Setup / Drivers and Software
Out of the box (8.00)
The R2400 comes with the basic equipment for getting started, including the nine ink cartridges (see Ink section), the User’s Guide, quick start guide, installation CD-ROM, Firewire cable, matte sheet support tray, single sheet guide tray, and roll paper holders.
Manual/Quick Start Guide (7.50)
The quick start guide is a standard folding sheet with easy-to-follow, graphics-oriented instructions. The User's Guide is a 118-page, English-language manual with steps to guide the user through the whole printing process, including instructions on loading the various media types into the various paper feed locations, printing on roll paper, maintaining the printer, and troubleshooting.
Basic physical setup and installation of ink cartridges is a simple process. Steps include unpacking, plugging in the printer, installing ink cartridges, and loading paper. The ink cartridges are the only "parts" to assemble, and this process includes simply lifting the assembly arm on the print head where it sits in the home position on the lower right. The cartridges click into place to acknowledge their proper installation.
Software installation is also simple, although it takes about 12 minutes. The whole installation process was completed in about 24 minutes.
Drivers and Administration (7.50)
The Epson drivers included with the R2400 provide a lot of options for color management and other settings. Paper type selection is limited to Epson papers. Only a single standard Epson profile comes with the installation package. Users have to visit the Epson website to download paper-specific ICC profiles that "provide more accurate color print quality than with standard profiles shipped with the printer." Users can also download ICC paper profiles for the R2400 from some paper manufacturers, such as Ilford, Hahnemuhle, and Innova.
The driver window is comprised of three tabs: Main, Page Layout, and Maintenance. The Main tab displays the most commonly used selections, including print quality, paper type, and additional options. A handy ink level graphic shows up in this window as well, which is very helpful to have alongside the other printer information without having to click on an additional button, as is the case with many other manufacturers' drivers, such as Canon.
The Advanced tab shows some of the same quality and layout options, but it also includes color management selections. These include four options: Color Controls, PhotoEnhance, Advanced B&W Photo, and ICM. Selecting each of these brings up different options.
Color Controls includes a drop-down box that lets users set the Gamma (1.5, 1.8, and 2.2). Users can also set the Color Mode to Epson Standard, Epson Vivid, or Adobe RGB. Tweaking the photo is possible with image editing slide-bars, including brightness, contrast, saturation, cyan, magenta, and yellow.
PhotoEnhance is Epson's automatic controls for all the settings shown in the Color Controls option.
Advanced B&W Photo allows users to create black and white effects with their color image file without altering or creating a new file. See the Dedicated B&W Settings / Effects section on the Print Settings / Options page for details on these settings.
Selecting ICM management in the Advanced tab allows users to select 5 options. Three different ICM modes can be selected via the first drop-down box, including Driver ICM (Basic), Driver ICM (Advanced), and Host ICM. The first option allows users to make selections in four additional boxes. Input Profile shows sRGB and ColorMatch RGB by default. Checking the Show All Profiles checkbox below the drop-down boxes shows all the printer profiles and other color mode profiles, such as Adobe RGB. Intent allows users to set the rendering intent, dependent upon the printer profile in use. Printer Profile shows all the profiles loaded into the printer’s properties. As noted above, the R2400 comes only with the Epson Standard profile. Once users have downloaded other paper profiles, these can be copied into the proper folder through the printer properties window and these will show up in this box. Printer Profile Description is the last box, and, presumably, had we other Epson printers that utilized the same drivers installed on our computer, then their names would show up here.
Driver ICM (Advanced) allows users to make all the above selections for individual file types, broken down into photo, document, and graphics. Host ICM provides two of the options, Intent and Printer Profile.
Three additional checkboxes are shown in the lower left. High Speed is checked by default, and this speeds up the printing process, no matter what quality setting is enabled. This is an unfortunate choice by Epson, since it’s easy to leave this box checked and thereby reduce the quality of the prints. Users have to remember to uncheck it each time. The other two checkboxes are Edge Smoothing and Print Preview.
Also in the Advanced tab, users can also save whatever settings they’ve created and name them for later use. In this way, the High Speed box can be unchecked for the custom setting, and, by printing with these settings, the unfortunate mistake of leaving it checked is avoided.
The Epson R2400 ships with very little software. The installation CD-ROM includes the printer drivers, Epson EasyPrint plug-in module, and Epson RAW print plug-in module. The last two are for Windows installations only. Editing and printing software programs are only available as accessories. (See the Accessories section on the Tour / Components page.)
The Stylus Photo R2400 comes to ready status in 24 seconds, on par with many other inkjets, such as many Canon models, including the Canon Pro9000 and MP600 All-in-One.
Power Usage (8.20)
Watts used by the R2400 were once again similar to other inkjets, notably the two Canon printers mentioned in the Warm-up section. Similar measurements were taken for the smaller Epson compact printer, the PictureMate Snap.
Power usage was generally low, with no power consumed when the printer is shut off. Other printers, such as some HP models, use a small amount of power even when turned off. When the printer is on and ready to print, three watts are being consumed. In printing mode, fifteen watts are used.
Document Speed/Timing (3.50)
The Stylus Photo R2400 printed documents at a decent pace for a pro photo printer—black text documents printed at slightly greater than one page per minute (ppm), while multi-color text and graphics documents printed at just less than one page per minute. The R2400 performed slightly better than the Canon Pro9000, a dye-ink professional photo printer we’ve tested.
While they’re not directly comparable, in the table above we show document printing times for a couple of all-in-one inkjets that we’ve tested to give an idea of the range of printing times for other inkjets. The Canon MP600 printed black text documents at more than double the rate of the R2400, while the HP C5180 printed black text nearly six times faster. These rates are expected for multi-function printers, for which one of the main priorities is speed. We also expect high-end HP photo printers, such as the Photosmart B9180, to have faster printing times based on general performance of HP printers, but we’ll test this conclusively when we get one in the lab.
We used the best quality, called Photo Best or PhotoRPM (Resolution Performance Management), for our tests. We always use the best quality setting for our tests, and even though this was not technically a document quality setting, we believe it is directly comparable with the highest quality settings on printers, such as the Canon Pixma Pro9000, which do not list quality settings for documents and photos separately.
For the document quality test we photograph a single text character on a Sony Cybershot DSC-F707 through a microscope. Then we apply a standard set of changes in Photoshop.
This test really shows both the limited density of the blacks on the Epson R2400 prints and the bleeding and feathering of the text. The image on the left is from the Epson R2400, which prints with pigment inks, and the one on the right from the Canon Pro9000, a dye-ink printer. Both prints show evidence of the paper fiber at this magnification. Our standard document paper is Staples 100% Recycled Copy Paper (90 bright, 20 lb.). Epson recommends strongly the use of their own brand of plain paper, but we test on a single, commonly used stock for consistency and comparability. We used the photo black ink cartridge, which is also recommended by Epson.
Even without the use of a microscope, it is readily apparent that the R2400's text is not black, but rather a mid- to dark gray. While documents can be printed on the R2400, these tests indicate it would not be the best printer for that use.
Photo Speed/Timing (2.31)
The Epson R2400 was a real slowpoke when it came to printing photos of any size. As with documents, we used Photo Best quality for our tests. The printer took 2.63 minutes to print a 4" x 6" photo (0.38 ppm) and 5.26 minutes to print an 8.5" x 11" photo (0.19 ppm). A3-sized (13" x 19") prints were the real time-suck, taking 11 minutes (0.09 ppm) to print a 6-megabyte file and 25 minutes (0.04 ppm) to print a 19-megabyte file. This compares to a half minute for 4" x 6" photos, about 2.4 minutes for 8.5" x 11" photos, and 4 to 5 minutes for 13" x 19" images on the Canon Pixma Pro9000.
The R2400’s printer drivers give the user a high speed option, but the User’s Guide warns that print quality will diminish when this is enabled. High speed is the default setting, indicated by a checkbox in the Advanced settings. This seems counterintuitive. The checkbox is easily overlooked, so users may not even be aware that they’re printing at a reduced quality even when they select Photo Best. Let’s hope Epson changes this in driver updates and future versions of the driver software.
Color Accuracy (15.19)
We test color accuracy by comparing the color values of a digital version of the Gretag Macbeth Colorchecker chart printed on the test printer with the actual Lab values used to construct the chart. (The Colorchecker chart is a standardized color patch chart composed of colors commonly found in photographs. See the sample chart below.) We read the printed chart’s values with an EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer. The difference between these two sets of values results in a color error value for each color. We pool these values for each printer to give us the average color error.
The test chart (not the sample one above) was printed on the Stylus Photo R2400 using both the ICC profile downloaded from the Epson website for Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy and a custom profile we created for the same paper using Eye-One Match software and the Eye-One Pro spectrophotometer. Both of these were printed on the highest quality setting (called Photo RPM). Epson notes in the User’s Guide that the downloaded profiles should perform better than the stock profile that the printer ships with since the downloaded profiles are customized for a particular paper printed at a specific quality setting.
The average color error for the downloaded profile was 1.42, a startlingly good value which was completely off the charts. The custom profile yielded low color error as well, at 2.48. These were much better values than any printer tested so far. As a point of comparison, the Canon Pro9000, an eight-dye-ink printer, had a color error of 7.13. (The score that the R2400 received is based on the downloaded profile.)
The low error value, while surprising, is in line with the overall print quality that this printer generated. For example, the color gamut of the R2400 is much wider than any printer so far tested (see Color Gamut below).
The R2400 exhibited the least color error in the orange, magenta, and purple patches. The most error occurred in the red, yellow, green, and blue colors, but these values were still way below any other printer tested. Skin tones had low error with light skin reproducing less closely to the ideal than dark skin. White, gray tones, and black, reproduced mixed, with neutral 8 gray and black having some of the lowest error values of all colors, while white and neutral 6.5 have some of the highest values. The color accuracy was very noticeable in our test prints. Our landscape test print, for example, had very neutral highlights and gray tones in the clouds. No color cross-over or metamerism was evident.
Color Gamut (8.73)
Color gamut is the range of reproducible colors. The wider the gamut a printer can achieve, the more colors it can reproduce. We measure a printer’s gamut by visualizing the printer profiles using Gamutvision. The printer profile’s gamut is represented by the color blob in the gamut map below. This is compared to the Adobe RGB color space, which represents 1,225,088 colors, displayed as the wire frame surrounding the Epson R2400’s globular color space.
The Epson R2400 profiles represented the widest gamut of colors of any printer yet tested—a whopping 66 percent of the Adobe RGB space, or 809,295 colors. This far outstripped the Canon Pro9000, the R2400's closest competitor in our testing so far, which produced only 56 percent of the colors in the Adobe RGB space. This value is near the top of what this class of printer is able to achieve, and it demonstrates the wider gamut possible with the R2400's Ultrachrome K3 pigment inks. Prior to their development, the color gamut achievable with pigment inks were inferior to that of dye-based inks.
These gamut maps show the color gamut for the Epson stock profile that ships with the printer (on the left) and the downloaded profile for Epson Premium Photo Paper Glossy printed in Best Photo quality (on the right). The stock profile exhibits a larger number of colors, but there is a noticeable difference in color representation. Greens and blues are less well represented in the standard profile, but much more of the blue/purple/magenta end of the spectrum is evident, as well as more yellows and greens.
The Epson Stylus Photo R2400 scored very well on our Dmax test. This is a measurement of the densest black possible using a densitometer, in our case, the EyeOne Pro spectrophotometer from Gretag Macbeth. The ideal value of a printer is 2.50. The R2400's blackest black registered 2.26, in line with Epson's reported value of 2.3 for the Ultrachrome K3 inks. This is on par with the Canon Pixma Pro9000, an eight-ink dye printer, which registered a value of 2.25. As good as these values are, we expected more from such a high-end photo printer geared toward black-and-white printing.
Black and White (8.00)
The limited black density of the Epson R2400 was noticeable in our test black-and-white prints. The shadows on some paper surfaces seemed to lack the punch of other printers with higher values. Despite this, the tonal range was wide, with good details showing in the highlights. The best looking print was on Epson's Luster paper, which showed the deepest blacks, but more contrast than the Velvet Fine Art paper, which had the smoothest looking tonal range.
Tour / Components
The Epson Stylus Photo R2400, similar to most other pro photo printers, features a sleek dual color chassis, in this case, predominantly matte silver and glossy black plastic
With all the paper trays closed, the front of the R2400 is a simple, long rectangle. The sloping glossy, black plastic access door can be seen at the top, bordered along its bottom edge by two inches of gray plastic with a cutaway in the center serving as a handle to open the door. The front panel, made of the same matte silver plastic, contains the Epson logo, centered, the Ultrachrome K3 label on the right, and the printer name below that. This panel also serves as the front path input tray for larger, heavier paper stock. The tray is opened via a spring-loaded latch activated by pressing on the three raised dots near the top right edge. The vertical stack of four buttons sits to the right of this along the right edge of the printer. The paper feed button sits on top, the ink button just below, the roll paper button below that, and the larger power button sits at the bottom.
The 13.5" wide output tray door sits centered along the bottom of the printer. Three raised dots above a small raised line sits at the bottom center of this. The door is opened by pressing the dots, which releases a spring-loaded latch. With this door open, the dark gray, two-sectioned plastic output paper tray can be seen. The door front folds down in this position and serves as another extension of the paper tray.
The input sheet-feed tray can be seen at the top when the tray is opened and extended into its three sections. More info about how the paper trays work can be read in the Components section below.
The back of this pro photo printer is dominated by the back of the paper path, exposed to allow the attachment of the single sheet guide and the roll paper attachments. Heat vents sit on the upper left and along the bottom silver panel. The attached power cord connects at the far left, while the Firewire and USB ports connect toward the center bottom, between the two heat vent sections, just above the serial number sticker.
The R2400's left side simply shows the silver, plastic chassis, with no functional features. An indentation at the bottom provides easier gripping when moving the unit.
The right side is a mirror-image of the left, with the handle and lack of other features.
The top of the Epson R2400 is dominated by the reflective, black access door, surrounded by the thin silver edge of the main printer chassis. Above this at the back is the paper path section. With the sheet-feed tray closed, only the matte gray, plastic cover is visible. An indentation similar to the one for the access door is cut away from the bottom of the tray door. With the tray opened, the input sheet-feed tray can be seen, as well as the input pathway.
The inside of the R2400 is viewed by opening the top access door. There are two openings visible. The larger one to the left provides access to the paper path to clear jams. The smaller opening on the right provides access to the ink cartridges. They are situated to the far left. Pressing the ink button brings them in line with the opening for easy access, installation and removal of cartridges.
Simple graphic instructions on a strip of tape attached above the larger opening instruct the user in accessing, removing, and installing the cartridges. More information on inks can be found on the Inks page.
The Stylus Photo R2400 features no display, as is the case with most pro photo printers, short of the wide format models.
Paper Trays (8.00)
Paper trays on the R2400 are similar to Canon’s Pixma Pro printers, the Pro 900 and the Pro9500. The main input sheet feeder folds up from a compact compartment at the top of the printer. The translucent, smoky plastic paper support extends into three sections of descending size. An additional extension comes unattached to the printer. This is for specifically for large matte paper; the guide is intended to help separate the sheets of paper and avoid jams.
The paper guide is easily maneuvered by pressing in on the light gray plastic tab and sliding the guide to the appropriate size marker indicated on the extended tray back. Sizes shown are letter, A3, and A4.
The output tray opens with a press on the raised dots at the bottom center of the door. A spring-loaded catch releases and the door slides open and drops forward to serve as the outer extension of the tray. With the door, the output is composed of three sections, equaling a length of 13 inches.
The R2400 also comes equipped with a single-sheet feeder, a tray that attaches to the back of the printer and detaches when not in use. This is for special media, including Epson Watercolor paper, Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper, Epson UltraSmooth Fine Art Paper, and PremierArt Matte Scrapbook Photo paper.
The R2400 also comes equipped to handle roll paper. The spool attachment is fitted to the paper roll and attached to the same single-sheet paper path at the rear of the printer. The output tray has two, bookmark-shaped, roll paper guides to keep the paper in line as it exits the printer. These guides are hidden within the inner part of the output tray. They are engaged by pushing the output tray most of the way in, until just the door is exposed, then sliding these out from their closed position.
CD Burner (0)
The R2400 is not equipped with a CD burner. While some competitor's models do have them, this feature is more commonly found on compact photo printers.
The R2400 is not meant to be a portable printer, so a battery pack is not necessary for this unit.
The power cord for the R2400 is permanently attached to the unit, unlike many printers these days.
Internal Memory (5.50)
The R24000 comes equipped with only a 64 kb buffer, slightly greater than the Canon Pro9500, a comparably priced pro photo printer, but significantly less than the HP Photosmart Pro B9180, which has 64 megabytes of RAM.
The R2400 is incapable of handling more than one job at a time, typical of most printers of this type.
Hard Drive (0)
No hard drive is included with the Stylus Photo R2400.
Epson offers several accessories compatible with the R2400, although none except the ink cartridges are specific to the printer. Inks are sell for $14.24 per cartridge, and Epson Ink Jet Cleaning Sheets are available three to a package for $4.25.
Consumers can also purchase ArcSoft software programs compatible with the printer, including Greeting Card Creator ($39.99), PhotoPrinter 5 ($39.99), PhotoStudio 5.5 ($79.99), and Scan-n-Stitch Deluxe ($39.99). Epson also offers a Belkin USB cable for $9.95 on the R2400's Accessories page.
Also offered are two multimedia photo viewers, the P-3000 and the P-5000, feature 4" LCD screens with Adobe RGB support. Images can be downloaded the viewer from memory cards or a camera. The P-3000 sells for $499 and contains a 40-gigabyte (gb) hard drive. The P-5000 has an 80-gb hard drive and sells for $699. Users can then print directly from these viewers.
Design / Interface
As with most pro photo printers, the Epson R2400 has only the very simplest of controls, as most of the printing controls are conducted through the software. The printer features just four buttons. The power button's function is obvious, and it sits at the bottom of the stack of four buttons. Above sits the roll paper button, which allows for feeding and positioning of the paper. It also prints a cutting guideline. The inks button, represented by a droplet icon, positions the ink carriage in line with the opening to allow for removal and installation of cartridges. Holding this button for three seconds sets the print head-cleaning cycle in motion. The top button is the regular paper feed button, represented by a paper sheet and a trash can icon. This can load or eject paper, clear paper errors, and cancel print jobs.
The R2400 has no on-unit menus. All access is through printer software.
Size / Footprint (3.04)
The R2400 is a nicely sized pro photo printer, considering it can output 13" x 19" prints. It can comfortably sit on a large desk, but it still takes up a good chunk of real estate. We measure a printer with all of its trays attached and opened to their maximum extension (24.2" wide x 29" deep x 18" high), which gives a better representation of the desk space needed than the out-of-the-box size (24.2" wide x 12.6" deep x 9.1" high). This printer is slightly smaller than the Canon Pro9000, but it weighs 6 pounds more, thus its slightly lower score.
The R2400 is the cheapest printer that Epson offers with the Ultrachrome K3 pigment inks, which is the same ink set employed on Epson's wide-format printers—the Stylus Pro 3800, 4800, 7800, and 9800. Color printing is performed with cyan, magenta, and yellow inks, which are augmented with light cyan and light magenta. Three blacks inks—photo black, light black, and light light black—are included for better tonal range in black-and-white photographs. The photo black ink cartridge is manually swappable with an included matte black ink cartridge for printing on matte media. Epson states that the matte ink increases optical density on matte papers.
The inks are arrayed in the ink carriage and accessed via the opening in the chassis above the carriage. Users have to press the ink button to align the carriage with the opening.
Each cartridge sells for $14.24 on Epson's web site, compared to $14.99 for pigment ink cartridges for the Canon Pixma Pro9500. The Canon cartridges hold 13 milliliters (ml) of ink. This comes out to $1.15 cents/ml for the Pro9500. Epson unfortunately doesn't have cartridge capacity information available, which leaves us to speculate. Since Epson's cartridges are similar in shape and size to the Canon PGI-9 ink cartridges for the Pro9500, this likely makes the price per ml roughly equivalent. HP sells larger volume cartridges for its Photosmart B9180. These 27-ml cartridges sell for $33.99, with a cost per ml of $1.26.
Ink management (7.00)
Ink levels are viewable within the print driver windows. A simple graphic displaying ungraduated cylinders with a corresponding ink level for each color. When inks are low, the driver displays a low ink window, indicating which ink is low by an exclamation point over that cylinder. The driver displays a message that the volume has reached 10 percent and that the printer will stop printing if the ink runs out. This changes to 5 percent as levels decrease. Buttons for buying ink that link to Epson’s website appear on the Low Ink Warning dialogue box that opens when printing.
The light magenta cartridge was the first to run out, well before the other cartridges. These warning occurred after we printed approximately sixteen 4" x 6" photos, ten 8.5" x 11" photos, five 13" x 19" photos, and fourteen sheets of 8.5" x 11" text and graphics. Four more 8.5" x 11" photos were printed before it was necessary to change the cartridge to ensure print quality would not deteriorate.
Print Settings / Options
Print Quality Settings (7.50)
The R2400's driver settings allow the user to select five different quality settings in Basic mode: Draft, Text, Text and Image, Photo, and Best Photo. In Advanced mode, depending upon the type of paper selected, users can choose up to two quality settings for plain paper, Fine and Normal, and up to four settings for Epson's Premium Glossy Photo Paper, Fine, Photo, Best Photo, and Photo RPM.
Photo RPM, aka, Resolution Performance Management, is an option intended to make printing easier and more efficient. With printers capable of 5760 x 1440 dpi, like the R24000, this technology optimizes the size and placement of dots to avoid oversaturation. It also keeps spool file sizes to a manageable size to make printing more stable.
During testing, we did find that color management is not handled well by the printer’s drivers. Better results were obtained using the color management settings in Adobe Photoshop. This method is even recommended by the User’s Guide for printing test charts.
Internal Editing (6.50)
As with many high-end photo printers, internal editing on the unit itself is not possible. The main interface with the printer is via the software and drivers. Within the driver, there are several editing options. In the Advanced mode, users can select Color Controls under the Color Management section. Here, brightness, contrast, saturation, and color settings for cyan, magenta, and yellow are selectable. The PhotoEnhance option applies automatic changes to brightness, contrast, and color balance. The driver also provides an Advanced B&W Photo mode, which allows fine tuning. See below.
Dedicated B&W Settings / Effects (6.00)
Epson provides an Advanced Black and White Photo mode to allow users to create monochromatic effects without altering the original image or creating a new version of the image. The settings are engaged when Advanced B&W Photo is selected under the Color Management portion of the Advanced driver window. With this option selected, a single drop-down box allows users to select from four monochrome options: Neutral, Cool, Warm, and Sepia.
There is also a Settings button which opens up the dialogue window below. From here, users can fine tune the image, selecting brightness, contrast, shadow and highlight tonality, and maximum optical density. The settings do work well, and we were able to improve the quality of our test images.
Unfortunately, these changes are only pre-viewable on a stock portrait image within the dialogue box. The driver allows the user to select a print preview prior to printing, but this means closing out of all other windows, selecting print, viewing the preview, and then, if the on-screen results are not satisfactory, going through the editing process again. Users are better off making the changes in Photoshop.
Media Types (8.00)
The R2400 accepts the whole range of Epson paper types—basic plain paper, standard photo paper, and fine art papers, including matte and heavyweight papers. Users can even print canvas.
Acceptable sizes range from 4" x 6" to 13" x 19" and include user-definable sizes. With optional roll paper holders, the printer can easily be set up to accept 4-inch, 8.3-inch, and 13-inch wide roll paper. The straight-through paper path can accept papers between 1.0 and 1.3 millimeters thick. Canon's Pixma Pro9500 does not accept roll paper.
The printer drivers do not provide options for any other paper besides Epson, but profiles for the R2400 can be downloaded for other inkjet papers, such as Ilford, Arches, Hahnemuhle, and Innova, from the respective manufacturers' websites.
Formats / Compatibility (0)
The Epson R2400 is not compatible with any direct print format, including PictBridge. Its competition, the Canon Pro9500, does include a port for USB connection for direct print orders from PictBridge-enabled cameras.
Media Slots (0)
The Epson R2400 features no media slots. This is comparable to the Canon pro photo printers, the Pro9000 and Pro9500.
Wireless Interface (0)
The Epson R2400 can not be utilized wirelessly. Once again, the function of this printer does not necessitate wireless communication. However, other pro photo printers, such as the HP Photosmart B9180, do provide wireless capabilities.
No network capabilities are featured with the R2400.
Overall Impressions / Ease
Ease of Use (7.50)
The Epson Stylus Photo R2400 is an easy printer to operate. The four simple buttons on the control panel are intuitive. Ink cartridges install and replace without trouble. Driver controls are fairly easy to understand, although there are a couple of quirks and defaults to get used to, such as the high speed default printing setting. Even though there are additional paper trays to set up for non-standard media, these are not difficult to attach.
As an eight-ink printer with a wide color gamut and dedicated inks for printing in black and white, the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 provides excellent quality at a competitive price. The equivalent printer from Canon, the Pixma Pro9500, sells for the same price. A similar HP model, the Photosmart B9180, sells for $150 less.
Printers of this quality are only offered by a few manufacturers, notably Epson, Canon, and HP. We’ve included the Epson Stylus Photo 3800 for consumers trying to decide whether or not to spend that extra cash.
The Canon Pixma Pro9500 ($849) is the most similar to the R2400 of all pro photo printers models on the market. Like the R2400, the Pro9500 uses pigment inks, but there are ten inks instead of nine. Color inks common to both printers include cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, and photo magenta. Epson calls these last two light cyan and light magenta. The Pro9500 has one less gray than the R2400, but it does have a separate matte black and photo black, which do not need to be manually swapped, like in the R2400. Red and green inks round out the Pro9500's ink roster.
The Pro9500 can make prints at 4800 x 2400 dpi, while the R2400 can produce 5760 x 1440 dpi prints. Three-picoliter (pl) ink droplets are sprayed through the Pro9500’s 7,680 print head nozzles, while the R2400 utilizes only 180 nozzles per cartridge for a total of 1,440 nozzles spraying 3.5-pl droplets.
Both printers are capable of a maximum print width of 13 inches, but the Pro9500 does not have a separate roll paper attachment, which comes standard with the R2400. Neither printer is Windows Vista compliant, but drivers can be downloaded from the manufacturers' websites.
For those reticent about spending the extra $450 for the Epson Stylus Pro 3800 ($1,295), what would be gained would be an increase in print size, with 17-inch-wide prints, and automation, with automatic switching of matte black to photo black and back. However, it takes nearly 3 minutes to change from matte to photo (with a startling 4.5 ml used for the switch!) and nearly 2 minutes from photo to matte (with 1.5 ml used). Fortunately, the Pro 3800 comes with large 80-ml ink cartridges, opposed to the much smaller cartridges standard with the R2400. This drops the cost per milliliter down to 75 cents from our rough estimate of $1.15 for the R2400.
The Pro 3800 incorporates what Epson calls "ultramodern photographic screening technology" to assist with dot placement. The Pro 3800 also features a small LCD display for monitoring ink levels and other printer data.
One loss with the upgrade is in resolution. The Pro 3800 is only capable of 2880 x 1440 dpi, while the R2400 can print 5760 x 1440 optimized dpi images with the RPM system.
While $150 cheaper than the Canon Pro9500 or the Epson R2400, the HP Photosmart B9180 ($699) may be the closest HP model in terms of paper size and ink system to these two models. It can print on 13-inch-wide paper, and its eight-ink pigment system has the same configuration as the Epson R2400, with the omission of one of the gray inks.
Where this introductory HP pro photo printer has Canon and Epson beat is in connectivity. Both the Canon and the Epson models do not have memory card slots, while the HP8750 has both memory card slots and a PictBridge connection. It also comes standard with Ethernet networking capability. Additionally, the B9180 has built-in color calibration and is Windows Vista ready.
The Epson Stylus Photo R2400 is a very high quality professional photo printer for under $1,000. The printer sets up easily, with few parts to assemble. Ink tanks install and replace with little effort. The R2400 comes with handy additional print trays and attachments for thicker media as well as roll paper. The control panel is minimal, with just four buttons to control the printer, and no display screen.
The R2400's drivers provide good choices for editing and enhancing of black-and-white photos. But the settings are not easily previewed. Users may wish to use Photoshop's controls instead. Color management choices are good as well, but we found the best results were obtained by printing through Photoshop and letting that program control color management as well.
Document printing times on the R2400 were not fast, but they were on par with other pro photo printers, such as the Canon Pixma Pro9000. However, photo printing speed rates were incredible slow—the slowest of any printer yet tested. See the Document Performance page and the Photo Performance page for more details.
The R2400 certainly shined in our photo print quality tests. It scored much higher than any printer yet tested for color accuracy and color gamut. While the density of the blackest blacks was not as high as we’d like to see for a printer with such exceptional black-and-white printing capabilities, the R2400 produced very nice quality black-and-white prints, with a wide tonal range and good contrast. Document printed poorly, with washed-out looking text that showed fuzzy edges.
Two printers made by the bigger printer manufacturers are competitively priced with the R2400. The Canon Pixma Pro 9500, also a pigment-ink printer, sells for the same price ($849). However, the 9500 has one extra ink and the matte and photo blacks are automatically swapped, as opposed to manually switching them in the R2400's nine-ink system. The 9500 also prints with more nozzles at a slightly smaller droplet size. The HPB9180, also using pigment inks, features a display, much greater RAM, better connectivity options (Ethernet, media slots, and PictBridge), and built-in color calibration. See the Overall Impressions page for more information on these other printers.
It's hard not to recommend the R2400. The print quality is exceptional. It's worst deficiencies—poor document printing, poor onboard color management system, and slow print times—can be overlooked for those consumers not worried about print speed and who will be using the unit through an advanced image editing program. Note that the R2400 does not ship Windows Vista ready, but consumers can download the drivers from Epson's website.
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