Epson debuts new pro-level photo printers
Epson this week announced the SureColor P700 and P900 printers, updates to their SureColor 13- and 17-inch, pro-level photo printer line. The new desktop printers offer a smaller footprint; a new pigment-based inkset with 10 inks; improved color gamut; and enhanced connectivity and paper-handling options. In addition — and possibly the most important enhancement for many photographers — the P700/P900 printheads have dedicated channels for the matte and photo black inks, eliminating the previous generation’s ink- and time-consuming process of switching black inks when moving between glossy and matte paper types.
The SureColor P700 is priced at $799, and has a maximum print width of 13 inches. It comes with a roll-paper attachment for printing on rolls with a 2-inch core. (When using roll-fed media, the maximum print size is 13 inches by 10 feet.) The printer comes with 10 UltraChrome PRO10 25ml cartridges; replacement cartridges are priced at $37.99 each. The P700 will be available in May.
The SureColor P900, priced at $1295, has a maximum print width of 17 inches. You can add an optional, enclosed roll-feed attachment ($249) that accepts 2- and 3-inch cores up to 17 inches wide, and includes a built-in cutter (the P700 roll adapter requires manual cutting). It uses the same UltraChrome PRO10 inks, although at a higher (50ml) capacity. Those cartridges are priced at $41.99 each. According to Epson, the P900 will ship “shortly after” the release of the P700.
Both models offer multiple simultaneous connectivity options: USB 3.0, 100BaseT Ethernet, and 2.4 GHz (802.11n) and 5 GHz wireless (802.11 b/g/n/ac), with WiFi Direct support as well.
The new printers are 30 percent smaller in size than the printers they replace (the P600 and P800, respectively), and Epson claims that they are the smallest pro-level photo printers in their class. The company also said that they simplified the paper-handling capabilities in the new models, with an improved, straight-through, manual-feed slot for specialty photo papers and thicker media (up to 1.5mm), as well as a more robust sheet feeder that can handle a wider selection of papers than the previous model.
Coming up Violet
The PRO10 inks used in the P700/P900 are a new formulation of Epson’s core UltraChrome pigment-based ink technology. The PRO10 inkset includes Photo and Matte Black inks, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Gray, Light Gray, and Violet. The new Violet ink, according to Epson, helps expand the color gamut by approximately 6% over the older models, and improves blues, violets and purples in printed images. (The previous models used a nine-ink system.)
Epson has also added a new Carbon Black printing mode at the driver level. When used, Carbon Black reportedly improves black density and contrast — increasing Dmax by 11% over the P600/P800 — and reduces bronzing and gloss differential in prints on glossy and metallic media types, without the need for the specific “gloss optimizer” ink found in some pro-level photo printers from Canon and HP. (Epson’s excellent Advanced Black-and-White printing mode remains available in the driver.)
In addition to the new inkset, the printhead on the P700/P900 has been redesigned, providing 10 distinct ink channels. This removes the need to “switch” between the Matte and Photo Black inks when changing paper types, a mechanism that has been in Epson’s pro printers for quite some time, and which took time — and wasted a small amount of ink — in the process. While we’ve found that most people tend to stick with one paper type (glossy or matte) when printing their work, the independent black channels are a welcome change, and one that will help improve ink efficiency in the long run.
The P700 and P900 sport a larger, 4.3-inch touchscreen interface that pops up from the top of the printer. From that panel, you can configure many aspects of the printers’ operation, including network options, ink management, paper-handling and more. The bigger touchscreen also let Epson add more specific information while a job is printing, including a preview of the image being printed, with metadata. You also have the option of printing a status sheet, with job-specific information, directly from the printer’s touchscreen.
With this new generation of printers, Epson has included two new pieces of software, Epson Media Installer, and Epson Print Layout, designed to address two common pain points many new users run into when printing: installing proper paper profiles and navigating often complicated or confusing print dialogs.
Epson Media Installer, for both MacOS and Windows, is an app for downloading, installing and configuring Epson-specific media. This includes placing the paper’s ICC profiles in the proper locations, and configuring any specific mechanical settings (platen gap, paper thickness) in the print driver.
Epson Print Layout is an app for MacOS, Windows and iOS that lets you choose printer settings, layout and color settings from one window, with a live preview of your photo. The app will automatically select the proper ICC profile based on the media selection, and includes options for creating gallery wraps when printing on canvas. (The app also works as a Photoshop plug-in for both MacOS and Windows computers.)
The professional photo printer market has long been a mature segment, with few developments and even fewer new printers — the SureColor P800 was unveiled five years ago, for example — so it’s a bit exciting to see something new in the space, especially at the desktop level.
The SureColor P700 and P900 offer quite a bit of bang to photographers looking to create exhibition-quality prints at 13- and 17-inch widths. With a significantly smaller footprint, new inkset (and improved gamut), better paper handling and dedicated photo and matte black ink channels, these new printers should offer substantive improvements over their predecessors, while staying at the same price point. And, while final testing is underway, early indications from Wilhelm Imaging Research indicate that the new UltraChrome PRO10 inkset will provide print permanence of up to 200 years for color and 400 years for black-and-white photos (under optimal display conditions).
We have used the SureColor P600 and P800 extensively over the past few years, and have found them to be excellent printers, and we recommend them regularly (and highly) to photographers and fine artists looking to create Giclée prints. We’ll wait until we have had a chance to review the new models, but on the surface, the improvements Epson has made with the P700 and the P900 should be great news for anyone dedicated to printing at the highest level.
[At press time, Epson didn’t have dedicated pages for the new models; we’ll add links as soon as that information becomes. Epson’s Professional Imaging home page is here.]