|The R800 is the top of the range A4 printer from Epson, that is designed for the needs of the amateur and professional alike. Epson claim that the combination of the smallest ink droplet in the world (1.5 picolitres), Variable Sized Droplet Technology and the new Ultrachrome Hi-Gloss pigment ink system allows the R800 to produce the best quality prints on the market today. Quite a claim in a very competitive market, let’s see if the R800 lives up to its billing.|
|· New Ultrachrome Hi-Gloss pigment ink system for outstanding durable photo quality. Uses separate cartridges for gloss optimizer, matte and photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, red and blue inks.
· Light-fastness estimated at 80 years for gloss and over 100 years for matte paper.
· Borderless printing
· Resolution upto 5760x1440 dpi for ultimate quality
· Fast printing speed – 10x15cm photo print in 38 seconds
· The smallest ink droplet in the world – 1.5 picolitre
· Firewire and USB 2.0 connectivity
· High resolution printing on CD / DVDs
· Bundled software including print applications and image cataloguing
The following components were supplied in the box:
· Epson Stylus Photo R800 Printer
Alarmingly the USB / Firewire cable was not included in the box. Since it’s a standard cable this doesn’t present a problem for those of us with plenty lying around, but for anyone else it would be a frustrating delay.
|The installation is pretty simple but it pays to read the instructions carefully before starting. Initially I was confused about which order to install the inks as there was little mention in the instructions; opening the printer however revealed a really smart colour coded guide. On tip when you are installing, the ink cartridges sit happily in their cradles and give the appearance of being correctly installed. When I first tried it they weren’t and I needed to be a little firmer pushing them into place; a satisfying click told me that I’d completed the task correctly. After that it’s the usual software install, which is almost idiot proof and took just a few minutes.|
|The Acid Test|
|For the purposes of this review I am only concerned with two things, the quality of the final print and how accurately it matches what I have on the screen. All printing is controlled by the printer driver dialog and the options are shown below:|
For the first test I set the media type to Premium Glossy Photo Paper. The R800 is supplied with profiles for all Epson’s premier photo papers and it’s important to select the correct one to use in order to ensure accuracy. Selecting a gloss paper will automatically select the Gloss Optimiser Ink to be used; this is intended to reduce the bronzing effect common with most gloss prints. This effect generally manifests itself in the shadows of glossy prints as a metallic sheen; the Gloss Optimiser acts as an overlay to negate its effect. There are 4 options to control how the Gloss Optimiser is used, I just went for AUTO.
And that was it, time for the first print. Now I didn’t expect miracles but what came out pretty much matched what I had on my preview screen. Now it wasn’t exactly perfect, and to be honest I would be surprised if it was, but it was damn close and simple to adjust. Back into the printer dialog, a little more saturation and brightness and out came a print that I would be happy to send to a client. What really impressed me was the quality of the print, I could not see any visible dots and the fur of my subject was sharp and clear. Now I have a natural aversion to using the inbuilt printer drivers as I find them less than accurate, but the R800 seemed to produce a great result with little effort.
A couple of other points to note – the printer is extremely quiet and much quicker to produce a print than previous models I have used. Having 8 separate ink cartridges is also highly economic as you don’t have to replace a whole cartridge just because the black is getting low in one.
Most fine art and professional photographers prefer to use external ICC profiles to proof their images in applications such as Photoshop. Although the reference guide indicated that these were supplied, there were in fact only available as a free download from the Epson website (www.epson.co.uk -> Support -> Driver Manual Downloads). The file size was around 750 KB and the zipped file extracted three profiles for Matte, Gloss and Super Fine Paper.
I had mixed results with these profiles. Although the outputs were reasonably accurate, they were nothing like as accurate as those using the printer colour management. Sure they have the potential to offer a higher quality output, but to be honest I was perfectly happy with the results from the printer colour management dialog. Obviously there are a great many external ICC profiles available on the internet and some will be better than others. As with everything it takes a little experimentation to get it right but for once the free Epson profiles are a great starting point.
|The installed Reference Guide is basic and provides a list of all the options but does little to help with the actual task of getting an accurate print.|
|Epson offer a support line for their products – 0870-4437766 and I decided to try it for a few nagging questions that I had. The first time that I rang it continued ringing for several minutes without a pickup, the second time it picked up straight away. After several automated options and a 15 minute wait I finally spoke to a helpful chap called Steve. He answered all my questions knowledgeably, helped me find my way to the download section of the website and gave me the feeling that he knew what he was talking about. So the support was certainly good, if you can stand the wait.|
I think that the Epson R800 is a really excellent printer for the amateur and professional alike. I managed to get high quality colour matched prints within a few minutes of first switching it on, which for me is the acid test. I did not get time to test the bundled software or CD / DVD printing options but will assume that these are a sideshow to the print quality. The only problem of course with the R800, apart from the irritating lack of USB cables in the box, is that it can only produce A4 prints. For most of us this will be fine, but for those photographers that want A3 and beyond will have to look elsewhere. So would I buy the R800? Yes, in fact I have, as my ageing Stylus 890 simply can’t compete.