Epson announces a fleet of new high-end printers

At Graph Expo in Chicago recently, Epson announced a group of new printers for the pro photography and graphic arts market, including:

  • The Stylus Pro 4900, a 17-inch printer incorporating the 11-ink UltraChrome HDR ink set found in the Stylus Pro 7900 (Printerville review);
  • The Epson Stylus Pro 7890 and 9890, updated versions of their 24- and 44-inch printers, respectively, which incorporate the 8-color UltraChrome K3 Vivid Magenta inksets, and are priced at $3,000 and $5,000; and
  • The Stylus Pro 7900CTP, a 24-inch, computer-to-plate, version of the Stylus Pro 7900 that produces aluminum lithographic printing press plates that can “produce up to 20,000 impressions each with image quality that’s superior to polyester solutions available today.”

The 17-inch Stylus Pro 4900

The 4900 is an update to one of my favorite Epson printer models, the Stylus Pro 4×00 line. This line, which started with 2003’s Stylus Pro 4000, has a maximum print width of 17 inches, and is equipped with both roll- and sheet-fed mechanisms, and automatic swapping of matte and photo black inks. The 4900 uses the 7900/9900’s UltraChrome HDR inks, which provide a wide print gamut on a variety of paper types. Like the 7900, it has a 10-channel printhead that utilizes auto switching between matte and photo black inks.

Also available with the 4900 is the SpectroProofer 17, an in-line spectrophotometer developed in conjunction with EFI (this option is also available for the 7900/9900). The device snaps on to the front of the printer and will offer proofing-based profiling when used with an EFI RIP. (Unlike the embedded spectrophotometer in HP’s Z-series, the SpectroProofer really appears to be designed for graphic arts and proofing situations, not for the fine-art photography market.)

As I noted above, the 4×00 line has long been one of my favorites; it is one of the most robust and well-designed Epson print engines, and the combination of roll and sheet support provides the best of both worlds. The Stylus Pro 4800/4880 was eclipsed a bit by the Stylus Pro 3800/3880 (Printerville review, but if you wanted the ultimate flexibility in a 17-inch printer, it was hard to beat the 4800. My only knock on it was the requirement to physically swap black ink cartridges in later models, but the 4900’s dual black-ink bays fixes that complaint, although the 10-channel ink head means losing some time and ink when switching between black inks.

The 4900 will be priced at $2,500; the only thing downer is the fact that Epson provides only 80ml “starter” cartridges with the printer. I understand the desire to keep list prices low, but you’ll end up spending another $1,000+ on a set of 200ml cartridges to begin any appreciable printing.

The Stylus Pro 4880 — which uses the 8-ink UltraChrome K3 Vivid Magenta inkset — is still listed in the product line at $2,000, although it’s likely that this product will ultimately go away. (There’s currently a $500 rebate for the printer, which makes it quite attractive for photographers who want roll capabilities and plan to utilize one black ink type.)

Stylus Pro 7890 and 9890

Although Epson has been pushing hard with the HDR inkset at the 24-inch/44-inch end of the market, it’s been clear that there’s still a group of users looking for lower-cost wide-format alternatives, and the 7890/9890 are clearly designed to fit that need. Priced at $3,000 and $5,000 ($1,000 less then the HDR versions) — they use the UltraChrome K3 inks with Vivid Magenta and auto-switching black inks — and offer higher printing speeds than their previous K3-based counterparts. They also have support for the SpectroProofer system, which will have some appeal to graphics shops that are looking to save a little bit on the extra ink costs found in the 11-ink HDR inks.

Stylus Pro 7900CTP

While it’s outside the scope of this site, the Stylus Pro 7900CTP looks to be quite an innovative product for the printing/graphic arts market. For $10,000, you’ll get a 7900, heat curing unit for the aluminum plates, and an EFI RIP And, since it also uses the same UltraChrome HDR inks used in the 7900, it theoretically will do double duty as a fine-art printer of the highest quality.

By Rick LePage

Rick LePage was formerly the editor in chief of MacWEEK and Macworld magazines, was one of the cofounders of the MacInTouch newsletter. He has been covering digital printmaking and photography since its inception.