Musings on Photography

Z3100 – some more observations

Posted in equipment, hp z3100 by Paul Butzi on September 20, 2007


Things I like about the z3100:

  1. I like the way HP have used the LCD display on the printer, to give user prompts during paper loading, to give printer status in a detailed way, and so on. Best feature in this regard is the display while printing, which gives the time remaining. Amazingly, this continuously updated estimate seems to be very accurate. Not so amazingly, when I interpret “7 minutes” as a suggestion to go out, throw the ball for the dog, and return in 7 minutes, what happens is that I return in 5 minutes and spend two minutes standing slackjawed in front of the printer watching the final two minutes count down. When calibrating and profiling, and when waking up from a nap, etc. the printer sometimes engages in periods of rapt self-contemplation which run tens of seconds, and it’s reassuring to look at the display and read the equivalent of “I’m busy thinking hard”.
  2. Although several reviewers have complained about the print basket, I find it a lot nicer than the one on my 9600, which is easy to dislodge/break, hard to get prints out of, and looks ugly. In contrast, the one on the z3100 seems robust, is easy to get prints out of, and does not offend my sense of aesthetics.

There are things I don’t like, of course.

  1. When you’re going to get set up with a new paper, you must first go and start the calibrating/profiing process, and create the new paper type, or else you can’t select the proper paper when you load the printer. But if you leave the printer in some partly loaded state (because, say, you’ve forgotten all this and have loaded the paper up to the point where you realize you can’t pick the paper type), you can’t get the calibration/profiling stuff started, and thus you have to unload the paper, start the process up, and the load the printer. Petty, yes. But annoying. Probably there’s some way out of this bind that I haven’t yet found.
  2. That fan is really bugging me. Caveat: it’s only bugging me when the fridge is not running. And it only bugs me because I hate stray noise with near incandescent hatred and live in a place where it’s really quiet. I got up this morning and wondered what the racket was, and it turned out to be construction equipment working on the road more than a mile away from my house. Ordinary mortal humans who do not possess Superman-like hearing would probably find this a non-issue. Don’t ask me how I can be halfway deaf in one ear and still be hypersensitive to ambient noise, I don’t understand it either.
  3. The HP papers don’t seem to come in 17″ widths. Since most of my work prints are 10″x15″ printed on 14″x17″ paper, this is an annoyance, especially since my Rotatrim makes a nasty squeaking noise these days. Maybe I’ll buy a new rotary trimmer.
  4. loading paper is a bit of a hassle, because you have to stand behind the printer to load it, and you must either stand in front of the printer to read the prompts on the display, or else stand behind it, lean over the top, and read the display upside down. Years of view camera use made me more or less indifferent to viewing things upside down but the leaning over the printer part is annoying. In general the printer is more fussy about paper loading than the Epson printers are.

The most important things I’ve learned so far are:

  1. I thought I was getting weak blacks from the z3100. That’s not it. What’s actually happening is that the z3100 on the better papers (and even on the not so much better ones) gives much better separation (both color and tonal) down in the darkest regions, so when I was seeing detail in those shadows that are blocked on the 9600 prints, I was interpreting that as ‘not as black’. Two points: I can adjust some of my images to print some regions darker, and also I am looking forward to not engaging in the hair-tearing and garment rending when trying to get detail down in those low shadows. This turns out to be fairly important for the photos I’ve been making recently so I’m very excited about this.
  2. There are many papers I like better than the Epson Ultrasmooth that is my paper of preference on the 9600.
  3. Being able to switch instantly from photo black ink to matte black ink is more of a boon than I expected, and I had really high expectations.
  4. You might think that printer speed doesn’t matter much because you don’t print huge volumes. That’s what I thought before I got the z3100. I was wrong. The faster print speed is really, really nice.


3 Responses

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  1. ohmyitaly said, on September 20, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    Welcome to the circle of Z3100 users. You can find a collection of useful postings about this printer in the forum of luminous landscapes:
    There is also a Wiki on

  2. […] Read More…(Part 4) […]

  3. […] 7760 … way behind the times. I’ve read several of Paul Butzi’s post about his new z3100 printer, which is a $6,500 printer. That guy loves to print. I don’t see one of these in my future, […]

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