For me, the allure of the Epson Stylus Pro 4800 wasn't only its ability to produce prints up to 17 inches wide. It wasn't just that it could create dramatic, borderless panoramic prints on roll paper. And although the printer's UltraChrome K3 pigment inks provide a lightfastness of more than 100 years, it wasn't what was driving me to quickly set up this large-format printer and put it through its paces. What I couldn't wait to do was produce black-and-white prints, a process that this printer promised to take to a brand-new level.
Utilizing 110- or 220-milliliter ink cartridges, the hefty 4800 took about half an hour to set up. A third of that time was taken up by charging the ink system, which involves moving the ink levers up and down when prompted by the unit's LCD panel. The need to stand by the printer waiting for these prompts was mildly irritating, but thankfully, is only necessary when installing and replacing inks which, due to the large-capacity cartridges, shouldn't be too frequent.
The first thing I noted was that unlike the Epson Stylus Pro 4000, this eight-ink system doesn't accommodate both photo black and matte black inks simultaneously. Besides the presence of light black and light light black inks, which help provide the subtle gradations of gray for black-and-white prints, and the color inks (magenta, light magenta, cyan, light cyan, yellow), there remains only one slot for a black ink. A photographer must install either photo black or matte black, depending on the paper choice. This likely will be a drawback for photographers who go back and forth between printing on matte and glossy surfaces.
The printer comes with the photo black ink, which I installed in the printer. However, if you prefer printing on matte surfaces, I recommend purchasing and installing the matte black ink to start with, or otherwise you'll waste ink as the initial inks are cleared from the system. Since many photographers normally have a strong preference for printing on one media over another, this may not be an issue. But for others, particularly those who have enjoyed the convenience of the 4000, it should be something to consider when deciding to upgrade.
Once installation was complete, it was an easy matter to begin printing, as the software driver was very straightforward. Epson's new Advanced B&W Photo mode offers a clean interface that makes adjusting density and shadow and highlight tonality simple.
I was pleased with the neutral-quality prints I made on Epson's Premium Glossy paper. The images, which had a rich range of tones, reproduced beautifully, retaining important details both in the highlights and the shadows with as close to a neutral cast as I had ever seen produced from a printer straight out of the box.
I prefer toned prints, however, and thankfully, the Advanced B&W Photo mode made it easy to create the slightly cool tone I like with much of my black-and-white printing. The interface was clean and uncomplicated, and with just a pair of test prints, I had found the look I was hoping for.
Metamarism, which can be easily seen in a black-and-white print, was hardly evident. As I evaluated the prints under a different light source, it was good to see that the tones of the print weren't changing due to the alteration of the light source.
The Epson Stylus Pro 4800 delivers quality prints, both in color and black-and-white, making it appealing to any outdoor photographer who enjoys large and impressive photographic prints. List Price: $1,995.
Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.
1. UltraChrome K3 pigment inks reduce bronzing and offer improved scratch resistance as well as provide integrated gloss optimization for glossy papers.
2. Virtually any paper type is supported to sizes up to 17 inches wide.
3. Inks are deposited on paper in droplet sizes as small as 3.5 picoliters for optimal detail and color and tonal transitions.
4. Easy-to-use software creates a simpler work flow for creating neutral or toned black-and-white prints.