Gone are the days of darkroom printing and as we’ll see, from the results of printers such as this, you’ll never want to step back into the dark ages. The R2400 supercedes the Stylus Photo 2100/2200 and out of the box, the R2400 is certainly less well built than those predecessors. The articulated feed and delivery trays are particularly wobbly, but overall the machine looks stylish but big. Desk space may be an issue and that’s worth bearing in mind.
Firewire and USB2.0 connectivity provide speedy communication with your PC, and the software installation is speedy too, albeit you have multi-level installations for each of the various elements the package offers. It must be said you may not want some of the extras (just the main driver will do and read below) but the Easy Install option loads the lot. After around 15-minutes on my G5 iMac, all was ready to go. Incidentally, I used the Firewire port for this test.
Setting up the specialist media feeders is a tad fiddly, there’s one for matt paper (with a rubber pad to stop paper slipping into the printer) and an ultra smooth, Fine Art paper feeder tray as well, this accepts one sheet at a time and all these extra articulations and trays have guides and arrow indexes to show where they slot onto the machine.
Finally, you get an extra, manual-loading feed slot for thick media up to 1.3mms; exhibition quality papers can be easily catered to. The paper has a straight feed path so minimising the risk or marking as it prints, but you’ll need to allow clearance at the front an back of the printer for the paper to pass right through the machine.
The R2400 uses eight of the new UltraChrome K3 pigment inks including no less than three blacks. You get the “usual” array of cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan and magenta inks. Then you get photo black, matt black (these two are interchangeable depending on the type of media you’re using), light black and wait for it … light light black. That’s a total of nine inks but also the key to the neutral production of the mono output.
The printer offers three excellent features in one: it can produce colour prints, black and white prints and it can also print CMYK proof prints of high quality. The software bundle provides comprehensive drivers so there’s plenty of control of colour; significantly, the printer has a special driver window for black and white output.
The Advanced B&W Photo driver allows you to control hue and tone of mono prints, you can tweak the output with automatic presets such as neutral, cool, warm and sepia or adjust it by eye “manually” via a series of sliders or a mono “colour wheel”. And to cap it all, you can save any presets, so similar monochrome images – on the same media – can be quickly printed without going back through all the set up options each time. When switching from photo black to matt black, the properties in the driver widow adjust accordingly as well.
And so to the print quality. The R2400 seems to have successfully dealt with the problems of bronzing (to much ink in denser image areas changing the surface dynamics of the media, creating a metallic (or bronze) effect) and metamerism, where the colours seem to change under different lighting. The K3 inks really pulling out the stops and work well. Ink usage is also surprising frugal, so no over inking here.
Colour output is superb; nothing is overdone with reds and yellows being very good but blues looking slightly more vibrant than they should when compared to my original files. On balance, the matt papers (Velvet Art in particular) produced the most satisfying prints, easily good enough for exhibition prints.
Print speeds are good, an A4 print taking around 3-minutes and a borderless A3 print taking just over 6-minutes. Bundled software includes a neat Epson RAW print module that lets you print directly from RAW files, there’s a simple file manager, Epson’s Easy Photo Print and Darkroom Print. The former is a user-friendly print interface, but users of the R2400 will probably not need such a basic package. The latter offers a simple to use image adjustment tool for trimming, cropping etc. but it’s basic and like the Easy Photo Print, a bit of filler on a printer such as this.
Pricey the R2400 may be at a penny under £600 and each (original) ink costs just over £9 (don’t forget you need eight (or nine depending on the media) of ‘em), so this is a significant investment. However, it is really a pro’ machine capable of superb (nay, the best colour and mono results I have seen) that, if exhibiting and/or selling your work, colour or black and white, will pay you back quickly.
Now, I want one, but to paraphrase Spielberg’s movie Jaws, I’m gonna need a bigger desk – and wallet!