- 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.”
More than a decade ago, I tested Epson’s first wide-format, photographic-quality, inkjet printer, the Stylus Pro 9000. At the time, there were a number of companies that offered wide-format proofers and signage printers, and the 9000 competed well in that space, but Epson was as interested in the nascent fine-art printing market, which was dominated largely by Scitex’s Iris printers.
Today, the Scitex and Iris lines are long gone, having ultimately been subsumed by Kodak, and Epson dominates the high end of the fine-art and photographic printing market, despite half-hearted attempts by HP and Canon. The company’s latest wide-format printers, the Stylus Pro 7900 (24") and 9900 (44"), represent a gradual, deliberate evolution of the line, not a sharp detour. Over eight months of testing the 7900, I found few surprises (good or bad), but that’s to be expected in a product line with more than 10 years of development (and success). What I did find, is a printer that is at the top of the heap with regard to photo quality, performance and paper handling, with a handful of negative issues that will matter only to few people. (While I did not test the 9900, most of my comments will apply to the wider model.)
|Stylus Pro 7900/9900 specifications|
|Type||Wide-format, pigment-based inkjet|
|Inks||11 UltraChrome HDR (10 printing)|
|Ink colors||Photo Black, Matte Black, Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Light Vivid Magenta, Orange, Green, Light Black, Light Light Black|
|Ink cartridge costs||$90 (150ml); $160 (300ml); $280 (700ml)|
|Ink cost per ml (est.)||$0.60 (150ml); $0.54 (300ml); $0.40 (700ml)|
|Maximum resolution||2880 by 1440 dpi|
|Minimum paper size||8.27" by 11"|
|Maximum paper size||24"/44" wide; length variable by operating system|
|Thick paper support||Yes|
|Straight path||Yes; media up to 1.5mm thick|
|Interfaces||USB 2.0; 10/100Base-T Ethernet|
|Operating systems supported||Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7; Mac OS X (10.4.9 and up)|
|Weight||187 lbs./256 lbs.|
|Dimensions (W, D, H)||54" x 27" x 48"|
Epson America today formally announced the Stylus Pro 7900 and Stylus Pro 9900 wide-format inkjet printers, which were originally announced outside the U.S. in May (click here for our original item on the printers).
The 7900 and 9900, which have maximum print widths of 24 inches and 44 inches, respectively, use Epson’s new 10-color UltraChrome HDR inkset, which adds two new ink colors—orange and green—designed to give the printers the widest possible gamut available in inkjet printing today. According to the company, the new inkset, in conjunction with improved screening algorithms, will produce “greatly enhanced photographic print quality with exceptionally fine photographic blends.”
Both units incorporate a 10-channel micropiezo printhead with an ink-repelling coating (also found in the Stylus Photo R1900 and R2880) designed to reduce clogs and improve ink efficiency. The 10-channel head also lets you switch on the fly between matte and photo black inks.
Another first for Epson is the inclusion of an optional spectrophotometer from X-Rite, the SpectroProofer, designed to provide a streamlined color-management process for prepress and proofing situations.
The Epson Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 will be available in November for $3,995 and $5,995 respectively. We hadn’t received pricing for the optional spectrophotometer at press time; we’ll pass that information along as we receive it.
Epson is billing the 7900 and 9900 printers as the ultimate inkjet printers for packaging, signage, and other commercial applications, as well as the top-of-the-line photographic printer on the market today. From the limited number of prints we’ve been able to see, we think that the company has once again taken a leap ahead of the competition in terms of print quality and performance. We’re hoping to get our hands on a unit to test: we’ll keep you posted.
At Photokina in Germany, HP today announced the Designjet Z3200 Photo Printer, a
wide-format inkjet printer for professional photographers and designers, with a new ink formulation, speed and paper-handling improvements and other enhancements over previous models.
The Z3200 is the successor to HP’s the Designjet Z3100 Photo Printer, which, when it first shipped late in 2006, was one of the most innovative photo printers we had seen in a long time. The Z3100 utilized 12 pigment-based inks (including a gloss optimizer) to produce high-quality, gallery-ready prints, but it was the printer’s embedded spectrophotometer (from X-Rite) and seamless integration with networked Macs and PCs that set it apart from competitors like Epson and Canon. HP spent considerable effort streamlining the process of printing: everything from unboxing the device to profiling and adding new paper types had been thought through by HP’s hardware and software engineers. The result was a printer that created top-quality prints and was a joy to use, day in and day out.
We’ve had a production version of the 24" PostScript model, the Z3200ps, for about three weeks, and have tested it fairly thoroughly with a variety of papers and applications. Overall, we’re very impressed with the printer’s performance: HP is obviously determined to keep the pressure on Epson—the market leader—in the pro photo space. As was the case with the Z3100, we think that the Z3200 should be looked at by anyone seriously evaluating a wide-format device to create salable prints.
At the Drupa trade show in Germany this week, Epson announced two new wide-format printers, the Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900. The new printers, which have a maximum print width of 24" and 44",respectively, incorporate a new pigment-based ink set, called UltraChrome HDR. The HDR inks include photo and matte black inks, light black, light light black, cyan, light cyan, vivid magenta, vivid light magenta, yellow, orange and green, and use an 11-channel head that switches automatically between photo and matte black.
Ink cartridge size (a hot topic these days) is quite large — 350ml and 750ml — and Epson claims that the 7900 and 9900 offer significant speed improvements over the existing Epson wide format devices.
Also notable in the new printers is an optional built-in spectrophotometer from X-Rite, called the Epson SpectroProofer, which provides “automatic color measurement data to the printer, allowing user profiling and linearization, enabling professional color management while at the same time reducing labor costs.”
The Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 are expected to ship this spring in Europe and Australia, although pricing was not announced. Epson America representatives stressed that this announcement was made by Epson Europe, although we would assume that ultimately the new printers and inks would reach the U.S. and Canada at some point not long after they ship elsewhere.
[Source: Print21, an online publication produced by the Australian trade association, Printing Industries.]
Macworld.com has posted our reviews of two wide-format photo printers, HP’s Designjet Z3100 Photo Printer and Canon’s imagePROGRAF iPF6100. Both of these printers offer excellent color and black-and-white print quality on glossy, matte and fine-art papers and have good ink efficiency and strong performance.
The Z3100 is priced at $4,095 and has 11 inks; a 12th cartridge, which is a gloss optimizer for reducing the bronzing effect when printing on glossy paper (Unlike most high-end photo printers, it does not have a cyan ink, using blue and light cyan to . The printer also has an embedded i1 spectrophotometer from X-Rite, which lets you easily create ICC profiles for new media types, as well as update the profiles for existing papers (which is often recommended when changing inks). The Z3100’s software is among the best we’ve ever seen for adding new media and keeping ICC profiles current across all your network machines. One other unique attribute found in the Z3100 is the fact that, when printing in black and white on matte or fine art papers, the printer uses four monochrome inks—photo black, matte black, and two grays—in essence giving you quadtone prints. (Epson and Canon printers use photo black with glossy papers and matte black with fine art papers.)
The iPF6100 (which also comes in a 17-inch version, the iPF5100) is priced $500 less than the Z3100. It has 12 inks and supports direct printing of 16-bit images via a Photoshop plug-in for both Mac OS X an Windows XP and Vista. We found the print quality of this generation vastly superior to the iPF5000/iPF6000 series (although subsequent firmware updates did improve the print quality somewhat), and it was definitely one of the faster wide-formats we’ve tested.
These are the first printers in this class from Canon and HP that approach the print quality of Epson’s Stylus Pro line. During our jury testing, when showing prints from Epson, HP and Canon pro-level inkjets, pro photographers and amateurs alike could not consistently pick which printers produced which prints. This is a far cry from years past, where Epson printers consistently produced prints that were recognizably better than the competition. We think Epson’s printers are still top notch, but HP and Canon have gotten into the game.