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|Adrian Wilson takes a look at the new Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD.|
In a world of ever increasing convenience, a lab-quality A4 printer that scans documents and photos, prints CD’s and acts as a FAX, all of which are available wirelessly via wi-fi, is a huge bonus to the photographer. The flagship Epson PX820FWD does all of this, but does the printer justify it’s £300 price tag? ePHOTOzine member Adrian Wilson is on hand to take a look.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD: Features
With the Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD you have a 4-in-1 which can print, scan, copy and fax from any room in the house with the latest high-speed wireless connectivity. The printer is able to create photos by editing colour, contrast and red-eye with Epson PhotoEnhance and Easy Photo Print. Using the 19.8 cm smart-navigation touch-panel with integrated touch-screen, you can view, select and print your photos directly from your memory cards, USB keys and PictBridge-enabled cameras without even connecting to your PC. It uses Epson's Micro Piezo print head technology to output at a print resolution of up to 5760x1440 dpi.
As well as all this, you can scan at up to 4800dpi, copy and fax multi-page documents with the fuss-free automatic document feeder. Plus the auto-selecting plain paper and photo paper trays mean you can easily swap between printing photos and documents without changing paper.
The Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD can print upto 40 A4 pages of black text per minute and can print a 10 x 15in photo in approximately 10 seconds.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD: Handling
The printer comes in a huge box. I was expecting to have problems finding a place to house it, but once opened you realise most of that is packaging; the printer itself is relatively bulky for an A4 machine, but not huge. It also looks the business with its shiny black plastic façade and all the features nicely hidden away to present a clean appearance.
As with all new printer hardware, there is a lot of tape and protective plastic to remove before you switch it on, this takes about 10 minutes, as you need to go inside to find a few hidden ones in the paper tray. Once this is completed, you have 6 ink cartridges to add – a great feature, 6 individual tanks which you can replace independently when they run out, rather than one large, expensive multicolour tank you get on cheaper models.
Once they are in, the set-up is driven from the very impressive touch-screen display on the side of the printer. This tilts to whatever angle you like, so is really easy to use where ever the printer is.
You are asked to input the standard information such as the locale, date and time, and then it moves on to the wireless set-up – this could be slicker.
The printer looks for wireless available networks as you’d expect for a wi-fi device, but if it doesn’t find yours, you have to manually enter the name. Again this is what you’d expect, but the user interface for typing in the name is straight from the 1980’s. Rather than having an iPhone like QWERTY keyboard, you have to input each character by pressing up and down arrows to choose letters through the alphabet – so inputting my SSID took a frustratingly long time to do.
Next, you have to input your password. If you have a strong password, you’ll have used a mix of capitals, lower case and special characters. Using the up and down arrows to do this took about several minutes of frustration. Then when I’d completed the input, the printer failed to connect!
So I looked for a USB cable in the box as you can use the bundled software to connect to wi-fi instead of using the printer’s screen. Unfortunately, there was no USB cable, this was a bit of a surprise, a £300 printer not coming with a £1 USB cable. Luckily I had one to hand that would fit.
The software itself took about 30 minutes to install the default packages, this was on to a reasonably fast dual core laptop. Once installed, there was a wizard to make the wi-fi connection, this completed very quickly and we were ready to print.
I’d suggest to anyone thinking of this machine, make sure you’ve got a USB cable; it takes the large square looking cable.
Paper is stored inside the printer in a removable tray. This has 2 sections to it, one for larger paper, up to A4, then a separate area for 5 by 7 inch shots. You can easily fit a whole 50-sheet pack of photo paper in to this tray; this keeps the paper safe from damage and dust.
Tucked away inside is the CD printing tray – a small grey drawer you’d never know existed till you open it via the print software or the CD eject button on the printer.
Once you have the printer in place, there really is little need to allow extra space around it. You will need about a foot above it to comfortably open the lid for scanning and replacing the inks, but with the paper tray being internal and the CD tray and print output coming out of the front, it doesn’t need any extra room at the sides.
Replacing the inks is very easy, just pulling the empty one out and replace with a new one takes seconds, and with the ink slots being at the front of the printer, it’s not at all fiddly to do.
Replacing paper also benefits from the removable tray – rather than trying to feed the paper into the printer directly, which could be awkward if your printer is not easily accessible, you remove the tray and just fill it on your desktop. This way, a new packet of Epson photo paper can be loaded in seconds.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD: Performance
Printing from imaging software (Photoshop etc.)
I tried my first test print from the freeware image viewer Ifranview, just pressing print and seeing what happened. The result was reasonable, like you’d get from a budget printer, but not up to the better than lab print status I was expecting. It was also amazingly fast, less than 5 seconds.
A bit disappointed with the result, I started to print again, this time opening up the printer properties page before hitting the print button – here I found that the first print had defaulted to draft, which explained the lack of quality.
I re-printed the image on the Best Photo setting instead, this took a few minutes to manifest and the difference was huge, this was indeed lab quality.
|Click on the thumbnails for larger images|
|Original file.||Here’s a scan of a mono Aston Martin DBS – straight out of Irfanview.|
Note that there is a slight warm hue to the scanned version compared to the mono original, but it’s marginal.
|Click on the thumbnails for larger images|
|Original image||Standard test image, printed at “Best Photo” quality from Photoshop, scanned in at 300DPI.|
You can see from this that the colour reproduction is faithful to the original, though some of the vibrancy has been lost in the process of printing and scanning.
|There are some handy presets on tab one of the Print Properties dialog box.|
For example, the A4 Photo Landscape default was used for the Aston Martin print and this selected the correct settings for me to proceed; no complicated setup needed.
The other tabs in the properties box are very intuitive to use, there are options to remove red-eye, colour correction for various scenes such as landscapes or portraits, and even an advanced colour control wheel.
Printing using Epson Easy Print
This is the bundled software you get with the printer, it’s quite intuitive to use but looks to be aimed more at the beginner than the seasoned Photoshop user.
It does however have useful applications like printing index cards and support for RAW files, so it’s well worth a look. For each photo you can do a separate edit by clicking on the image correct button.
Comparing images printed from Photoshop and Easy Print, using all the default out of the box settings on Easy Print and the “A4 Photo – Portrait” default in Photoshop.
|Click the thumbnails for larger images.|
|Easy print scanned 350dpi||Scan from Photoshop 300dpi|
Note the difference in hue between these 2, the Easy Print image being sepia compared to the mono shot intended, and successfully produced in Photoshop. Using the out-of-the-box settings, I’d have expected Easy Print to faithfully reproduce the tone of the image.
Scanning - The scanning software has 3 modes of operation:
- Office - This mode is more suited for scanning documents, one real bonus here is that you can stack multiple documents in the “Auto Document Feed” on top of the scanner and the printer will pull them in 1 by 1 and scan the lot without any need for intervention. This is definitely one of the professional features of the machine, very easy to use and labour saving at the same time.
- Home - Home mode is very simple to use, just allowing you to change the resolution and brightness if needed.
Before you proceed to scan, you hit the Preview button to get this out window. Note that the software has detected the edges of the shot for you, there are no white borders around it, and the options are limited as to what you can to. It’s very simple to use, ideal for the enthusiast to scan in old photographs.
- Professional - Being photographers, this is probably the mode we’re most likely to use. This has more settings than the other 2 modes, the most interesting ones being in the Adjustments area towards the bottom of the box.
|Click the thumbnails for larger images.|
|Firstly with no enhancements.||With unsharp mask, descreening, colour restoration and dust removal (all at default values).|
|Same settings as above, with the addition of Backlight Correction.|
For casual scanning to archive older images, the enhancements do appear to lift the image quite well, saving time editing later.
Being a photo quality printer, I was looking forward to scanning in some negatives. There are hints of this functionality in the manual and in Professional scan mode you get film as an option in the Document Type dropdown. Despite this the Epson Stylus PX820FWD is unable to perform film scanning.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD: Verdict
The machine is impressive, it produces stunning photographs, which is obviously the main reason a photographer would purchase it, but it also has a high-class scanner with automatic document feed, fax and CD printing.
The bundled software makes printing very easy, though in some cases the colour management can be a bit off, creating Sepia results from a pure mono file. Using the printer from an external imaging program such as Photoshop seemed to avoid such issues, but care was needed to make sure the printer was printing a photo rather than a draft.
The photo scanning is relatively fast with excellent results, though I’d have liked to see negative/slide scanning as part to make it the complete package. Auto document feed is a great feature and works really well, but would I ever use it as a photographer?
Wi-Fi is amazingly liberating, I’ve been testing the printer on the laptop, printing and scanning from various rooms whilst the printer sits in the same place. The data transfer speeds are such that it feels like it’s connected by fast USB, there is no discernable lag. However, setting the Wi-Fi up from the on-printer control panel can be laborious and Epson don’t supply a USB cable to help do it from your computer.
But all in all, it’s a fantastic printer producing stunning images every time. If you can see yourself needing a scanner or fax, its definitely worth considering. Is it worth £300? I’d think twice at that price, but a quick search on Google and you’ll find it on offer at £220.
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD: Pros
Fast, high quality scanner
Sleek design and a very user-friendly on-board display.
Wi-Fi convenience not to be underestimated
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD: Cons
Wi-fi setup can be laborious without USB cable
Maybe a negative/slide scanner would make it the complete package
Manual search functionality does not work
Expensive if you don’t need a scanner or fax
Epson Stylus Photo Printer PX820FWD: Specification
|Size||466 x 458 x 198mm|
|In the box||6 individual ink cartridges, software CD, basic operation guide, start here guide, network set-up guide, warranty document, power cable, phone cable.|
|Max document size||A4|
|Ink system/type||Epson Claria photographic ink|
|Quantity of inks||6|
|Monitor||19.8cm touch-panel viewer|
|Print speed photo 10x15||Approx. 10 secs|
|Print speed colour text A4||Up to 40 ppm|
|Resolution||5760 x 1440 optimised dpi|
|Connectivity||USB – wireless LAN IEEE 802.11b/g/n, Wired LAN IEEE 802.3, CF, MS, MS Pro, SD, SDHC, xD memory cards|
|Black & white scan speed||300dpi 1.1msec/line|
|Colour scan speed||300dpi 2.5msec/line|
|Resolution||4800 x 4800dpi|