Epson has revolutionized the world of inkjet printing with its 13-inch-wide Stylus Photo R2400. It is the first Epson desktop printer with the ability to print first-class color and black-and-white photographs onto both glossy and matte surfaces straight out of the box.
In my opinion, the pressing need to purchase a third-party RIP or other ink system to achieve gallery-quality photographic prints has been removed. And according to third-party independent testing, many Epson ink and paper combinations should last 100 to 200 years behind glass before noticable fading or color shifts.
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Along with three other new wide-format printers—the Epson Stylus Pro 4800, 7800, and 9800—ranging from 17 to 44 inches in width, the R2400 features the latest generation UltraChrome K3 ink set, with three levels of black—Matte Black/Photo Black; Light Black; and Light, Light Black—as well as the newly formulated color inks (Cyan, Light Cyan, Magenta, Light Magenta, Yellow). The Light, Light Black helps smooth the transitions of color and tone between highlight and shadow areas.
If you compare R2400 prints with those made on its predecessor 13-inch printer, the Stylus Photo 2200, you'll notice additional detail in highlight and shadow areas, along with an overall brighter color palate.
Thanks to a tougher, resin polymer formulation, my prints showed a significantly reduced amount of bronzing, metamerism, and reflectance variations on glossier paper surfaces. I‘ve also noticed a greater resistance to surface scuffing with glossy and semi-gloss papers. The R2400 accommodates print rolls and single sheets from 4x6 to 13x19 inches. Roll papers up to 13-inches-wide feed through the back via an easy, snap-on holder that ships with the printer. Banners and panoramic images up to 13x44 inches can also be printed.
While there is no shortage of media choices for cut sheets, a broader range of roll papers would be nice. As we go to press, Epson only offers Premium Gloss, Premium Luster, and Semimatte Proofing Paper in 13-inch rolls. Some third-party suppliers offer other options.
Be advised that roll papers tend to curl unless you back-wind them before or after printing. Back-winding roll paper before you print is advisable because you can easily damage the print surface if you try rolling them against the curl after printing. Either way, make sure your hands are clean and oil-free before handling any print media.
My tests were performed with an Apple Mac G5 and USB 2.0 connection. The R2400 is also FireWire compatible and actually ships with a 6-foot FireWire cable—a first for Epson. An optional Wireless External Print Server is available.
Epson now uses wording such as Fine, Best Photo, and Photo RPM to help you select print quality, rather than the old standard of 360, 720, 1440, 2880 dpi, etc. To test print speed and quality, I made a 13x19-inch print on Epson Enhanced Matte paper using the Best Photo setting, with the high-speed box unchecked in the driver.
The print took just under seven minutes to complete, and looked great. I printed the same file again using the Best Photo setting, with the high-speed box checked. This yielded a print virtually identical in quality, and it printed in about half the time.
Premium Profiles are available as free downloads from Epson's website, but the standard profiles I used produced glossy and matte prints that were close in color and density to the images output on my calibrated, profiled EIZO CG-210 ColorEdge LCD display.
The real stand-out feature of the R2400 is Epson's built-in Advanced Black & White Mode, which works in tandem with the new K3 ink set. This feature lets you adjust the degree of neutrality, brightness, contrast, shadow, and highlight tonality. In addition, Epson's Highlight Point Shift lets you reduce gloss differential in your prints—which benefits glossy and semi-gloss prints the most—by adding a small amount of density to image highlights.
A tint adjustment menu allows the user to click on a color wheel to warm or cool the overall tonal qualities of the image. My results were excellent on matte and gloss papers using this new feature.