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Review: Epson Stylus Photo R1900 Wide Format Printer

Quick Overview

If you are looking to print some of the best pictures out there, the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 is one of the finest machines that has come across my review desk. While it comes in with a very large physical footprint 24.2(w) x 12.5 (d) x 8.5 (h), it more than makes up for it with it's speed and high quality prints from it's pigment based inks. 

The Epson R1900 handles most media with ease, with sizes ranging from 4" x 6" to 13" x 44" if using a roll paper. During my testing I tried 11.7" x 16.5", 8.5" x 11", 5" x 7", regular single sheet paper, and a variety of samples from matte to glossy. It handled all of these, and performed quite well in my tests.

For those printer geeks, Epson says it has a MicroPiezo AMC print head. 180 nozzles x 8 color channels, up to 5760 x 1440 dpi, as small as a 1.5 picoliter ink droplet. That's more info than I needed to know, but for those that love the tech specs, enjoy.

As far as speed,  Epson touts speeds for  5 x 7 in 59 sec, 8 x 10 in 96 sec, and 11 x 14 in 156 sec, all in the 'Best Photo Mode' setting. During my testing, the speeds were on track with what they said, but sometimes slower or faster depending on the size and resolution of the images.

Hardware Install

If you've setup a printer before, this is no different -- it's your typical printer installation. Follow along the quick start guide and remove all of the pieces of tape inside and out of the printer. Power it up, insert the inks, and it will prime all of them for you. Finally, connect the USB cable to the rear of the printer, but not to the computer yet - you want to install the drivers first. This printer comes with two USB 2.0 high speed ports. You can connect one cable to your Desktop and one to your Laptop, which is something I never thought I would use, until I used it. If you only have one machine, you can use the second USB port connect it to your camera and print from your camera if it supports the PictBridge standard. I didn't get to test this, but Epson assures me it works. An SDCard slot is omitted, but since this printer has no display screen, there would be no way to view/navigate the images to print anyway.

Software Install

Insert the DVD and click on the Epson Install icon and it launches a wizard that gives you the options for the R1900 driver, Epson PRINT CD (for printing on CD/DVD media), and the Epson Reference guide. I chose to install all of them, but if you don't think you will be printing CD/DVD media, you can skip that one. Start the installation and Mac OS X will prompt you for your admin password before proceeding. As the installation progresses, pay attention because at some point during the install it will ask you to connect your printer and turn it on.

The installation can take several minutes, and at one point I thought it totally stopped, but eventually it did finish and asked me to print a test page. My initial install went without any problems at all.

One thing to note: I checked Software Update on my Mac, and it did show some new Epson printer drivers for my version of OS X Snow Leopard - 10.6.7. After you install the basic drivers, I suggest you try and run Software Update too.

Printing Tests

Now that everything was setup, I quickly fired up iPhoto and inserted a 4" x 6" blank piece of Epson photo paper into the R1900. I found a nice looking photo with a subject up against a blue sky and figured this would be able to provide me with a nice contrast of skin and sky. The native resolution was 1936 x 2592 JPEG, an image taken outside with my iPhone 4. Normally I wouldn't make my first print with something off of my phone, but since the iPhone 4 has such a magnificent camera when used outdoors, I knew it would be a fine test subject.  Also, in our household, it's usually the only camera we have with us, and 90% of our pictures are taken with our iPhone 4 cameras.  

As it printed, I wondered how this would fare, since typically when I print from iPhoto, the prints always come out a little bit darker than I thought they would. It's probably an issue since my monitor isn't calibrated to match my printer, so it's natural to expect things won't look EXACTLY like they do on screen. Not to digress, but If I really cared about it, I would get the calibration tool. If you are a professional reading this, you probably have already done this, and will get even better results and performance out of the R1900 than I did. 

After printing the 4" x 6" I was very impressed with the quality of the printout. It printed in about 40 seconds, with a few of those seconds afforded to the printer warming up. Not bad at all. The print was just as good, if not better than other printers I have previously tested. However, this printer is physically big, so I wanted to start testing all of the available media types I had on hand.

Next I tried printing that same image on 5" x 7" photo paper. Again, it looked great! This imaged printed in under a minute, and was on track with what Epson told me in their literature (59seconds in Best Photo Mode). Once again, impressive. My next test was an 8.5" x 11" print of the same image I had been using. This one printed, but took about 1min 45 seconds. Again, some of this time was the printer warming up but that still factors into the overall print time. The 8.5" x 11" looked OK, but nothing I would put on display in my living room. With this particular photo, I think I reached it's limit, as it started to look grainy. Passable to the passerby, but not crisp like I expect my 'display' photos to look. This isn't really a limitation of the R1900, but more the resolution and lighting of the image I was using. 

For the larger prints I needed to upgrade the resolution, so I found some photos taken with my Panasonic DMC-ZS3. These were taken with a resolution of 3648 x 2736, much more suitable for 8x10 and larger. I inserted some of the 8.5" x 11" Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster and this time I had superb results. The luster paper gave me a photo that resembled something you would get from Sears or other portrait studio. It wasn't a glossy finish like we typically get with 4" x 6" & 5" x 7", but a beautiful rich looking image with little glare. With the combination of this paper and the R1900's ability, this photo looked exquisite. It was on par with any printers I have tested in the past, and in my opinion it surpassed them.

Still, most printers can print at least an 8" x 10", so now came the real test - BIG PHOTOS. Epson supplied me with some 11" x 16.5" premium photo glossy paper, so that is the largest I could try. Since I didn't want to waste my test ink, I found one of the best pictures in my library I could find - a family picture taken with a Nikon D80 at a resolution of 2592 x 3872 TIFF file. I inserted the paper into the R1900, hit print in iPhoto, selected A3 from the paper type, selected the proper paper, and pressed the print button.  In under three minutes I had an incredible  keepsake that immediately went on the wall in my living room. I was HIGHLY impressed with the quality. Colors were vivid and dynamic, there were no detectible smears or defects in the photo at all. To see something so high quality coming out of  a printer sitting next to me and not at the photolab was fantastic. In fact, I've had prints done at a professional lab before that didn't even come close to this. The downside with printing large images like this though is the ink. Ink quickly gets eaten up, especially if you make a mistake and print the wrong thing (like I did later in testing!). For example, if you try and print a large photo with a large amount of one specific color, that ink color is going to get used up more quickly than if you print pictures with varying colors, and not too much of one particular one. If you do a picture of the sky, expect the colors that make up the sky (e.g. Cyan) to deplete quicker than your red. I didn't try any black and white photos, because my experience with ink jets in the past is the black depletes too quickly. It's a good idea to use the ink monitor tool installed with your printer drivers to keep an eye on your ink levels.

Panoramic Printing

This is where I really wanted to try to test the limits of this printer. So many photo apps make it easy to create panorama pics, it's only natural you would want to print your own panoramic shots. This is where the testing became more difficult. I couldn't find any apps on the Mac to print panoramic pictures. I tried fooling around and adjusting some of the iPhoto settings with no success, and finally gave Apple's high end Aperture a try and was able to get out a small panoramic picture by making some adjustments in the print dialog. Still, this didn't turn out as I had hoped. This printer has so much potential, I hate to be limited by the software. 

Since I didn't have the roll paper, I used the A3 paper, and due to my panoramic image being so wide, it printed out a 16.5" wide postcard size image that had to be cut out. Not exactly what I was looking for, but it's the best I could do during my testing. Perhaps on the PC there are some better solutions, but on the Mac, I was unable to find them. 

Regular A3 on top, and the Panorama on bottom.

INK

Once of the reasons these photos look so great is because of the Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 pigment ink that has an improved gloss optimizer and new red and orange inks. It can even auto-switch between photo and matte black types regardless of the media inserted, so you will always get the deepest blacks, regardless. Pretty cool. 

While I can't give a definite on how much Ink this R1900 has used during my testing, I can tell you that so far I have printed thirty 4" x 6", ten 5" x 7", eight 11.7" x 16.5" images, as well as five 8.5" x 11.5" photos.  The only time I was prompted to replace the ink was when the 'GLOSS OPTIMIZER' ran out. It wouldn't let me print anything with even one ink low. Since they weren't high capacity ink cartridges I was extremely surprised I was able to print that much out of the stock ink that comes with the unit. 

Refill ink price is about $13 per cartridge - and there are eight of them, so you need to factor that into the cost. Depending on the types of images you  print, you will see that some inks get used more than others. So you may not replace all of the inks at once, but it's probably a good idea to keep spare  around, due to the fact you are unable to print if ANY of them are out. 

Conclusion

Overall, I love this R1900 printer. You can use it for printing photos of all sizes and will end up with fantastic results that look better than most photo labs. The overall footprint of the R1900 is big on your desk, but if you need to print large photos, I think it is well worth making a place for it next to your Mac. I really liked the speed and quality of the printing, and it's construction gives it an overall professional feel to the printer. Make no mistake, it can print on paper, but it has Photo in the name and you don't want to get this for your everyday printer. Get a cheap all-in-one for that, and use this for your high quality photo printing. Easily a 4.75 out of 5. Highly recommended. 

Product

Epson Stylus Photo R1900

Price: $549.99 USD, cheaper on Amazon

Pros

  • Excellent print quality
  • Prints on variety of media sizes and types
  • Speedy and quiet

 

Cons

  • Very large physical footprint
  • Wont print unless all cartridges have ink
  • Pricey