If I had to use two words to
describe the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 from an enthusiastic photographer's
perspective they would be "serious fun." And from a professional
photography perspective I'd have to say "serious business."
Although scanners and digital cameras are essential to digital photography,
to me, and I am sure to anyone who has printed their own work in a darkroom
with an enlarger and trays of chemicals, making prints of your images
is the ultimate reward, and the pinnacle of that achievement was a 16x20
fine enough to go on a wall. Now that the darkroom is on a desk (if that
desk is big enough) you can make 16x20 photographs much quicker and easier,
and even more deserving of being exhibited on a wall.
For much of the 15 years I have been involved with the digital darkroom,
the pace of progress has been set by what Seiko/Epson R&D has brought
to us in photographic ink jet printers. Now, the 16x20 print size, that
has been for most of us the measure of serious photography, is accessible
in a desktop photo ink jet printer. In fact, the print size output from
the Stylus Pro 4000 is a bit more--17x22".
printing adventure I undertook was reproducing a number
of images made on 120 film with a 6x12cm Horseman film back.
These panoramas were sized to 15x30" at 300dpi and
printed on a roll of Epson Premium Semimatte Photo Paper.
These very large prints reproduced a number of differing
natural scenes like this lake in Oregon's Cascade
Mountains, as well as some black and whites made in the
ghost town of Bodie, California, and even a full-length
portrait. All printed with the Stylus Pro 4000 were superb
reproductions, with rich colors representing the subject
faithfully with striking contrast and fine detail.
Photos © 2004, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved
Epson has not just brought
us the biggest desktop ink jet, it has improved and refined even more
on their Pro line of printers using archival UltraChrome inks. One feature
that users of the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 will appreciate is that the
Stylus Pro 4000 has eight ink cartridges, with both Photo and Matte Black
inks, so when media selection is switched from resin to fiber-based papers
the printer automatically selects the correct black ink. Also new is the
1" wide print head, which helps make printing speed 1.9 times faster
than any previous Pro Epson model. In addition, the 17" wide Stylus
Pro 4000 provides convenient, easy paper handling to accommodate all media,
whether in cut sheets or on rolls. The paper tray will hold and feed cut
sheets up to 17x22", or roll paper up to 17" wide, plus there
is a front loading single sheet paper feeder.
Photographic reproduction quality is a paramount feature. The Epson Stylus
Pro 4000 has both hardware and software factors that yield great results,
including a maximum print resolution of 2880x1440dpi and a print head
with 180 nozzles at 3.5 picoliter droplet size for each of the eight ink
color channels. In addition, special attention has been given to providing
Epson driver printer profiles for each of the media selections supported
by the printer. This also extends to printing gray scale (black and white)
images using the full range of ink color, as these new profiles have been
optimized to produce critically balanced neutral grays.
The cartridge ink system of the new Stylus Pro 4000 is both high capacity
and flexible. The printer accepts the same basic cartridges as contemporary
Epson Pro wide format printers in both 110 and 220ml capacities. The Stylus
Pro 4000 is provided with both USB and FireWire connectivity, as well
as the option of installing a 10/100 BaseT Ethernet card for network connectivity.
The printer and the advanced software drivers for both Mac and Windows
provide custom adjustments to accommodate a wide range of media characteristics
as well as ink density control.
Although the widest of Epson's Photo desktop ink jet printers, the
Stylus Pro 4000 is compact relative to its maximum 17" wide printing
size. The design of the operating functions make using it on a desktop
easy and practical. The retail cost of $1795 is also the highest for an
Epson desktop photo printer, but considering that the price includes about
$550 in ink at retail price, it seems to me to be a bargain for such a
finely made and precisely functioning printer.
not spectacular at all, this image of the art deco doors
of the Cochise County courthouse in Bisbee, Arizona, is
one of my all-time favorites. So it was particularly satisfying
to make a 16x20" image print on 17x22" Premier
Fine Art paper with the Stylus Pro 4000 that preserves all
of the subtleties of color and detail in the picture. I
found making all of 50 prints with this 325gsm natural white
paper produced rich looking, quality images of all kinds
of landscape, nature, and portrait subjects--just the
kind of images that look great hanging on a wall.
Testing And Printing
With Epson's New Stylus Pro 4000
Setting up and learning to use Epson's new Stylus Pro 4000 is more
involved than working with consumer printers, but the instructions and
documentation are well done and easy to follow. I would not recommend,
however, trying to bypass the documentation and flying by the seat of
your pants. For instance, setting the printer control panel and successfully
loading sheet paper one sheet at a time, or the alternate of loading the
paper tray with media, requires following some rather simple but necessary
procedures, which then must be matched by setting the corresponding controls
in the print driver on your computer. Following the Epson instructions
is best, but if you assume the Stylus Pro 4000 is just like any other
printer it just won't fly.
In a short time I learned all of the procedures for both the printer and
driver controls and quickly got to printing with ease. The Stylus Pro
4000 does a lot for you in this respect by utilizing optical sensors and
a suction paper placement system that self-aligns media, which places
a printed image precisely where it should be for each print. And, this
is the first desktop printer I have used with roll paper that functions
precisely and flawlessly without a lot of hassle and frustration.
In fact, the only disappointing thing about my experience with the Stylus
Pro 4000 had nothing to do with the printer at all. This being one of
the first production models available, I found neither Epson nor the third-party
paper suppliers had much to choose from in either 17x22" cut sheets
or 17" wide roll stock. Epson was only able to supply me with some
17x22" resin-based Epson paper for testing and a roll of 16"
resin-based paper. Fortunately, I was able to buy a box of Moab Entrada
fine art paper in 17x22", and a company new to me, Premier Paper
provided a supply of their Hot Press Fine Art paper for me to test in
Even though this chance shot of a very intriguing fence
had always eluded good reproduction in a print, I was able
to achieve what I had hoped for in a 16x20" print
made with the Stylus Pro 4000. Epson has achieved the kind
of ink color control that will produce a truly neutral gray
in a black and white print. However, it will only appear
neutral if the illumination used to exhibit the print is
in a narrow range around 4200Þ Kelvin. To make black
and white prints with the Stylus Pro 4000 for warmer or
colder viewing environments, you will need to add a Photoshop
Color Layer to shift the print color, warmer if the print
illumination is daylight or cooler if the print illumination
is household tungsten lighting.
The reason I was so adamant
about printing 16x20" images on 17x22" paper with the 4000
for my evaluation is that making the largest print size makes apparent
any possible shortcomings in image quality. I used Epson's Premium
Semimatte Photo Paper to assess the accuracy of the new profiles that
are supplied with the printer. I also had some Epson fiber papers like
Enhanced Matte in smaller size stock to do the same thing and to provide
color match comparisons with both the Moab Entrada and Premier papers
I used for testing. Both of these papers yielded good monitor image matching
by using the Epson Enhanced Matte profile. And when I compared results
with prints made with the Stylus Pro 4000 on Epson Enhanced Matte Paper
I was quite pleased. As I continued to test, however, I found that the
Epson Watercolor paper profile was more effective with the Premier Fine
Art paper for reproducing portraits and similar people pictures.
Even the first set of 16x20" images I printed with the Epson Stylus
Pro 4000 were reproduced with precise color matching and the best color
qualities I have seen with any large printer I have used to date. That
remained consistent through making almost 200 prints on 17x22" paper
and several 15x30" panoramic images on 16" Epson Premium Semimatte
roll stock. The print time for a 16x20" image printed at 1440dpi
on 17x22" paper is just over 10 minutes. (I can recall letter-size
photo prints taking that long to print not that long ago!) And, in one
four-hour session uninterrupted by phone calls or deliveries, I was able
to generate 20 17x22" prints, each of them from different image
files. That's being productive!
I mentioned earlier that Epson has paid special attention to creating
profiles for reproducing black and white photographs in prints. I took
that claim seriously, and besides printing a lot of color prints, I also
reproduced some gray scale images. The prints I made confirmed Epson's
claim. But, there is a proviso, which stems from the fact that pigment-based
inks, like the UltraChrome inks used by the Stylus Pro 4000, are subject
to metamerism--appearance variations relative to the source illuminating
the print. The black and white prints I reproduced with the Stylus Pro
4000 appeared consistently neutral gray viewed under controlled 4200Þ
Kelvin professional exhibit lighting. However, these same prints viewed
under much warmer tungsten household illumination acquired a distinct
magenta tint, and in daylight window illumination they acquired a cyan/blue
color cast. From the feedback I have gotten from photographers about this
issue, I don't believe most will find the Epson Stylus Pro 4000
solution for black and white printing entirely satisfactory. And unlike
the Epson R800 printer I worked with recently, that also uses UltraChrome
inks, the Stylus Pro 4000 does not support making good quality prints
using black ink only.
which are set off by bright color and bold contrast are
best reproduced with the look and feel of traditional photo
lab color printing with Epson Premium resin-based papers.
The Stylus Pro 4000 makes switching from printing on Premium
photo papers to matte fiber papers, and back, effortless,
automatically switching from Photo to Matte Black inks by
responding to the media setting made in the Epson printer
Evaluation And Recommendation
Was the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 serious fun? Yes it was. Would it do as
well for serious business? I am quite sure individual professional photographers
who sell or produce prints for exhibition will find this printer reproduces
the quality needed, reliably and with great efficiency. Would I buy one?
In a minute, if I had some way to subsidize the ink and paper I would
surely use too much of!
If you are a photographer who shares any of the enthusiasm that has kept
me fully involved in photography for a lifetime, I believe that after
printing with the Stylus Pro 4000 you'd want to own it. For professionals,
I am sure the Stylus Pro 4000 would both pay for itself and add to the
value of the photography produced in both reputation and value delivered.
For the enthusiast, it is more a matter of being able to afford the cost
of the ink and paper and working with a bit more discipline than enthusiasm.
From what I hear, most dealers who are selling the Epson Stylus Pro 4000
already have waiting lists, with the shipments they have received sold
out as soon as they arrive. So, if you want the ultimate printer for your
digital darkroom you may have to be patient. But I am not concerned that
once some of you have had the opportunity I have just enjoyed that you
will quarrel with my recommending the Stylus Pro 4000 as the best Epson
has yet to offer photographers.
Printing Method: Eight channel print head technology using: seven-color
(CcMmYk + PK or Mk) or four-color (CCMMYYMkMk). Variable Droplet Micro
Piezo DX3 drop-on demand ink jet technology.
Nozzle Configuration: Color and monochrome heads, 180
nozzles x 8
Black Ink Mode Configuration: Seven-color Print Mode:
Photo-K or Matte-K + Light-K (Photo-K and Matte-K inks automatically switch
depending upon media selection within printer driver); 4-color Print Mode:
Matte-K + Matte-K
Epson Ink Technology: Epson UltraChrome ink
Resolution: 2880x1440dpi; 1440x720dpi; 720x720dpi; 720x360dpi;
Operating Systems Supported: Macintosh OS 8.5.1 through
OS X; Windows 95, 98, Me, NT 4.x (Service Pack 3 and later), 2000, and
Physical Dimensions: 33.4x14x30"; Printer weight:
Printer Interfaces: Includes one USB (1.1/2.0 compatible),
one IEEE 1394 (FireWire), and one Epson Expansion Slot used for installing
the optional internal 10/100 BaseT Ethernet card
Media Thickness, Weight: 12 lb bond up to 1.5mm cardboard
Lightfastness Ratings Using Epson UltraChrome Ink: Color:
Up to 85 years; Black And White: Over 100 years
List Price: $1795
For more information on the Stylus Pro 4000 visit Epson's newly
re-designed website at: www.epson.com.