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Epson Photo Stylus R2880

Tri-Tone Blacks and Killer Skin Tones

By Allan Weitz

When the Epson Stylus Photo R2200 was introduced about a half-dozen years ago, I thought it was the cat's meow. A 7-color, dual black (Matte or Photo Black and Light Black), pigmented inkset called UltraChrome promised brightly colored prints glossy or matte with a display life of 60 to 200 years, depending on a shopping list of qualifiers. The prints the R2200 made were truly wonderful as long as you stuck to premium matte papers. It also helped if you were able to live with blacks that were never quite 'black' black. As for glossy prints, they were OK but suffered from gloss differential (erroneously labeled as and confused with 'metamarism'), which ceased to be a big deal once you framed the prints behind glass. Otherwise it was a terrific machine.

The R2200 ultimately gave way to the Stylus Photo R2400, which featured an improved inkset Epson UltraChrome K3 which included three monochrome inks (Matte or Photo Black, Light Black, and Light, Light Black) for smoother tonal transitions and amazing black & white prints. Color prints were also snappier, and the gloss differential issue was further improved.

Epson Stylus Photo R2880The third generation of this series has finally made its debut in the form of the Epson Stylus Photo R2880, a sleekly designed 13x19" desktop printer that features Epson's newest pigment-based inkset, UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta, which delivers livelier blues, purples, and reds as compared to the K3 inkset it replaces. Designed to produce truer, life-like skin tones, the Epson Stylus Photo R2880 can spray dots of ink as small as 3-picoliters out of each its 1440 print nozzles (180 nozzles x 8 printheads) with a maximum resolution of up to 5760 x 1440 dpi. As for the resulting print quality, let's just say it's delicious.

Epson credits the R2880's vivid color and monochrome abilities to Radiance technology - co-developed by Epson and Muncell Color Science Laboratories which optimizes the color gamut of the print, along with improved grain structure, faster print times, smoother tonal transitions, and improved shadow and highlight details. The results lend credence to Epson's efforts.

Like the Stylus Photo R2200 and R2400, the R2880 requires switching between Gloss Black and Matte Black, depending on your choice of paper surface. Swapping cartridges is a relatively painless process, and unlike previous models, you only lose a small amount of ink each time you switch cartridges.

For Black & White enthusiasts, monochrome images produced by the R2880 are seemingly cast-free regardless of ambient viewing conditions, which is something we couldn't say a few years ago without first crossing our fingers behind our back. Advanced Black & White print settings allow you to print your images in a neutral, warm, cool, or sepia tone to best compliment the mood of the image. Aside from these four presets, custom tonal settings are set using sliders and a Color Wheel, which appears when you select the Advanced Black & White Mode.

When you select 'Advanced Black & White' in the print menu, a new window pops up with a sample black & white image, to which you apply and preview any tonal adjustments you want to make to your image. Personally, I'd rather preview the image I'm actually working on rather than the image placed in the menu by Epson, but the pretty girl in the sample image will have to do.

Aside from a selection of glossy, luster, and matte surfaces, the Stylus Photo R2880 can also print onto heavier fine art papers including Epson's (truly luscious) Exhibition Fiber Paper, 13" roll media, print board up to 1.3 mm thick, canvas, as well as CDs and DVDs. Print size options range from 4 x 6" through 13 x 44". Borderless printing is possible in standard print sizes ranging from 4 x 6" through 13 x 19".

To better ensure color consistency the printer's MicroPiezo AMC printhead contains an ink-repelling coating, which helps maintain accurate dot placement and a Mist Collector to keep the inside of the printer free from over-spray. On the same note, tiny glass beads are mixed into the ink chamber of each ink cartridge to prevent the pigment particles from settling.

To reduce the chance of wasting valuable ink and/or paper, the Epson R2880 uses built-in sensors that automatically detect clogged nozzles and run head-cleaning cycles to correct the problem as needed. Multitaskers will appreciate the R2880's dual USB 2.0 ports, which enable you to plug two separate computers or other image-downloading devices into the printer at the same time.

As far as long-term print life is concerned, according to tests performed by Wilhelm Labs, you can expect about 60 to 70-plus years from Epson's Premium Gloss and Luster surfaces, and up to 200-plus years from Epson's Premium Fine Art papers when stored and/or framed in print-friendly environments. And that's in color. You can add additional years to the above numbers if you're printing black & white.

With a top decibel reading of 51 dB, the newest Epson runs quietly, but don't be surprised if you find yourself tapping your feet and humming 'Da Doo Run Run' by the Ronettes when printing in the faster print modes. As for print speed, 8x10s can be knocked out in as little as 1 minute and 36 seconds in Photo Mode, or 2 minutes and 18 seconds in Best Photo mode.

My own tests using an image requiring heavy ink coverage printed across an 8.5 x 11" sheet of Epson Premium Semi-Gloss took 3:07 minutes at Photo-1440 dpi. The same image printed at SuperPhoto 5760dpi took 8 minutes and 47 seconds. The same image printed at 13x19" at Photo 1440dpi took 8 minutes and 49 seconds, and 15 minutes and 12 seconds at SuperPhoto 5760dpi. At And while there was a bit more detail in the shadows and highlight areas of the 5760 dpi image, the 1440 was quite lovely and more than adequate for most all practical applications. If the Museum of Modern Art wants to purchase one of your prints, go for the highest resolution. Otherwise save your ink and stick to Photo-1440dpi.

The Stylus Photo R2880 has a footprint of 24.2(W) x 12.5(D) x 8.5"(H), weighs in at 26.9 lb, and runs on Windows XP, 2000, and Vista, as well as Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later.

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