Stylus C86 Photo Edition

Sometimes I wonder if the world needs another inkjet printer. There is so much choice; every specialist need is catered for. Any company launching a new printer will have an uphill struggle to impress. Epson has taken on the challenge with the Stylus C86.

At first glance, it isn’t anything special: it doesn’t scan documents, and you can’t fax from it. It’s just a basic inkjet printer just an exceptionally good one.

One of the things that makes this such a good printer is the Epson DuraBrite inks it uses. When used in conjunction with the correct paper, the DuraBrite inks give long-lasting images. All inkjet printouts will fade in time, but some of the cheapest can fade in as little as three months or even less in unfavourable conditions. Unless thought and design is put into the ink and paper, fading is likely to happen sooner rather than later. All Epson printers have had pretty decent lifespans for their printouts, but the DuraBrite technology means that prints will last for 70 years or more in the right conditions. That means your cherished family photos will be safe for another generation.

The trick of DuraBrite inks is that they’re pigment-based. This usually guarantees that the image won’t fade quickly, but at the expense of the colour gamut (the range of colours it can print). DuraBrite ink holds the pigment particles in a soft resin that stops the ink soaking into the paper and the associated feathering that this causes. With only four colours, the image quality can’t quite match a dedicated six-colour photo printer with water-based ink but it’s close enough not to matter for all but the most discerning photographers.

The image quality is decent, but the other thing you need a printer to do is perform at a reasonable speed. Epson claims a 22-page-per-minute speed, but as I’ve been saying for years, inkjet speed statistics are meaningless. The problem is that because they use the power of the computer to process the image, their speed relies as much on the Mac as it does on the printer.

With this in mind though, I did manage to print images, including full-page photo prints, from my ageing PowerBook G4 without waiting too long. Pages from Word with only minor logo colours popped out at a steady five per minute. Photos took longer, but still could be described as a respectably speedy.


So why buy a £99 printer when there are others around for less than half the price? Because it’s the difference between an every-expense-spared piece of equipment and a solid, reliable printer such as the C86. It doesn’t do anything flashy, but it does everything most people need, at a speed and quality that will impress. Epson even throws in a 6-in-1 card-reader to get digital photos onto your computer.

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