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.
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.
following diagram shows that Epson have retained the variable ink drop
technology and it still remains at a minimum of 4 picolitres.
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
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.
the "Advanced" button in the main printer
window gives us the
following screen, not much different to previous models. Notice the
media choices, Epson haven't added any of the specialty media to the
list. Premium Semi Gloss, Archival Matt, Water Colour, etc, are all
Settings - Notice any changes?
The few changes there
are, are only available with certain media choices, of which more later.
Drat! they still have "High Speed" as the default
setting for Print Quality, even when you select 1440dpi. My
advice, make sure you deselect High Speed. The "Smooth
Edge" feature only operates on low resolution images so keeping
it checked, will in most cases be of no significance.
adjustment sliders basically operate as they do on all previous Epson
models. Photoshop users should really avoid using these
controls. Tweaking to the "Brightness",
"Contrast", etc. sliders is really quite foolish when
you consider the much more effective tools provided by Adobe.. The new "default" or "canned"
ICC profile appears to be very good and should be perfectly adequate for
most users needs.
The other small splash that Epson made with the 1290/80 was the use of
2880dpi mode. However, be warned it only works when using the Photo
Glossy or Glossy Film settings.
Mode - Any Good?
As soon as you select
the 2880dpi mode the following warning appears. Pay heed, Epson are
can I say? Full bleed prints are like the 2880 dpi mode above, limited to
certain media sizes and types (Photo Paper, Matt, Premium Glossy and a
few others). As soon as you select No Margins you loose
2880dpi print mode. So don't go thinking that everything in the print
garden is as rosy as some would have you believe.
Also selecting the No
Margins checkbox causes the following warning appears. With the Sheet Feed
option you can print to all four edges. With the Roll-holder only the
sides are borderless.
1290 saw improved colour gamut and it certainly seemed
to improve the rendering of blues and greens. I can't
say that I've noticed any further improvements. The sharper and
more detailed prints obtainable from 2880dpi mode are not so obvious, at
least not to my eye. With an 8 x loupe you can see subtle differences in
areas of fine detail. However, like its predecessors
the 1290S is not going to break any records when it comes to B&W
printing. If you needs are limited then it will get by, but serious
B&W workers will be sorely disappointed.
Borderless printing will
be advantageous to many and the fact that it extends right through to 19
by 13 inch prints without the need for the roll-holder is a real bonus. Using
the roll-holder means only the sides are borderless, but you can make
them up to 44 inches in length!
what do I really think about the 1290S? It should be obvious from my
earlier comments that little has changed in the way of print quality and
speed the 1290S is as good as it forerunner. The fact that in North
America Epson choose to leave the old 1280 designation and simply
revised the software bundle should give some clue as to how much has
really changed. To be honest I've not seen anything during my testing to
suggest that the 1290S was anything other than the rouse that many
thought it was. If you're already using the 1290 and feel like an
upgrade then I suggest you forget the 1290S and consider the 2100. That
said the the 1290S is a darned good dye based inkjet printer that really
excels at producing punchy colour prints. If you don't require true
archival prints then the 1290S is definitely a printer to consider.