Epson combines 2880 dpi, PRINT Image Matching, and standalone operation for a real winner of a photo printer!
Page 4: Operation
Review First Posted: 7/18/2001
MSRP $249 US
The 785EPX features a built-in 32-bit RISC-CPU, with 143MHz processing power, and a simplified printer driver for printing images directly from a digital camera's memory card. The PC card reader slot, located on the bottom right side of the printer's front panel, accepts PC card adapters for SmartMedia, CompactFlash, and Memory Stick storage media, with an Eject button directly adjacent to it for quick removal.
Before you begin printing images from the memory card, it's important to familiarize
yourself with the image quality guidelines provided in the chart below. According
to Epson, you'll achieve best results for 4 x 6-inch prints from a two-megapixel
digicam, with an image resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 pixels or greater.
Good At least 150 dpi
Better 150 to 240 dpi
Best 240 to 300 dpi
4 x 6 inches
5 x 7 inches
8 x 10 inches
Once the printer is powered on, you can select from a variety
of printing menu options listed in the small status display panel at the top
of the Printer Control panel. Operating in standalone mode limits the image
adjustment capabilities, allowing you to specify only the basic parameters
such as which image to print, the paper size, number of copies, etc. A set
of arrow keys located under the display panel navigates through the settings
menus and selects menu options.
image above illustrates all the available options on the standalone control
panel. The following settings are available:
Print Mode: Controls which images on the card will be printed. Options are Index, All, One, and Set.
Paper Type: Establishes the type of paper being printed on, with
options for Plain, Glossy, or Matte finishes.
Paper Size: Offers a variety of paper sizes from which to choose, including standard Letter and Photo sizes, as well as a Roll Paper option.
Page Layout: Selects from a variety of page layout options, from single edge-to-edge prints to multi-image and index prints.
Select Photo: Specifies the image number on the PC card to be printed.
Copies: Designates the number of copies to be printed.
Quality: Offers High (360 x 720 dpi) and Normal (360 x 360 dpi) quality settings.
Photo Enhance: Turns on the Photo Enhance option, which allows you to optimize the print according to the type of subject. Choices are Standard, People, Nature, Soft Focus, and Sepia.
Many of these menu items will already be set if the memory card has been preformatted in a DPOF-compliant digicam. Images are marked while still in the camera -- identifying which prints to process, the desired print sizes, and the number of copies from each file. This can significantly reduce setup time, especially if you don't have to output an index print to identify which images you want to print. Another helpful feature is the optional preview monitor, available from Epson for $99. This accessory enables you to view the images on-screen, in full color, and more easily review image enhancements.
In addition to brightness adjustments, depressing the Brightness Button for several seconds provides access the printer's nine effects filters, which are identified by number:
0 = No filter
1 = Monochrome
2 = Sepia
3 = High Contrast
4 = Brighter
5 = Brightest
6 = Darker
7 = Darkest
8 = Vivid
9 = Sharp
Once you've made your printing choices, you simply press the green Print button to begin printing. The Processing light blinks to indicate that it's processing the data. Print speeds will vary depending on the size of the image file. For example, a 3-megapixel file (approximately 1MB) will take longer to print than a 2-megapixel file (approximately 500KB). The Cancel button stops the print job, signaling the printer to eject the paper if a portion of the image has already been printed.
Though the 785EPX offers limited controls for adjusting image quality in standalone mode, we highly recommend printing images from the computer, as it increases print speed and image resolution, and offers significantly more control over color, layout, and other printing preferences.
We do think that there are a lot of users who will prefer the simplicity of standalone printing though, and for those people, the 785EPX is a great solution. In working with it, we developed the impression that the preferred approach is really to mark the photos for printing in your camera, then just use the 785 to output them. While it's entirely feasible to use the on-printer control panel to select and print individual photos, we really felt that marking the photos in the camera first was the easiest/fastest, and made the most sense. Overall, a nice implementation of a standalone user interface, easy to understand, capable, and very quick to navigate.
Printing from a PC
The 785EPX works like any other printer when connected to a PC, with printer drivers and utility software for both Windows and Macintosh platforms that provide a diverse selection of quality and speed settings, image editing functions, color management, and page layout controls. The following is a list of the four basic printing modes and Epson's recommendations for the use of each mode:
Economy: This provides the fastest speed for text printing. The Economy mode is best for emails and draft text documents.
Normal: This is the printer's default setting. It is best used for Web pages, business letters, documents with text and graphics, PowerPoint shows, etc.
Fine: This is the printer's fastest mode for printing photos on Photo Paper. The resolution is 360 x 720 dpi.
Photo: Photo mode is best used for detailed photos and graphic images. This mode comes in three resolution settings:
720 dpi (best balance of speed and quality)
1,440 (preferred quality and resolution)
2,880 (best quality and resolution possible)
The printer driver has a full array of image enhancement controls, including Automatic or Advanced printing with Saturation, Brightness, and Contrast settings. It also provides Tone, Detail, Smooth Edges, and Color controls, with options for using Epson's automatic PhotoEnhance mode, No Color Adjustment, or sRGB or ICM color spaces. Within the Sharpness setting, are several special effects, including Soft Focus, Canvas, and Parchment.
The more standard controls include paper size options, paper types, BorderFree printing, page layout, and the Utilities section, which controls print head functions like nozzle cleaning, alignment and ink level checks. You can also create and apply a watermark to your images, with suggested templates for "Confidential," "Draft," "Urgent," and "Priority."
For more detailed explanation of the menus and options available in the PC Printing mode, see the "Computer Drivers" section below.
The Stylus Photo 785 EPX shows market-leading characteristics in virtually every respect... excepting print speed, where it's about average. While we like immediate gratification as well as the next person, we've generally been pretty tolerant of slow print speeds in photo-quality inkjet printers. Our usual approach is to just queue the prints up and walk away to do something else while the printer grinds them out. As a result, we're almost never in a situation where we're waiting for the prints to spool out so we can grab them and dash off someplace, hence our rather relaxed approach to photo-quality print times.
Problems on our main Windows workstation while we were testing the 785EPX prevented us from conducting timing tests on that platform. As a result, all our timing tests on the 785 were done on our 500 MHz G4 PowerMac, although print times should be pretty equivalent, as the pacing factor in print speed seems to be the print mechanism itself, not the computer or USB connection. As with other printers we've tested, source image size seemed to affect spooling time, but not print speed. (Spooling time for a 15 megabyte file on the Mac was about 30 seconds, very much in line with what we've found for other inkjet printers. Accordingly, the times we report below are only for the printing process itself, once the printer has grabbed the paper from the input tray.
720 dpi, High Speed
720 dpi, no High Speed
1440 dpi, High Speed
1440 dpi, no High Speed
Text Page: "Economy" 360
Text Page: "Normal" 360
Text Page: "Fine" 360
Text Page: Photo 720
Text Page: Photo 1440
We've included text-mode print times in this review, and intend to do so in the future. Many people need to buy a single printer to cover multiple uses, so text printing on photo printers is important. Photo printers will be *much* slower than so-called SOHO (Small Office/Home Office) multipurpose printers when printing text, but they can do it, and do it fairly well, if the 785EPX is any indication. Text-mode printing is quite rough in the Economy mode, but very fast, suitable for quick drafts. Printing in 720dpi mode though, the text is razor-sharp and beautiful, if not a little sluggish in spooling out. For occasional use though, the 785EPX is capable of excellent text output.
The 785EXP's six-color printing requires two ink cartridges: one Black and one Color (cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan, and light magenta), which sell for $22.46 and $17.96, respectively, through Epson's online store. These prices are reduced from the original list price and are very comparable to, if not a little less costly than, its competitors. Epson has also provided a wide range of paper options, from basic clay-coated inkjet paper to premium photo glossy, and a Matte Heavyweight paper (see "Print Longevity & Durability").
Working almost exclusively in 2880 dpi mode, we were able to print about 23 7.6 x 9.5-inch prints on 8.5 x 11-inch paper on our 785 test unit before running out of color ink. At that point, the black cartridge was still about 80% full. Running the numbers, we come out with a per-print cost of about $1.13 per print for the ink, based on Epson's selling prices for the ink on their site. (Checking the internet, we found the color cartridge was available from multiple sources for $15 or less. This makes the ink cost only 80 cents per page.) Epson's premium glossy photo paper runs about $0.50 a sheet on the internet, while their standard photo paper is about $0.35 per sheet, again on the internet. The overall price per letter-size print is thus somewhere around $1.30 on premium glossy and $1.15 on standard photo paper.
As noted, we did essentially all our printing at 2880 dpi, since we were testing for maximum quality. We've heard that the 785's 1440 dpi mode uses significantly less ink, but did not have an opportunity to evaluate that in our testing.
Overall printing costs on the 785EPX are about in line with other inkjet printers we've tested.
Print Longevity & Durability
When used with Epson Inks, the Matte Paper - Heavyweight has an estimated print life of more than 20 years, based on accelerated testing of prints displayed indoors, mounted under glass. (Print life may vary depending on lighting, humidity, and Ozone levels -- all of which can significantly reduce longevity.)
Epson describes its inks as "water resistant," a big plus in the
durability category. We don't have any formal test for water-fastness, but were
quite surprised by how well the 785's prints held up to splashes of water. We
tried dribbling a few drops of water on a print, waiting about 10-15 seconds,
and then wiping it off. We were amazed that none of the color came off on the
tissue we used to wipe the print with. The paper did absorb a fair bit of water,
wrinkling its surface a bit. Pressing it inside a pad of paper (to absorb the
moisture), under the weight of a book flattened it out pretty well again, although
the surface of the print still showed a water mark. Overall, this is quite a
bit more water-resistant than we were aware of inkjet prints being. (We confess
though, that we haven't routinely performed this test, so other printers may
well be as waterproof these days.)