In 1999, 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.
In my Stylus Photo R2880 review, one of the biggest questions I get is not about the quality of the printer, or even comparisons with HP and Canon printers in the same price range. No, it is: “How does it compare with Epson’s Stylus Pro 3800?”
This is understandable: while the R2880 is a very good printer, it does suffer from a few issues, notably the smaller ink tanks and the necessity to swap the matte and photo black ink cartridges when you want to move between matte and glossy papers. The 3800 also requires a switch, but the process is automatic and requires no user intervention. The 3800 does waste a few dollars of ink per switch, which is troublesome, but given the rarity with which people change paper type—and its high-capacity (80ml) cartridge size, this is a lesser issue for many pro users.
Right now, the Stylus Pro 3800 is under $1,200 at Amazon (a savings of $100 or so), while the R2880 is priced around $650 ($150 off the list price). If you’re looking at the two printers, how do you choose between the two? I think it’s pretty straightforward: what follows are some of my thoughts, based on fairly heavy usage of both printers (and nearly every other photo printer in the $300 to $5,000 price range).
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.
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.
We’re continuing to work on our full review of Epson’s new Stylus Photo R2880, which we hope to have online in the next week or so. In the interim, we have been able to finish our benchmarking of the new inkjet, comparing it with its predecessor, the Stylus Photo R2400, and the two semi-pro printers closest to the R2880 in fighting weight: HP’s Photosmart Pro B9180 and Canon’s Pixma Pro9500.
We know that speed is usually a secondary or even a tertiary consideration when looking at photo printers, but, with today’s increased competition, it can be a factor for some people when they’re choosing an inkjet. Below are two charts, noting the print speeds for six different print sizes, ranging from 4" by 6" to 12" by 18" on the R2880 and the other three printers.
Epson today announced the Stylus Photo R2880, the long-awaited replacement to the Stylus Photo R2400. The $800 printer, slated to ship in June, is a B-size (13") inkjet that uses pigment-based inks, including two light-density black inks designed to produce optimal black-and-white prints on all types of media. And, while the R2880’s pedigree shows a clear link to the R2400, the new model takes advantage of Epson’s recent technology advancements from both the higher-end Stylus Professional printer line and the recently released Stylus Photo R1900.
We recently purchased some of Moab’s Somerset Photo Satin, a new paper that we first encountered at this year’s PMA show in Las Vegas.
Somerset Photo Satin is a thick (300gsm), 100% cotton fine-art paper made by St Cuthberts Mill, one of the oldest paper makers in the U.K. It is quite white, with a brightness of 97.5%, and it is free of whiteners and other optical brightening agents (OBAs). It does, however, contain buffering agents designed to help protect the paper from atmospheric contaminants.
Macworld recently posted our reviews of two letter-size, all-in-one photo inkjets: HP’s Photosmart C7280 and Epson’s Stylus Photo RX680. While neither of those printers would be considered “pro-level,” they are both a good value for what they are: six-color photo printers that do additional duty as general-purpose printers and scanners/copiers. (While the reviews are understandably Mac-centric, we’ve tested both printers on Windows-based systems as well.)
Photosmart C7280: bargain utility printer with big features
The C7280 lists for $300, but you can find it on Amazon right now for $165 (with free shipping). At that price, it’s a very good buy, with multiple connectivity options (802.11n wireless, Ethernet, USB); a built-in duplexer; secondary tray for 4" by 6" and 5" by 7" photo paper; and a sheet feeder for the copier. We had a couple of minor issues with the wireless networking, but once you have it up and running, it’s a great general-purpose inkjet printer. And, if you use it wirelessly, you can still scan directly to computers on your network that have the HP driver software installed. This is a great feature, one we’ve found extremely helpful in the months we’ve been using the printer.
In mid-2006, HP entered the archival printing market in earnest with the Photosmart Pro B9180, the company’s first fully pigment-based printer. The B9180 produced great prints in both color and black and white and had a number of innovative features, including a smart mechanism for adding third-party paper types directly into the print driver. While the B9180 hasn’t knocked Epson off its perch as the king of the archival print, it has made it a much more competitive market, especially in that all-important sub-$1,000 market.
Now, hot on the heels of Epson’s Stylus Photo R1900, HP has released the $550 Photosmart Pro B8850 (Amazon link), which retains the best qualities of the B9180, at a lower price point (identical to the price of the R1900). We’ve been working with both pre-release and shipping versions of the B8850 for a few months now, and we’ve had few surprises: it produces very good prints with a few minor issues, much like its older sibling.