Ive been using Epson printers since 1995. Ive also owned other inkjet printers as well as a few of the old dye-sub printers. The Epson products have a reputation for offering a great deal of bang for the buck so I was excited to get my hands on an R3000 to see how things have progressed for Epson.
The R3000 is an A3+ printer that has been available since March, 2011. Its a pro-sumer model that many serious enthusiasts as well as professionals might find appealing. It uses Epsons UltraChrome K3 ink set which costs approximately $229 to replace. The new 25.9 ml ink tanks were easy to install.
Unboxing the printer I was VERY glad that my assistant was here to help. This thing is a beast. You will need a substantial amount of space and a very sturdy desk or table to use it. Its well made and solid.
You can feed paper through a front-loading paper path or a rear tray. The front paper path is for fine art papers. You can also use roll paper although I did not test installing the rollers. Likewise, you can print to CD but again, since thats not something I need to do I didn’t test that function either.
Setup is a bit daunting if you are like me, and got tricked into installing Lion on your Mac. You should NOT insert the disk that comes with the printer if you are running Lion. Go to Epsons site and download the drivers, utilities and ICC profiles from there. Install them and THEN turn on the printers power. After about a 10-minute wait the inks are installed and primed. Then you can decide how you want to communicate with the printer. You can use a USB cable, network cable or wireless. Since I placed the printer outside my office in the studio, I used WIFI. You can connect to the router directly through the printers own interface or connect a computer to the printer one time to speed that process up. I just used the printers front control panel interface to type in the password to my router and all was well on the first try.
While I do consider myself a master printer when it comes to a wet darkroom, I don’t do enough of it on the digital side to know as much as some of the real artists and experts. Believe me when I tell you printing is as much an art as shooting. But I do know what I like and my initial test prints were quite nice.
I tested a variety of papers from Ilford, Red River and Epson. There were ICC profiles for all the paper so it was easy to match the images I saw on my Apple LED Cinema Display, calibrated by an X-Rite iOne system.
Depending on the paper, you can get very sharp prints – if that is what you are after. There are many art papers, even metal papers available so I will experiment with all and get a detailed review of the papers up later.
The paper handling and loading was a breeze – once you read the manual. Print times were reasonably fast, ink coverage – again depending on the paper selected – was great and color gamut was very wide. The blacks were very black but occasionally a bit blocky.
There was no banding or metamerism on the black and white prints I made. Most prints were very consistent from print to print but there were occasionally very small variances that most people would not notice.
With a street price of less than $600, the Epson R3000 is a really great deal. Considering the cost to replace all nine ink carts is rather high, that really great deal becomes just a great deal but a great deal nonetheless. I don’t do a ton of my own printing but I am satisfied that anything under 13×19 can be easily handled by the R3000 and that the print quality will be first-rate.
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