Magazine Article


The Widening Home Printer Market

Photo by Dan Havlik Photo by Daniel P. Derella

Epson's Latest Home Photo Printer Puts Eight Pigment Inks In a 13"-Wide Chassis

In case you haven't been paying attention, the battleground in the home photo printer market has gotten wider—a total of 13 inches wider, with recent reasonably-priced releases from Canon, Epson and HP all capable of making large inkjet prints at home.

After testing out Canon's excellent eight-ink i9900 several months ago, we got our hands on the latest 13-inch printer from Epson, the R1800, which uses special ultrachrome high-gloss pigment inks for better print longevity. While we loved printing images on the Canon, the new Epson's equally impressive prints prove that there's another great option out there for your customers who like to print big. Even better for the photo retailer, more inks means customers will have a greater need to come back to your store for replacements once those inks run out. Wide-format specialty papers, including Epson's lovely 13"x19" Radiant White Watercolor Paper, should also be in demand once your customers get their hands on the R1800.

Much has been made about home printing further eroding processing at retail, and while it's certainly something to be concerned about—the vast majority of digital camera users still print at home—we think some of the alarm might be overblown. While these new home printers make prints more easily and more cheaply than they used to, they have not replaced the quality, convenience or price of the print at retail market.

So while home printers may be great for printing "onesies and twosies," they simply aren't practical for large numbers of images. But people are going to buy them anyway so why not get a piece of the "digital darkroom" market while creating a returning customer in the process? A customer, we might add, who may also want to print dozens of their digital snapshots at your store.

Retailing for an estimated street price of $549, the Epson Stylus Photo R1800 features eight individual inks, including a gloss optimizer which provides more even gloss levels across the print including in areas where there is low ink saturation. Lightfastness (or how fade resistant the prints are) is estimated at 100 to 200 years on a variety of Epson papers with the R1800. In addition to more traditional 4"x6", 5"x7"and letter sizes, the R1800 also can print on less common sizes such as 11"x14", 12"x12" and panoramics. We printed one great 11"x17" of the start of car race that was able to fit ten race cars onto one print—something we could have never done on letter size without extreme cropping.

At its maximum resolution, the R1800 prints at 5760 x 1440 dpi, offering amazing detail even in larger print sizes. The printer can also print directly to CDs and DVDs, which is a pretty cool feature that's currently exclusive to Epson.

While the Epson doesn't print as fast as some of its competitors, prints we made of Christo and Jean-Glaude's "Gates" in Central Park were gorgeous (page 12), with the orange color of the fabric jumping off the page. A print we made of an image taken by a friend of an eagle in flight (above) was simply a work of art when printed on the watercolor paper. The green and brown texture of the blur of trees was rendered artfully, and the eagle, despite the motion, looked crisp.

If you can get a reaction similar to ours from your customers, you're likely to have a customer for life.