Tuesday, October 9, 2018

REVIEW: Epson SureColor P5000

Epson SureColor P5000Epson SureColor P5000 Standard Edition 17" Wide-Format Inkjet Printer

It's been two years since I first saw the P5000 in New York and since January 2017 when I write my first thoughts on this printer, but Epson USA and I finally got in sync to get one into my studio. I have had a chance put it through its paces with some of the best Epson Professional Imaging Media and I must say that I've been quite happy with it.

For long-time readers of my blog, you may recall, I reviewed the Stylus Pro 4900 in early 2011. I owned it for many years and made many great prints from it until it eventually died from a clogged print head. While time will only tell if this printer meets the same fate, it is claimed that improvements in the inks and a startup routine that clears the nozzles should hopefully reduce the likelihood of that happening again. If it does happen, I'll be sure to report it, but in the meantime I'm sure glad to have this work horse printer back in my studio again. Read on to learn why.

New UltraChrome HDX ink set

I found the UK UltraChrome HDX Ink Set Page to be a little more enjoyable to read than the official press release to learn about what's new ink that comes with this printer. Specifically, it illustrates how the new Photo Black ink has a pigment concentration that is 1.5 times higher, and the new Matte Black of the UltraChrome HDX ink technology has a raised pigment density.Bronzing has also been reduced in Cyan and Magenta.

Using the light light black (LLK) option means users can achieve 98% of Pantone. While choosing violet ink means the gamut increases to 99%, that's mostly important for graphics designers doing content that must match Pantone colors. For photography, you'll still want to stick with the LLK option for the best results with black and white photos as well as shadow details in color photographs.

For those with a Epson P800 that uses Epson UltraChrome® HD ink, the main difference is that the orange, green and yellows are slightly better. I don't think the average user will see the difference, but now that I have both I'd be inclined to use the P5000 over the P800 for prints that I deliver to my most demanding clients. 

Features & Setup

If you read my 4900 review, you pretty much can apply almost everything in it to this review. Nothing has really changed feature-wise other than a different color case and a new and improved ink set.

Sadly my areas of improvements back then remain and I've added a few more at the end of this article.

After downloading the software, setup was easy via USB or Network cable, but sadly wireless support still hasn't arrived.

You can still load the tray up with your favorite papers up to 17x22 as well as a roll of 17" wide paper, and print from either automatically.

And yes, sadly you must still wait for switching between photo black and matte inks so plan you print jobs carefully.

Photoshop CC 2018 (19.1.6)

Printing in Photoshop CC 2018 with the Epson SC-P5000

Printing from Photoshop is a challenge with all of the settings you need to make sure you set properly. Specifically, you must make sure that you set Color Handling in Photoshop's Print Settings to Photoshop Manages Colors (shown above) and your click Print Settings... to set the Media Settings Mode to Custom | Off (No Color Adjustment). If you fail to do this you'll get double color management which means your colors will be very off from what you see on the screen.

You also need to ensure that the Media Type in the driver matches the paper you are using as should the Printer Profile in Photoshop, and this can be rather tricky to figure out for the novice.

Printing in Windows with the Epson SC-P5000
This example shows printing to 13x19" Epson Premium Luster Photo (260) roll paper (not to be confused with Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster). You must also click the Roll Paper Option... button to turn on Auto Cut each time you switch the paper source which is rather frustrating. Finally, for best results you'll want to set print quality to Max Quality.

Advanced Black & White

Epson is famous for great Black & White prints, so I've written a lot about its Advanced Black & White mode (aka ABW). If you aren't familiar with how to use it, the key thing to do is set the color media setting item to Advanced B&W Photo then click the Advanced Button for the custom mode color color controls as shown here:


After clicking the Advanced button from Color Controls you can dial in the Color Toning (which I usually start with Neutral or Greg Gorman's Favorite - Warm)  then set Tone to Dark. I wrote about this topic in my Printing Series and interviews with Greg Gorman and Vincent Versace, so you can learn more about this dialog in those articles. Here's a quick look at my settings though:


The important part to remember in Photoshop is to say "Printer Manages Colors" for Color Handling:


Sounds too complicated? Well that's where the Epson Print Layout app below comes in - and it works exactly the same way on both Windows and Mac. With that said, my ABW article does explain how to use this feature on a Mac if you are interested.

Epson Print Layout 1.3.5

Printing Color in Windows Epson Print Layout with the Epson SC-P5000

Fortunately Epson makes printing much easier these days with Epson Print Layout whereby you simply choose the desired values in the Printer Settings section, make your desired adjustments (if any) in Layout settings and typically you can accept the defaults in Color Settings. Choose your copies and hit print, and everything just works. While you don't get the advantage of soft proofing and gamut warnings like you get in Photoshop, for most users this is the safe and easy way to get accurate color managed prints so I recommend using this software (on Mac and PC) unless you have a strong reason not to.

Sadly, despite choosing the Center "Centering" option, the image still printed on the left side of the page when using roll paper. What's more, there's no "Save Roll Paper" option like you see in the driver so more paper was wasted on the top and bottom.

See this article to learn how to workaround this issue which also occurred on the 4900, but sadly the workaround only applies to sheet paper.

Advanced Black & White Mode

Printing Advanced Black & White on Windows Epson Print Layout with the Epson SC-P5000

I think this is one of the big advantages of Epson Print Layout because Advanced Black & White mode is a little tricky to use, but this app makes it as simple as selecting "Advanced B&W Photo" from Type in the Color Settings section. From there just choose your desired color toning and tone and you are done - so easy!

Getting the Best Results

Yes, Epson ink is expensive but the ink its the secret sauce that makes the prints look so fantastic. It's also a required element for the ICC profiles that are fine tuned to get the best results out of your ink and paper combo. As a result, your best print results will always come from the use of genuine Epson inks made by Epson ONLY for the P5000 and ICC profiles generated on a P5000 (NOT a 4900) for the paper you wish to use. A failure to do this will result in poor quality prints, so my blanket advice is - don't print unless you are using the correct profile and genuine Epson ink!

Since getting the best ICC profiles from third parties can be difficult, the easiest and fastest way to get the highest quality prints is to use use genuine Epson paper. Your printer comes with perfect ICC profiles made specifically for Epson's papers found at https://epson.com/professional-imaging-media.

Click here to find deals on Epson papers at B&H or click here to find deals on Amazon.

I'm a big fan of sample packs to get a feel for what paper works best for me, so here are links to sample packs of my favorite Epson papers:

Also see the end of this article or my printing series for instructions and videos on how to use these papers for your Mac or PC.

Areas of Improvement for the Future

While the ink set has been improved, and the new black case looks great, there doesn't seem to be much else that has improved over its predecessor in 7 years since the release of the 4900. Specifically, I am disappointed the following wish list features didn't get added to the P5000:

  1. Support for wireless printing - including IPP printing (e.g., Mopria, AirPrint, etc...)
  2. 4x6 photo support - this pretty much forces you to get a P800 if you plan on giving 4x6 keep sake photos to friends or clients
  3. Dedicated lines for Photo Black & Matte Black Ink - Switching is a hassle and wastes a ton of ink. Canon has overcome this problem ages ago, so surely in 7 years Epson could have solved this problem. The lack of this feature is actually quite offensive.
  4. Still no "Center to Printable Area" feature for Roll Prints - really?!!! Again, this could have been a simple driver improvement or even a feature in Epson Print Layout, but no.
  5. Performance - Is it any faster? According to my contacts at Epson America, they say "No, it performs about like the 4900. 8" x 10" prints from 0:59 to 2:26  (normal is 1:28) and 11" x 14" prints from 1:42 to 4:04 (normal is 2:31)"
  6. No Driver Improvements - No meaningful driver changes from the 4900 means its far behind in terms of features and user friendliness when compared to the Canon PRO-1000 & PRO-2000 that I also use in my studio.

Click here to see my Q&A with Epson America when this printer was being launched for more details about what's changed.


It's been a while since I used my 4900 and sadly it died due to a clogged print head, so I was reluctant to decide if I should even bother reviewing this printer. Now that I have it, I forgot how fast and enjoyable this printer is to use. In fact, I looked back and saw how a majority of my printing was done on 4900 when it was in service. Since P5000 arrived I've found myself wanting to use it for its blazing speed and flexibility of doing roll and sheet paper without the hassle of any manual switching.

With that said, Canon's lack of roll support for 17" means this is really the only game in town for high quality 17" roll printing. While the P800 can do roll printing in a pinch, it's lack of a built-in cutter makes it less practical for those who enjoy doing banner printing.

In the end, I consider this a great printer for those doing large workloads on a weekly basis - not the occasional print. Professional event, wedding, school portrait, etc... photographers who do high volume printing on a weekly basis are going to appreciate its blazing speed and large capacity tray - even if you never print on roll paper. If this is you, then I highly recommend this printer.

Users making the occasional print are much better served with the P800 for its ease of use for everyday printing, and a head that is less likely to clog. If you are serious about roll printing then you'll want to move up to the 24" or larger model as 17" is pretty small in the world of "large format" printing - ESPECIALLY when doing canvas wraps.

Where to Buy?

CLICK HERE to learn more or buy today from B&H and consider one of these covers while you are at it to keep the dust away.

Other articles you may enjoy

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For casual users, I also recommend you consider these reviews:

Enjoy these and more on the Reviews tab as well as Ron's Recommendations.


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