Printing Ink Costs & CISS












Prices at 2 Mar 2008 in Australian dollars.
I have to admit to not printing my photographs much anymore, I have a Flickr account and when I come back from a trip that has a lot of images, I will make a presentation with FotoMagico or iPhoto and force my family to sit through the presentation.

However I occasionally want a print in my office or to decorate my home walls or to give to others. In these cases I will usually head to Office Works, Harvey Norman or BigW and use the fine printing services there. Recently I signed up with HP's SnapFish with 50 prints for free, and they turned out nice and seem quite reasonable for 19 cents a print.

Then my brother in law came over and he mentioned a printing system that drastically reduces the printing costs of your home printer. The Continuous Ink Supply System (CISS) has a big container of ink sitting next to your computer with little tubes that run into specially modified versions of ink cartridges. The printing costs via CISS effectively makes your printer competitive with the retail printing services and much better value in some cases.

I have an old Canon IP4200, the CISS from RIHAC cost me $150 (inc delivery from ebay) and is the equivalent of 10 sets of ink cartridges which would cost from $1000 to $1300 for genuine Canon cartridges, or from $600 to $750 for non-genuine/refills (Inkjet Wholsale). A HUGE saving. The CISS has easy refills that make for even cheaper per print cost. The CISS refills are about $65 delivered, for 10 cartridge sets equivalent. $65 instead of $1300. ($Australian)

Another way to look at it : get some good 6x4" photo paper from somewhere like OfficeWorks and you can get about 20cents a print (depending on the cost of the paper), but the real value is in printing A4 or 8x12"; with some excellent 250gsm high gloss paper (I got a 50 pack of Kodak Premium Photo Paper, 250gsm gloss for $30) you can print A4 for under $1 (ink & paper), or $2 if you go for the uber expensive Canon Photo Paper Pro Super High Gloss. Under half that of the retail printing service.

Which brings me to the downside of the CISS for the IP4200. CISS is a bugger to install for Canon. You have to remove the chips from the original cartridges and place them on the CISS. You have to install silicon seals, tape the lid sensor down, install a metal arm, transfer ink out of the air balance chamber, and figure out how to reset the alert system. None of which is difficult and the instructions provided are very good. The process takes a while, requires you to read carefully, wear gloves, use a stanley knife very carefully, operate a soldering iron, and use a syringe. The process is not as scary as it sounds but it sure isn't as simple as just clicking the cartridges in.

The great news for other printer makes is that you don't have to bother with much of this. HP and Epson printers are much easier to install as the chips are included, no stanley knife to remove old chips or soldering iron to stick them on. I almost went out and bought a new Epson because of this.

I'm not sure any of this is approved by the printer manufacturer so warranty issues are questionable. But with the low price of printers these days, I'm not really concerned with getting the system repaired. Let's face it, after using the CISS once, I could easily buy 4 printers with the money I save.

Another potential flaw in the plan is that some third party inks last nowhere near as long as genuine inks. Check out your supplier's information on their ink. There has been much discussion and argument over standards for fade testing with ANSI designing a rating system to be announced in the near future. Check out Wilhelm Imaging Research, although there is some discussion about his testing conditions and anecdotal reports of reversed results. This area obviously needs more study. The ANSI rating will be a great help for we consumers. You can take steps to reduce fade or extend the life of the print by laminating, framing behind glass or using a photo spray. Also consider the environment you're placing the photo in; try to avoid direct sunlight, heat, humidity and smoke.

For comparison I created a printing price table. I took all due care to copy the details across but I can make mistakes so I strongly recommend you check out each sites web site for full pricing details. Information displayed here should be only taken as a rough guide, the CISS are my estimations only. There are all other sorts of factors including paper and ink quality that you need to take into account. Plus you don't have to buy and maintain a printer if you use the retail printing services, and you aren't restricted to size (generally).

I've just had the system for a little under a week and already I've produced dozens of 6x4 and a dozen A4 prints. The quality is amazing. My house walls are in for a shock.


Morte said...

Has anyone else found the bug in HP photo quality output where the spool buffer in Windows basically prints out half a photo quality A4 print, and then you get the flashing error light, essentially wasting your photo paper or card - happens time and again, irrespective of the source XP computer (I have tried this on about 6 of them), and this same problem has occurred on a HP 639c, a 640c, and on a PSC1350...
No issue with non-photo quality output, high quality is fine, normal is fine, draft is fine - I'm sure there is something screwy in the amount of data overflowing the HP's buffer from the windows spool daemon. (Neoporcupine will no doubt point out that this probably would not be an issue on OS/X)

Basically, I've been put right off photo printing - what's the point of printing when there's no more space on my walls - besides which, they look fine on my 62" loungeroom HDTV, or my 26" widescreen PC monitor, or either of my two 21" work monitors or 19" LCD screen or even the spare 19" CRT - If I want to force my family to look at my boring pics, I can take them anywhere on my 11" tablet PC, or on my usb powered 250Gb drives so they can see them on their PC monitors... My wife looks at pics of our cat on her own laptop...

Sorry, what was my point? Oh, that's right, I don't think CISS is a bad idea, it's a damn great idea, just not for someone who has gone beyond needing to print stuff out on paper.

neoporcupine said...

Absolutely! I used to take crap photos too. :)

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