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The R2880 churns out stunning prints at a good price.
There’s good and bad news about Epson’s wide-carriage Stylus Photo R2880, successor to the four-year-old Stylus Photo R2400. First, the good: It’s more robust than the R2400 and puts out the most gorgeous color and black-and-white prints up to 13x19 inches (13x44 inches for panoramas) we’ve ever seen. The bad: Photo Black and Matte Black cartridges still require swapping when using different paper surfaces.
The R2880 also weighs almost 27 pounds and takes up quite a bit of space: Its physical footprint is 24.3 inches wide by 12.7 inches deep (20 inches with its top-loading sheet feeder extended). You’ll need even more room behind it, though, if you use roll paper (holders included) or load single or heavier (up to 1.3mm thick) art-type papers through front or rear single-sheet feed slots. A tray for printing on specially surfaced CDs and DVDs comes with the printer and a pair of USB 2.0 ports allows a two-computer connection, though only one can print at a time.
Following Epson’s quick-start guide, we shook each cartridge a few times and then snapped in Light-Light Black, Vivid Light Magenta, Light Cyan, Light Black, Photo Black, Cyan, Vivid Magenta, and Yellow in that order (we kept Matte Black close by for later use). A press of the Ink button fired up the printer, after which we installed the software without a hitch before connecting the R2880 to our Mac.
We began by printing our 8x10 inch test image on Epson’s Premium Photo Paper Glossy at the three resolutions suitable for photos: SuperFine 1440, Photo 1440, and SuperPhoto 5670. Each has a High Speed option that allows the printhead to lay down ink in both directions of travel, instead of just one; we ran each resolution in both modes.
Unidirectional output speeds were: SuperFine 1440, 3minutes, 12 seconds; Photo 1440, 4 minutes, 39 seconds; SuperPhoto 5760, 8 minutes, 7 seconds. Bidirectional times for the same resolutions were 1 minute, 36 seconds; 2 minutes, 29 seconds; and 4 minutes, 14 seconds, respectively. Eyeballing our six prints carefully, all appeared equal in quality. But looking at them through a powerful loupe revealed some minuscule variations. Nevertheless, Photo 1440 at High Speed gave us excellent results on most papers, along with reasonable printing times.
The R2880 is one of the quietest printers we’ve used--we could hardly hear it at 6 feet away. Prints show no color shifting (metamerism), color layering or bronzing, and Epson’s Ultrachrome K3 pigment inks have a predicted print lightfastness of up to 205 years under glass, but humidity, heat, and air contaminants could shorten that.
Most impressive was the quality of prints we output on different Epson, Red River, and Hahnemühle papers using the R2880’s Advanced Black-and-White mode. They easily equaled or surpassed the finest silver halide prints we’ve seen, offering rich, deep blacks with an extraordinary tonal range that could only be described as stunning. It was also easy to simulate sepia, platinum, selenium, and other traditional toners.
Ink consumption when printing uni- or bidirectionally at SuperFine 1440 or Photo 1440 was about the same. At $13.29 per cartridge, we calculated the average cost of ink for an 8x10 inch print at those four options to be 80 cents ($2.50 for a 13x19 inch photo) though it could be higher or lower depending on the percentage of dark or light areas in an image. SuperPhoto 5760 used about twice as much ink when producing museum-quality, exhibition images on fine art papers.
The Stylus Photo R2880 may not have the large-capacity cartridges and no-swap blacks that Epson aficionados were hoping for, but if you’re ready for a new printer that can deliver breathtakingly beautiful images at a reasonable cost, this is the one.