Another A3 printer from Epson? Jamie Harrison puts the Stylus Photo R1800, aimed at enthusiasts, through its paces

EpsomR1800Price: £400
*Type: A3 + Inkjet Printer
*Print resoultion: 5760 x 1440dpi optimised
*Inks: Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss
*Pictbridge: Yes

When it comes to A3 printers, you?d go a long way to beat Epson?s pedigree. The
two-year old 2100P is still going strong, while even the older and lower-resolution 1260 and 1190 models are still in use throughout the land. In these technology driven, upgrade-hungry times, this loyalty and longevity is a rarity. It is into this environment then, that Epson brings its latest A3 printer the R1800. Epson is keen to stress that this model doesn?t replace the 2100, but it is aimed at the semi pro and enthusiast photographer. Essentially the printer is an elongated R300, using the same print head and inkset to offer large-format prints at a reasonable price. Like the current R-series A4 printers, the R1800 uses Epson?s Ultra Chrome High Gloss inks. These inks are dispatched as single tanks covering the usual CMY colour sets, along with additional tanks of Photo black and Matte Black, and extended colour from red and blue inks. Epson claims that the extra colours increase the gamut of the prints ? that is, offer a greater colour range which can?t be achieved with standard four or six-colour inksets. The further inclusion of a gloss optimiser tank addresses criticisms of Epson?s gloss finish on other printers, notably the 2100P which often had a bronzing appearance to the finish. This particular tank, along with the photo and black ink sets, are called into action depending on the paper that?s used, so no need for gloss on Epson Archival Matte paper obviously. The printer doesn?t stop at photo printing, there is also CD printing and banner printing, making the R1800 quite a versatile vixen. Most printers benefi t from fi ne tuning, and few perform brilliantly straight from the box. In fact, even a mediocre printer can churn out good results if it has a dedicated profi le. In the case of the R1800, results need very little tweaking to get good results. I played around with the driver settings to get the best results, but it didn?t take long. Even at bog standard default, auto everything, I created passable results. On my particular model I found that Adobe RGB colour management with ?5 brightness produced near-perfect prints, that even a £100 printer profi le would be stretched to better. Black and white prints are always hard to replicate on a colour printer, but the R1800 produced an extremely close to neutral print. In other areas the printer does well too. Over two days of stringent testing I failed to find any banding, while colours from pastels to highly saturated reds are continually as close to accurate as can be. Prints display no obvious signs of banding in broad colours, while sharpness (determined by the printer and drop size) is excellent, with no problem replicating fine hair and no sign of moiré on diff cult weaved subject matter. Black and white and neutral tones printed very easily with none of the colour casts that have often marred inkjet prints in the past. The only downside is speed. It?s good for Epson, at around 10 minutes in the highest quality for an A3, but slow compared to Canon?s two-minute average. On the other hand the Willhelm Imaging Research Institute gives the Epson ink/paper combination a longer lifespan at 80 years for gloss and more than 100 for matte.

Epson has done a spanking job with the R1800. From set up to output, the printer makes light work of even tricky jobs, without ever making life complicated.

PROS: Colour, ease, print longevity
CONS: A lot of seperate tanks to buy, speed

Print quality 19
Speed 16
Ease of use 18
Design 17
Value 17