Product Review: The Epson R2000 Inkjet Printer
If you’re looking to expand your creative world, look no further than in the direction of the Epson R2000 Inkjet Printer. (And I’m not just saying that because Epson bills the R2000 that way.) At $599 (right now $499 with a mail-in rebate plus free ground shipping), the Epson R2000 is considered an entry-level, prosumer printer that has garnished accolades from even the most persnickety of photogs. That’s because the R2000 shares much in common with Epson’s high-end, wide-format printers. I’ll leave the comparisons of them to another reviewer; I’ll even defer to Epson’s website to pass along all the super techie-techie particulars of the R2000. No, in this review, I want to concentrate on the real-life performance of the R2000 and why this dedicated photo printer will blow open your creative world. So, hang on to your hats and read on.
Out of the box: The printer is packaged thoughtfully and without any extraneous do-dads that newbies to such equipment might find intimidating. It includes a power cable, one set of 8 ink cartridges (more on these later) a CD tray to print on CDs (yeah, it does that), a set of guides for roller paper, a single sheet guide (for hand feeding), documentation and a CD-ROM with drivers & software.
Installation: Set up is a breeze, using Epson’s quick guide. It gets the printer up and running in minutes. But for details on installing the roller guides and single-sheet tray, you’ll need to refer to the “Basics” instruction book that’s also included in the box.
Now let’s go back to those 8 ink cartridges. If you’re like most crafters, you probably have one of those handy all-in-one printers that lets you print, fax and scan. Most likely, the color cartridge in the printer consists of three ink colors: blue (cyan), red and yellow. Think about that for a second and you’ll understand why such all-in-ones with limited colors will never compare in print quality to a printer like the R2000 that offers not only cyan, red and yellow, but orange and magenta too. The other three cartridges you see in the photo below are black, matte black and a gloss optimizer for glossy prints. Because their singles, you only need to replace those cartridges that are low (yes, the printer tells you which are low). Cost per replacement cartridge runs $21.50.
Size Does Matter: I must take a moment to comment on the R2000’s footprint. At 8.5″ high, 24.5″ wide and 12.8″ deep, it’s bigger than your average all-in-one. So, yes, it’s going to take up some room in your craft room or office, but do not think that its size is in any way a strike against it. You’ll see in a minute WHY the R2000 needs to be this size and why you’ll love its girth.
Real Life Application: Here are some candid shots that I printed on Promaster 4″ x 6″ glossy paper. The subject is my niece Abby and the occasion was her first birthday. The blue of her eyes is spot on as is that of her grandmother’s sweater in the background. For the first print coming out of the R2000 I was shocked. It was really that stunning.
When Abby got down to the business of snarfing birthday cake, she was moved away from the north-facing window where she was sitting above and tucked into her high chair. At the time, I thought the light was less than optimal in this location; although softer than the previous picture, it still printed beautifully.
This picture was shot in a well-light center hall of McNally Smith College of Music in St. Paul.
The occasion was my nephew Garrett’s first violin recital. Again, the light was perfect as is the resulting print. It’s vibrant in color and life. And that dapper red striped tie doesn’t hurt either.
Okay, 4 x 6’s look great, but what about something bigger? Here’s a shot that I took a few summers ago. I manipulated it in Light Room, giving it an old-timey feel. I printed it on Epson Ultra Premium Luster photo paper in 8″ x 10.” (Excuse the funky white border, I didn’t have my settings just right in LR.) What struck me about this result–as did all the others previous–is that it looked exactly like what I saw/edited on my MacBook Pro’s screen. There were no ‘surprises,’ which is what you expect when you print a photograph, but doesn’t always happen, as you’ll see next.
Okay, Target is Target, but I’m guessing that’s where a lot of us go to get our quick 4 x 6’s made for scrap-booking and sending to mom. In this next example, we have a set of two pictures. One printed at Target and one printed on the R2000. I did some LR manipulation, which looked great on my computer screen; not so much after processing in the Target print. I don’t know if it’s a calibration thing or if Target’s equipment just doesn’t know what to do with my LR tweaks, but such funkiness has happened before. In this case there’s some severe halo-ing going on. You can see it quite easily in the noted circles. I printed the same file (no further manipulation to address the halo) on the Epson. Note the halo isn’t nearly as pronounced. The greens, too, seem more true-to-life.
Okay, you might say that the last set of pictures was a bit of Light Room operator error. True. Which leads me to this very important point. Professional photographers and (especially) photographers who create artistic prints do something you might not know. They print multiple versions of their images. For example, they’ve gone into PS and/or LR to edit their photograph. They print it out and assess the results. This critique can and often does lead to more tweaking in PS and LR, which means sending the file to the printer for a second time. This might go on several more times until the artist is satisfied. Now imagine having to send the picture to a photo processing center and having to wait for the results, and then wait again, and then wait again. Having a dedicated photo printer to do the job is really the best (if not the only) way to go. Especially if you are serious about taking your photography to the next level.
Of course, pros don’t have Target process their prints. They send them to reputable photo labs. Even though I’m not a pro, that’s exactly what I do when making photographs to frame and display on my walls. So what about said pro photo labs? My go-to processor is Aspen Creek Photo. This next duel resulted in a much closer race, but the Epson edged ahead Aspen Creek a wee bit. Again I’ve added circles to highlight the differences. Aspen Creek’s offering is first. If you compare it to the R2000 result (printed on Epson’s Premium Photo Paper Glossy in 5″ x 7″), you’ll notice there is more definition and vibrancy.
So far we’ve only considered color photography. Now let’s give grayscale a try. The great thing about the Epson R2000 is the detail of the information you provide to get the results you are looking for. In this case, I stipulated that the picture was in black and white so the printer could calibrate for the desired outcome. Again, it’s nothing less that amazing.
Another thing the Epson can do is print directly onto CD’s with that accompanying tray I mentioned earlier. I made a mix of tropical music for my friend Kay to help her forestall the winter blues. I snagged an image from the internet and then added the text using the software included with the Epson.
Now we’re going to go back to that size issue and why it matters. Yes, the Epson R2000 is big, but it’s big for a reason. That’s because it can print cut sheets as large as 13″ x 19″ and 13″ x 44″ using rolled paper. You know what this means? You can print directly onto 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper with it. And if you use Epson’s Scrapbook Photo Paper, you can actually print on both sides of it. Here I made a collage of Abby. Just imagine viewers coming upon a page like that would think? They’d be impressed, to say the least.
We’ve mentioned a few different papers so far, including glossy, luster and matte. Those three alone amount to more choice than we have at, say, Target. There, if I remember correctly, you get a choice of two: glossy or matte. With the Epson R2000, your choice of paper is limited to the papers available suited for the printer. At the time of this review, that’s 22. I repeat…22. You might wonder why you’d need that many to choose from. Well, take this next pair of images for example. The one on the left was printed on Epson’s Velvet Fine Art Paper, while the one the right was printed at a photo processing lab on a Kodak Luster. Honestly, my picture doesn’t do the velvet paper on the left justice. If you can make out the richness and depth of it versus the Kodak offering, multiply that by 100 and you can guess how lovely it looks in person. The petals look as velvety in the photo as they were in real life. Actually, the velvet print has such depth, if feels as if you could reach through it and pluck the flower.
If stunning pictures in an array of print sizes doesn’t convince you the Epson R2000 is worth its price tag, keep this in mind: not only will it open up a world of creativity, it also offers you freedom. I, for one, obsess over what files to send to Aspen Creek Photo because I want to get my most bang for my shipping buck, which means I put off printing, which is sad. Printing on the Epson R2000, however, means you can print whatever you want whenever you want on whatever paper you want. And that, my friends, is priceless.