I’ve reviewed several professional-grade photograph and graphic arts printers, but few are as sophisticated as the Epson SureColor P5000 ($1,995). Classified by Epson as a “production” printer, this huge beast churns out breathtaking images and artwork up to 17 inches wide on either single-sheet or roll media, and, compared with its competitors, it handles several functions, including switching from cut sheets to paper roles, gracefully. Other than its huge footprint and girth, which may make it difficult to find a suitable place to put it, the P5000 is one impressive machine—to the extent that it easily walks away with an Editors’ Choice nod for professional-grade photo and artwork inkjet printers.
Make Way, and Prepare to Be Wowed
The SureColor P5000, which measures 15.9 by 34 by 30.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 114 pounds, comes in three different iterations: the Standard Edition ($1,995) reviewed here, designed for printing photographs and artwork; the Commercial Edition ($1,995) for commercial and flexographic (packaging and labeling) proofing applications; and the Designer Edition ($2,495), which comes with advanced RIP (raster image processing) and color-matching software. It’s much too big and heavy for the average desktop. Whatever you put it on will need to have a large surface area and be quite sturdy. Without reinforcement, it won’t sit on, say, a table top; even if the table is sturdy enough to hold the printer up, most likely, it will rock and sway with the movement of the printhead.
By comparison, the P5000’s smaller, less-expensive SureColor P800 sibling is about half as big and weighs 43 pounds (or 49 pounds with the roll adapter and paper). And the Canon imagePrograf PRO-1000, at 11.2 by 17 by 28.5 inches and weighing 70.5 pounds, is also dwarfed by the humongous P5000.
The primary difference between the Standard and Commercial Edition of the P5000 is that the latter has, in place of the Standard Edition’s light light black (LLB) ink, an new violet (V) ink, which increases the color gamut to the extent that the P5000 can match up to 99 percent of the Pantone Plus solid-coated spot color library. Spot colors are, of course, used in packaging and other marketing materials to maintain color consistency for branding purposes.
Altogether, the P5000 Standard Edition utilizes 11 inks: light black (LB), light light black (LLB), matte black (MB), photo black (PB), vivid magenta (VM), vivid light magenta (VLM), yellow (Y), light cyan (LC), cyan (C), orange (O), and green (G). You get 11 80-milliliter starter cartridges in the box, which may sound like a lot of ink—because it is. This should allow you to print many photos, posters, panoramas, and banners before having to buy new cartridges. (For some perspective, though, replacement tanks hold 200ml. The printer actually uses only 10 inks at a time. It switches back and forth (automatically) between matte black and photo black as required by the job or paper type.
As mentioned, the P5000 supports sheet media from 8 by 10 inches to 17 by 22 inches, from either a 250-sheet paper drawer or a one-sheet override top-loading slot. You can use the front slot for one-up jobs to bypass the main drawer, or for printing on thicker card stock and other heavy media up to 1.5mm. The paper roll holds paper and canvas rolls from 13 to 17 inches wide, and it has both a mechanized and manual paper cutter. In addition, the roller itself is mechanized, meaning that it rolls, feeding paper, in sync with the print engine, which Epson says is more accurate than simply pulling the paper off the roll and dragging it through the printer, as its lower-end siblings do. The maximum printable length from the roller is, according to Epson’s spec sheet, 529 inches (or about half a 100-foot roll).
And, perhaps one of the P5000’s more impressive features is that you can switch back and forth between the cut sheets and roller paper automatically, from the control panel, which consists of a handful of buttons and the 2.7-inch non-touch color LCD. The P5000’s maximum resolution is 2,880 by 1,440 dpi, and Epson says that its UltraChrome HDX pigment ink’s longevity (without fading) is up to 200 years for color pages and 400 years for monochrome (or grayscale) pages.
Setup and Software
Because of its weight and size, you’ll need at least two people—perhaps even three—to get it out of its box. After that, between the packing material (including the palette Epson sent this review unit on), box, and unwrapping and loading the 11 ink cartridges, you’ll end up with a good-size pile of trash.
Connectivity options consist of Ethernet networking or connecting to a single PC via USB—no Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi Direct here, which is understandable, given that the amount of data you’ll most likely be sending from your PC to the printer will be prodigious—printing photos taken on your smartphone or tablet on the P5000 would be overkill. For testing, I connected it to an Ethernet network and printed from our standard Intel Core i5 PC running Windows 10 Professional.
In addition to the drivers, Epson also includes its Epson Print Layout software. If you’ve ever printed high-end graphics layouts and/or high-resolution photographs from Adobe Photoshop or another professional-grade design or photo-editing application, then you know what a chore it can be making sure that all the appropriate settings are correct. Epson Print Layout launches inside the design or photo-editing software and presents you with a complete set of color correction and numerous other finishing options, sort of a checklist that allows you to dot your i’s and cross your t’s before you print.
The program also has numerous other finishing options, such as setting borderless printing, choosing paper profiles, or creating and saving your own output profiles. It contains profiles for all Epson premium papers, and you can add your own. It even automatically stitches images together for creating impressive panoramas.
Outstanding Prints at Respectable Speeds
If you start with quality digital images or artwork, the Epson P5000 will do them justice. Like its siblings, the SureColor P600 and SureColor P800, as well as its competitors, the Canon imagePrograf PRO-1000 and the Pixma PRO-100, you’ll get outstanding, often breathtaking, results. The huge color gamut provides highly accurate color matching, and the P5000’s high resolution delivers very detailed images. I printed several images and artwork, from 8-by-10s to 17-by-22-inch photos, as well as a few banners and panoramas on several different types of Epson premium paper, including Premium Luster Photo, Canvas, and Ultra Premium Matte, with nothing but impressive, sometimes exquisite (depending on the content itself) results.
While the P5000 and this class of high-end inkjet printer in general aren’t necessarily fast, they’re fast enough for what they do. In other words, within reason, of course, print speed is not one of the main criteria buyers of machines like this are concerned with. That said, I did run several tests, printing highly colorful and detailed photos, artwork, and brochure layouts. I timed and compared the photograph output results with those from other professional-grade photo printers PCMag has tested, primarily the Canon imagePrograf Pro-1000 and the Epson SureColor P800.
Recall that the P5000’s minimum printable area is 8 by 10 inches; hence, it’s not capable of printing 4-by-6-inch and 5-by-7-inch snapshots. Both the Pro-1000 and the P800 are, however, capable of printing both smaller sizes—something you might want to consider if you think your clients might require snapshots. Depending on content, the P5000 averaged about 1 minute 50 seconds to churn out 8-by-10 borderless photos, whereas the P800 and Pro-1000 averaged about 3:50.
Moving up in sizes, the P5000 printed our sample borderless 13-by-19 photos at an average of 6:49, which is about 2:13 faster than the P800 and 2:36 quicker than the P-1000. When printing our 17-by-22-inch borderless photos, the P5000 churned at an average of 8:02. The P800 came in 4:28 slower, and the PRO-1000 was 1:24 behind. Finally, the P5000 printed out a 17-by-120-inch banner (which, remember, the PRO-1000 can’t do) at an average time of 36:12, or more than 22 minutes faster than its smaller and less-expensive SureColor P800 sibling.
Keeping the P5000 Up and Running
We (and printer manufacturers) don’t measure running cost for these high-end pro photograph printers as we do for most other models, where we calculate a separate monochrome and color cost per page based on advertised cartridge yield sizes and prices. Instead, for these high-end ink guzzlers, we calculate running costs by the milliliter. This doesn’t really tell how much each print would cost, but then greatly varying page sizes and differing amounts of ink used for each print makes calculating the cost per page a moving target.
That said, Epson P5000’s 200ml ink tanks all list for $86.95. Using these advertised ink volumes and prices, I calculated the cost per milliliter at 43 cents. Both the Epson P800 and Canon Pro-100, on the other hand, utilize only 80ml cartridges that sell for roughly 70 cents and 75 cents per milliliter, respectively. In other words, the P5000’s per ml cost is close to half that of these other two printers, and given how much ink all of them use in most photos and artwork (especially at 17 inches wide), that’s a significant difference.
In addition, you won’t be using plain copy paper with any of these machines. Epson’s selection of premium photo and art paper is extensive, and, as long as you have the correct ICC profiles (most premium paper makers provide profiles for the P5000 and other printers like it) you should get the best compatibility, and therefore the best results, from your printer. A 25-sheet box of Epson’s 13-by-19-inch Exhibition Fiber paper will run you about $99 a box, or roughly $4 per sheet. A 16.5-inch by 100-foot roll of Premium Glossy Photo Paper sells on Epson’s site for $93—you get the idea. The per-page price of a roll depends on, of course, what size you print (and how much paper you waste).
Worth Every Penny and Every Inch of Space
The Epson SureColor P5000 costs a lot and it weighs a lot—but more than makes up for this in performance and features. It prints superb photographs and artwork in stunning, brilliant color and terrific grayscale, on cut sheets up to 17 inches wide or roll media up to several feet long. And some of its most impressive features—going from cut sheets to roll paper and switching between matte black and photo black inks, and back again, for example—are automated and mechanized. I’m reasonably sure that most professional photographers and graphics artists will want one. I know that I do. Making it our Editors’ Choice for high-end, professional-grade photo and artwork printers is an easy choice.