This past summer, some friends of mine bought a new condo in Southern California, although they must have promised their first born to the mortgage company with prices the way they are. The condo was a sizable step up from their rental apartment, and in addition to a lot more square footage of floor space, it has a lot more wall space than the former residence (along with a second full bath and a balcony). Suddenly, the collection of wall art that had filled the old place barely made a dent on the walls at the new one. I should have suspected there were ulterior motives when I found myself invited over for a big dinner (with plenty of good wine). Somewhere between grilled salmon and crème brûlée, the innocent question was posed, "So, Chris, do you have any prints of your photographs you could give us for the walls?" I don't sell them, so why not give them away?
The next day in the office, I saw the perfect opportunity. I could make the prints while testing a new printer. Luck would have it that Epson had just sent us the Stylus Photo R2400, so I unpacked it and started getting it dialed in.
The first thing you notice about the R2400 is its clean design. Epson has always made its printers to look good even when they aren't cranking out prints, and this one is no exception. Following the latest trend in printer forms, the R2400 can be closed up completely when not in use. Its sleek lines don't disrupt your desk.
Once unpacked and powered up, I started right in on turning out some prints. I might rant and rave about the importance of dialing in color consistency to anyone who will listen, but in this case, I was in a hurry and I skipped the color matching. I had heard that the new Epson drivers were so good that there really wasn't much need to get tricky with the advanced controls. The first print I made bore out that assertion. Without any adjustment to the file, the print of a California poppy looked perfect, colors were rich and saturated, and the transitions from tone to tone were completely smooth.
During the course of a full day, I made at least 20 prints, all at about 11x14 inches. Epson claims a time of less than two minutes for such a print, but I found that at my highest-quality settings, the time was a bit longer. Still, prints came out fast and always looked good. The ink tanks are individually monitored, and the driver informed me that I needed more ink before it started to make more prints.
Inks are pigment-based for longevity that will rival the longest-lasting traditional photo prints (and last much longer than typical lab prints). The eight-tank system consists of cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta, yellow and three black inks (Epson refers to this as a nine-ink palette because you have a choice of photo black and matte black in addition to light black and light-light black inks, but only eight are loaded at a time). Collectively, the ink palette is known as the Epson UltraChrome K3 system, and it's impressive. For a full technical discussion of the system, see the Epson website.
One aspect of printing with the R2400 that I especially appreciated was its consistency. One of the earliest prints I made was crumpled when a coworker carelessly placed a notebook binder on it. I called up the file the next day and printed a new one. When comparing the two side by side, the color consistency was identical. Very impressive.
We're in the midst of a renaissance in black-and-white imagery. The limits of the film and paper darkroom have been cast aside and we now can exercise more control over all aspects of a print than ever before. The Epson K3 black-and-white ink system is, again, impressive. The black-and-white prints I made pulled every tonal nuance from the image file. Blacks were rich, details in the light and dark areas were clear, and the transitions between tones were perfectly smooth. Months later, I'm still using the Epson Stylus Photo R2400. I hope they don't ask for it back. Contact: Epson, (800) GO-EPSON, www.epson.com.
Advanced Micro Piezo 8-color pigment ink delivery system
9-ink palette (cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta, yellow, photo or matte black, light black and light-light black)
180-nozzle print head
3.5-picoliter droplet size
Borderless printing up to 13x19 inches
Dimensions: 24.2x12.6x9.1 inches
List Price: $849
|[ Primary Features ]|
1 New UltraChrome K3 ink system with three blacks (hence, the K3)
2 Long print life from pigment-based inks (up to 200 years)
3 Large, 13-inch maximum width