Laid my hands on a new Epson 2200 today. My opinion (FWIW):
Up till now, I was using HP 9xx series for rough stuff, and HP 1280 for 11x17 and portfolio prints. Both are 2400 dpi inkjets and have given me very good print quality for general work. Short-comings were black level, and a necessity to use higher priced Kodak paper for good contrast and blacks.... (I used the cheap Office Depo stuff ($30 per 100, and often on sale 2 for 1) for proofing and contact sheets) but with the Kodak paper, the inks didn't penetrate as much, so there was a lot more stickiness to the prints. I also generally "punched up" the contrast and clipped the black level up a notch right before printing to get the best visually pleasing prints.
Made my first print off the Epson 2200 and laid it side-by-side to the best print of the same image from the HP. Both were printed from the same file, on the same paper stock, at the same resolution. Glossy photo paper using the photo-black cartridge.
Visually, there was a noticeable, but somewhat subtle difference in just esthetic appeal. Blacks blacker.... a little snappier (and not just due to contrast). To me, the skintones looked smoother. To a non-photographer, there would probably have been little difference.... but I will say I have at times seen subtle microbanding with the naked eye from the HP prints.
Under a loupe, the difference was striking. Pixelation was very noticeable in the HP prints, but much finer pixelation on the Epson print. There does appear to be some slight microbanding in the Epson print. The pixelation in the Epson is also much more uniform and acceptable, where the pixelation in the HP print is very distinct single-color dots. The Epson print looks more like film grain and the HP like digital noise.
I've scanned these prints side-by-side at 2400dpi, and cropped into a 3/4 inch section of the face.
Full frame image (resized to fit here) of Crystal. Shot with D1X in JPG Fine mode. Below is the scan of the prints (downsized to 25% of original):
For a full size image, download and save this : http://www.robertbiggerstaff.com/t1.jpg
Left to right is Epson, original, and HP. The original image had to be upsampled 500% to make it the approximate same size as the scans.
The resolution of the Epson is vastly superior to the HP. In fact, the resolution of the Epson is just fine enough to detect Jpeg artifacts in the print, where they were unresolvable in the HP print. Guess I may be shooting more NEFs now [g].
I then printed a sample image with a lot of black (nude on black background). My gawd.... they are b-l-a-c-k. Even the print I had made off the HP that I felt had good blacks before, laid beside the Epson print was blown away.
Tomorrow I will try some black and white images and compare an Epson print to a wet-processed print on Fuji Crystal Archive from the same image file.
As an aside, they included some samples printed with the matte-black cartridge (my own matte-black cartridge isn't here yet). They look stunning. Indistinguishable from wet-processed prints IMHO. I was always very
critical of my B&W prints I made in the darkroom, and these are just as good.
Drawbacks? Well, the prints off the Epson "smell" funny. Indeed, the room smells a bit funny now. Obviously it is the odor from the ink. It remains to be seen if it lingers, or not. Might be a consideration for a home-office.