The old Epson 1290 printer had teething troubles - ink leakage being the worse - that were eventually overcome and all those improvements have been carried on over to the new Photo 1400 and married with new, finer printing technology. So, for your £299, what do you get?
- Print head: Epson micro piezo point head of 540 nozzles (90 nozzles per magenta, cyan, yellow, light magenta, light cyan and black)
- Droplet size: 1.5pl
- Ink type: Epson Claria photographic ink
- Quality: Up to 5760x1440 optimised dpi on suitable media using RPM (Resolution Performance Management)
- Speed: 8x10in photo bike image on A4 size - 111 seconds
- Interface: USB 2.0 (Hi-Speed)
- Paper size: A3+ A3, A4, A5, A6, Letter, Legal, B5
- Cartridges: Cyan, Black, Yellow, Magenta, Light Cyan, Light Magenta
- Cartridge costs: £9.92 each
- Additional printing: Manual CD/DVD printing slot
- Margins: 3mm standard all round, borderless via printer driver.
- Dimensions: 22.3x61.5x31.4cm (h,w,d)
- Noise: 47dBA (per ISO 7779)
The main printer driver menu allowing access to quality, size and orientation features.
For a printer down at the entry level of the Epson range, you get a big slab of machinery for your money. It's big and black and once the sheet feeder for the top is extended, and the output tray sticks its tongue out, you are occupying nearly a meter of desk space. What's nice is that the feeder is solid and fixed to the printer. It flips out and then extends in two stages, depending on the size of the paper being used. This can be anything from B5 up to A4 and A3+, which is the oversize version.
Controls on the front of the printer are strictly limited to being the on/off, cartridge replacement and forced paper feed/cancel print. There are six ink cartridges in a large print head, covering the standard CMYK range, but adding light cyan and light magenta. This is to give better graduation on skin tones and skies. Professional photo A3 printers tend to offer more cartridges, but equivalent priced Canon A3+ printers use only four, so this is fine. The cost of the cartridges is pricey at £9.93 a pop, and after printing just 10 A3 sheets I managed to use up the light cyan tank, get just over halfway through the both magentas and made a serious dent on the yellow, black and cyan cartridges. So, the good news is that you can change cartridges separately, but the bad news is that you'll be doing it with some regularity.
Most of the action when printing takes place with the driver that embeds itself into the system once installed. When activated for printing, clicking on Properties brings up the first batch of options, like what the quality should be from a choice of five. Here the size, paper type and borderless options can be selected, along with orientation. There's also a graphical display showing the ink levels. At this point you can just print the image, but clicking on Advanced brings up more options.
Here the maintenance options can be selected to clean out the print head and half the options from the previous screen are repeated. Also, and most interestingly, it now reveals the colour management options. There are three initial options: Colour Controls, PhotoEnhance and ICM. Selecting Colour Controls brings up further colour modes to select from, namely Epson Standard (increase contrast), Epson Vivid (increases blue/green) and AdobeRGB (uses that colour profile space). Whichever of these is selected, the brightness, contrast, saturation and CMY colour components can all be adjusted.
The PhotoEnhance option is another of Epson's making and allows the image to be auto-corrected, toned and to smooth skin tones. That leaves ICM which stands for Image Colour Management, which is the Windows system for basic colour management. This has been superceded by Windows Colour System (WCS) on Windows Vista, but this is not supported here. Anyway, selecting ICM allows the use of input profiles so if the picture was saved with sRGB or AdobeRGB you can specify that to be used. The rendering intents cover how these profiles are then converted to be used by the printer, which is a CMYK device of course. There are then a wide selection of printer profiles available to use. To simplify matters, if Epson Standard is selected it then assigns a specfic profile based on the paper stock that's been chosen. There are ones for each type of paper that Epson sells, so in theory this should give fairly accurate results.
The advanced properties menu allows the use of profiles for different paper stocks.
That's the theory anyway, in practice printing stuff out the gloss paper provided came up with a slight green colour cast, which was noticeable in the shadows and on skin tones. And this was using Epson's own profile for the paper which wasn't impressive. Selecting Colour Controls rather than ICM, and specifying AdobeRGB for the output, as the file was saved with that colour space, produced a magenta colour cast. Epson also have a Premium Glossy paper so I hope that works better than the regular glossy. It could well do because the Premium semi-gloss paper produced far more accurate results, with much better colours, in both ICM and plain AdobeRGB modes, though again, on monochrome, that was a very, very slight green cast.
Across all paper stocks the benefit of having an extra cyan cartridge is noticeable in sky shots with lots of graduation from deep blue to lively cyan skies. Now, one way around colour casts if the problem is coming from over-production of the cyan and yellow inks, in the case of green, is to print in greyscale, just using the black ink tank. On the glossy paper this made no difference at all, so it's more likely down to the paper stock. Printing mono on the matt paper produced much lighter results, lacking in contrast, so if fine tonal graduation in mono, without deep shadows, is what you're after then that's the paper stock. Otherwise, once again, semi-gloss produced a far better mono print, though with this there was an ever so slight colour tone to a pure mono output.
Speedwise, the Epsons have never been fast and this is certainly the case here. The claimed speed is a 10x8in image on A4 paper, so not even using all of it, in 111 seconds, or nearly two minutes. Now, this is a fairly useless claim because the entire point of an A3 printer is to print in A3. Printing out 250dpi images at full A3 size took around 8mins 45secs each time which is fairly pedestrian.
Looking at the detail in the picture, it's all present and correct, and that 1.5pl droplet size, compared to 2pl in the Canon home range A3s, means that fine detail can be represented well.
There are plenty of options in the printer driver, crucially including ones so that non-Epson papers that come with their own profiles - like fine art papers - can be used for best results. The results using three different types of Epson's own papers and the profiles for each one, were wildly different. The glossy paper was frankly poor, but the Premium semi-gloss and the matt paper (within certain parameters) were fine with plenty of detail and good colours. The speed was hardly hare-like but at least it was very quite. So quiet in fact that the 1400 had to be closely scrutinised in order to ascertain that it was in fact working and not slacking. As a replacement for the legendary 1290 workhorse line, this is a good quality printer but WCS-compatible drivers for Vista users and better profiles would be appreciated.
Up to A3+ papers
Very good build quality
6-cartridges to minimise costs
1.5pl droplet size for very fine detail
Direct printing to CD/DVD
Results vary even on Epson papers
Driver support for Windows ICM, not WCM for Vista
The Epson RV1400 costs around £316 and can be bought from Warehouse Express here:
Epson Stylus Photo 1400