I bought a printer. Mainly for my Alpine Panoramics project. It’s pretty big. It was delivered on a pallet:
The box (still on the pallet) then sat in my neighbour’s garage for a few days while I figured out how to get it into my apartment and contemplated if I’d made a mistake:
I was relieved I didn’t order the next size up. This is merely a 24” roll printer and not the 44” version (or the 60” for that matter). Anyway, fortunately the box contained a good amount of protective packaging so the printer itself is a bit smaller than the pictures would suggest. So we eventually got the printer into my apartment and I’ve been creating prints for a couple of months now. Here’s a 56cm wide by 150cm long panoramic print being created:
Neat! Here’s the same print on my proofing table, which is 180cm in length to give an idea of scale1:
So far I’ve been very happy. It seems modern inkjet printer technology has come on quite a bit, and these things are far less hateful than they used to be. You can read more of the specifications and shiny new builtin features here.
Small digression here: I once sat on a chairlift in Gstaad with a [retired] lawyer who had defended one of the well know printing companies. He explained that printers are the perfect storm of hardware, software, chemistry, mechanics, paper science, and fluid dynamics. The big names have poured billions into R&D to get the technology to where it is today, and that’s why they got a little annoyed when third parties started offering cheap ink refill cartridges.
I guess the obvious question, however, is why did I buy this?
Cost, plain and simple. I sell prints, both online and in a local gallery. Up until now I had been using a third party to print my photos and that involved a significant cost in both money and time. So much so that even selling 9,000.- CHF of prints last year meant I only just made a profit:
- 9,012 CHF - gross sales
- 1,622 CHF - commission to the gallery
- 2,400 CHF - rental cost of space for 12months in the gallery
- 4,500 CHF - approx cost price of prints/framing/mounting
- = 490 CHF - approx profit
That’s approx 5% profit. That doesn’t include my investment in time either. I spend every Saturday afternoon in the gallery, and have done for six years. I also had to drive to Lausanne and back to pick up most of my prints given their size. 1hr or so each way + petrol. So really I didn’t break even.
By purchasing the printer I have reduced two of my key costs. The prints are now costing me less than 20% of what I used to pay for them2, and I will no longer need to drive to pick them up. I can also print to demand so can offer them for sale online with a turnaround time of a couple of days rather than a couple of weeks.
That’s a big win, and if I have a year like the last the printer will pay for itself quite quickly. The framing/mounting is still a significant cost, but the “approx cost price” figure above should be about half of what it was.
I can’t really find an alternative for the framing/mounting, and the last missing part is scanning to high enough resolution to allow me to print these 35mm (Xpan) negatives up to this size. I’ll talk about the frustrations in that area in the next blog post…
Prints this big I usually have mounted on aluminium. The cost of that (for this particular size) is approx 270.- CHF. If you factor in the print cost (which used to be around 210.- CHF) and the 20% commission taken by the gallery I would have to sell this mounted print at about 600.- to break even. ↩
So from the above, a 150x56cm print that used to cost me 211.- CHF now costs me 34.- CHF (29.5 for paper, 4.- for ink). We probably need to factor in wastage but so far that has been minimal. ↩