following is a review based upon my experience of the new Epson
Stylus 1270 printer using the Windows 98 driver, although I'm sure
the Mac will probably have comparable features. I have also run
the new printer using Windows 2000 with which it works admirably. One
word of warning for Windows 2000 though, if using USB then follow
Epson install instructions to the letter otherwise you will get
communication error messages.
new printers are significantly quieter and faster than previous models. The head glides across with a smooth whisper, nothing like
the crunch and whine of the Stylus 1200. Even the ink
purging is only just noticeable, okay it's not silent but unlike
its predecessor it certainly doesn't give the impression that the
printer is about to explode.
claim that the new printers and inks are optimised for best
quality output using the new Premium Glossy Photo Paper, and as
such the prints I obtained are much better than could be obtained
using normal Photo Paper, using the "Standard"
Epson ICC profile. I think most folk will find the new ink/paper
combination highly satisfactory. I also tried the older Photo
paper and the Heavy Weight Matt paper, all produced very
acceptable results straight off, with a calibrated monitor "What
you see is what you get" with these new printers.
for the new printers are comparable to the Epson 750 (A4) and
Epson 1200 (A3+) models, as are the costs for consumables. Black
ink can be bought in singles, doubles or a light capacity
cartridge. Again the costs of these in the UK is "Exactly"
the same as for the Epson 1200/750 cartridges. The new
Premium Glossy Photo Paper is approximately £1 or $1.60 more
expensive than the Epson Photo paper, but that will probably
change as stock levels increase.
The screen-grab below
shows a new look driver interface compared to the older version
4.5x drivers that most Stylus Photo users are familiar. However,
the new interface and some features are broadly similar to the new
drivers supplied with the most recent "4-colour"
Epson's. We see here that the "Ink levels" are
shown on the front tab instead of having to delve down 3 levels.
In these screen- grabs the ink cartridge has been removed.
Version 5 driver - Main
also the Print Preview "checkbox", there are some
very snazzy features in there!! This feature allows you to Preview
the image immediately before printing, along with adding "Watermark".
Some users may find this feature very helpful, especially since
you can request that the "printable area" is
identified on the preview. Once satisfied that all is well you
simply click "Print". The Preview is pretty
accurate in that you will have a good indication of the margin size,
but the image colour/contrast/saturation/density is rarely accurate. When the Roll feeder is used Edge-to-Edge printing is
possible and the Preview shows this as well. Unfortunately this
feature can be something of a memory hog, so if you don't need the
preview give it a miss. Actually, I would definitely give it a miss!
Print Preview Window
the PhotoEnhance4 Mode gives us the following options:-
- image corrections suitable for most photo images.
- designed to enhance skin tones.
- image corrections are designed to enhance outdoor
images, particularly landscapes.
Focus - similar effect to using a soft focus filter or
- makes your prints look old
the "Advanced" button gives us the
Settings - Notice the changes!
more observant amongst you will be noticing some slight (but extremely
important) changes in the "Color Management"
section of the window. Notice that we now have the option of
setting "Print Gamma" when the driver is set to
"Automatic" mode. Basically the new driver and
associated ICC profile default to gamma 1.8. This presents Mac
users with no real problems. In fact doing a Profile-to-Profile
conversion on a gamma 1.8 image using the new "default"
ICC profiles show NO change in image density on screen.
There are of course colour and saturation changes as the image is
brought into the new printers optimal colour space.
the "Help file" suggests that we set the gamma to
1.5 in "Automatic" mode if we require the same
"contrast" as was obtained when using previous
models. Alternatively, it should be set to gamma 1.8 for higher
contrast, and gamma 2.2 when printing images that require matching
with other sRGB devices (read PC monitor).
new gamma feature is only available in "Automatic"
mode, but the results using "PhotoEnhance4",
"sRGB" and "ICM" modes suggest
that Epson are presupposing a gamma of 2.2 anyway. Again, the Help
file would appear to confirm this when it suggests these modes are
optimised for images created on devices such as scanners, and
cameras calibrated for "sRGB" (i.e. 2.2, scanners and
adjustment sliders basically operate as they always did, but with
the introduction of the gamma control I foresee little need for
Photoshop users to start tweaking the "Brightness"
slider. The new "default" or "canned"
ICC profile appears to be very good and I think many will find it
perfectly adequate for their needs, the linearity and smoothness
of greyscale seems to have been improved, although not to the extent
that the Epson 1270 could be considered suitable for serious B&W
In truth most of the above is all pretty much
academic for Photoshop users. I have found that Optimum
prints are obtained by simply selecting "ICM" or
"Automatic" (with driver gamma set to default
gamma of 1.8) in the driver and setting the Photoshop print dialog
as follows. Based on images created in both Adobe RGB (1998) and
ColorMatch I found using these settings resulted the final prints
matching the screen image pretty well.
5.5 Print Dialog Settings
Photoshop 5.02 may be more problematic in that the "Printer
Color Management (PCM)" feature is known to be broken.
Thankfully we can simply select the Epson default profile in the
"Space" popup window and "Uncheck"
PCM feature as shown below. The results using comparable printer
settings and either method of configuring Photoshop Print dialog
are virtually identical.
5.02 Print Dialog Settings
The following table
summarises the modes that I tried and found operated successfully.
Hopefully it will allow you to make the first stab at getting good
prints. Also note that I found choosing the gamma of 2.2 in the
driver settings produced a print that was darker than I would have
expected, hence my choice of sticking with the default gamma of
1.8. By-the-way it doesn't much matter which colour space you
use in Photoshop, so long as you set the driver and Photoshop up
as suggested below you should get very good results.
Adobe RGB or
Space = Epson
Adobe RGB or ColorMatch
Space = RGB
(gamma 1.8), or
and Driver Settings Summary
I have already put
through 18 A4 prints (excluding target prints and test images) and
reckon the quality I'm getting is exceeds the Stylus 1200 by a
fair margin (before you ask - some ink remains in cartridge, but
not much). The the range of printable tones has been extended,
with both shadows and highlights containing more information and
less noise than my Stylus 1200. The highlights are particularly
good, as are skin tones. I printed images in both ColorMatch and
Adobe RGB (1998) colour spaces and found that even solid coloured
patches of cyan, magenta and yellow printed with plenty of
saturation. For ColorMatch I used Andrew Rodney's RGB test print
and for Adobe RGB (1998) the now famous PhotoDisc Test Image
(see Preview image on Page 1).
drivers found on some early CD's for the PC version of the 870 and 1270
are faulty. The results tend to be light and desaturated because
the colour management system is being called incorrectly or not at
all. You should check the version number of the driver in the
properties dialog. The most recent, and known to work versions are
V5.01 for Windows 2000 and V5.02 for Windows 98. In case you are confused by the references you find at the Epson
web site (me too) 5.0b is actually 5.01 in the driver when
you install it, and 5.0c is 5.02 when it's installed. Just to
confuse matters further 5.0a is the same as 5.00.
previous misnomer of "No Color Adjustment" being
found under "Color Controls" has now been fixed,
it's out there plain for all to see, and does EXACTLY as
the name describes, nothing!! No doubt this will be the mode of
choice for when we get sufficient quantities of the new Premium
Glossy Photo Paper and begin creating "Custom"
ICC profiles. Although
I think it fair to warn you that creating a satisfactory (scanner
derived) "Custom" profile is a
difficult, but not impossible task. The new Premium Glossy paper
has a very high gloss, much like you would expect from a glossy
print from the "Photo Lab", and this gloss along with
a blue bias seems
to throw the scanner way of the mark. It has been suggested that
optical brighteners may be at work, but until more folk try and
profile the new paper/ink combination who can tell.
mentioned earlier PhotoEnhance4 comprises a few additional
"Tone" and "Effect" options. The
following two screen grabs will give you an idea of what's
available. With the exception of the "Monochrome"
mode I haven't tried any of these effects.
Tone Options in PhotoEnhance4 Mode
All the "Tone"
options are based upon "Coloured" inks, although
the inclusion of term "Monochrome" may be
the source of the "Quad ink" rumor that was
circulating for while. I think many will find the monochrome mode
a real "boon". There doesn't appear to be any
significant "crossover" although I find that prints
made using "Normal" speed mode are a tad more
cyan/green than I would like. Strangely I also found that when the driver was set to
"High Speed" the cyan/green cast was reduced and the
prints look more neutral.
A note of
caution "High Speed" printing is the
default, make sure you "Uncheck" it if you want
the best quality printouts. May be the reports of very neutral
mono prints that have been appearing in the various newsgroups and
forums are down to the fact that users haven't realised that they
were printing in High Speed mode. Actually short of looking at the
prints with an 8X Lupe you'll not notice any real deterioration in
print quality, so may be I'm being over cautious in suggesting
High Speed printing is switched off.
Effect Options in PhotoEnhanace4
The new Ink cartridges complete with a microchip
(see below) are designed to ensure the driver is always reflecting
the estimated ink levels. So unless you figure out a way of
resetting (very doubtful) the microchip, then refilling the
cartridge in the way we did previously is History!!! Furthermore,
"if" as seems VERY likely; Epson have
designed the print driver to only allow printing from a cartridge
with a microchip, then alternative non-Epson pre-filled cartridges
are equally doomed (unless someone wants to pay Epson a License
fee). Apparently all future Epson printer models will be similarly
Roll Paper &
edge to edge prints
"10 Year Life Inks"
Selecting the "Status Monitor"
from the "Utilities" Tab produces the dialog
for "Ink levels" plus an "Information"
button. Selecting this new button is actually quite interesting
because we now see the type of information being fed back to the
driver (there's a lot more, but not yet being used). Much has
been made over recent weeks of the purpose underlying this new
As suggested above many believe the purpose of
the new "microchip" is to thwart the "refill"
brigade or stop 3rd party ink manufacturers, may be it is!
However, I believe there to be message hidden deep within the
new "Information dialog", the context of which
may become clearer over the coming months.
Once you get your head round the fact that the
"microchip" is not really some dastardly trick simply to
prevent refilling and 3rd party ink supplies you will become more
appreciative of its more useful features. Every time I open the
"Properties" tab to check the ink levels up comes
look at the following screen-grab as an example. The information
that 13 prints remain is probably quite meaningless without you
knowing that I had already put through 36 A5 (7.5 by 5
inch) full colour images.
on Pages remaining
particular concern to some is the choice of "Media".
In particular what options the new driver allows the user to
select from. Obviously the loss of any media option could have
dire consequences for those that use alternative paper choices,
along with "Custom" ICC profiles. I even notice
on some forum's comments such as "Back
Lit film is no longer an option" and "Quads
inks will be a selectable option", well the FACTS
are, at present NEITHER is true, as can be seen below.
new drivers are aimed firmly at the masses who much prefer (as
do I) to play safe and use Epson's own ink and paper
combinations. Given past experience it is probably better that
choice is kept to a minimum, that said it is also important that
the user has some flexibility in choosing the ink/media type,
etc. When the above media choices are taken in combination with
the information that can be contained within the new
"microchip" on the ink cartridge who knows what lovely
surprises Epson have in store for us in the future.
hope this review addresses some of your
concerns/expectations. Of course there will always be those
expect more for less, but the reality is, these new printers
have the potential to produce exceptionally fine colour prints, and all
at the same cost as their immediate predecessors.
variable dot size technology really comes into its own when
printing images that have soft tones and gradations. The
question now is can Epson or anyone else get it better?
Personally looking at the prints on the new Premium glossy
paper I have before me; I don't think it matters a lot how
much smaller the dots are made. Short of using a 8XLupe you will
not see dots. At proper viewing distances the images are to all
intents and purposes "Photographs". One area
that appears to have benefited greatly from the new dot size and
dither patterns is sharpness, the prints are sharp, really
terms of colour accuracy and final print density I have already
mentioned that the default "High Speed" mode
provides the most neutral prints, and that they are a very close
match to the original in terms of density. For why this should
be the case that I don't know, but it sure is annoying that the
highest quality print mode produces the less accurate results in
terms of colour.
thing that became apparent almost from the very first print I
made was the fact that whereas previously it was very easy to get blue skies becoming over saturated (i.e. similar to
over zealous use of polarising filter); the new printer prints
them just like the original. In fact I think that many who liked
the real deep blues of the older ink set will need to increase
saturation slightly. From what I have been told the colour gamut
of the new paper/ink combination exceeds that of
the Stylus 1200, so we haven't been short changed.
abundance of poorly documented modes is still something of
a concern, but thankfully I think all are functioning correctly.
Likewise the issue of Photoshop and printer driver settings has
the potential to be as complex as before if you don't use
Photoshop 5.5, hopefully the table I provided on Page 2 gives some guidance.
the old chestnut of the Pizza Tracks seems to have been
significantly reduced when using the new Premium Glossy Paper.
Notice I write seems!, I'm always wary of the being too
definitive when discussing pizza tracks. Some have reported that
the pizza tracks are totally gone, time will tell if this is
correct. From what I can see the printer does NOT leave
any obvious trace of the pizza wheel marks when using the
new Premium Glossy, that's not to say they aren't there!