The Printerville review: Epson’s Stylus Photo R2880

Epson’s Stylus Photo R2880, an $800 large-format (13″) printer, enters a vastly different printer market than that of its predecessor, the Stylus Photo R2400. When the R2400 debuted in 2005, Epson owned all aspects of the archival photo printer market, and the R2400’s only real competition was the model it replaced, the Stylus Photo 2200. The R2880, however, joins a market crowded by competitors from HP and Canon, as well as Epson itself: there are now five large-format, pigment-based photo printers priced between $500 and $1,000, and Epson’s competitors have done a superb job of catching up to their longtime rival’s print quality. There are many observers who believe that Epson still has the edge in quality, but there’s no disputing that HP and Canon have put themselves into the game, HP with the Photosmart Pro B8850 (and its older sibling, the B9180) and Canon with the Pixma Pro9500. How does the R2880 match up? Read on.

Stylus Photo R2880 specifications
TypeB-size pigment-based inkjet
Price$800
Inks9 UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta (8 printing)
Ink colorsPhoto Black, Matte Black, Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Light Vivid Magenta, Light Black, Light Light Black
Ink cartridge cost$13.29 (replacement cost: $119.61 for all 9 inks)
Ink cost per ml (est.)$1.16
Maximum resolution5760 by 1440 dpi
Minimum paper size4″ by 6″
Maximum paper size13″ by 44″
Thick paper supportYes
Straight pathYes, for media up to 1.3mm thick
InterfacesUSB 2.0 (2); Pictbridge
Operating systems supportedWindows XP, Vista; Mac OS X (10.3.9 and up)
Weight26.9 lbs.
Dimensions24.3″ x 12.7″ x 8.4″
Other featuresRoll support; CD printing tray; dual USB interfaces allow two computers to be connected to printer simultaneously

What’s new?

What does the R2880 have that sets it apart from the R2400 (and its competition)? Here are some of the primary advantages:

  • An improved version of the UltraChrome K3 inkset used in Epson’s flagship Stylus Pro printers, incorporating the Vivid Magenta inks;
  • A new color-matching technology, Radiance, designed to improve color constancy, reduce grain and improve ink efficiency (also found in the new Stylus Photo R1900);
  • New mechanisms inside the printer that are designed to reduce head clogging and ink buildup;
  • A tray for printing on inkjet-printable CDs and DVDs;
  • Two USB ports, on different circuits, allowing multiple computers (PC or Mac) to be connected to the printer simultaneously; and
  • Faster performance.

While the R2880 has plenty of enhancements, it also inherits one unfortunate trait from the R2400: the need to physically swap matte and photo black ink cartridges when you switch paper types. Given that both Canon and HP have been able to engineer ink delivery systems that incorporate both black ink types, this is a big disappointment, and one that puts Epson at a competitive disadvantage. For many photographers, this fact alone will eliminate the R2880 from consideration, regardless of the print quality or other strengths. We don’t think this is a fatal flaw, especially given the excellent print quality, but it is a major drawback.

UltraChrome K3 Vivid

Epson added the vivid magenta and vivid light magenta inks to its Stylus Pro wide-format line in September 2007, claiming that the new inks offered a wider gamut and improved black-and-white performance over the previous K3 inkset. In conjunction with the new inks, Epson is using a new color technology called Radiance, developed in conjunction with the Rochester Institute of Technology, that purportedly provides more efficient ink usage, higher quality images, and improved color constancy when viewing prints under different lighting conditions. (If you’re interested in a bit deeper discussion of Radiance, we recently covered some of the technology behind it.)

Attacking the clogged nozzle issue

Clogged print nozzles are a fact of life with inkjet printers from every manufacturer, and the R2400 seemed to be one of those printers that had more than its fair share of problems in this area. With the R2880, Epson is incorporating some new technology to try to eliminate the problem entirely.

The biggest culprit in creating clogs is time. It’s quite simple: if you leave your printer primed and unused over a significant period of time, some ink deposits can solidify and block nozzles. This is one of the reasons that most printers will run a cleaning cycle occasionally if the device hasn’t been used. Of course, this wastes ink, and it doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be clogged nozzles, but we’ve found that it does help.

Epson has added two features to the R2880 designed to reduce clogging: an ink-repelling coating on the printhead, and the addition of tiny glass beads to the ink cartridges. The coating keeps ink from building up on the printhead, theoretically lowering the chances of blocked nozzles, and the glass beads help ‘stir’ the ink while the printer is in use, keeping the viscosity optimal.

The company has also implemented an ink-collection technology that is designed to reduce the stray ink buildup that occurs inside every inkjet printer on the market—tiny amounts of ink that never make it to the paper. (These enhancements are also found in the R1900.)

If you use an inkjet printer long enough, you’ll notice that ink deposits and tiny amounts of paper fuzz can accumulate underneath the printhead’s carriage. This can often lead to paper jams and ink smudges on prints, and Epson representatives say that the R1900’s mist collection system, which uses a special electric charge to capture any ink overspray, is one more little feature that will help reduce printing problems over time. It won’t reduce the tiny amounts of paper dust that slough off a page as it goes through a printer, but it should reduce the sludge that builds as a result. (This is a problem that has begun to plague owners of HP’s Photosmart Pro B9180; for more, check this field report from our colleague Duncan Davidson.)

While we will want to see longer-term reports from the field on the anti-clog features in the R2880, we can say that, having printed more than 1,500 images on the R2880—and another 800 or so on the R1900—we have yet to see a clogged nozzle. We left the printer on for five weeks, with only intermittent printing, and never had a problem, something we couldn’t say with our Stylus Photo R2400 or our Photosmart Pro B8850. (We also left the R1900 on for eight weeks, printing a page here, and a page there, without running into any clogs.)

Setup

Like most inkjets today, the R2880 sets up quickly and with minimal effort. The 11ml ink cartridges snap easily into place, and the only real choice you need to make is what type of paper you’ll print on; Epson includes both matte and photo black cartridges with the printer. It doesn’t come with a USB cable, though, so you’ll need to pick one up.

Because it is a large-format printer—capable of printing up to 13″ wide—you’ll need a large enough space for the printer to reside upon, but the top-loading paper tray and the output tray fold nicely out of the way when you’re not using the printer. It also helps keep dust and dirt out of the printer, which is another plus. This design was first used in the R1900, and we like it much more than the one found in Epson’s Stylus Photo 1400, R1800 and R2400: those models’ spring-loaded output tray was flimsy and poorly designed.

The printer has two rear-feed paper slots, one for rigid media, the other for standard photo and matte papers. Like most of Epson’s printers in this class, you can also use roll paper; the attachment isn’t the sturdiest, but it works well when set up. It would be nice to have a built-in paper cutter, however.

The R2880 comes with print drivers for both Mac OS X and Windows (XP and Vista). In addition to the drivers is a background application that displays the printer’s ink levels every time you print, an ink-reminder utility (that can be disabled), and PrintCD, a program for creating DVD and CD labels. The drivers for Mac and PC are almost unchanged from those used by the R2400, although the R2880 does add 16-bit printing support under Mac OS X 10.5.

Print quality

At this level of the market, the thing that matters most is print quality, and frankly, the R2880 offers the best prints of any desktop inkjet printer we’ve used. The addition of the vivid magenta inks does appear to create a slightly wider gamut, but it also helps increase the quality of black-and-white output, especially in the shadows. No matter what the type of image, or the paper chosen, viewers consistently picked the R2880 output over the R2400, the R1900, HP’s B9180 and B8850, and Canon’s Pixma Pro9000 and 9500.

The R2880 did a great job regardless of the paper type. On glossy papers, prints exhibited minimal gloss differential (sometimes referred to as ‘bronzing’), and papers like Epson’s own Exhibition Fiber (Amazon link) or HP’s Professional Satin (Amazon) produced stunning, richly detailed prints, with vibrant colors. On matte-style papers, the R2880 did an excellent job of reproducing deep, rich blacks and a fairly broad tonal range. Nearly all of the fine-art papers we threw at the R2880 reproduced well, including Epson’s Ultrasmooth Fine Art (Amazon) Red River’s Aurora Natural and Moab’s Somerset Photo Satin. It’s also worth noting that none of the R2880 prints—on matte or glossy media—exhibited any signs of scuffing or ‘pizza’ tracks, which is important to anyone interested in selling their work.

For anyone interested in black and white printing, the R2880 is a stunner. On both matte and glossy media, the R2880’s output is drop-dead neutral, with the widest tonal range of any printer we’ve seen under $1,000. In fact, its black-and-white prints can rival printers more than twice its price. For example, when comparing R2880 prints with those made with the Stylus Pro 3800—our favorite overall printer in the under-$2,000 category—viewers couldn’t find noticeable differences in most color prints. But, with black-and-white prints, most observers felt that the R2880 did a slightly better job than the 3800. On some fine-art papers, like Hahnemuhle’s Photo Rag, the R2880 was able to hold detail much better than the 3800. Overall, this isn’t surprising; part of the reason Epson went to the vivid magenta inks was that it would help increase the tonal range in black-and-white printing (even when using Epson’s Advanced B&W printing mode, some color inks are used), and the R2880 is Epson’s first large-format inkjet to use the new inks.

All of this should come as no surprise; Epson has long focused on quality, and the company has spent untold sums in improving their printheads and screening algorithms, all in the quest to produce the highest-quality prints. We feel that it’s worth noting that the improvements we found in the R2880’s print quality won’t be noticed by many consumers: the R2400, R1900, Photosmart Pro B8850, B9180 and Pixma Pro9500 all produce very good prints on a variety of media types, especially if they’ve been profiled properly. However, if you’re looking for the best possible color and black-and-white prints in a sub-$1,000 device, then the R2880 is your printer.

Ink life

We’ve spent a lot of time this year dwelling on the topic of measuring ink cartridge life in an everyday setting (as have our friends at Red River Paper). One of the knocks on every vendor is the cost of ink, and while we really don’t want to fuel the ink-consipracy theorists, we think it is important for people to get a sense of what it will cost to print. Using a methodology similar to that of our initial testing (and that of Red River’s), we printed 200 8″ by 10″ pages of Bill Atkinson’s Profile Test image on the R2880, and, using the weight of full and empty ink cartridges, were able to come up with a measurement of the total ink used, and a cost per print (of ink only).

Stylus Photo R2880 ink yield measurements (200 pages)
Ink ColorEquivalent Cartridges UsedmlCost ($)
Light Light Black1.820.2$24.38
Vivid Light Magenta2.426.2$31.64
Light Cyan1.617.4$21.05
Light Black1.718.2$21.95
Photo Black3.033.2$40.12
Cyan0.77.5$9.01
Magenta0.88.8$10.60
Yellow1.617.1$20.70
Totals13.5148.5$179.46
per page$0.90
Estimate of ink used in printing 200 test pages at 8″ by 10″ output size in standard photo mode on an Epson Stylus Photo R2880. Ink usage calculations based on 11ml cartridge size and $13.29 price per cartridge.

Using this data, we can derive an ink cost per square inch, which lets us come up with an estimated cost per print size, as shown below:

R2880 ink cost per page size
Print SizeEstimated Ink Cost
4×6$0.27
5×7$0.39
8×10$0.90
11×14$1.73
13×19$2.77

While we’re still in the process of measuring a wide range of printers, we can say that the numbers for the R2880 are comparable to those of HP’s Photosmart Pro B8850 and other printers in this class. We want to be careful in setting expectations: the primary function of these tests is to give a comparable set of metrics across a broad range of printers from competing vendors, with a freely available test chart. Depending upon the type of photos you print, the number of copies and print quality levels, you might find that you’re using more or less ink than we are.

Performance

Looking at print speed, the R2880 is a very good performer, showing a modest improvement over the R2400, and leaving its primary rivals, HP’s B9180 and Canon’s Pixma Pro9500, in the dust. As we regularly note, speed is rarely at the top of our list for choosing a printer in this class, but it should be a consideration, especially if you believe print quality is relatively comparable across the different vendors’ units.

The first chart, shown below, displays the times (in seconds) for prints at the printers’ default photo modes. This is the setting most people will use, and one that produces very good results for snapshots and everyday use. As might be expected when looking at the newest member of the class, the R2880 is the speediest performer. (Click on the image to see a full-size PDF of the results.)

r2880-speed-tests-def

The second chart shows the print speeds at the highest resolution setting, the one that produces the most optimal prints, but which also uses up more ink. We rarely use this setting except for when we’re dealing with problematic images, ones with wide dynamic range, or when we want to create gallery-quality prints. Here, the R2880 continues to do well, although the gap is not as wide as it is at the lower quality setting. (Click on the image to see a full-size PDF of the results.)

R2880-speed-tests-best.png

The rough spots

For the most part, the R2880 really shines as a high-end, consumer-level photo inkjet, but there are a few things that prevent us from making the printer an unqualified, “must buy”:

  • First and foremost is the ink swapping. After nearly six years of using separate black ink cartridges (dating back to the Stylus Photo 2200), we shouldn’t have to swap inks when changing paper types. HP and Canon have been able to engineer printheads with separate channels for the matte and photo black inks, and yet Epson—the originator of this market segment—has yet to come out with an affordable inkjet printer that incorporates similar technology.
  • We also think that a large-format inkjet, capable of printing 13″ by 19″ borderless prints with ease, should have larger-capacity ink cartridges. HP’s ink cartridges for the B8850 and B9180 are more than twice the capacity of the R2880’s 11ml cartridges, and, while they are both comparably priced when you factor the cost per ml., you’ll need to purchase more cartridges sooner than you will with the HP printers. As a point of reference, we had to purchase eight additional ink cartridges (which cost nearly $110) to complete our 200-page ink use test on the R2880, while we had to purchase two cartridges (at a cost of $72) for the same test on our B8850.
  • Epson continues to provide no mechanism for easily adding new papers to the print driver. If you use a third-party paper, you have to remember which comparable Epson paper type was used to profile the paper (whether you did it, or you’re using the paper manufacturer’s profiles). This is a usability issue, and, as print quality improves, photographers are going to demand much more user-friendly tools. Epson should be a leader here.
  • Related to the driver/paper problem, Epson doesn’t even include a driver setting for their flagship Exhibition Fiber paper, which the company claims is optimized for the UltraChrome K3 ink set. The ICC profiles for the paper aren’t even on the Epson Web site; you need to go to the Pixel Genius site to download them. While it’s great that a third-party is producing high-quality profiles, Epson really should have them in the box with the printer.

With the exception of the ink-swapping issue, these really are minor problems that mar an otherwise excellent printer. We can—and do—live with them as small annoyances in our quest to produce the highest-quality prints. And, if you are like most photographers, you’ll gravitate to a few paper choices, all of which will be either matte or photo, and ink changes won’t be a concern. But if you want the widest flexibility in media choice, you’ll either have to choose an alternative printer, or put up with the lost ink used when switching (which we estimate at roughly $1.75 to $2 per ink change).

Conclusions

The Stylus Photo R2880 is a bit of a conundrum. The steps forward Epson has made in print quality and reducing clogs are hamstrung by the continued necessity to swap black inks. If Epson had eliminated the cartridge-swapping issue with this printer, it would be a nearly perfect product; as it is, it’s a remarkable printer with one significant drawback. In the end, if you’re looking for a printer in this class and price range, and print quality is your overarching concern, there is almost no reason not to go with the R2880. As much as we wish that Epson would improve some of the rough edges in their consumer-level printers, the R2880’s prints speak for themselves.


Epson Stylus Photo R2880

Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Price: $800
Epson’s R2880 product page

Pros:

  • Excellent print quality, best of any printer under $1,000.
  • Outstanding black-and-white output with near-perfect neutrality.
  • Handles thick media via two manual-feed paths (including straight-through path.
  • Speedy.
  • Includes number of features designed to reduce clogging, including ink-repelling coating on printhead.
  • Can print on optical media.

Cons:

  • Must still swap Photo and Matte Black cartridges when changing paper types.
  • Print driver doesn’t include mechanism to add third-party papers.
  • Epson doesn’t include driver preset or ICC profiles for Epson’s Exhibition Fiber Paper, despite pushing it as top-of-the-line media for R2880.
  • Small cartridge size, considering the B-size printing capabilities.

Help support Printerville: order your R2880 from Amazon today!

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78 thoughts on “The Printerville review: Epson’s Stylus Photo R2880”

  1. Good review. I’m almost convinced that this is the printer I should buy. But I have one question that was not covered in your review. How does the R2880 handle text printing, especially on non-photo papers?

  2. Text printing is good, not great on plain inkjet-compatible papers (I tried Epson’s Bright White and HP’s standard inkjet papers). To print on plain paper, you’ll need to be using the matte black ink, though.

    If you’re printing with the photo inks, you’ll need to trick the R2880 by telling it you are printing on photo paper, otherwise you’ll have to change to the matte black inks.

    If you were printing the occasional text document, PDF or Google map/Web page, the R2880 would be fine. More than 50 or so pages per month, I’d probably go with something else.

  3. Have you reviewed the R2880’s printing on canvas? I’ve been using my old 2200 for this (still works great) but would like to upgrade. Not all of the new Epson printers support canvas (sheets and/or rolls), and I believe this does. Can you confirm that? And, if so, have you seen the quality? Thank you.

  4. as pictbridge printer, could this also print text docs from mem card to printer? or just photos from pictbridge?

  5. If you were choosing one printer to buy would you go withe the Epson R1900 or R2880? I do general Photography some B&W mostly nature etc. Print mostly in matte and will probaly use Epson premium Luster. The only thing I am hesitant about is the swapping out of black cartridges.

    Thanks

  6. Francis: I’ve printed a number of images on the R2880 using Crane’s Museo canvas sheets, and the prints were as good as I would expect. I haven’t tried Epson’s roll-based canvas yet, but I picked some up recently. I’ll let you know.

    Jeffrey: I would buy the R1900. I think the difference in print quality is generally negligible at this level, and, unless you were planning on printing lots of black-and-white photos, I can’t see going through the expense of swapping cartridges.

  7. I am looking for some clarification on the swapping of the matte and photo black ink cartridges. When would this have to be done? Is there more to this then just swapping the cartridges?

  8. I know in general you need to download and use paper-specific ICC codes and let Photoshop manage color. What do you do in this regard with B&W? How do ICC profiles relate to Epson’s Advanced B&W printing mode and do you let the printer manage color?

  9. can you advise if a continuous ink system has been made for 2880 and also an external waste ink collection will do away with the need to send the printer in numerous times to have the waste ink cartridges replaced. For the 2400 Epson will only say that you need to have it serviced when the waste ink pads are full even if you are by passing the ink pads.

  10. George: If you use Epson’s Advanced B&W mode, you are in essence bypassing the ICC profiles. If you continue to use computer-based color management (from within Photoshop or the print driver), you will use the ICC profiles when printing B&W. I honestly recommend trying both methods when first working with your printer: some people really take to the driver’s Advanced settings and feel that they can tweak their prints best that way.

    The trick is getting the right workflow that fits for you and your printing needs, quite honestly.

  11. Steve: There is one slot in the printer for a black ink cartridge. If you are printing on matte-finish or fine art printers, you need to put the Matte Black cartridge in the printer.

    When you want to print on glossy or fiber-based photo papers, you’ll need to pull the Matte Black ink cartridge out and replace it with the Photo Black cartridge. The printer will bleed the ink line of the Matte ink (wasting a bit of it) and prime it with the Photo Black ink.

    It’s a simple process, and not hard at all. It’s the ink waste that bugs people, and both HP and Canon have comparable printers that let you load both Matte and Photo inks, switching automatically between the two types when you use a different paper.

  12. Randy: eFillInk has a CIS for the R2880, but I’ve never tested their inks, so I can’t really speak to how well they compare to Epson’s. My experience with most alternative inks has been that the tradeoff in gamut isn’t worth the cost savings, but many people don’t agree with me there.

    Jon Cone, who runs Cone Editions, has a good set of replacement inks/cartridges for the K3 inks used in the R2400 and Stylus Pro 3800, although he hasn’t created inks for the Vivid Magenta inkset. Of all the third-party inks, Jon’s have come the closest to approaching the output gamut of the Epson inks.

  13. Rick, thanks very much for the very complete review of the R2880.
    I am looking to finally buy a decent photo printer and am trying to compare the R2880 and the Epson 3800.
    These are two very different printers technically but it appears that the printers may be close in terms of price with the 3800 perhaps costing less because of the larger cartridges and the ability to not have to swap black cartridges.
    I am an amateur photographer and I will not be making large numbers of prints and will not be printing every day.
    It also looks like the 3800 may be a candidate for an Epson upgrade near term.
    Would you recommend the R2880 over the 3800?
    Thanks again for your review.

  14. Rick,as with Bob Rickert, I’m also wavering between the R2880 & the R3800, so I’m looking forward to your response. Thanks a lot.

  15. Add my name to the list on wanting your opinion on teh 2880 and the 3800, I am so close yet so far on making a decision. I have been doing a lot of research and posting on DPreview on the subject and still cannot decide between these or an HP product. Three major questions: how much ink do each suck up on the initial head/line filling? And when you were changing inks to do your 200 page print test, did both printers purge all the lines every time you changed one cartridge, and if so, how much ink was lost each time? Thanks!

  16. Too late for me….I went with the 3800. Between the sale price & the Epson mail-in rebate, it was a helluva deal! Not to mention the larger print capability, larger cartridges, etc.

  17. Leif, I would love to hear your first impressions when you start printing.
    Also, did the printer ship with a full set of regular size print cartridges? This is worth $450 alone!

  18. Bob, I haven’t printed anything on it yet, although I’ve installed it on the iMac I just bought as well. Mac is all new to me & I’m in the midst of transferring all my photos over. It did come with a full set of cartridges. Apparently it uses a bit of ink when it first charges the catridges, but I believe that’s only a small amount. A photographer friend of mine swears by it. Will let you know how it goes.

  19. You can see my post here, but I think that the 3800 is really the best printer for anyone who thinks they’ll be printing more than 50 prints per month. Up to that point, the R2880 is probably the better buy, but the economics of the 3800 are really hard to beat, especially as you print more.

    And, while Epson is (rightfully) crowing about the improvements in the Vivid Magenta inkset, I don’t think that the results are so demonstrable that you get an advantage in print quality.

    Hope this helps.

    Rick

  20. Bob, I’ve printed a few images now & I’d have to agree with Rick that it’s a damn fine printer. Now the challenge is to get everything set up right so that the prints don’t come out dark compared to the monitor. I have some work to do! Good luck with your buy.

  21. Leif, I made the same decision as you and bought the 3800. My first prints right out of the box were incredible! For me, the darker prints issue is not a printer issue as much as my color management. Let me know how you make out with the printer.

    Bob

  22. Hi gang,
    Good comments and honest opinions.
    My 2 cents.
    I have been using this printer for approx 2 months now. All for prints sales to tourist/consumer retail market.
    1. The starting cost was attractive vs. the pro models.
    2. I print panoramics that are on 8in wide paper by 24in long. About 10-15 a week.
    3. Awesome prints, amazing b&w’s, the ability to have differnet media is great.
    4. Ink cart changing is a pain (a little).
    5. If my biz allowed more prints weekly and higher profit margin I would go with a pro model forsure.
    But at this level of my printing selling, this printer rocks in ways you would not believe.
    I used a R800 for a long time. Great printer.
    R2880 smokes it.
    My fellow artist in Key West, Fl see my prints and are blown away.
    Fellow artist include mostly painters and illsustrators who reproduce work for the tourist trade.
    1 lady who uses a R2400 shakes her head at the difference and says WOW.
    Hope this helps anyone who is considering the R2880.
    Oh yeah, I can walk away for 4-5 days and print a pano and have zero issues on clogging. Amazing. Thing just rips and rips.
    Joey

  23. Rick, thanks for the in-depth and helpful review. As an old-time analog photograph (large format) who worked with very high-end, B & W, I am used to “toning” my prints with Selenium or Gold. When I did my first set of “digital” reproductions using Aperture and the Apple book service, I used Photoshop’s duotone to duplicate that look. Would I be working against the strengths of this particular printer to use that tact? Since I don’t want the kind of total neutrality that this printer will happily create, should I be looking more at a printer that excels more a color?

    My work plan will continue to be to shoot large format B & W negatives, develop them, scan them, then do all further manipulation and reproduction from my computer.

    Thanks!!
    joseph Bacanskas

  24. Hi Rick, i just sold my Canon iP4200 and am looking to buy a printer that has very good quality prints, now i was thinking of the R2880 but i think it’s to big for my desk and have no where else to put it, how much bigger is it than the pixma series? also my prints are normally A4 size is there another printer that is smaller and punches out great photos like the R2880? thanks for your help;)

  25. Chris:

    The Pixma Pro9500 and 9000 are pretty big printers in their own right; they’re a bit deeper than the R2880 and R1900, but aren’t as tall.

    The problem you run into is that all of the pigment-based photo printers are 13-inch models, which means the carriage is just plain wider than it is for a letter-size printer.

    Rick

  26. Joseph:

    You could probably get away with a printer like the R1900, depending upon the types of paper you wanted to print on. I might worry that, while you might not technically want a drop-dead neutral print, it is a very good benchmark to start with when you’re toning prints.

    If you’re the type of person who wants to experiment, and is willing to work with the medium of the inkset (the HiGloss in the case of the R1900), then you’re probably fine with the cheaper printer. If you want to be a bit more exact – and want to print on fiber-based media – I would go with a printer like the R2880.

    rick

  27. Thanks for the information Rick, what model would you suggest for an A4 size printer that has great prints,, i was thinking of the Canon Pixma iP4600.

  28. Hi Rick:
    Your comments speak volumes; thanks. Looks like the r2880 is right for someone who compounded his own Amidol print developer from scratch. 🙂

    Cheers!!

  29. Hi Rick,

    I’ve had Epson printers for years, the last being bought back in 2004, an Epson Stylus Photo 1280. It worked OK at first, then within a year got temperamental, putting fine black lines vertically through the prints, usually on large, expensive paper for my portfolio. So I maybe got one good print for every three attempts. (It was very annoying.)

    At any rate, I need to buy a new printer. I’m encouraged by your review of the R2880. Most of my clients simply view my website now, but I need to fill up a few portfolios with perfect 11″ X 14″ prints for some upcoming meetings. I have print a ton for that, but I’m not imagining needing to print much on a regular basis. I probably would not be switching the blacks much, I imagine I’ll stick with one kind of paper.

    Do you think that is the way to go, the R2880? Or do you think I should possibly try something else? Your review was incredibly thorough — very impressive. Thanks a lot!

    • Patrick,

      If you’re really going to limit yourself to one type of paper (generally), then I think the R2880 is an excellent choice. The print quality will be better than anything in that price range.

      Rick

  30. Great information here.

    I own the R2880 and I am happy with the quality of prints. A question here though, I have always used the matte black until now. I need to change to photo black… what do I do with my half empty cartridge, surely I do not have to bin it? Any tips?

    Thanks,
    James

  31. Absolutely not, James –

    I use a spare plastic bag with a zip-style seal (which lets you expel air from the bag). I put the cartridge in the bag, and push as much air from the bag as possible before I completely seal it. I set it in a drawer – to keep it out of the sunlight – and use the same bag to put the photo black cart in when I’m ready to swap again. You might want to occasionally shake the cart gently to stir up the beads and the ink inside it.

    With the R2880, I’ve changed carts that have been stored for three months with no problems. The R2400 was a bit pickier – those carts tended to dry out (and clog) after about a month – but Epson’s new cart design and ink system seems to be much better than before.

    Rick

  32. Just recentaly bought th R2880. Would like to find info on color profiles. best way to print ( using Adobe profiles or printer profiles)
    Love it so far. Have been using under printer profiles (Epson adobe RGB (1998) 2nd box set at .. color settings (Adobe RGB)

    looking forwar to using some new papers, so far all epson luster.
    Thanks .. enjot the form.

  33. Just to let you know I got the r2880 and am thrilled with it. I found the printer profiles are more accurate so am letting the printer do the colour management rather than photoshop. Something wrong with my eye one display. So I reset my Esio monitor to factory reset and set up colour management from there. I am also leaving the printer on at the moment, advice came from outback photographer and therefore lost very little ink in the initial cleaning cycle. Thanks for your review and the information I got on this site.

  34. I am still thrilled with the prints but now am encountering a problem. Before every print the printer is doing a cleaning cycle and I can see the levels lower before it starts to print. Could it be that I am using different size paper and that could be causing this to happen?

  35. I found out from another site that by updating the driver from the epson site this made printer go crazy. Now I reinstalled everything is okay again but I can’t download the plugin for photoshop.

  36. I’ve owned an R2880 for about four months now, and I find that I have a love/hate relationship with the machine. When dialed-in, the prints are the best I’ve ever produced, and friends have been dazzled by the quality, and I’m not just talking about bright, saturated color–what I would call “hi-fi” prints in the sense of a fake “better than real” look. What most people are impressed by is the subtle tonal gradations, whether they can articulate that concept or not, and most often this is in reference to B&W matte prints.

    But–damn!–I hate the tiny ink cartridges and the switching of blacks and the head-scratching show-stoppers that crop up too often. Maybe if I was more of a production printer, doing very similar prints over and over again, it wouldn’t be so frustrating. But I’m an amateur, a mere consumer. I like learning new things, but there are so many parameters involved, and consistency can be difficult to achieve.

    I suspect a CIS system would help alleviate most of my complaints. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the images this printer is capable of producing. But the planets must be aligned, and you have to be willing to run down to the local photo emporium to buy that cartridge you could have sworn was full yesterday.

  37. I am waiting for my new R2880 to arrive. I noticed that Joe Cone’s site has a bulk ink feed system now available for the R2880. Rick, do you have any experience with his (or any other) bulk ink feed system? A few that I have seen were horrible lab experiments went really bad. Is this a way to overcome the small ink cartridge issues that everyone seems to have with the R2880?

    • Dave,

      I’m generally not a big fan of the CIS systems, largely because I believe that the ink is as big a part of the printer as the device itself, and many third-party inks just don’t match up quality-wise to the original manufacturer’s inks. (I’m referring specifically to the hjgher-end photo printers, here.)

      That said, Jon’s inks are pretty damn good in general, and he takes a lot of care and pride in providing ink that comes close (or reaches) the consistency and gamut of the Epson inksets. I haven’t seen his inks for the R2880, but I would imagine that they’re pretty close to the consistency that he provides in his other sets.

      If you’re willing to deal with all that a CIS requires, and don’t mind getting a little “inky,” then by all means, go for it with someone like Jon.

      rick

  38. Hello Rick,

    I’ve read your reviews with interest. I am an amateur photograph. I like HDR, nature scenes and family portrait. I don’t do B&W that much. I may want to sell some prints soon.

    I know that you’ve answered the question a couple of times, but I still can’t decide between the R1900 and the R2880…Right now, there’s about 200$ price difference and it’s not an issue for me. I’ve also noticed the black ink swap thing and as I will print less than 25 prints a month, it’s not an issue either.

    What I want: the best color print quality. I know you said that the difference is bearly noticable but I guess it is at some point…?
    Should I go with the R2880?

    Thanks a lot!

    JF

  39. Hi Rick,
    I’m thinking about buying the R2880, I would probably go for the 3800 but it seems it doesn’t take canvas roll media??? i can’t seem to find out!

    if you could let me know if you can print canvas on the 3800 that would be much appreciated,

    many thanks – RL

  40. JF,

    You will find some images where the R2880 definitely has a slight edge over the R1900, but overall, I feel the print quality is pretty darn close.

    At 25 pages per month, if you’re not swapping between paper types (matte and glossy), the R2880 is definitely the better printer. If you think you’ll swap papers, you might find the ink-swapping very frustrating and costly. That would be the determinant I would use.

    rick

  41. Richard:

    The Stylus Pro 3800 doesn’t take roll media of any type. I’ve heard of people who’ve created home-made roll adapters, but the print driver doesn’t have any roll-paper support, so it’s not really a solution.

    I have printed quite a few cut sheets of canvas media on the 3800, and it does do that very well.

    Note that the R2880 doesn’t have a cutter, so you’ll have to manage that aspect yourself.

    Rick

  42. I’m looking to upgrade from an Epson 960 to either an Epson R1900 or the Epson R2880. I print my photographs mostly for myself as both a hobby and a passion and primarily in color. Is the 1900 just what I’m looking or should I also consider the 2880 or even the 3800? Decisions, decisions, decisions.

  43. Rick,

    Appreciate the great article.

    I was warned of a situation, by a knowledgeable salesperson, with the 2880 where the overflow tray becomes saturated (after approx. 200 A3 prints) and the printer no longer functions. At this point you get an on-screen error telling you the printer is out of warranty. Since the overflow tray is not user-accessible on the 2880 as it is on the 3800, the printer has to be sent to Epson for repair.

    Have you heard of anything like this?

    Thanks much
    David

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