On my move back from Seattle, Fedex broke my Epson Stylus Photo 1280 printer. Considering that I shipped 20 packages from Philly to Seattle and back and this was the only damage, that’s not so bad. I am also very lucky to have put a declared value of $400 on this printer. The printer now is completely useless, I filed a claim and I’m hoping Fedex, of whom I’ve been a super loyal customer since 1994, will reimburse me completely.

I was bummed about missing my photo printing mainstay, but I looked at upgrading the printer for the same price or perhaps getting something similar for less. Well, imagine the shock that Epson STILL sells 1280 on their site for $299, after a $100 rebate. A 3-year old printer model, (I paid $469 in early 2001) retails brand new for $299, 63% of its value. I checked ebay and the price is a very similar for newer ones. The rebate is probably an indicator that Epson is readying an R800-like 13″ wide printer. I also looked at the bigger brother 2200, with its pigment inks, and this 2-year old still retails for $699 with a $50-off a best. I love the new R800 with the 8-ink cartride, but it’s an 8″ wide printer and while I don’t do many wide prints, the ones I do are absolutely worth it! So, I need a wide Epson printer and I’m debating getting a 1280 again or upgrading to 2200 (which isn’t a best printer for regular b&w letter printing), or waiting to see if Epson comes through with 13″ R800-like model.

The bigger question here is the lack of depreciation for a 13″ wide photo printer. I was expecting a cheaper printer to be available of similar or better quality especially in the 3 year, but alas there isn’t. While the Canon i9900 is fast, the prints aren’t as durable as those from Epson. My prints from 2001 are still in top shape and I don’t see any fades or color shifts. So, for all the innovation and price declines for the quality in the low end sub-$300 printer markets, Epson 1280 represents a premium printer that does a job well, and there is not real substitute and competition. What’s the market: prosumer photographers, studio, commercial and serious hobbyists. This market buys 1-2 printers every few years to keep up with volume and spends their money on inks. If you had no need for many B&W prints, you could keep the 1280 forever.

Which reminds me of a car: while cars depriciate value rapidly, they are still useful for their main purpose. The 1280 is still useful as a photo printer, has depreciated new better than a car, (unusual for a technology product), and remains a preimum item in its category unmatched by competitors. You wonder why other computer technologies continue to depreciate and not be as useful: applications! As long as there are new tech applications for computers that demand upgrades (digital lifestyle, storage, communication), computer depreciation will be faster and correlated with devaluation in their usefulness. The application of 1280 is simple: quality photographs in 13″ wide format with reasonable longevity to be sold commercially. This application hasn’t changed and probably won’t change. Something that will drive price pressure is competition. If Canon is serious, they’ll jack up the durability of their inks and photo prints and make their printers compete with the 1280 target market. Otherwise, don’t expect massive declines in prices for 13″ wide prosumer photo printers for time to come.