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User Review

Epson Photo 2000P

 

 

A Computer Darkroom Review

Announced in late May at Drupa, the Photo 2000P is only now becoming available in any real quantities, although many still find it very difficult to obtain. The 2000P is apparently the Epson answer to the age-old cry from Professional and Amateur Artists/Photographers wanting a high quality wide body inkjet printer with TRUE archival image stability.

 

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1. Highlights of the Photo 2000P

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  • In excess of 100 years light-fastness with unique EPSON ColorFast pigment inks and specialty paper media

  • Ultra-high 1440 dpi printing resolution with EPSON Ultra-Microdot

  • Edge-to-edge printing on cut sheet media and roll media using supplied roll paper holder

  • Intellidge ink cartridges for enhanced ink status feedback

  • Variable Sized Droplet Technology: VSDT

  • Windows 95/98/2000/NT4, iMac, new G3/G4 compatible

  • 1 year call out warranty plus optional CoverPlus extended warranty

  • Optional Stylus RIP for true Adobe Postscript compatibility

I recently had the opportunity to use the 2000P for a few hours, and was able to make a small number of prints using the Epson Heavy Weight Matt and Semi-gloss papers. I also understand the Archival Matt; Watercolour and Glossy Paper - Photo Weight papers are available in the UK from the Epson Buy Online site. The samples of Archival Matt that came with the printer had long since been, however, it's virtually identical to Heavy Weight Matt in visual terms, but is both heavier and thicker.

As with all the other Photo series printers from Epson, the 2000P uses 6 inks, based on 2 cartridges, one black the other containing the 5 coloured inks. Like the recently launched Photo 870/875/1270 printers both these cartridges are fitted with the Intellidge chip. If you haven't already read or heard it before, the chip prevents the use of 3rd party inks and refilling, but also means that ink levels are more accurately recorded and the cartridge can be removed from the printer at any time without significant loss of ink. I write this because every time you remove and then reinsert the cartridge the system must go through a head/ink purging cycle, this uses some ink.

100 years

The really distinguishing feature of 2000P is not the use of the Intellidge chip, but of a new ink set based on "Pigment Inks". It has long been known that "dye" based inks are much more susceptible to light induced fading than pigment inks, but achieving an acceptable colour gamut has up till now proved exceptionally difficult. With these new inks Epson have succeeded in gaining a very long life (theoretical 100 years plus), whilst still retaining the wide and well renowned colour gamut of previous Photo models.

The fact that Epson haven't quoted a droplet size for this printer (either in the USA or UK) has allowed the rumour mongers to suggest that the Photo 2000P uses droplet volumes as small as 1picoliter. Well if Epson have got down that small they would be shouting it from the top of Mount Fuji, and they arent. The best I can do to explain this silly number is the quotation in the original Press release that quotes "tiny pigment particles as small as 0.1microns for the finest detail and gorgeous highlights". Just so as we make things clear, any correlation between particle size and droplet volume is VERY tenuous. Put simply the 2000P doesn't produce droplets anywhere near as small as the Photo 1270. 

Epson quote 100 year plus for the lifespan of the prints but this is qualified as follows:-

Under fluorescent light (indoor display condition) with glass mount. The data is calculated by EPSON's accelerated test and it does not mean EPSON guaranteed periods
Lightfastness Test Criteria (Indoor Display Condition)


- Light source: Fluorescent light
- Intensity : 70k lux
- Temperature : 24C
- Humidity : 60%
- Glass mount : 2mm, soda lime
- Fade criteria : Pure YMC 30% loss at OD=1
- Display-life Calculation : Total intensity/(500lux x 10hours x 365=1year)

Tests developed and conducted by EPSON using EPSON media & inks

To compliment the new printer Epson will also release 5 new media types, but depends on region which 4 out of 5 you can purchase):-

a)         Archival Matt

b)         Watercolour radiant white

c)         Premium Semi-gloss

d)         Glossy Paper - Photo Weight, Paper based media (United Kingdom and Europe)

e)         Lustre, Resin Coated based media (United States and Canada)

These papers should be available in a range of sizes. The samples of Glossy paper I've been given are more like Lustre than glossy and to be honest I'm not that impressed with its appearance.

In appearance the Photo 2000P is two-tone grey/silver (make your own mind up on actual colour) and is shaped along similar lines to the Photo 1270.

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2. Photo 2000P in-use

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As mentioned above; I didn't have long with the printer, and as it was connected to a network some of the features associated with "Status Monitor 3" didn't work quite the way I expected. I also noticed that these same features didn't work on the Epson 1160 and Epson 1270 connected the same network, so I'm confident that this was more a local configuration issue than anything untoward with the printer or drivers. Needless to say the ink level images appeared as zero on the driver screen grabs I captured for inclusion here.

The driver is labelled as Version 5.0 and was nearly identical to that of the Photo 1270, etc. Unless I'm missing something this printer doesn't have option for 720dpi or 1440dpi, just Photo or Fine. Depending on media choice the driver chooses which, although you can override some choices. I assume from this and the Epson specification that "Photo" is equal to 1440dpi.

Image

As with Epson 1270 we find an option for preview images immediately before printing. The screen grab below shows the feature in use, but more details can be obtained in the Epson 1270 review.

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I've read on various forums that the colour output from the Photo 2000P can be less than optimal if printed through the default Automatic mode, and that best results are obtained using PhotoEnhance4. I didn't find this to be the case. Okay the prints from these two modes differ, but not so that you would scream one or other was bad.

Apparently Epson don't recommend this printer to those wishing to print "neutral" black and white images, and certainly I found printing greyscale prints something of an annoyance; they tended towards green under natural light and lacked a solid black. Others have also reported this recently, so thankfully it wasn't just me rushing through a few prints without care.

The issue of poor Black and white printing seems to have caught the attention of quite a few folk. Michael Reichmann at Luminous Landscape has been looking into the matter in a lot more detail than me, but like me agrees neutral black and white printing from the Photo 2000P will be virtually impossible using the current ink-set. We have both found (as I'm sure have many others) that the Photo 2000P produces excellent black and white prints on Matt paper, but only when you use Black Ink Only setting in the driver. For me the use of greyscale mode in Photoshop is also a poor choice, so instead consider using "Channel Mixer" mode to optimise your B&W prints (see my Black and White from Colour tutorial). For more details on Michaels findings see his review, the link is provided at the bottom of this page.

Colour quality using the default Epson profile is reasonably good, but in my opinion lags slightly behind that of the Photo 1270. This is more down to the ink gamut of the Photo 1270 wider. If asked whether the colours were truly accurate; the answer would probably be no. I would describe the colours as being softer, or not so saturated, with yellows being the most obvious causality. But then again the Photo 1270 isn't truly accurate either. It does however have the advantage of being able to print on glossy paper, something by all accounts no archival ink is good at, certainly the Photo 2000P doesn't even give it as an option.

Media choice is via the usual drop-down window and comprises four choices (at least that's all I could find). Surprisingly Epson choice not to identify either Lustre or Watercolour in the menu, but do indicate in the manual that when using Lustre you set the media to "Glossy Paper - Photo Weight", and for Watercolour you set the driver to Archival Matt. They warn against the use of none Epson media, and also suggest that some Epson media might not work well with the Photo 2000P. Nevertheless I have been informed that the Photo 2000P produces perfect prints on Lyson Fine Art papers (i.e. "rough" fine art and "smooth" fine art).

The Automatic setting works in the same way as it does with the Photo 1270 and the default setting of gamma 1.8 again appeared to be the most appropriate for my images. If you find yourself having to adjust any of the sliders by much more than 3 or 4 units then I really would question the accuracy of your screen calibration. I certainly found that excepting saturation and yellow issue mentioned above, the output matched my screen very well without having to touch any of the sliders.

 

Image

The PhotoEnhance4 mode is to my mind identical to that found in the Photo 1270, and since I'm not a great fan of  "Presets" I really didn't give it much of an outing, just a mono and a default colour.

Image

One thing I noticed, when you select Archival Matt the printer defaults to high speed (bi-directional printing). However, as soon as you select Semi-gloss high speed is disabled. This means bi-directional printing is switched off and print times go through the roof (slowwww), and cannot be overridden. I didn't wish to waste someone else's ink, so I only printed A5's, and at over 10 minutes this is twice as long as the Photo 1270 on normal speed.

With semi-gloss the default setting for MicroWeave is "On", but Epson suggest that you may wish to also select Super(x) if micro banding occurs. Users of the much older Photo EX will recall that setting, and there was me thinking it was gone for good with the introduction of the Photo 1200. Looking at the prints from the 2000P and comparing with an 8 x Lupe; they more resemble the Photo 1200 in terms of dot size than Photo 1270. Using Super(x) eliminates the little micro banding there is, but still doesn't make the final prints the equal of the Photo 1270. Mounting prints from all three side by side on the wall and viewing from a more reasonable distance (more representative of the real world) the Photo 1270 is still the best, but the margin is small. I'm confident that most will generally find the overall image quality from the Photo 2000P under these conditions to be more than satisfactory, and certainly the equal of many lab based photographic prints.

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3. Would I buy one?

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The simple answer to the question "would you buy one?" remains the same today as it did the first day I saw the Photo 2000P in action NO! The printer is aimed at a very specific market; and since I'm not interested in selling prints it would be wasted on me. Okay 100 year inks sounds great, but to my eye the Photo 1270 produces better looking prints, much quicker to boot, and at a lower cost. The 2000P's print quality is certainly better than Ive seen come of any Photo 1200 using archival inks, but  it is not as good as the Photo 1270. Cut the price in half and the answer could change though, that said running costs are less favourable than the Photo 1270.

The Photo 2000P is a fine printer, I think many professional photographers would like to print their own work, but the reality is many don't have the time and others will simply never achieve the required level of skill within Photoshop to justify moving from conventional wet printing (most buy this service in). For a wedding Photographer colour accuracy is critical, just try telling the bride that her $5000 gown really was a shade less whatever colour on the the day. On the other hand Fine Art Photographers and Artists will look upon the Photo 2000P as a dream come true. This printer will excel at printing "limited edition" fine arts prints for sale or for exhibition, but for high throughput work, no way, it's just too slow.

Just so as nobody misunderstands, I don't own a 2000P and my access was and will be limited. I don't even consider this write-up to be a comprehensive review of the Photo 2000P.

 

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