Still dazed from the announcement of the R1900, the unsuspecting public have been leapt on again by Epson. This time with the Stylus Photo R2880, an A3 unit designed for mono work.
Epson Stylus Photo R2880: Specification
- Max document size: A3
- Resolution: 5760x1440 dpi
- Nozzle: Epson Micro PiezoTM Print Head of 1440 nozzles; 180 nozzles per colour
- Ink system/type: UltraChrome (Pigment)
- Droplet size: 3pl
- Quantity of inks: 8
- Capacity: 120 sheets (A4 plain paper)
- PictBridge: Yes
- Roll media: Yes (With supplied adapter fitted)
- CD/DVD printing: Yes
- Operating system: Windows® 2000, XP Home, XP Professional, XP Professional, x64 Edition, Vista, Mac OS X v10.3.9, 10.4, 10.5 (all Mac Limited support)
- Connectivity: USB 2.0
- Size: 616x322x214 (storage) 616x797x415 (printing)
- Weight: 12Kg
At £550, the Epson gives you eight ink cartridges, 5760x1440dpi resolution and improved LUT technology to increase smoothness, gradation and constancy.
The Canon Pro9500 costs £10 less, has 10 inks, lower 4800x2400dpi resolution and "linear tone" print mode for faithful colour output with processed images.
The nearest in price from HP is the B9180 at £470 which also uses eight inks, has a resolution of 4800x1200dpi and uses HP densitometric closed loop colour calibration which HP say gives consistent, accurate colours.
Epson Stylus Photo R2880: Modes and features
At the recent launch of the new printer, ePHOTOzine were told: "The Epson Stylus Photo R2880 is a direct replacement for the R2400."
"It has been developed after numerous requests from users wanting true black & white prints due to colour being used and therefore present in mono images."
The dual USB ports are found at the bottom of the printer. The rear is sparse otherwise with only the figure eight AC socket keeping them company.
The R2880 has been released to sit in the semi-pro market aimed at low volume users that require high end results and who have fine art aspirations.
The Epson Stylus Photo R2880 boasts a few features of its own such as roll and fine art support, CD/DVD printing and thick/rigid media printing to a maximum of 1.3mm. Similar to the R1900, it has dual USB ports for network connection, Pictbridge and LUT technology.
The icing on the cake that Epson are so proud of with this model is the additional Vivid Magenta ink tank which, they say, boosts the quality of mono images and eliminates colour twists.
The advantages of the Vivid Magenta are that it increases K3 performance resulting in no colour cast on mono images. It also increases long term stability and tonal gradation is smoother. Interestingly, colour gamut is also expanded to 85% pantone coverage. Epson also say that the new inks and printer will ensure no colour inconstancy which is where the colours on the print change in different lighting situations. This is especially important for photographers who do event work and may show the prints in fluorescent or tungsten lighting and need the images to be the same colour in daylight.
When closed, the footprint is considerably smaller, but still has some size to it.
The micro piezo heads have ink repellant coatings to improve accuracy of dot placement. The print heads are also negatively charged with the absorbent sponge positively charged for more effective mist collection.
The Look Up Table (LUT) technology has been expanded and after analysing smoothness, gradation and colour constancy, any combination of over 18,000,000 trillion colours are chosen for optimal colour reproduction.
The design is similar to the R1900 with only four buttons on the front for power, paper alert/delete, ink change and roll feed. This is easier to look at and more minimalist but only means you have exhaustive menus on the computer.
As the inks are pigment, the tanks have to be shook before use so that the particles don't drift down to the bottom of the tank and clog it up.
Epson Stylus Photo R2880: Build and handling
The Pictbridge port is sat down in the bottom left corner out of the way and the dual USB ports are sat on the back of the unit at the bottom.
The loading and collection trays are both three tiered with a drop down flap inside the collection tray for the flat loader.
The entire top of the printer lifts up for internal access and six stickers give information on various topics from not placing your hands in certain areas to advice on ink purchases. The guide sticker which is found above the ink tank holder wasn't put on straight so had a slight ruffle. This is extremely picky, but if I'd just spent £550 on something I'd expect it to be perfect.
Installing from the CD provided is easy and only takes a few minutes. It still brings up small banners of advertising despite the fact the product will have been bought by this stage.
Epson Stylus Photo R2880: Performance
When you have your print ready to go onto the paper, entering the print preview window has the usual boxes at the top for changes such as adjusting the image on the paper, scaling it, resizing and amending the printer options. Interestingly, the R2880 now has a few different areas in the printer control window. The control now has a colour wheel which has replaced the sliders from previous models.
The options area of the first window has four drop downs. Colour handling asks you to choose whether the printer or photoshop determines the colours or if you require no colour management. Allowing the printer to handle things freezes the printer profile window which is only open when photoshop is dealing with the colours. The rendering intent has four options though and these are perceptual, saturation, relative colorimetric and absolute colorimetric.
The four colour options do show slight differences when placed on top of each other.
The black and white image with tints added from the advanced black & white custom menu.
I printed the Agfa test shot on each of the settings to see the differences they produce. All images were printed at the highest quality photo setting with PhotoEnhance. The first sheet doesn't start moving until around four minutes after clicking the print button and the printer has finished whirring and clicking. Printing is quite fast at around three minutes and the ink is absorbed into the paper straight away meaning no smudging.
It's hard to see a difference between the four images in terms of colour depth and gradation until samples are overlaid and slight variances in the primary colours are detectable. Looking at them as a test of the printer's capability and the text is visible at all sizes with the colours coming out strong. The point lines are all visible and the mono grades are steady. Compared next to a shot with no colour management and again the differences are difficult to find.
Epson have included a new vivid magenta to combat monochrome image problems such as colour twists and constancy.
I printed up the shot of the flying lady three times with the settings at Advanced B&W then one with no other changes, one with amendments to the contrast and tone then finally with a colour tint using the wheel. It certainly is easy to use the wheel and the preview image will show the result.
In this window, Epson recommend that the tone be set to darker for the best results and a colour wheel has been added here to included tints of colour if required. Brightness, contrast and shadow tonality can also be adjusted and there's a before and after preview to check your work against.
I printed out an image with printer defined colours then two prints with photoshop defined colours changing the profile to working RGB and Epson R2880. The only difference is in the final print which was set to Epson R2880 profile as this has less saturation in the browns of the wood in the image. The first two are largely indistinguishable.
I also added some saturation to the sky in a picture of a statue to see if any banding was present, similar to what I noticed in the review of the R1900. Happily, it's not visible which is a great result for Epson.
The original mono image.
The scanned mono image.
The original statue image with a saturated sky.
The print has been let down by the scan, but a lot of colour is lost on the statue.
All images apart from the Agfa test print were shot on an Olympus E3 and scanned in using an Epson Perfection 3200 flatbed scanner.
Epson Stylus Photo R2880: Verdict
I think the main question that the Epson Stylus photo R2880 has hanging over its head is whether the new features warrant the extra £200 or so more than the R1900. If you're a monochrome photographer and printer, then you'll love the quality that this printer will give you.
The expanse of over-riding features will make sure that 99.9% of the time you'll get the picture that you want. Couple that with the mind boggling amount of colours available on the LUT and you have a printer that can kick dirt in the faces of its rivals while laughing.
Epson Stylus Photo R2880: Plus points
Extensive colour selection
Advanced colour correction tools
Takes thick/rigid media
Epson Stylus Photo R2880: Minus points
Exclusive inks lessen saving money on cheaper replacements
Because of the new addition of vivid magenta to the inks coupled with the vast LUT, Epson have put a lot of effort into developing the R2880.
With that in mind I've given it the Cutting Edge award.
The Epson Stylus Photo R2880 costs around £550 and is available from the ePHOTOzine shop here.