Print at Home or Costco?


Print at Home or Costco?
I have been holding off buying a printer (Epson 2880) because of the numerous complaints and problems with printing reported on the forum.
In the mean time, I am exporting my photos to Photoshop in ProPhoto, 16 bit, Sharpened for output and opened in PS. I soft proof using the profile provided by Dry Creek (, follow their directions, upload to Costco, notify them by phone to be sure they print on the correct printer, and pick up my prints within the hour.
I am not a profession photographer, but my Costco prints look good to me, and they match my profiled monitor well. However, I do not have the experience to critically evaluate photos.
I would appreciate feed back from people who have compared prints from their own printers with Costco, or other Noritsu or Fuji mini lab prints. Are you satisfied with the quality of Costco prints? What, exactly, makes them better or worse than Ink Jet prints?
I too use costco and my Epson has been gathering dust (or clogging its head as usual). They provide outstanding quality and speedy service if you stay below 12x18. Their service that prints larger than 12x18 is horrid. Do not use them. You'll be quite disappointed. Below that, the quality you get is comparable to a very good inkjet print in my opinion. That said, there are pros and cons to both methods.
Home printing using a good inkjet:
-Choice of papers, including beautiful art papers
-widest gamut
-instant (more instant than 1 hour)
-no drive/bike ride necessary
- very sharp prints
-Expensive both in initial costs and per-print costs. Even if you print a lot you'll end up at about 2x the price of costco's
-requires lots of maintenance (clogged heads and such) if you don't print every day.
-Difficulty reliably getting correct color (I haven't experienced this, but lots of people have) due to badly written drivers and program/driver interfaces.
costco's (or other similar lab)
-Good gamut (not as good as the more expensive inkjets though)
-Profiles provide excellent color (see below for caveat)
-Very good Dmax (better than most inkjets)
-Fast (1 hour in general - see caveat)
-very fast with large quantities of smaller prints (far faster than you could ever do with an inkjet)
-Profiles sometimes cause color banding. There are instances where simply sending sRGB gives better results. This can also happen with many profiles for inkjet printers.
-No printing during off hours
-At least a psychological barrier to having prints made of racy subjects
-need to pick up prints or wait for a few days to arrive in the mail
-No special art papers
To me, it's a wash and I go by the cheaper option that gives great results. Others will make a different determination. I'd love to have a great very large format (i.e. bigger than 13x19) printer but financially that is not really in the cards.
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