If you’re a photographer who feels like you’re spending more money on printer ink than you are on your groceries, Epson’s new EcoTank photo printers could be for you. Rather than use pricey cartridges that always seem to run out of ink quicker than you expect, the new Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and EcoTank Photo ET-8550 feature more economical, re-fillable ink tanks.
The Epson ET-8500 ($599), which prints up 8.5 x 11-inch borderless photos, and the ET-8550 ($699), which prints up 13 x 19-inch borderless photos, use a six-color Claria ET Premium ink system. When one of the ink tanks runs out, you refill it with a bottle of replacement ink rather than discarding the entire cartridge as with cartridge-based printers. (While we haven’t actually refilled an EcoTank printer ourselves, we’ve seen a demonstration of the process and it seems fairly easy and not messy.)
According to Epson, their EcoTank printers with a full set of ink bottles will give you up to two years’ worth of ink, saving about 80% on replacement inks (or about $2000 with each set). This drops the cost of printing a 4×6-inch print to about $0.04 per photo using an EcoTank printer vs $0.40 per photo for an ink cartridge printer. To put that further into perspective, Epson says one set of replacement ink bottles for new EcoTank printers is equivalent to about 100 ink cartridges.
The ink savings won’t come at the expense of high-quality photo prints, Epson says. Along with offering a six-color inkset (which include Gray and Photo Black inks for better black-and-white photos), the Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and EcoTank Photo ET-8550 are compatible with Epson’s professional-quality Signature Worthy photo paper line and can print on specialty media up to 1.3mm thick. Both printers work with Epson’s easy-to-use Print Layout Software and can print directly and wirelessly from smartphones using the Epson Smart Panel app.
On the downside, it’s worth noting that the EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and EcoTank Photo ET-8550 use dye-based inks not pigment-based, so the photo prints won’t have as much longevity as those from some of Epson’s true professional printers. On the other hand, the EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and Photo ET-8550 offer features Epson’s pro printers don’t have including scanning capability via a built-in high-resolution flatbed scanner. There’s also a 4.3-inch color touchscreen display and easy-access front loading media trays.
While, as we said, we haven’t tested these new Epson EcoTank photo printers out just yet, the reported savings in ink costs make them strong rivals to Epson’s own Expression Photo XP-8600, a cartridge-based inkjet printer that we named “the best budget photo printer of 2021.”