Many of us enjoy printing our own photos at home. It is a hobby that is convenient and not very expensive. The big question is what kind of printer do I need and how much should I spend. Today I will be examining the Epson Stylus Photo R280. This printer claims it can produce Ultra Hi-Definition photos and costs as little as $50.
- Text up to 38 ppm and 4″ x 6″ photo in as fast as 11 sec
- Print directly onto ink jet printable CDs/DVDs
- Six individual ink cartridges
- Smudge, scratch, water and fade resistant photos
- Claria Hi-Definition Ink for photos that last up to 200 years
Epson has been making printers for a long time and I have owned several. During all that time I have never had anything to complain about except ink prices, but that is a complaint for all printer makers.
The R280 touts a Maximum Resolution of 5760 x 1440 optimized dpi and a print speed of 11 seconds for
4″ x 6″ photos. Text prints are quite a bit faster with speeds of up to 37 ppm for Black text and up to 38 ppm for Color text. Keep in mind these are the speeds that Epson claims the printer is capable of.
The feature I was most interested in when I got this printer is the ability to print directly onto printable CDs/DVDs. I buy all my DVDs from Costco and lately they have been the printable type so I am excited to try this out.
The R280 uses on cartridge for each of its six colors. The colors are Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan and Light Magenta. I personally like having separate cartridges, when you have multiple colors in the same cartridge and one color runs out you have to throw away whats left of the other colors just to replace the one that is empty.
The printer claims it also has the ability to clean up photos as it is printing. The printer will analyze your photos and, if necessary, adjusts the brightness, contrast, and saturation. Auto Photo Correction (called PhotoEnhance) uses a sophisticated face recognition technology to optimize photos that include faces. For this to work, both eyes and the nose must be visible in the subject’s face.
The printer itself is fairly large for a standalone printer. The dimension are 17.7″ x 11.1″ x 7.4″ when
the printer is all closed up, and 17.7″ x 22.5″ x 11.3″ when it is open for printing.
The front of the printer has the paper output tray and 3 buttons which are, power, ink, and paper. Each of these buttons can be used for several purposes. For example, in addition to turning on and off the printer the power buttons also can be used with the paper button to print a test page that checks the print heads.
The back of the printer is where the paper input tray is and also the power and USB plugs. The power plug does not stick straight out. This means you can put it right up against a wall without the power cord bending and getting damaged. There is also an unmarked door on the left of the back. When I open it, all I see is a small tube that has a bit of red on it. I cannot tell if it is an ink tube or what. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for an ink tube to be back here.
The R280 even comes with a set of ink cartridges. These aren’t half full cartridges, Epson provides a complete set of standard capacity cartridges. If you were to buy these from the Epson website it would cost you $81.
The one thing that the R280 does not include is a USB cable. You are going to need one to use the printer, so if you don’t already have one you will need to buy one.
Testing the performance of a printer is a bit subjective. I don’t have any special equipment to analyze the prints or to calculate the speed, so I have to rely on my own eyes to compare prints from different printers. This means my conclusions may not be the same as yours if you were to compare the same prints.
Like all printers that I have tested recently, printing is a snap. The R280 comes with a disk that contains the drivers. All you need to do is install the drivers, ink, plug it in and start printing. Because there are six cartridges you do need to make sure you get them in the correct order. Luckily, they are clearly marked with colors that match the colors on the cartridge. All you need to do is snap them in place and close the lid.
There are lots of different features and settings that you can change in the printing software. Most of the settings are fairly standard. Things like boardless printing, choosing the quality, paper size, and paper type. Others are not so common, these settings include poster printing, auto correction, watermarking, and reducing or enlarging the prints.
I printed off a couple of pictures to try out the different features. The first set I printed came out really bad. As you can see from the pictures below the ink did not soak in fast enough so it bubbled and made the picture look bad. The only thing I could think of is that I used some old photo paper that I had from over a year ago. Because of the age of the paper it was probably dried out. I next opened up a new package of photo paper and I am happy to say that it printed fine.
Once I got the paper situation worked out I started testing the different features. The first feature I wanted to test is the Auto Correction. Auto Correction is suppose to adjust certain aspects of the photo so that it looks better. In my tests I did not see any major improvement with any of the photos I tried.
Even though the Auto Correction did not seem to make a large difference, that does not mean the photos didn’t look great. When I compared the photos with other printers they were by far the best of the bunch. I printed a 4″ x 6″ and it took about 12 seconds. I also printed an 8.5″ x 11″ and it took 4 minutes and 45 seconds.
When I was at CES in January one of the booths was showing off its new $25,000 photo printer. As part of the demonstration they would print a picture that you provided. I took one of my pictures to the booth and had it printed. Then as I was reviewing this printer, I got the crazy idea that I could compare an 8.5″ x 11″ picture from the R280 to the 8″ x 10″ that the professional printer output. I was really expecting that the professional one would look a lot better. So when I compared them I was really surprised when the R280 picture came out looking much better. I included 3 closeups below to show the difference in the quality, the first one is the original, then the professional and finally the R280 picture. As you can see the picture from the professional printer is really grainey and the one from the R280 is a lot more smooth. You will notice some vertical lines in the R280 picture, I think these are from the scanner because when I look at the photo itself I do not see any lines.
Next I tested the DVD printing. The reason I bought this printer was because it could print on DVDs, so I was very interested in trying this out. Luckily, I was not disappointed. To print on DVDs and CDs you have to install a separate holder. This holder is installed by removing the paper output tray and moving it up a notch. Then you take the CD/DVD holder and place it in the area on the left of the output tray, put the CD or DVD in its spot, and then push the tray in until the arrows line up. I printed on a couple of movies that I had backed up and as you can see from my pictures, they turned out really good. As long as the picture I was printing was detailed, the DVD also turned out detailed. This feature by its self was worth the price of the printer. If you have trouble getting the CDs and DVDs to line up correctly you can run a quick alignment test. This test prints some guides on a disk and then you measure the distance from the inside hole on the disk to each line. After you have those measurements you enter them into the software and it will use those numbers to make sure the printing is aligned.
I did run into one strange behavior. I was getting ready to print on a DVD and the printer was off. So I moved the output tray to the top slot and I put in the DVD tray and lined up the arrows. When I turned on the printer the DVD tray was pushed out and the lights on the printer started blinking. The blinking indicated an internal error. After playing around a bit I found out that when the printer is turned on you can have the tray out or in the bottom slot, but not in the top slot. As soon as I took the tray out of the top slot the printer recovered and started the warm up process. Once the warm up process was done I was able to put the tray back in the top slot and print DVDs. This is really a bummer for me because I bought this mainly for printing on DVDs, and now I cannot leave it in that mode when I turn off the printer because I will have to switch it back when I turn it on.
Warranty and Support
Epson provides a one year warranty for this printer. If you buy the printer directly from Epson you have the option of adding a 2-Year Extended Service Plan for $19.95 or a 2-Year Extended Service Plan for $29.95.
I am very happy with this printer. It is not very expensive, the retail price is $99, but it is very easy to find for less. I bought mine just before Christmas from the Epson website and I got $50 off. In addition, it came with free photo book software and an album to make a photo album. If you look around I am sure you can also find similar deals. I just checked the Epson website, and right now they have $20 off the printer. If you are in the market for a basic photo printer I can highly recommend this one. As always compare prices before purchasing.
|JusTech'n editors' rating|