Epson’s Stylus Photo 1400; A New Dye-Ink Printer That Replaces The 1280 Page 2

Unfortunately, it doesn't end there as far as the confusion is concerned; now, the paper names are so long the matching profile names don't include the name of the paper because the file name would be too long, so the profile name is something like SP 1400 1410 UPGP for Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Glossy. So, if you are a critical user requiring exact print matching performance, and make custom profiles made to obtain precise performance, you would do well to name the profiles sensibly so it is easy to identify and select them later.

Late one night when I was in Seattle, I looked out and it was snowing with great intensity, so I grabbed a couple of rolls of Agfa 1000-speed color negative film and my camera and went trudging through the snow. This street-lit industrial scene never printed more dramatically than with the new Epson Stylus Photo 1400.

Before getting the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 to test I was sent a sample of an entirely new type of paper, which I first tried with my pigment-ink printers. It is Ink Press Paper's Fiber Gloss (www.inkpresspaper.com/inner/profiles.asp?PaperID=37), which they describe as "a smooth high gloss surface, single-sided paper. Its quick-dry microporous coating offers high opacity and brightness and it's optimized for pigmented or dye inks. Being a fiber-based paper, it absorbs inks in the paper better than any RC papers, and gives beautiful deep colors to the image." This new paper responded well to printing with my pigment-ink printers, but I had a hunch it might do even better with the new Epson Stylus Photo 1400's Claria dye inks.

After profiling this Ink Press Fiber Gloss paper for use with the 1400, just printing my standard test image indicated my hunch was correct. So I made a large set of test prints with many different kinds of subjects and image styles. The results were consistently good and produced print images that were both brilliant and more open, revealing better image information in mid to darker tones than any glossy or luster papers of the past. Apparently the fiber-based substrate of Ink Press' Fiber Gloss is of significant advantage when using dye-ink photo printing.

On the other hand, I tried using one of the recently new fiber-based luster finish papers that have generated a lot of favorable response from users of pigment-ink printers. Possibly these new fiber luster papers were specifically formulated to support pigment ink only, because the one I tested did not produce prints in any way superior to the same image reproduced on an RC-based luster paper.

For a fairly small island, Maui, Hawaii, is packed with some amazing natural beauty that's a delight to photograph. One of the most intriguing to me is a native grass that is lush green at its base with flowering seed stalks. Caught in late afternoon backlight, it created a striking scene on chrome film. But I've never gotten such a vividly true reproduction of the scene in a print until I made one with the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 with Ink Press' Fiber Gloss paper.

Evaluation And Recommendation
The bottom line is that in almost every performance dimension the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 improves on its predecessor, the 1280. It reproduces dramatic images that also have greater longevity, comparable to many pigment-ink prints, according to Wilhelm Imaging Research. The Epson 1400 prints finer detail and better sharpness, as well as more brilliant colors on all media. This becomes obvious when you compare the 1400 prints to prints made with previous generation dye-ink printers. The reproduction of natural greens like grass and foliage is very much improved as are colors in the violet to purple portion of the spectrum. The Epson Stylus Photo 1400 also prints faster, comparable in speed to the R1800 and R2400, perhaps even a shade quicker. And like the R1800 and R2400, the individual ink cartridges for each of the six colors should reduce ink wastage typical with older dye-ink printers like the 1280, which had a single cartridge for all color inks. This should lower ink cost per print.

Perhaps the very distinct improvement in color intensity and brilliance of prints reproduced with the Epson 1400 over its predecessor contributes to the problem I experienced using the Epson supplied profiles. In other words, what might have been a minor color bias with the previous generation of dye-ink printers is now more apparent with the better Claria inks. Put yet another way, as print performance in terms of color intensity and brilliance is improved it requires even more precise profiling to achieve gray balance neutrality. One strong possibility is that printer profiles with enough latitude to accommodate differences in individual printers, which are to be expected in a mass-produced product, just aren't precise enough to obtain results a critical user will expect.

So, the question is, should critical users custom profile the 1400 if they expect to obtain balanced neutral grays? I'd have to recommend that, but also add it is not a big deal or necessarily expensive. Many if not most specialty website inkjet paper outlets, like InkJetMall.com, InkJetArt.com, DigitalArtSupplies.com, etc., provide custom profiling services that are quite reasonable, as well as free generic profiles for the papers they sell. These may very well perform more critically than the Epson profiles.

The bottom line is that the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 performs much better than its predecessor, costs less to own and operate than a comparable pigment-ink printer, prints more favorably on inexpensive photo paper, and also reproduces better quality images on high gloss and luster papers than a pigment-ink printer. And perhaps as importantly, the print image longevity issue is no longer a serious shortcoming. So for those photographers whose individual preferences coincide with the 1400's advantages I've described, I'd say go for it. The profiling issue to obtain critical gray balance and optimum screen to print matching is not a serious hurdle to overcome, and once you have precise custom profiles for your favorite papers it's not a task that will need to be done again, at least for some time. I'd be very tempted by this printer if I didn't have a personal preference for printing on the many interesting variations of fiber matte papers now available that favor pigment ink.

For a full list of Technical Specifications, visit the Instant Links section of our website at: www.shutterbug.com/currentissuelinks/.

For more information, contact Epson America, Inc., 3840 Kilroy Airport Way, Long Beach, CA 90806; (800) 463-7766, (562) 981-3840; www.epson.com.

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