Epson delivers true photo-quality printing at 2880dpi, print sizes to 13 x 44 inches, and border free printing!
Page 2: Overview
Review First Posted: 8/31/2001
MSRP $499 US
The Stylus Photo 1280 is a high-quality color inkjet printer targeted for the new generation of digital photographers who want to control every aspect of their digital print production -- from capture to output -- with minimum technical knowledge and great results. The 1280 offers photo-quality image reproduction (2,880 x 720-dpi resolution) in an easy-to-use printer package, capable of printing images as large as 13 x 44 inches in "banner mode", or up to super B size (roughly 13 x 19 inches) on individual sheets.
Measuring 24 x 12.2 x 6.9 inches (609 x 311 x 175 mm) and weighing 18.9 pounds (8.4 kg), the 1280 has a fairly large footprint that increases further to accommodate the extended output tray (11x14 size paper) and top-loading paper feed. - Plan on a total of about 30 inches of depth and 16-17 inches of height to accommodate the 1280 in printing mode.
Using Epson's new Border Free photo printing technology, the 1280 can make borderless prints in standard photographic sizes, including 4 x 6-, 5 x 7-, 8 x 10- and 11x14 inch. It accepts single sheets of paper up to 13x19 inches, in varying weights and sizes, plus envelopes, cards, transparencies, film, self-adhesive sheets, and stickers.
Additional accessories supplied in the box include Black and Color ink cartridges, a power cord, User Manual, Quick Start Guide, and a CD-ROM with bundled software, including Epson drivers for Windows 95, 98, 2000, Me, NT 4.0, and Macintosh operating systems; Epson Film Factory for Windows; and both Mac and Windows versions of ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 3.0 and QBeo's PhotoGenetics 2.0 (trial version). The printer cables (USB / Parallel) are not included.
Epson is well known for its continuing innovation in MicroPiezo inkjet technology, which forces the ink through the print heads with pressure rather than heat (thermal inkjet). The 1280 uses *very* small 4-picoliter droplets, plus variable droplet sizes, to produce continuous-tone printing that's virtually indiscernible from conventional photographic prints. Each color is distributed with a 48-nozzle print head (the large number of nozzles helps increase printing speed), for a total of 48 black and 240 color (48 x 5 colors) nozzles.
If you haven't looked closely at a top-end inkjet photo print in the last few years, you're in for a surprise. The dots have gotten so tiny, and so close together that they're literally invisible to the naked eye. Epson has really pushed this technology farther than anybody, with the results you see at right. The area shown in the photomicrographs is only 4-5 millimeters across. It's a shame we don't have a comparable photo to show you, from an older-generation inkjet printer. - This one created by comparing prints from the 1280's sister printer the 785EPX (which uses the same print engine) at 720 and 2880 dpi.
In practice, we didn't feel there was much difference between prints output at 1440 and 2880 dpi. Both looked exceptional, the 2880 ones just took longer. We'd therefore recommend the 1440 dpi printing mode for most routine jobs.
The printer's USB interface provides fast, direct connection to Macintosh or Windows computers. Additional accessories supplied in the box include Black and Color ink cartridges, a power cord, roll paper adapter, User Manual, Quick Start Guide, and a CD-ROM with bundled software, including Epson drivers for Windows 95, 98, 2000, Me, NT 4.0, and Macintosh operating systems; Epson Film Factory for Windows; and both Mac and Windows versions of ArcSoft's PhotoImpression 3.0 and QBeo's PhotoGenetics 2.0 (trial version). A USB printer cable is not included (not unusual for most current printer models).
The 1280's six-color printing requires two ink cartridges: one Black and one Color (cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, and light magenta), which sell for $29.95 and $22.46, respectively, through Epson's online store. Of course, the "street" prices of the cartridges will be less if you shop around, possibly quite a bit less if you get lucky on the internet. Like all Epson's other most recent printer designs, the 1280 uses "smart" cartridges, with chips in them that keep track of how much ink has been used. (The photo above shows the chip on a cartridge from a 780/785) The advantage of this is that you can take cartridges in and out of the printer, and it won't get confused about how much ink is left. This is handy if you're planning an unusually long print run, and want to load up a fresh cartridge to prevent running out in the middle. The downside is that the chip prevents the cartridges from being refilled, since the cartridge "knows" when it's empty. (There are apparently ways around this, involving toggling the printer power at strategic times, but we'll leave it to those interested to track down the information for themselves: Having personally ruined two printers with third-party inks, we're not too keen on the concept of refilling cartridges, and don't want to be responsible for anyone else venturing down that woe-filled path.)
Epson has also provided a very wide range of paper options, from basic clay coated inkjet paper to premium photo glossy, including a very nice Matte Heavyweight paper that has an estimated print life of 25 years when mounted under glass. (Print life may vary depending on lighting, humidity, and Ozone levels -- all of which can significantly reduce longevity.)
As mentioned above, Epson is the first manufacturer to offer edge-to-edge printing for several standard photo paper sizes (4 x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, and 8.5 x 11 inches), a significant improvement over previous border-free options, which required that images be printed on oversized perforated papers, and then trimmed to size -- an expensive use of printing material. To avoid the print-and-trim process, the 1280 uses special ink-catching, foam-lined cavities positioned to align with the edges of the various supported paper sizes, ensuring that the ink stays on the paper without bleeding over onto the printer rollers. Border Free printing does have its limitations, however, as it slows the output process a fair bit, and is not available at the printer's highest print resolution of 2,880 x 720 dpi. With both draft and photo-quality black-only printing modes, the 1280 can double as a business printer, though it is slower than non-photo SOHO printers.
The 1280 offers six printing modes when connected to a Macintosh or Windows computer running Epson's driver software. Economy mode is for speedy printing of draft text documents; Normal mode is for Web pages, business documents with text and graphics, and similar everyday printing needs (default mode); Fine mode combines speed with quality to create 360 x 720 dpi images; plus three Photo modes for printing photo-quality images at 720-, 1,440-, or 2,880-dpi resolution. Print speeds vary from 8 pages per minute (ppm) for Normal draft text mode, to 7 minutes 21 seconds in high-quality (1,440-dpi) Photo mode, to 18 minutes for letter-size photos at the maximum Photo quality setting (2,880-dpi).