Print masters

Introduction

Epson’s latest additions to its raft of consumer inkjets embody two reasons for its long-time domination of this market: it offers quality products at affordable prices, and it rarely ceases innovating. Its new entry-level Stylus, the C40, is a no-frills affair. It prints at a maximum resolution of 1,400dpi, at which it can give photoish-quality output on glossy photo-paper. However, this model is £79, and as such offers only so much. One thing that it won’t buy is speed. Printing at 1,400dpi is painfully slow. A single page of black text took over four minutes to output, while a test image took a stubble-inducing 10 minutes. Why are low-end printers so sluggish?It’s not as if the faster mid-range and high-end models boast processors to help them churn stuff out. Maybe manufacturers design them this way. The C40’s colour accuracy is merely average. Using the supplied C40 colour profile, it turned the stunning blue skies of the test image into a jaundiced wash. The Stylus Photo 895 is as remarkable as the C40 is ordinary: it undermines Apple’s vision of the Mac as a digital hub, making it possible to print digital-camera images without a computer. The 895 can do this thanks to a memory-card slot that accepts Flash ATA, CompactFlash, SmartMedia, and Memory Stick. The 895comes with a CompactFlash adaptor, so if you use the other standards, it means forking out extra for an adaptor. There’s a £25 discount voucher in the box that’s redeemable against Memory Stick and Smartmedia adoptors (both of which cost £49, including VAT). Because digital cameras make it impossible to name images, working out which one is which from a range consisting of JPEG1, JPEG2, etc is an exercise in futility. For this reason, Epson has released the Photo Viewer – a one-inch LCD monitor that displays images as you scroll through them on the menu panel. However, at £79 this doesn’t come cheap. Epson should surely have bundled this with the printer and bumped up its box price by, say, £30. However, the 895’s print quality is excellent. The digital images I output were of a high photo-quality calibre – both colour accurate and crisp. Snail’s pace
But if the C40 is slow at high resolutions, then the 895 is even slower. With no computer to assist it, the 895 took just under 14 minutes to process an A4 image at its top resolution of 2,880dpi. When it was hooked-up to a Blue-&-White Power Mac G3, it output the test image at the same resolution in 4 minutes 43 seconds. Again, print quality was of a high order. I used the supplied 895 high-quality glossy-paper colour profile, and the same print settings as were selected for the C40. It did an impressive job on the subtle sunset hues and ocean blues. (This test image can be download from www.macworld.co.uk/testcentre). Something I especially liked with the 895 is that it gives full-bleed images on A4 and 100-x-150mm images. This nicely enhances the photo-finish effect. Epson also claims that its inks are light-fast for 20 years. One thing that did concern me about the 895 is that its paper-feed mechanism leaves rows of pinhead pricks across the paper. These can be lessened by setting the paper-weight adjustment lever to the heavy-paper setting, but they remain clearly visible – and detract from otherwise photo-quality output.
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