into the UPS in the beginning.

Box score:
Time for physical setup of printer once the box was inside: about two hours.
Time for printer to come to life, align heads, etc after powerup: something longer than 1.5 hours and less than 8 hours
Time between printer all set up and first semi-decent print: about 2 hours, .5 hour of which is waiting for download of software (could have been done in advance or parallel with physical setup)
Quality of prints so far: on a par with the 9600, and getting better quickly as I come to grips with what all the knobs and dials do.
Stupid moves made by Paul: 1 (not using the UPS)
Other people inconvenienced by stupid move: some 200, according to power company.

7 Responses

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  1. sjconnor said, on September 12, 2007 at 8:57 pm


  2. […] Read More… […]

  3. Simon Minshall said, on September 13, 2007 at 7:00 am

    Ahh, a Blackadder reference. Always good to read!

  4. Mike O'Donoghue said, on September 13, 2007 at 9:53 am

    What in the world? Is your energy supplier so poorly maintained that plugging in a printer can bring down the grid? Am I missing something here?

  5. Bryan Willman said, on September 13, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Paul, Paul, not only did you fail to plug in the UPS, causing the power outage, but you also failed to carry fog latern with you the studio this morning, causing us to be fogged in. I’ll be you forgot your orange socks this morning too…

  6. Alex Brikoff said, on September 13, 2007 at 11:02 am

    So, Paul, if you were to sum up in 20 words or less, with the lessons learned and your experiences thus far, are you happier overall with the new printer? Was it worth switching from an Epson product (short of the faster print time)? I’m really curious to see the prints from your new printer and compare them to a similar print from the Epson.

  7. Richard Siegel said, on October 26, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    do you have the HP website that will take me to the specs on your printer as well as one on how and where to buy it?

    what is the physical size of your printer? also, after using your HP for a while, do you have the kinks out so that you get the wanted results on your paper? if you have the time, give me a short updated idea on how you now like it. also, is there any part of the software of your printer that is not “Mac friendly”? i found this to be the case when i bought my HP LaserJet a couple years ago

    Thank you

    Richard M. Siegel

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