The Epson Stylus Photo R2880 printer offers high-quality A3 output using nine pigment-based inks.
Aimed at Prosumers?
Epson has just introduced the Epson Stylus Photo R2880, an A3+ printer using Epson’s UltraChrome K3 pigment ink set (K3 stands for three blacks), which includes a new vivid Magenta colour. Replacing the popular Stylus Photo R2400, the R2880 is aimed at the (semi-)pro who requires a low output printer, or the advanced amateur who wants to produce high-quality prints with the flexibility of being able to produce both monochrome and colour prints on a variety of media types.
Notable features of the R2880 are: the ability to produce prints without having to first turn on a PC; direct printing from a digital camera using PictBridge or via the two USB 2.0 ports; border-free printing on a wide variety of cut sheet and roll media; and direct printing onto CDs and DVDs for a professional finishing touch (printable coated CD/DVDs required).
Like so many other printers, setting up the R2880 is simply a matter of following a wizard. The instruction sheet is clear and is more than sufficient to get you up and running without too much hassle. Connect the printer to the mains and turn on the power. This positions the print head cradle ready for you to load eight of the nine ink cartridges. As with most pigment ink cartridges, you have to shake, not stir, each one a few times prior to unwrapping and fitting it. This ensures that the heavy pigment ink is well circulated and doesn’t settle at the bottom of the cartridge.
Swapping Black Inks
Though the R2880 is supplied with nine inks, only eight are fitted at any one time, as you have a choice of fitting a Photo Black (Glossy media) or a Matte Black (Fine Art and Matte media). You can change between Photo Black and Matte Black at any stage, but this means the printer has to purge ink from the print head before you can start printing. This swapping ink process has been used on previous Epson printers and many users have complained that this is a wasteful exercise.
While on the subject of ink cartridges, the 11ml ink cartridges (approx £10 each) are far too small for an A3+ printer and for any bulk printing jobs. If you do need to produce a large quantity of prints then the Epson Pro 3800, with its 80ml cartridges (approx £36 each), may be a more economical purchase for you.
The R2880 comes with a suite of Epson software applications that will satisfy many users, though some are perhaps far too basic for an advanced printer such as this. Also in the box is a copy of Photoshop Elements 5 (version 4 for Mac), but the jewel in the crown is Epson’s new Photoshop Print plug-in (for CS2 and CS3). This is an easy-to-use print layout module whereby you can print single or multiple pictures using pre-defined or your own custom templates. This plug-in works with several Epson printer models (the R1400, R1800, R1900, R2400, R2880 and Pro 3800) and is also freely available from Epson’s website.
With your manipulated photograph ready for printing, simply select File > Print and then select Colour Handling – Photoshop Manages Colours and then make sure you select the correct profile for the media being used. For our test prints we used Epson Premium Glossy media. Click on Print and then click on Preferences and the new Epson Printing Preferences dialogue box opens. From here just check that the correct media is set and that the Mode is set to ‘Off (No Colour Adjustment)’ – Photoshop will manage the colours for you. If you let the printer handle the colour management then the Advanced button becomes active and you have several Mode Options including a colour wheel for adjusting the image colour and PhotoEnhance for selecting an image type: People, Landscape, Sepia, Auto correct, and the like. We produced several prints using Photoshop Manages Colours and every print was more or less spot on compared to the image displayed on our monitor. A full coverage A3+ print took 5 minutes 20 seconds to complete – perhaps not the fastest printer we’ve used, but it’s quality that counts. The R2880 together with UltraChrome K3 colours produces very high quality colour prints which are colour accurate.
Black & White
Black & white photographs are still very popular with many photographers, and the dedicated blacks in the K3 inks produces neutral greys without a hint of a colour cast. When printing you can select ‘Advanced BW Printing’: there is an advanced button that you can click, which allows you to optimise your image and make further tweaks to the tonality. The Advanced BW Printing produces a slightly lighter looking print when compared to using the ‘Off (No Colour Adjustment)’ option. However, my advice is to optimise your image in Photoshop and use the ‘Off (No Colour Adjustment)’ setting, together with the correct profile. The final result using the latter method is a deep and rich b&w print, certainly as good as any that we’ve produced in a darkroom.
For this review we created several A3+ prints and although we didn’t run out of ink after five full page coverage A3+ prints, the ink levels were all displaying 50% ink remaining. We would expect a higher print yield on subsequent cartridges (the first set will always swallow up the inks due to the priming of the print heads).
Photographic quality from an inkjet printer is nothing new. We have had this luxury for a while, so has photo inkjet printing reached a plateau? Not by any means. We are now seeing printers that come complete with first-class printer profiles, which means better colour prints with a minimum of wasted paper. The UltraChrome inks together with the new Vivid Magenta colour claim to produce an expanded colour gamut, especially in the blues and magenta colours. Looking at our test prints we can verify that the colours are certainly vibrant and lively.
The High gloss inks also produced some of the best glossy prints we’ve seen from pigment inks. Pigment inks don’t penetrate the media, they sit on the surface which produces a gloss differential: that is, white areas on the Glossy media where no ink has been applied retains the high gloss finish of the media, whereas areas covered with ink look slightly dull. Previous models (the R1800 and R800) used a gloss optimiser ink to produce a glossy finish. The R2880 lays down a very fine light coating of grey on the paper white areas thereby the whole print surface has ink applied.
Last year we reviewed the 3800, Epson’s A2 printer, and it produced stunning results. We also liked the R2400 printer, but was never 100% happy with the construction of the printer – parts felt flimsy and never inspired confidence for professional work. The R2880 is Epson’s 4th generation pigment ink printer and enjoys the same design and build quality as the 3800 and R1900. The overall finish and attention to detail is first rate. The end results have to speak for themselves – the R2880 doesn’t disappoint. It joins a small handful of printers that we have used and tested over the past 10 years as being a step ahead of its competitors.