Increased Color Precision and Effective Redesign
Review by Steve Baczewski
Epson’s SureColor P900 17″ (A2) photo printer comes with practical new features, new software, and a new look. Its solid compact design is approximately 30% smaller than its predecessor, the 9-ink Epson SureColor P800 printer.
Epson has added violet to the P900’s 10-cartridge ink set; violet delivers a more accurate reproduction of the blue region. Epson says there’s an overall 6% increase in visible color gamut. It’s the first Epson A2 printer where photo black (PK) and matte black (MK) ink cartridges have their own dedicated channels and no longer share the same line. This eliminates the time-consuming, ink-wasting past design and the habit of accumulating enough PK or MK images to warrant swapping. With this redesign you can quickly satisfy your curiosity to see if an image looks better on matte or photo black paper. The SureColor P900’s compact size is reflected in smaller 50-ml ink cartridges; in comparison the P800 used 80-ml cartridges.
The P900 operates without a hitch and delivers beautiful color and black-and-white prints. A 17×22″ print with 1″ borders takes on average from 3–15 minutes, depending on driver selections. Consequently, the P900 isn’t designed for a high-production environment; but instead, aimed at fine-art photographers and graphic artists.
In testing the P900, I used Epson papers, including poster board, luster photo black paper, and legacy etching canvas paper. I also used Epson’s excellent ICC paper profiles that download with installation, and Bill Atkinson’s reference print target to quickly assess both color and B&W for a print-to-screen matchup. As claimed, the P900 ink set with the addition of violet makes a difference rendering blues accurately: The P900’s rendering of blue skies and gradients is clearly better. Color rendering was excellent throughout. There’s increased detail in both shadow and highlight areas, but especially noticeable is the distinct tonal separation in deep black shadows.
The P900 now includes what Epson calls Black Enhanced Overcoat to increase black density in photo black papers. It’s selected in the print driver under a new “Carbon Black” setting. Blacks are rich, deep, and without color cast, but I only see a slight difference using the Carbon Black setting on glossy paper; however, black output is dependent on many choices: driver selections, paper profile quality, paper type (glossy over canvas), and the Dmax of the paper being used.
The new printhead utilizes three variable ink droplet sizes down to 1.5 picoliters, resulting in smooth and nuanced color gradients. No clogged nozzles were encountered over 10 weeks. Included on installation are two software programs: Epson Print Layout and Epson Media Installer, which includes third-party manufacturers. It works well and, with the print layout program, adds to the overall enjoyment and performance of using the P900.
The SureColor P900 connectivity uses USB 3.0, Ethernet, and now Wi-Fi, allowing printing directly from your iPhone or iPad and giving a nod to the increasing use of smartphones in photography and the impulse to see a print quickly.
The printer’s three paper feeds worked without a hitch: the front feed for thick poster board; the top feed for papers less than 0.5mm; and the optional rear roll paper feed ($249), which is now powered and no longer requires a spindle. Paper rolls are simply placed on rollers in the unit and fed into the printer’s slot until the P900 lets out a “beep” and loads the rest. I paid special attention to the front feed because of past paper-skewing problems, but the P900 had none. If by chance paper isn’t fed correctly, the LCD prompts and guides you as needed. The P900 doesn’t have a cutter; instead it draws a dark cut line, and the rest is up to you.
The SureColor 900’s new tiltable, easy-to-read, 4.3″ touch screen LCD is well-organized, using a row of menu tabs with comprehensive print information. The LCD displays the image being printed along with its relevant data. The printer includes a new viewing window with built-in LED light to see and assess your print while it’s being processed, which allows you an early option to cancel the print and save ink. Note: A single ink cartridge costs $41.99.
The Epson SureColor P900 advances print design, performance, and color rendering, but if you currently own a SureColor P800 you might want to wait. ■