1290S Printers


By Ian Lyons



A Computer Darkroom review

December 2002

The Epson Stylus Photo 1290S was first introduced into the UK during the late summer of 2002. At the time Epson were struggling to meet orders for the Photo 2100 and many were of the belief that they were simply trying divert customers into purchasing what appeared to be a completely new Photo printer. Do I share this belief?


Good and bad News!

The bad news first. Epson have retained the InteliEdge ink cartridge technology (the chip from hell). They are also using the same ink cartridges as are already used by the earlier Photo 1270 and 1290. So what about the good news?

Specifications and Features:

Epson provide the following "at a glance" list of features on their UK page:

  • Borderless prints on 100mm, A4, A3 & A3+ media without the need for over sizing or the use of a guillotine
  • 2880 x 720 dpi Perfect Picture Printing
  • Advanced 6 colour printing for true photo reproduction
  • Print speeds of up to 9.4ppm black text and 9.0ppm colour
  •  EPSON Ultra Micro Dot™ 4pl with Variable Sized Droplet Technology
  •  USB and Parallel connectivity for Windows® and Macintosh®

Provided free of charge with the Stylus Photo 1290S is EPSON's PhotoQuicker 3.2 software, which enables edge to edge printing. Also provided is a copy of Adobe Photoshop Elements.

The price of the new printer is comparable to the Epson 1290, as are the costs for consumables. In fact the consumables are shared with the Photo Stylus 1270.

The 1290S printer is based upon the Epson 1290 with only cosmetic differences (i.e. S = Silver). More importantly there aren't any obvious changes to the hardware. The case design shows a few subtle changes, the most obvious being the darker silver finish to the base unit. There has been no reduction in "ink droplet" size nor any real jump in speed. The following diagram shows that Epson have retained the variable ink drop technology and it still remains at a minimum of 4 picolitres.




Colour Rendering

When Epson first announced the earlier Photo 1290 printer, a small splash was made of the improved colour rendering. The claim being that through enhancements within the colour engine, etc it had been possible to improve the colour space beyond that of the previous models (sRGB), especially in blues and greens. Epson call this new technology - Natural Image Color. It extends the visible color range that cannot be completely presented by colour monitors or digital cameras. The following diagrams from the Epson web site in Japan and Hong Kong show this clearer than my words.



Epson Natural Colour


According to Epson, this new colour technology enables the printer to better differentiate the different hues of greens and blues evident in images taken of the sea, sky, water, forests and general greenery.



Epson Comparison Image


So the question is: - does reality agree with Epson's claim? Well, in my view, it does! The differences are not earth shattering, but they are clearly visible, particularly in blue skies. The 1270 images showed a red bias compared to the 1290, at least in the transition from blue sky to white cloud. Using a custom printer profile with my 1270 meant that I could easily better the colour gamut achieved by the 1290's default profile. This is because all the internal colour processing that the driver does is by-passed. The 1290S doesn't offer any visible improvements over the earlier 1290.

Black and White Printing

Up until obtaining my Epson 2100 printer I had been printing all my Black and White work using an Epson 1200 and Jon Cones PiezographyBW system. I even wrote a review expressing my delight with the quality of the system. Jon needn't worry about loosing too many PiezographyBW customers. The 1290S is as poor at producing neutral B&W prints as the 1270 and 1290 before it. I found the best media to be Epson Matte Heavy Weight.


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