|EPSON Stylus Photo R1900
Epson has earned a stellar reputation in the inkjet photo printer market with their series of excellent printers aimed at both the professional photographer and the enthusiast. A perennial leader in inkjet technology, they have continually set the standard by which all other manufacturers are fairly, or not so fairly judged. This position as leader in the market has given them the advantage of having a very influential hand in which direction the technology will move. To Epson’s credit they have rarely taken the wrong path. So it was with some surprise that a few years ago they took a bold step with the release of the R800, an 8.5-inch wide printer with a unique set of inks. For the first time we had an inkjet printer that was specifically designed and optimized to print on glossy and luster resin coated (RC) photo papers. The colors in the ink set were a little different too. Instead of the usual magenta and light magenta, cyan and light cyan shades, this printer came with a red and blue ink to compliment the magenta and cyan shades. This promised vibrant color prints at a level we had not seen before from pigment inkjet printers.
Additionally, this printer came with one other ink cartridge that really wasn’t filled with ink at all. Epson calls this new substance “Gloss Optimizer”, a clear laminate designed to provide a coating over the entire print even in areas of the surface where no ink is present. This optimizer coating makes the print surface more durable and resistant to scratching but it also serves to coat areas in the image that is represented as white; or absent of color and thus ink. This new approach was incorporated to reduce gloss differential, a phenomenon where these areas without ink exhibit a different level of reflectance than the ink coated areas creating artifacts that resemble splotches. This optimizer is only effective when printing on glossy and luster papers and has no benefit when printing on matte papers.
Soon after the R800 release the R1800 came along, a 13-inch printer utilizing the same UltraChrome Hi-Gloss inks. For the first time Epson was now offering two models in the 13-inch class using archival pigment inks, the R1800, and the R2400, a printer designed to produce gallery quality prints on fine art matte papers as well as on traditional photo papers. Yet, the R1800 continued to gain a following particularly with photographers looking for the high gloss look in their prints. By this time it was becoming evident that Epson had again tapped into a niche in the market and was again driving changes in technology.
Today we now have the replacement of the R1800, the R1900, and this is the subject of this review. With the R1900 Epson is building on the success of the R800/R1800 with a few advancements and notable changes to the ink set. The R1900 uses the new generation UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 inks. The blue ink is gone - now replaced with an orange ink and the red ink has been improved. The addition of the orange tone and improved red tone produce much better skin tones and expands the printers color gamut creating the subtle gradations on prints that we see in real life. In addition to this the Gloss Optimizer has also been improved to provide even more protection for the printed surface while virtually eliminating gloss differential artifacts. Finally, Epson continues to include the convenient auto-switching of black inks from matte black to photo black allowing the use of either glossy coated media or fine art matte papers.
While improving the inks is always a good thing there are other important upgrades under the hood of the R1900. Epson color scientists have teamed up with researchers from the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to jointly develop their new Radiance Technology which optimizes how the inks are mixed to take full advantage of the increased gamut creating more consistency in color in a variety of print viewing lighting environments and to reduce grain and improve color transitions resulting in seamless color gradations.
Other improvements in the R1900 include faster print speeds, increased media handling, the ability to connect the printer to two computers simultaneously, more accurate printer calibration at the factory for print consistency, and a built-in sensor to automatically align the print heads, conduct nozzle checks, and correct any clogging .
Lastly the printer can handle a wide variety of papers in many sizes from 4x6 inches up to 13x19 inches. There is a separate attachment for rear feeding heavy, thick papers as well as attachments for roll papers, and a tray for printing directly onto printable CD/DVDs.
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