Epson has released what I (not Epson) am going to call a “prosumer” printer for photography enthusiasts. It handles paper up to 17 inches wide and employs ten ink colours to produce the picture. Epsons says that the Epson SureColor P5070 “resets the standard for the desktop photography, fine art, graphic design, and proofing markets”.
Beginning at $2995 (there are plenty of options and accessories), it’s for the enthusiast who really wants to make fine hard copy from their digital photos.*
So, a couple of questions. First, why 17 inches? Well, the “standard” American paper size – its version of our A4 – is Foolscap folio, which is 8½ inches wide. Quadruple size (it’s version of A2) makes 17 inches.
So of course it also supports paper sizes such as A2, which is 420mm wide, or roughly 16.5 inches. It will print borderless on both 17 inch and 16.5 inch paper, along with a number of smaller sizes.
Second, why ten ink colours? Well, while in theory a careful mix of red, green and blue can produce every visible colour, in the real world of inks and paper, the results are suboptimal. Non-standard colours need to be produced by dithering (making new colours using tiny dots of the basic colours placed side by side). Particularly when only the slightest touch of one colour is required, its dots start to become individually visible to the eye. In addition, blacks made by mixing colours are just never satisfying, and end up being kind of brown.
So the more colours available, the less the dithering, the less obvious it is to the eye how the colours are constructed. Combined with a physical resolution of up to 2880 by 1440 dots per inch and a smooth finish can be achieved, regardless of the colour. The colours are provided in 200ml cartridges for improved economy.
There is a choice of two sets of Epson Ultrachrome HDX colours. One with Light Light Black (to supplement the other three black tones) or one with Violet. The former is better for things like black and white photography (remember: dithering). With Violet, almost complete (99%) of the PANTONE range is covered (up from 98% with Light Light Black installed).
Both cut sheet and rolled paper are supported, and print media up to 1.5mm thick can be handled. A colour LCD control panel is used to manage proceedings.
As for print speed, it all depends on paper size and resolution. A quick draft A2 print – 360 by 360dpi – takes thirty seconds. Going to the full 2880 by 1440 dots per inch for “Super Photo” mode produces A4 prints in seven minutes.
Quality can take time.
A personal note: the first inkject printer I purchased was back in the 1980s. It was black and white. The paper had to be fed through by hand, page by page or it jammed. A droplet of water would make the ink run right off the page. And it cost over a thousand dollars.
Which with inflation was probably the same ballpark as the cost of this printer.
Enthusiastic photographic and print amateurs rejoice!
* Price updated, originally reported one incorrect.