Review by Conrad J. Obregon

I’ve used Epson printers for printing photos for several years and have been extremely pleased with the quality of color prints that come from the Epson machines. The main question I had in using the 2880 was whether the machine would be better than my Epson 2400 photo printer. I use the current versions of Lightroom or Photoshop for my printing, and I’ve found that if your monitor is of good quality and properly calibrated, the photos that the Epson printers produce are almost indistinguishable from what you see on the monitor. That’s true up to the 13 by 19-inch images that you can print with both the 2400 and the 2800. (To get a good picture, you do need to shot with a good image. I’ve always used images of at least 10 megapixels, whether they come from a film scanner or a digital SLR camera.) The main claim for improvement for this machine is the presence of an additional ink cartridge, vivid magenta.

I set up the printer in accordance with the quick start guide and CD containing drivers that was included. (You’ll need a USB cable with a type B connector.) I spent the most set-up time just opening the little plastic bags that contain the ink cartridges and installing the cartridges. I had a choice of installing matte black or photo black inks. I installed the photo black because that’s the ink suggested for the papers that I regularly use. Be warned that anytime you switch from one black to the other you use a significant amount of ink because of purging and refilling the lines. I followed the directions and the new printer was up and running in less than 15 minutes. Be sure to install the ICC profiles available on line from Epson if you expect the best print results. You can go to the site for the profiles from the install disk.

I made a classic mistake in printing my first picture because the Epson Properties Panel is changed from the 2400, that is, I left Epson printer control on. Then in the Photoshop CS4 print menu, I selected “Photoshop Manages Color”. The result was an over saturated print. I went back to the page setup menu and selected Mode Setup, Custom, Off. Now when I printed, my image looked like the monitor, or as close as I could get, given the inherent differences between subtractive color and additive color.

I printed the exact same images on Epson Premium Glossy and Epson Premium Semi-matte on both my 2400 and 2880 printers. Most of the duplicate prints were indistinguishable to me, although there may have been just the slightest bit more snappiness to images that featured a lot of magenta, but it was certainly not anything noticeable. I showed nine people the duplicate images and most could not see any difference. Three people claimed they could see differences, but had no preferences between the prints.

I also tried out the printers on a special stock I use for cards. This is a heavily textured paper, similar to matte paper. On the 2400, I set the Epson properties menu to “Premium Presentation Paper” and also the Photoshop print menu to Premium Presentation Paper. I used the photo black ink rather than the matte ink which resulted in a print that seemed to pop a little more than that using the matte black ink. The 2880 properties menu won’t let you select this profile when photo black is installed. That shouldn’t make a difference if you are having PS control the printing (I think) but it’s my impression that the result is a slightly more subdued, though still quite lovely, picture. The difference may be due to the new profiles.

The movement of the controls to the top of the 2880 printer is an inconvenience for me, since I keep the printer at almost eye level when I’m sitting down. I’ve also managed to turn the new printer on accidentally by brushing the top-mounted controls.

The 2880 printer is also capable of printing on CDs and DVDs. I did not test this facility.

The bottom line is that if you want a photo printer that prints papers up to 13 by 19 the Epson 2880 will not disappoint you. On the other hand, if you already have an Epson R2400 printer, unless your images usually have a large amount of magenta or you need to print on CDs or DVDs, you probably won’t find a significant advantage in upgrading.

The Epson R2880 is available for $659 from Amazon.