Epson’s Stylus Photo R1900; Color Enthusiasts Take Note Page 2

To produce more natural skin tones, Epson removed blue, added orange, and reformulated red for the R1900 ink set. Side-by-side comparisons of portraits using the two printers showed more orange saturation on the R1800, just the opposite of what you might expect. Separately, both printers produced attractive skin tones, but side by side, those from the R1800 looked less natural, as if the model had applied a bit too much orange makeup.

The key red/orange advantage of the UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2 ink set isn't in bright orange but in its subtler, more convincing skin tones--with all due respect to the blazing orange beak of the toucan Epson uses to promote the R1900. Hi-Gloss 2 also does well in violet, magenta, and blue, areas where the newest pro ink set, K3 Vivid Magenta, improved over the earlier K3 formulation.

The violets, blues, and magentas of this Delaware River scene were a good test for the R1900, and it performed comparably to Epson printers using the UltraChrome K3 Vivid Magenta ink set.

Monochrome And Color Output
Black and white prints look good with the R1900, but the printer has only one photo black and one matte black cartridge, so it lacks the monochrome range of Epson printers using UltraChrome K3 or K3 Vivid Magenta ink sets. In addition to photo black and matte black, such printers offer light black and light light black, giving more consistent gray scale results. Lacking light blacks, the R1900 produces grays by mixing in additional colors--introducing a slight color cast. The effect can be appealing; it's the reason photographers sometimes print duotones. But, I found it hard to control color cast in monochrome prints precisely with the R1900 and nearly impossible to remove it entirely. If black and white output is your preference, look at Epson's other 13" pigment printer, the Stylus Photo 2400, or better yet, the 17" Stylus Pro 3800.

(The ideal for both color and black and white printing would be the K3 Vivid Magenta ink set--if you could get it on an affordable printer. At present, the entry-level K3 Vivid Magenta printer is the $1995 Stylus Pro 4880. Eventually, these inks will make their way to less costly printers, but the pace of migration is unclear.)

What To Buy
If your budget is tight, consider the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 for its brilliant dye-based hues. For those who print often in black and white, make K3 or K3 Vivid Magenta ink printers the main criteria. But for a printer that covers most bases well and really shines at color output, the R1900 is a winner. Overall, print quality and handling are superior, and the subtle colors and smooth gradations are a pleasure.

The R1900 might be termed Epson's entry-level exhibition-quality printer, and it packs plenty of versatility, including the ability to print onto CD discs, roll-paper capability, and a separate rear feed for fine art papers. These features were also available with the R1800--the only other Epson printer to employ the Gloss Optimizer. And at $549, what's not to like?

For more information, contact Epson America, Inc., Pre-Sales Support, PO Box 93012, Long Beach, CA 90806; (800) 463-7766;