Epson are a popular printer manufacturer with many photographers and look set to be even more so with their latest range. With increasing competition from manufacturers such as Canon, HP and on the budget-side Lexmark, their products now need to be better than ever.
The Stylus Photo 925 we're looking at here is a direct photo printer, meaning you don't necessarily have to have a Computer to print with it. If you've got a digital camera, with removable memory cards, you can just pop the card into the printer, hit a few buttons and out comes an image, but more on that later.
Epson Stylus Photo 925 features
- A4 six-colour inkjet
- EPSON MicroPiezo Print Head featuring EPSON 4pl Ultra MicroDot, Variable-Sized Droplet Technology and Resolution Performance Management
- Printhead: 48 nozzles black, 240 nozzles colour
- Dedicated black cartridge
- LCD panel for direct printing
- Roll media holder and auto cutter
- Borderless printing
- Maximum resolution: 5760dpi optimised
- 43dbA noise level
- 32Kb Buffer
- Weight: 6.4Kg
- Dimensions: 492x595x310mm
- Priced at around 250
Design, interfaces and installation
Upon opening the box, you are confronted with a selection of bits and pieces, which can at first be confusing. When they're all out of the box and you've had a scan of the manual, putting the printer together is straightforward.
Besides the printer, the following parts are included in the box:
- Power Cord
- A4 Paper Support
- 1x Black & 1x Colour cartridge
- Wire Catcher for 210mm roll paper
- Roll paper holder
- Printer software
- User's guide, Quick reference and setup
Besides being able to connect the Photo 925 to your computer, there is also another USB connection at the rear of the printer to connect it to external storage devices. Also present at the rear of the printer is a connector for the optional colour screen that can be used to preview the photos stored on the memory card. No USB printer cables are supplied...
There's little to say on installation, it was straightforward, as is the case with most of the hardware available these days. The printer driver, for those people using this printer with a PC, provided the usual detailed options we've seen on other Epson printers.
To see advanced options available click here.
Presumably, if you've read this far, you're interested in buying a printer capable of direct printing. If you don't think you'll use this feature much or at all, you're going to be wasting money buying a printer with features you'll never use.
Memory card connectivity options are limited to CompactFlash/Microdrive, Memory Stick and SmartMedia. The instructions state that only one type of memory card should be loaded at a time.
The user interface is quite standard, with a simple LCD for checking options and a selection of controls to change the various settings. There's actually a large number of settings available, which help to make this a more powerful direct printer than some earlier models. The two screen-shots below show some of the main options available.
The options for these main settings are:
Print mode: Index, One, All, Set, DPOF.
Paper Type: Glossy, Photo, Matte, Colourlife, Plain, Stickers, Iron-on.
Paper Size: 89mm/100mm/127mm/210mm Roll, L, 2L, 100x150mm, A4.
Layout: No Margin - Portrait, No Margin - Landscape, Single, Double, Triple, Quarter, Octet, 20, Panoramic, Variable Size.
Select Photo: Choose the photo/s you want to print.
Copies: Print from 1 to 100 copies. Choose - All, Index, One or Set.
Quality: Normal, High, Super High.
Advanced settings: These are described below.
Automatic Correction: P.I.M (Print Image Matching), PhotoEnhance, None.
Enhancements: Standard, People, Scenery, Sunset, Night, Backlit, Macro.
Brightness: Brightest, Brighter, Standard, Darker, Darkest.
Saturation: Most, More, Standard, Less, Least.
Sharpness: Sharpest, Sharper, Standard, Softer, Softest.
Zoom: Select a base point from nine options to print out a zoomed view by 1.2 or 1.5 times.
Frame: Superimpose an ornamental frame.
Roll Paper Cut: None, Single cut, Double cut.
Date: Various date settings.
Time: 12hr, 24hr, None.
Photo Information: Prints information on Exposure time, shutter speed, F number and ISO speed. On/Off setting.
Fit to frame: Trims part of image that extends beyond margins. On/Off setting.
Bi-directional printing: Speeds up printing but decreases quality.
Crop marks: Make it easier to trim photo. On/Off setting.
Sticker adjustment: Adjust print position for printing on Photo Sticker.
Ink cartridge replacement: Self-explanatory.
Head cleaning: Self-explanatory.
Nozzle check: Self-explanatory.
Paper Feed/Paper Eject: Performs same action as pressing roll paper button.
Version information: Shows information about the printer version.
Print Head Alignment: Use to calibrate the print head.
Cutting Position Adjustment: Self-explanatory.
Backup: Store the contents of your memory card onto an external storage device such as a Zip drive.
Print frame samples: Prints a list of frames so that you can see what's available.
Memory card overwrite: Write protects the card in the printer.
Language: Change language used.
Although the list of these settings seems very long, the advanced ones are hidden until you need them so the menu is straightforward to operate. In addition, should you encounter any errors, moderately helpful error messages and solutions are displayed on the LCD.
Canon have upset the printer market somewhat by releasing printers dramatically faster than most of the competition. So comparing the PhotoSmart 925 to the Canon S900 is going to make the Epson look positively turtle-like. However, whether speed matters to you is of course going to be your own choice and print-speed is only a small part of the bigger picture. On a more positive note, the sound level generated of around 43dbA isn't very intrusive.
|Full A4 text - Standard quality
|Full A4 graphics - Best quality
|Full A4 photo - Best quality
|Full A4 photo - RPM mode
Epson provided a selection of their own papers with this printer. We preferred the Premium Semi-gloss the most, followed by the Matte and found the Glossy paper slightly disappointing in comparison.
We also used some of the glossy roll, which we found a number of issues with. Firstly, the automatic paper-cutting, whilst a good idea doesn't always trim accurately leaving white edges that need manual trimming. More alarming is the 1cm of banding at the vertical edges of each of these roll prints, requiring even more trimming and loss of the image (see reader comment below). One last complaint about the roll printing is the strong curling effect it has on the paper which isn't very easy to remedy.
Reader Commented added 02/11/02:
I feel it should be pointed out that in your review you neglect to mention that the one centimetre band only occurs when the roll paper is freshly put into the printer and not on every print made which is the impression given in the text.If you print several prints at a time this does not occur at all and if the roll was left in the printer and completed it would only happen when you first loaded the roll in. - Keith Fitzsimmons
Paper-roll worries aside, the Epson Stylus Photo 925 proved a very competent performer. Black and white printing ability, although leaving room for improvement is still decent and tonal ranges were well presented.
Looking closely at three 4x6 prints of the same image (taken on the Canon D60), each with one of the three different quality modes used, there is no immediate quality difference noticeable. The new RPM mode, as well as being slow to print, doesn't seem to offer any tangible improvement in quality over the standard modes. Even looking through a 4x magnifying loupe, it's hard to see any obvious improvement.
Judge for yourself on the scans below, which are crops from the small image shown to the right. The tap on the left is from the RPM mode, the one on the right is basic mode. Bear in mind that the actual diameter of each cropped section is only 9mm, so the minor differences visible here are not easily visible to the naked eye.
Colour accuracy of prints we produced during testing were excellent, with vibrant colours and faithful skin tones. Even printing directly from memory cards inside the printer, a high level of quality can be achieved.
Comparing prints from the Epson 925 to one of the best performing printers we've had to review so far, the Canon S900, it was obvious the Epson 925 came close to matching the 900's quality. So close in fact, that many people would not notice the difference. The S900's colours are marginally more accurate, and looking closely, more detail is present. Being realistic though, most people will frame a photo and it will be enjoyed for its content by anyone passing by, not analysed for minor imperfections.
Text print quality on standard cheap print paper is reasonably sharp as the above example shows. With higher quality paper, better results are achievable.
|Printed on Epson Premium Semi-Gloss, this print showed a good deal of detail, smooth tonal gradations and vivid colours. Perhaps a little too vivid for some tastes, but the printer hardware and software provides control over this.
||Shot on a Canon D60, this print is a new addition to our reviews. As a full A4 borderless print, the Epson 925 reproduced fine details very well. Colour saturation levels are intense without being overbearing.
|This was the most disappointing print. With Epson's matte paper, colour accuracy was good, but a lot of detail in the darkest areas was lost. Switching to Epsons standard glossy paper, we still lost a lot of detail in the darkest areas but also got a red cast. Clearly this image would need some tweaking to get the best results with the Epson 925.
||Printed on Epsons glossy paper again, this print also suffers from an overly red cast. Details are still sharp however and the print would be great were it not for the distracting cast.
In the Stylus Photo 925, Epson have created one of the best direct photo printers available. It's not the fastest around, nor the cheapest, but it generally delivers very high quality prints. Extra features such as the automatic paper-cutter and the good user interface for the direct printing menu are bonuses.
If you don't have a need for direct photo printing from memory cards, or external storage devices, this is not the printer for you. If however you'd benefit from this added functionality then the Stylus Photo 925 should be near the top of your Direct Printer shopping list.