Epson Stylus Pro 7900 Review
Mac users, we're pleased to announce Macphun's all-in-one photo editor Luminar is now available for purchase with special launch pricing. (Existing Macphun customers get a further discount.)
We rated Luminar as "Highly Recommended", and you can now visit the Luminar web site to try it for free.
There are three quality settings for output that are suitable for photo printing - Fine, at 720dpi, SuperFine at 1440x720, and SuperPhoto at 2880x1440. In general, I found that SuperFine is a good choice for general printing, while SuperPhoto is used for final exhibition quality prints. Moving up to SuperPhoto doubles the print times and uses significantly more ink, so I reserve this for times when the output quality is critical.
Epson claims the 7900 is twice as fast as the 7880 and in my testing, I found that speed difference to be pretty accurate. The Canon iPF 6200 still holds a slight edge in print speed, but the difference is minor. Compared to the HP Z3200, it's significantly faster outputting a 16x20 print in the SuperFine mode (1440) in just under 4 minutes, while the same print in SuperPhoto mode (2880) takes about 7 minutes. The new print heads have an improved screening algorithm that Epson calls AccuPhoto HDR Screening that improves dot placement to produce much smoother tones. Combined with the variable dot size, the final prints look very much like a continuous tone print. Compared to prints from the 7800, tonal transitions are visibly improved, especially in areas like sky, or skin tones, and color shifts in different lighting sources are virtually unnoticable.
Black and white printing on the Epson pro series has always been among the best of any printer available, particularly with their Advanced Black and White mode. Part of this is due to the way Epson is encapsulating the inks. There is essentially no bronzing or metamerism on the prints.
As before, the Advanced Black and White mode (Figure 5) is available to produce neutral or toned prints using all three black inks while minimizing the amount of color ink used in the print. Output in this mode is very good and one nice feature is the ability to fine-tune a print for just the toning effect you're looking for. Epson is also claiming an improved black density with the 7900, giving a dMax of 2.6 on their Premium Luster paper (the 7880 is rated at 2.55 with the same paper).
Switching from Photo to Matte black is no longer the chore it used to be. Because both inks are installed at all times, it's a simple button push to select which ink you want to use. While there is still a minimal amount of ink waste in the switchover, it's not the expensive and time consuming task it was with the 7880. The front panel tells you which ink is active at all times (Figure 7).
The color gamut with the new UltraChrome HDR inks is visibly larger. In measuring the ICC profiles for Premium Luster from both printers, the 7900 is significantly larger in volume. A look at the gamut chart (Figure 7) shows that the new printer has greatly improved the green and red ranges. While orange might seem to be an odd choice, this ink makes a tremendous difference in the quality of skin tones - comparing images with other printers, the Epson is a clear winner in skin tone reproduction.
The new Stylus Pro 7900 and 9900 printers from Epson bring some nice enhancements to the digital photographer interested in high quality output. With a significantly larger gamut and improved print speed, the new printers are a great option for anyone printing vivid colors or portraits. You'll pay a premium of about $1,000 for the new technology, mainly due to the advanced print head, but if you want the absolute best, it's worth the extra. If you frequently change between Photo and Matte black inks, the savings in time and ink will pay for the difference in price in short order. For those primarily interested in black and white, or with a more modest budget, the 7880 and 9880 are still excellent options. But, when comparing all the options available, from all three companies, Epson is solidly in the lead once again with the 7900 and 9900.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4|