Epson RX680, HP C7280 all-in-ones reviewed

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.

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HP Photosmart Pro B8850 review

b8850-small.pngIn 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.

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X-Rite announces ColorMunki profiling tool

colormunki.pngAt the WPPI show in Las Vegas this week, X-Rite announced ColorMunki Photo, a $499 spectrophotometer designed to calibrate displays and projectors, as well as create ICC profiles for RGB and CMYK printers.

Using a small-number, large-patch sample, X-Rite claims that the ColorMunki will produce highly accurate ICC profiles in a fraction of the time it takes with more expensive devices. You can also use it to measure a room’s ambient light, and will be able to create custom profiles for different lighting conditions.

ColorMunki has a funky-cool look, sort of like a tape measure. It will work with both Mac and Windows systems, and is small enough that you can carry it with you when you’re working on a remote job. In addition to the profiling and calibration capabilities, ColorMunki can capture spot color from any spectral surface and can extract specific colors from your photos, to help build custom palettes.

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Stylus Photo R1900 speed test results

We received our Stylus Photo R1900 recently, and have been quite busy testing Epson’s new pigment-based photo printer. We should have a full review online in the next week or so, but overall, we’ve been quite impressed with the R1900’s output. The glossy prints are as beautiful as we’ve ever seen from a pigment printer, which is no surprise, given the gloss optimizer and the new screening technology. But we’ve also been quite taken with photos printed on matte and fine art papers — they are rich and vibrant, and look as good, if not better, than output from other printers in its class.

While we’re finishing up the review, we wanted to post the initial results of our benchmark tests. While print speed is rarely the first concern when choosing between two higher-end photo printers, it can still be a consideration — especially if you feel that the output is comparable. Below are two charts, noting the print speeds for six different print sizes on the R1900 and its predecessor, the R1800, as well as against the immediate competition: HP’s Photosmart Pro B8850 and Canon’s dye-based Pixma Pro9000.

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Sale on pro paper at HP site

HP is running a special “Buy 1, get 1 free” promotion on 13" by 19" paper for many of its professional line of papers for the B9180 and B8850 printers. If you’re a big fan of the HP/Hahnemühle Smooth Fine Art and Watercolor papers, or HP’s Professional Satin Photo Paper (one of our new favorites), Aquarella Textured Art or Artist’s Matte Canvas, it’s a good time to stock up. Simply add two packages to your cart, and one package is free; HP’s even offering free shipping on the deal.

Given that HP’s Smooth Fine Art is regularly $4 per 13" by 19" sheet—although it’s a more reasonable $2.40 per sheet via Amazon—getting it for $2 per sheet is quite nice.

Moab ships Somerset Photo Satin 300

Moab by Legion is now shipping Somerset Photo Satin 300, a cotton-based, traditional fine art paper produced by St Cuthberts Mill in the UK. The paper, which is free of optical brighteners, has a very smooth finish and a neutral white color. While the term ‘Satin’ might lead you to believe that it has a glossy- or luster-style shine, there is almost no reflectivity in the sample images we’ve looked at, and the blacks were exceptionally deep, while still holding significant shadow detail. It is optimized for pigment inks.

Somerset Photo Satin is designed for use by photographers interested in selling their work, and is priced accordingly: it’s a little under $3 per letter-size sheet, and $6.50 for a 13"x19" sheet. It is also available in 17", 24", 44" and 60" rolls.

First look: Photosmart Pro B8850

b8850-small.pngHewlett-Packard’s recently announced Photosmart Pro B8850 is a $549, B-size (13″ by 19″) inkjet printer designed for amateur photographers who want the advantages of pigment inks, advanced black-and-white printing, and a larger print size, but who also aren’t sure they want the full throttle of a 17-inch powerhouse like Epson’s Stylus Pro 3800.

We’ve been playing with a final-release sample of the B8850 for a few weeks now, and have been quite impressed with the overall performance of the printer. What follows is our short take on the printer. While there might be some small details that change with shipping units, we think the tenor of our review will be the same.

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Crane & Co. sells Museo paper business

museo-logo.jpegWe’re currently getting ready for the annual PMA convention, which will be held next Thursday through Saturday in Las Vegas. While we were working on lining up meetings with the media companies, we discovered that Crane & Co., the venerable stationers based in Dalton, Mass., had sold their Museo line of digital fine art media to a new company, Intelicoat:

On December 17, 2007 Crane & Co. announced the sale of their digital fine art paper business, including the Museo brand of products, to Intelicoat Technologies. Intelicoat is the leading coater and converter of inkjet media including papers, films, canvas, and other fabrics. Crane will continue to supply the base paper and existing technologies.

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