Weíve been boning up on the successor to the much-praised Epson R2400
Last week Epson announces Stylus Photo R2880 Epson quietly announced the arrival of their new R2880 A3+ pinkment ink photo printer. I have since been able to see in action, this successor to Epsonís much-praised R2400 and talk to Epson people about the new printerís improvements and capabilities.
First of all, the R2880 is externally almost identical to Epsonís R1900, which was launched at the end of last year. This means the R2880 is compact relative to its competitors and quite a stylish and practical design.
Both the R2880 and R1900 share much of the same internals, too, though they are tuned to completely different ink sets. The same 8-channel Teflon-coated piezo print head as the R1900 is used and Epson says the R2880 has improved dot positioning regularity. Yes, itís still only 8-channels, so you still need to swap the photo black cartridge for a matt black one when you switch between photo and fine art papers.
Swapping matt black and photo black cartridges continues
Epsonís defence is that the printer can be kept compact by sticking with 8 cartridges and avoids the need to use tubes from cartridges sited off the print head. What about ink wastage as the head flushes during cartridge changes? Only a small amount of ink in the head itself is wasted in this process, comes the reply. Epson says it is now electrically charging ink drops to prevent them from straying and causing an ink Ďmistí.
The R1900 is aimed squarely at users who seek high-gloss results on gloss and semi-gloss papers and comprises seven pigment inks plus a gloss optimiser. The R2880 is optimised for high quality grey scale printing as well as wide gamut colour printing, especially on fine art papers and its eight ink slots sacrifice the R1900ís gloss optimiser for an extra black (read: grey) ink. Fundamentally, the R2880 is a convention al CMYK, plus light cyan and light magenta printer, like the R2400 before, but the magenta inks have been boosted, so they are now called vivid magenta and vivid light magenta.
R1900 UltraChrome High Gloss 2 - mK, K, C, Y, M, R, Or, GO,
R2400 UltraChrome K3 - mK or K, LK, LLK, C, M, Y, LC, LM
R2880 UltraChrome K3 - mK or K,LK,LLK,C,vM,Y,LC,LvM
Key: mK-matt black, K-photo black, LK-light black, LLK-light-light black, C-cyan, M-magenta, Y-yellow, LC-light cyan, LM-light magenta, Or-orange, GO-gloss optimiser, vM-vivid Magenta, LvM-light vivid magenta.
Enhanced gamut with vivid magenta inks
The R2880 should have an expanded blue and magenta colour gamut, plus a smoother gradation and further reduced metamerism characteristics; meaning better viewed colour stability under different light sources. Near maximum colour stability is reached within 15 minutes of printing, weíre told.
Although there is no R1900-style dedicated clear gloss optimiser, itís possible, via the printer driver options, to use the lightest black (LLK, or 17% density black) ink to fill in the white unprinted areas and achieve a uniform gloss, at the expense of purest white. Itís actually a good feature, especially for mono prints.
Epson has endowed the R2880 with a more business-like printer driver user interface, which can be customised so you can create your own menus and subfolders. Custom settings can also be managed and loaded or saved conveniently. There is also an improved Photoshop plug-in for simplified access to printer settings and support for multiple image printing, plus streamlined options for Adobe RGB colour management. Epson has also abandoned out of date 1.8 gamma defaults in favour of the more widely accepted 2.2 gamma levels.
Dual computer connectivity
Despite the lack of onboard LAN-connectivity, for which you would need to invest in the next model up Ė the R3800, Epson has provided two USB ports so up to two computers can be connected to the printer at one time. There is also a USB print port for attaching PictBridge-enabled devices, like cameras and storage viewers, with Epsonís own P-series solutions being good examples.
New LUT technology
Finally, Epson is very proud of its new colour look up table (LUT) system, which improves the dithering of different coloured ink dots to produce smoother and less grainly colours, more consistent colours, as well as a improved colour range reproduction Ė or gamut.
Based on my recent experience of using the Epson R1900, Iím confident that the R2880 hardware will be of high quality, though the failure to develop a print head with an extra channel to accommodate the matt black cartridge full-time is, I feel, a missed opportunity.
R2400 print quality was already impressive and Epson has clearly made useful refinements via the R2880 if the sample prints I was shown are anything to go by. I certainly look forward to using the R2880 in anger soon.
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