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Old 06-10-2011, 03:27 AM
 
2,186 posts, read 7,526,855 times

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The world of prosumer desktop printers has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade, yielding specular results at amazingly reasonable prices. Features that were once only available on high-end professional models (archival inks, high-resolution output, direct printing from a digital camera) are now common features on printers targeted at the crossover market. With affordable digital cameras capable of providing stunning images, it was only logical that manufacturers would engineer affordable desktop printers to match.

Although HP and Canon offer respectable competition, Epson has lead the wide-format pack since the advent of its Stylus Photo line, including an elegant 17" inkjet printer (the venerable 2200) that delivered stunning photographic prints. Now, the Stylus Photo R2880 takes this product line to a new level of excellence and dependability.

To begin with, the days of slow printing, visible inkjet "dots" and faded colors are over. The Advanced MicroPiezo nozzles can handle extremely fine detail (5760 x 1440 optimized dots per inch), utilizing a proprietary UltraChrome Ink technology that makes museum-quality output as easy as pushing "Print". The archival chemistry guarantees a minimum of 200 years permanence before showing any signs of color desaturation or fading (there are eight individual ink cartridges, including Epson's own Vivid Magenta colors and the option of a Matte Black or Photo Black).

Additionally, the R2880 merges software and hardware to allow for very speedy output: less than 4 minutes for a high-resolution print on 11" x 17" paper. What were once considered bells and whistles are now necessities and the R2880 covers all the bases. Take for example the roll paper option, a welcome addition when proofing or printing onto fine art paper. Or the CD/DVD tray that makes outputting directly to printable media a no-brainer. Or the ability to print on stock as thick as 1.3 mm (handy for printing book covers and folders). Once a hassle, borderless printing on all paper finishes is no longer a problem. Should you wish to generate prints without a computer, you'll find a PictBridge port on the front for a direct-to-printer connection from a camera.

There are a few drawbacks to the elegant R2880, however. To begin with, genuine Epson ink is pricey. It has been the established marketing strategy of printer manufacturers to offer spectacular products at low prices (the Epson Stylus Photo R2880 has an MSRP of $799.00 before a $200.00 rebate), knowing that the customer will be forever "feeding" the printer with expensive ink in a multitude of hues. All things considered, this may be forgivable as Epson has essentially rendered the darkroom unnecessary. What was once a protracted process can now be done in minutes at a fraction of the cost. Plus, professional photographers, hobbyists and students can all rely on the Epson ink chemistry to be consistent from batch to batch, year after year, whereas most third-party inks are questionable.

Minor complaints about this model would have to include the conspicuous lack of a cutter, standard equipment on most wide-format printers that can print from a roll. Also, in an office or photo studio environment it would be handy to network this printer (there are two USB ports on the R2880 but, alas, no ethernet capabilities). However, small objections aside, Epson's Stylus Photo R2880 continues the company's tradition of printing excellence. Well-built and well-conceived, this wide format printer gets deservedly high marks.
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