Printing with the Epson Stylus Photo R3000
With the arrival Epson’s Stylus Photo R3000, Epson has narrowed the gap between their prosumer photo-quality desktop inkjet printers and their larger-format, Professional Imaging inkjet printers. In terms of physical size and technology, the Stylus Photo R3000 (aka the SP R3000) is both larger and technologically more advanced than the Epson Stylus Photo R2880, which it supplants as the top gun of Epson’s prosumer desktop line-up.*
At first glance the new Stylus Photo R3000 can easily be mistaken for a Stylus Pro 3880, Epson’s entry level, 17 x 22-inch Professional Imaging desktop printer. Although the SP R3000 has a smaller footprint than its larger-format sibling, it shares a number of Epson Professional Imaging technologies, including swap-free auto-sharing between the Photo Black and Matte Black ink cartridges; a one-inch, nine-color, eight-channel MicroPiezo AMC print head; Epson’s UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta ink technology; AccuPhoto HD2 Image Technologies for smoother tonal transitions and color consistency; and a trio of Black/Gray ink channels for rich, full-bodied color and monochrome print output.
To further amplify print quality, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 employs AccuPhoto HD2 imaging technology, which enables smoother color transitions while maintaining optimal shadow and highlight details.
In addition to the abovementioned image-enhancing, workflow-improvements, the Stylus Photo R3000 also features ink cartridges that contain about 50% more ink per cartridge (approximately 25.9ml per cartridge) compared to the cartridges used in previous generation Stylus Photo-series desktop printers. This should result in appreciable savings for anyone addicted to inkjet printing (such as myself), which from an ink cost perspective, should justify the $200-plus price difference between the newer SP R3000 and SP R2880.**
The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 employs Epson’s UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta inks, an archival, pigment-based ink set that brings an extremely broad dynamic range, for faithfully accurate image rendition in both color and black and white. Three out of nine cartridges that make up the UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta ink set (Photo Black/Matte Black, Light Black, Light-light Black, Vivid Magenta, Vivid Light Magenta, Cyan, Light Cyan, and Yellow)are monochromatic; Photo Black/Matte Black (for glossy prints and matte prints respectively), Light Black and Light-light Black. Together they allow for smooth tonal transitions between colors and the highest level of monochrome printing in a choice of neutral, warm, cool or sepia renditions. And Epson’s Advanced Black-and-White conversion mode enables you to take any color image file and convert it to a full-range monochrome file with the click of a button.
In terms of resolution, the SP R3000’s 180 nozzle-per-channel Advanced MicroPiezo AMC print head— which can produce variably sized ink droplets as small a 2 picoliters—can bang out prints at 5760 x 1440 dpi, though prints produced at 1440 x 1440 dpi are more than adequate for all but the most demanding needs, i.e., a one-man show at the MoMA.
As with all UltraChrome-based Epson printers, separate blacks are required to produce equally meaty, D-Max-intensive blacks on matte and glossy media surfaces. And while switching between Matte black (MK) and Photo black (PK) used to be a time-consuming, hands-on process that resulted in more ink loss than you’d care to know; black-swapping on the SP R3000 is an automatic internal process that takes about 2 to 3.5 minutes depending on whether you’re going from to PK-MK or MK-PK. Ink hemorrhaging during the ink-swap process has also been greatly reduced to about 1-ml to 3-ml depending on whether you’re going from PK-MK or MK-PK.
According to the specs, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 can output an 8 x 10-inch glossy print at Superfine mode in about a minute and 33 seconds, and a 13 x 19-inch print of the same image in about 2 minutes and 33 seconds, which I’ll bet a box of donuts was with the High-Speed print mode clicked On.
Experienced users are well aware that print times can differ greatly between high-key images, which contain large areas of white space and require less ink coverage and print time, compared to lower-key images, which require more ink and longer print times. My own test times printing borderless letter-size prints of average outdoor scenes came out to 2:55 minutes at 1440 x 1440 dpi and 3:48 minutes at 5760 x 1440 dpi. As always, your mileage may vary depending on the density of the image and your choice of print media, as well as your operating system and related hardware.
As for the differences in image quality between images printed 1440 x 1440 and 5760 x 1440, it would be subjectively safe to say there’s about a 10% improvement in image quality between the two settings, most obviously in the highlight and shadow areas but also quite noticeably in the transitions between neighboring colors and highlight/shadow areas. And this holds true for both black-and-white and color imagery. But do keep in mind that bumping the res up to 5760 x 1440 also increases your ink consumption, so use this setting wisely.
Note: For mysterious reasons, print times for the same image file converted to monochrome using Epson’s Advanced Black and White mode and printed at 1440 x 1440 and 5760 x 1440 dpi clocked print times within a few seconds of each other.
As mentioned up front, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 can output standard-size borderless or bordered prints up to 13 x 19” and as small as 3.5 x 5”. Depending on the thickness of your media choice, the SP R3000 features a choice of three media paths including a front, media-in/media-out path for heavier fine art media (up to 1.3mm thick), canvas and printing onto CDs/DVDs using the included CD/DVD tray.
There’s also a roll-paper feed for roll media up to 13” wide and a standard auto sheet feeder that allows you to queue up to 120 sheets of bond paper or 30 sheets of photo-quality paper for pulling all-night print-a-thons. If you have a penchant for panoramas, the SP R3000 can also output prints measuring 13 x 44” across when printing to rolls of Epson’s 13” print media.
On the subject of print media, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 can be used with most all of Epson’s premium print surfaces including Epson’s Signature Worthy Collection (Photo Paper Luster, Exhibition Fiber Paper, Velvet Fine Art Paper, Hot Press Natural Fine Art Paper, Hot Press Bright Fine Art Paper, Cold Press Natural Fine Art Paper, and Cold Press Bright Fine Art Paper), Premium Photo Paper Semi-Gloss, Watercolor Radiant White, Premium Canvas Satin, Ultra Premium Presentation Matte, Premium Photo Paper Glossy, as well as Epson’s extensive line of consumer paper surfaces.
Sound levels, which in the past have been issues with inkjet printers regardless of the manufacturer, are rated at a quite acceptable 38 dB according to ISO 7779 standards on the SP R3000. In the real world this means you can have a transcontinental phone conversation with someone or stream the latest episode of Alligator Wrestling with the Stars while the printer hums along unobtrusively beside you.
For connecting to computers and networks, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 offers the option of connecting via USB 2.0 or 100Base-T Ethernet ports, and is Wi-Fi certified (802.11n only).
*The Epson SP R2880 has not been discontinued and remains in the Epson lineup.
** If your long-term plans include printing large editions or high-volume one-offs of borderless full-size prints, you might want to consider investing in an Epson Stylus Pro 3880 or 4900, both of which feature larger capacity (80ml) ink cartridges that bring your per-print ink costs down dramatically compared to the PS R3000, and moreso compared to the smaller cartridges used in the SP R2880. You also gain the option of outputting prints up to16 x 20” by going with either of these Epson Stylus Pro desktop printers.