Stylus Pro 4800
The Epson Stylus Pro 4800 is the latest and smallest of the Epson large-format inkjet range. The bigger 7800 and 9800 versions will be available in September.
Small wasn’t the first thing that sprang to mind when the two guys delivered it. This is a big printer – small by large-format standards, but massive compared to your average inkjet.
It’s anything but your average inkjet, though: it can print sizes up to A2, though even larger custom sizes are possible, with widths up to 431.8mm and lengths up to 610mm. The printer can also handle roll media at widths up to 431.8mm.
But it isn’t paper size that makes the 4800 so special, it’s the new ink it uses. In eight big slots there are cartridges that hold as much as 220ml each. That’s a lot of ink, which you will need to cover the big paper sizes used. The inks are the latest UltraChrome K3 pigmented inks, and there are special inks for gloss or matte black, plus a set of three black inks for impeccable monochrome output.
Pigmented inks generally have a smaller colour gamut than dye based inks, but the life of the image is seriously hindered by using just dye. Epson has been developing inks and printing systems that extend the colour range of pigmented inks, to make them practical for photographic, art and proofing prints. The UltraChrome inks make a wider colour gamut possible by using eight inks, and the new UltraChrome K3 refers to the addition of “light black” inks.
The light black inks, or grey as we like to call them, mean that there’s no need to use composite colour to get shades of grey. It also means that the image permanence is better because blacks can have more pigment in them without affecting the hue. The results mean that mono prints have a claimed life of 100 years, while colour manages 75 years. These figures are from the industry standard for image permanence, the Wilhelm Institute.
As with all high-quality inkjet printers, it is important to use the prescribed paper with the prescribed inks to get the image permanence quoted. There’s a lot of science that goes into the creation of these systems, and they should be thought of in terms of a system. If you change one of the parts of the system, there’s every likelihood that it will give inferior results.
The performance of the printers was very good, though it is always slower to print larger formats of paper. The large ink cartridges stay stationary, unlike the smaller domestic inkjets. This means that ink is piped up to the print heads, which can increase waste. But there is no other practical way to deliver the capacity needed for a large format printer.
One other niggle is the feedback from the LCD display on the printer. It does advise when there is a paper jam or other problem, but is a bit vague with instructions on what to do about it.
The documentation could be a bit more thorough, too.
The Stylus Pro is a professional tool that will appeal to a number of different users. Photographers will enjoy the improved skin tones made possible by the extra black and grey inks. Artists will enjoy the image permanence of the pigmented inks and designers will like the broader colour gamut needed for proofing. The price tag is £1,495, which puts it within reach of smaller outfits that need large, high-quality prints. No doubt commercial print companies will offer output from the 4800 too. If you do use a bureau to print out your images or proofs, be sure that you know what paper and ink is used. Cutting corners will affect the image life so it’s worth insisting on the right paper and ink.