Epson's second-generation Durabrite pigment ink-jetEpson Stylus C84 ink-jet printer
Typical selling price (UK, pounds Sterling): £89.99 (Dixons Group stores exclusive)
Also available from most Epson stockists, identical to the model reviewed but adding a 6-in-1 memory card reader:
Epson Stylus C84 ink-jet printer, Photo Edition
Typical selling price (UK, pounds Sterling): £93 (dabs.com)
Manufacturer's guide price: £99
• Low cost general-purpose ink-jet printer
• Better photo printing quality without photo inks
• Unrivalled photo and plain paper print fade and water resistance?
Epson wants us to seriously consider adopting its new four colour pigment ink printers, the Stylus C64 and C84, for general purpose photo printing, as well as document printing. Here at dpnow.com we think their argument has some merit, though photo print perfectionists may not yet be persuaded.
Epson’s out-going C-series printers, replaced by the C64 and C84, were not marketed heavily by Epson as photo printers and for good reason. Their 'mark 1' Durabrite pigmented inks were developed primarily for optimum document print quality on plain paper. But Epson has gone to great lengths in order to persuade us that its next-generation Durabrite inks really are photo quality. The new printers that take these inks have been upgraded accordingly. A new glossy photo paper designed exclusively to work with Durabrite inks has also been produced.
Both the C64 and C84 now boast the same 5760dpi optimised print resolution as their Stylus Photo stablemates. The C84 has a reduced minimum ink droplet size of just 3 picolitres. The C64 can print 15x10cm (6x4 inch) borderless prints, while the C84 can print without borders all the way up to A4 size.
Improved ink formulation
Epson's next-generation Durabrite inks
Epson says its new Durabrite inks borrow much of the knowledge used to formulate their UltraChrome
pigment inks developed for professional large format ink-jet photo printers. Like UltraChrome, microscopic Durabrite ink particles are encapsulated in a resin coat that helps prevent coagulation and promotes a smooth printed surface with better light reflecting characteristics. Epson also says it has improved the colour gamut of its Durabrite inks.
Durabrite glossy photo paper
One of the inherent drawbacks of pigmented ink is that printing onto conventional glossy paper can produce a disappointing finish. The printing process is akin to painting with semi-matt paint. The shiny finish of the glossy paper is covered by a think layer of pigment ink particles that sit on the surface rather than being absorbed into the surface coating of the paper. Epson says its new Durabrite inks minimise this problem, though the same was said of UltraChrome inks, but in tests we still found that it wasn’t possible to maintain a good quality high-gloss finish.
However, Epson has developed a glossy paper specifically for its new Durabrite inks. From the samples that we have see, the printed glossy surface finish is a definite improvement and will satisfy many non-critical users.
Purists will still be sensitive to some hardening of tones and some dot grain because the C64 and C84 don’t have light cyan and light magenta intermediate ‘photo’ inks.
Fading and damage resistance
One of the big advantages of pigmented inks over dye-based inks is fade resistance. Dye-based inks are used in most consumer photo ink-jets currently available, apart from the semi-pro Epson Stylus 2100, which uses UltraChrome pigmented inks. Unlike dye-based inks, pigmented inks are virtually immune to short and medium term air-borne degradation by gaseous pollutants like ozone. It’s a similar story with UV light fading.
Some paper types can protect dye-based inks from gas fading and HP, for example, claims longer fade resistance life (around 20-30 years) than some of its competitors for this reason, but Epson claims 80 years fade resistance with its Durabrite inks.
Epson was keen to show practical evidence of the fade resistance of Durabrite prints at a seminar I attended. Accelerated fading procedures were demonstrated on prints from Canon, Lexmark, HP and Epson printers. The Epson Durabrite inks showed impressive fade resistance and also, notably, resistance to water damage. It ought to be noted that Epson chose not to apply its dye-based ink-jet printers to these tests!