Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Epson Stylus Photo R2880
The photo lab comes home
- Fantastic photo printing, great build quality, A3+ media capability
- No Ethernet, awkward manual roll feeding
The Epson Stylus Photo R2880 has emerged as the new standard for high quality photo reproduction. With a relatively low initial price point and decent consumable efficiency, the R2880 is a must-have for any semi-professional photographer looking to print their own photos at home.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Replacing the R2400 as Epson's flagship photo printer, the Stylus Photo R2880 improves on its predecessor's print quality, which is quite a feat. Avid photographers and photo enthusiasts looking for a great way to reproduce photo-lab quality at home will find this printer perfect.
The Stylus Photo R2880 is significantly cheaper than its bigger brother, the Stylus Pro 3800, but this comes at the loss of A2 media capability and an Ethernet port. In compensation, Epson has provided two separate USB 2.0 ports, allowing connection to two computers simultaneously. The idea is nice in theory, but it won't work as some might suspect — if you send print jobs simultaneously from both computers, the printer will simply refuse one job in favour of the other. Direct printing is also available in the form of a PictBridge USB port.
A major complaint we usually have with Epson printers is their build quality, but thankfully this isn't the case here. Although the R2880 resembles Epson's lower models, it's clear that this is built for the professional — it's well-engineered, and its soft-close hinges will ensure it lasts. There are still some slight flaws — the CD/DVD hinge won't open while the printer is warming up — but on the whole this printer is well built.
For A3+ prints, the Epson R2880 uses an automatically fed roll sheet that attaches to the back of the printer. Unfortunately, its design is a little awkward and the media itself is quite pricey. The media is a continuous sheet, with no perforations to separate between photos. This works well for panoramic photos and banners, but won't suit the standard landscape photo.
Consumable costs are quite reasonable. The R2880 uses Epson's latest ink technology — dubbed UltraChrome K3 — and has five separate colour inks and four shades of black. Unfortunately, there are only three slots for black cartridges, forcing users to swap between Photo Black and Matte Black cartridges depending on whether they're using gloss or matte media. The printer manages a very reasonable 16.8c per page based on plain paper document printing. This doesn't directly translate to consumable efficiency when printing photos, but it does provide an indication. After our bevy of document and photo printing tests, the printer's cartridges were half empty — a reasonable result.
Direct CD/DVD printing is a breeze. Instead of the haphazard method used in the Stylus Photo RX690, Epson has opted for a method closely resembling that used in Canon models, such as the PIXMA MP970. The results are highly dependent on the quality of media used, but the R2880 still managed to produce high quality results on poor media. For the best results, users should opt for slightly glossy media in order to bring out the printer's vivid colours.
Speed isn't the R2880's strong suit. It's fairly slow, printing text documents in 1min 5sec at draft quality, and 1min 38sec at normal quality. Text documents with graphical elements will print at roughly the same speed, and the printer took nearly five minutes to print a standard A4 photo. Of course, this is no surprise — the R2880 is a dedicated photo printer geared towards achieving the highest possible quality.
The R2880 is one of the best photo printers we've tested. We used a number of A4 and A3 high resolution colour and black-and-white photos for testing and were extremely impressed. There is no sign of banding, and black-to-white gradients are the most natural we've seen. Yellows are not as vibrant as we would have liked — we still prefer those produced by the Canon PIXMA MP970 — but the printer's colour gamut is fantastic, with realistic flesh tones and well-defined blacks.
A key selling point for the R2880 is its black-and-white photo capability, and it manages to achieve fantastic reproductions. The printer's 5760x1440dpi printing resolution may not look good on paper compared to others, but fine detail is extremely well produced. Contrast was slightly darker than the original image, but this simply allows for much more realistic look.
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