Digital Photography Now Printer Reviews
3-part series: Photo ink-jets laid bare
By Ian Burley
Part 2: Photo ink-jet print quality
Epson Stylus 895 Photo
Click a thumbnail below to see larger versions of these comparative test images:
Epson is in the enviable position of having being top dog in the photo ink-jet printer stakes for several years. Ever since the first Stylus Photo printer was unveiled four years ago, Epson has maintained a clear lead in terms of absolute photo quality. Epson has also been a stalwart of its piezo-electric print head technology that uses an electronic Ďmuscleí to squeeze the ink out of a nozzle rather than the thermal process everyone else uses.
But Canon, a company based on a long and illustrious photographic heritage, has recently provided a real challenge to Epson in the form of the BJC-8200 and, this year, the S800.
With the Stylus 895, Epson has increased maximum resolution, in one axis at least, to 2880dpi. To be honest, we find it very difficult to see any sharpness improvement compared to the previous Stylus 870, which has a maximum resolution of 1440dpi.
One thing the 895 does have that is genuinely new, is PIM, or Print Image Matching. This is an Epson-developed technology that aims to avoid the loss of image properties during the printing process. PIM-compatible cameras, of which there now quite a few from manufacturers like Nikon, Sony, Kyocera and Olympus, among others, produce PIM identifiable images that a PIM-compatible printer can print more accurately, according to Epson.
We havenít tested PIM here exhaustively here, but we have experimented with it and it does make a difference. Our feeling so far is that it can produce better prints but itís not perfect. Weíre working on a comprehensive PIM feature for publication soon.
While in my opinion, Canon briefly claimed the photorealism crown back from Epson with the arrival of the BJC-8200, the Stylus 870 grabbed it back again within a few months.
But the S800 is much improved, so will the 895 retain its crown?
One thing that we find characteristic of the Epson is its dark green capability. Indeed, some people can reliably pick out an Epson print from the quality of the green in foliage, for example. Itís a cool green, less dominated by yellow than other printers. We have noticed that it can turn into an unnatural blue-green when using some driver options for enhancing digital camera images.
But apart from this, the overall results show a high standard no matter what kind of image is being printed.
The 895 canít quite match the sheer absence of grain demonstrated by the Canon S800, but itís clearly ahead of the rest.
Again, sharpness is excellent and on a par with the S800.
There are no real complaints here, either. Banding was never a problem, though alignment of roll paper for borderless printing wasnít always perfect.
Compatibility with third party papers is not too bad, though we did have to play with the driver settings and we did find that on non-Epson paper the ink took longer to dry.
We find Epson premium glossy paper is excellent. The Canon S800ís Pro Glossy paper is shinier, but the Epson paper does the job and is as glossy after printing as it is before.
Weíd like to recommend Epsonís very good value Heavyweight Matte paper, which produces superb photo results.
Both the Epson 895 and Canonís S800 emerged the clear leaders among our panel. The S800 won more first choices, but it was a very close run decision.