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Epson Stylus Photo PX650 Inkjet Printer Review

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 Inkjet Printer Review - Can a printer for 125 make prints better than lab quality? That's what we'll find out.

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Category : Inkjet Printers
Product : Epson Stylus Photo PX650
Price : £125
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Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 main view
With a built-in scanner, card reader and pictbridge port, who needs a computer. The Epson Stylus Photo PX650 could be all you need.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650: Features
As part of the new high definition range from Epson, the PX650 is aimed at the enthusiast who wants lab quality prints. Designed to be used as a standalone model as well as hooked up to a computer, the PX650 boasts a built-in compactflash, secure digital, xD and MemoryStick Pro card reader as well as Pictbridge compatibility. An articulating front screen allows you to view the front section while standing up and the 2.5in LCD screen will show you the images from the memory cards if you're direct printing.

From loading the CD into the computer, to completion, the whole process takes less than 10 minutes, not including reading the terms and conditions and preferring the easy install option. It's a similar time to other Epson printers that have been reviewed at ePHOTOzine in the past. The only problem I had was connecting the USB lead. I didn't have a clue where it was and had to look in the instructions. It's in the paper and ink area and the top of the printer has to be lifted up to connect it.

Epson say that the quality of this printer will exceed printing laboratory prints and to help it along, the PX650 has 6 Micro Piezo print heads in light cyan, cyan, black, yellow, light magenta and magenta. It can print out with a resolution of 5760x1440 optimised dpi using 90 nozzles per colour and the printer also features a minimum 1.5pl droplet size using the Advanced Variable-sized Droplet technology.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650: Performance
Photographs were printed in a variety of settings. The Agfa test print is a 17.3Mb file, the colour shelf RAW image was taken on a Sony Alpha A850 24.6Mp DSLR. The file can be downloaded here:

Sony Alpha A850 RAW file colour test.

Other images were chosen for variety with a selection of colours and contrast.

Click the thumbnail to open the full size images.

Print speed
Printing a standard photograph with a reasonable sized resolution at the best photo setting takes around 6 minutes. But if you think this is a long time, you'll forgive the printer when you see the quality of images it produces.

The resulting time above is once the printer actually starts printing. Despite rebooting the computer twice and closing and restarting Photoshop, during my tests, each print took in excess of 15 minutes to get the information to the printer.

Print clarity
Depending on the setting you have the printer on will depend on how well it prints. I found that anything less than the Best Photo mode will produce images I was unhappy with. However, setting the printer to Best Photo is absolutely amazing. I was very impressed with the Kodak ESP9 and I think this performs better. Eyes in portraits come out with excellent clarity, while fine detail items show all their intricate areas. Quick photos can't be done on the PX650, but I'm willing to forgive it for the quality of prints I got. There's absolutely no banding on Best Photo mode and I'm happy to put prints I've produced from the Epson into a portfolio.

Colour reproduction
Colours burst out of the paper from primary colours, to subtle tones. All the primary colours look great although small font has trouble showing on red. I love the way Epson have controlled the gamut of colour on the PX650. While bold colours look loud and saturated, they're not so saturated that they overshadow the milder colours. Flesh tones look great, nicely balanced and are bang on real life.

You may decide to handle colour yourself and if you choose to do that, it's done in the print window on the right. There are four options called Relative colorimetric, Absolute colorimetric, Saturation and Perceptual.

They handle colour in different ways, for instance, Relative colorimetric is like an auto mode on a camera. It chooses the settings it thinks are right for the photograph you're wanting to print and if the colours aren't in the gamut, it'll choose the nearest alternative. Primary colours certainly seem richer, albeit slightly, than Perceptual which works by adjusting colours outside the gamut to the closest alternative and arranging other colours to maintain the colour relationship so everything looks natural. In contrast, Absolute colorimetric which will change out of gamut colours but leave colours that are in range regardless of the their relationship.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 relative colorimetric
Relative colorimetric.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 absolute colorimetric
Absolute colorimetric.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 perceptual
Perceptual.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 saturation
Saturation.

Click the thumbnail to open the full size images.

Saturation is taken at face value and will boost colours whether they look natural or not and while bright colours such as yellow certainly get a mild boost, it's not very much and you'd be best doing it yourself in an editing suite.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 scanned portrait image
Scanned portrait of Chloe at 350dpi shows good resolution and smooth colours.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 original portrait image
The original portrait has more warmth to it.
When handling colour, you can select the Printer or Photoshop to handle the colour or you can have no colour handling at all. In my tests, I found that if there was a deep colour in the shot, having the printer handling the colour gave the most accurate reproduction of colour.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 original image
The original image taken on a Sony Alpha A850 24.6Mp DSLR.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 printer manages colour
Printer manages colour.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 Photoshop manages colour
Photoshop manages colour.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 No colour management
No colour management.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 original black & white image
This is the original file of the black & white that I printed for the test, taken on an Olympus E-3 DSLR with a red filter and converted in Photoshop.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 black & white printer colour management
Printer manages colour.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 black & white photoshop colour management
Photoshop manages colour.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 black & white No colour management
No colour management.

I absolutely love the colour reproduction from the Epson. Colours are saturated but not gaudy and fine detail is reproduced brilliantly. The only printer I think comes close is the Kodak ESP9 but this printer is certainly better at printing at least.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650 scanner
The flatbed scanner has a resolution of 1200x2400dpi.
Epson Stylus Photo PX650 banding detail
Banding can be seen in the blue area of the picture at 300dpi.
Scanning performance
You can scan images using the printer directly or using the Epson or Photoshop import tools. The Photoshop version is easy, but limited in it's options. You can adjust the resolution that it records at or whether it's a colour, black & white or text item.

Using the Epson scanning tool has a lot more options, especially if you use the professional mode. Auto or home give a clipped version and you can't even make simple changes such as altering the dpi. With images that have a large expanse of pure white, the scanner will segment the image thinking that it's two separate photographs. In professional mode, this doesn't happen, so you have more control over what you're printing. It also allows control over the dpi, levels, colour, sharpening and image type among other options. Previewing the picture opens up a separate window that allows you to adjust the levels, tone and colour and see it on the image.

At 300dpi, the scanner shows banding which is a shame because the image is already big enough for most uses. By 350dpi the problem disappears, producing a 7.2Mb file which isn't at all bad.



Epson Stylus Photo PX650: Verdict
I'm simply blown away by the printing capability of the Epson Stylus Photo PX650. The images it produces are sharp, rich in colour and realistic. Scanning at the right settings produces good results although the usual flatness that comes with flatbed scanning is still present, but I think there's a long way to go to eradicate that.

Until then, the scanned files that the PX650 produces are great and I was really happy with the results. This is a great printer and comes at a great price. £125 for A4 print quality like this is worth every penny.

Epson Stylus Photo PX650: Pros
Excellent print quality
Good scanning over 350dpi
Smallish unit with small collection trays to reduce footprint
Built-in card reader

Epson Stylus Photo PX650: Cons
Print time can be slow
USB lead location is a bit obscure

FEATURES
HANDLING
PERFORMANCE
VALUE
OVERALL









The Epson Stylus Photo PX650 costs around £124.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Epson Stylus Photo PX650

Epson Stylus Photo PX650: Specification
Printing  
Max document size A4
Print speed Up to 38ppm
Ink system/type Epson Claria Photographic Ink
Quantity of inks 6
Amount of nozzles 90
Droplet size 1.5pl (variable size droplet technology)
Monitor 2.5in
Resolution 5760x1440 optimised dpi
Capacity 120 A4 plain sheets
PictBridge Yes
Roll media No
CD/DVD printing Yes
Connectivity USB 2.0, Pictbridge, Compactflash, SD, SDHC, MemoryStick Pro
Size 450x386x195mm
Weight 8.4kg
Scanning  
Black & white scan speed 300dpi 1.1msec/line, 600dpi 1.6msec line
Colour scan speed 300dpi 2.5msec/line, 600dpi 4.7msec/line
Resolution 1200x2400dpi
Sensor type CIS



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