Epson combines 2880 dpi, PRINT Image Matching, and standalone operation for a real winner of a photo printer!
Page 7: Test Results & Conclusion
Review First Posted: 7/18/2001
MSRP $249 US
The Epson Stylus Photo 785EPX produced exceptional prints in our testing, really
pushing the limits of what we've come to expect from top-grade inkjet photo
printers. Photomicrographs of its output show ink dots under extreme magnification,
but the 4-picoliter droplets are completely invisible to the naked eye. Tonal
gradations were extremely smooth, even in the difficult highlight areas. While
we've said in the past that dye-sublimation printers do a better job of "fooling"
us into believing their output was produced photographically, recent inkjet
photo printers (the 785EPX high among them) have made true believers of us.
It's hard to imagine how the output quality could be any better, at least to
the naked eye.
Tonal range was excellent, with very deep blacks and clean highlights. We felt
that the 785 tended to lose a slight amount of detail in the very darkest shadows,
particularly at the 2880 dpi setting,which seemed to ink the paper a bit more
heavily than the 1440 dpi option. Color saturation was also a bit high relative
to the input images, with the printer set up to assume sRGB as the input color
space on our Mac G4. (System 9.0.4) The 785EPX's extensive support for color
management makes it very easy to fine-tune the print characteristics to fit
your personal tastes though, so we don't view this as a significant issue. (The
amount by which it oversaturated the colors was pretty slight anyway.)
The 785EPX's 2,880 x 720 dpi dot pitch is among the highest currently available
in inkjet printers (May 2001), and it shows in the exceptionally fine detail
and crisp edges we obtained in our test prints. The high dot pitch and very
small droplet size also contributed to unusually fine tonal gradations, even
in the highlight areas. (The smaller number of ink droplets deposited in highlight
areas frequently leads to a "grainy" appearance in inkjet prints.
To the naked eye, no such graininess was apparent in any of the our test prints.)
As we observed in the body of this review, we didn't feel that there was a particularly
strong advantage to printing in 2880 dpi mode vs 1440. Both modes produced amazingly
smooth images. - We felt that the 785 produced the most grain-free highlights
and three-quarter tones of any inkjet printer we've tested to date.
We've occasionally seen odd "jaggies" in photos when the image resolution
didn't exactly match the resolution of the output device. For the record, we
saw very little of this in the 785, at least when running at its 1440 and 2880
resolution settings. The greatly enlarged samples below compare the 785EPX's
output with that from a high-end dye-sublimation printer (the Olympus P-400),
a competing high-end photo printer (the Canon S800), and a lower-end 600 x 1,200
dpi resolution consumer photo inkjet printer (the Kodak Personal Picture Maker
200).We felt that the S800 won by a nose in its rendering of smooth diagonal
edges, but that the 785 won with its smoothness of tonal gradations.
The photo above shows the results of an image printed on the Olympus
P-400 at a resolution of 314 dpi. (Higher source image resolution actually
resulted in more "jags" along the line of the white trim,
due to poor resampling in the printer driver software.
The image above was printed on the Epson Stylus
Photo 785EPX. The source image had a resolution of 400 dpi, while the
printer engine resolution was set to 288x720 dpi.
Comparing this result to that from the $999 Olympus P-400 dye-sub printer
above left, the image seems sharper, edges are much more crisp, and
finer detail is visible, reflecting the 2880 x 720 dpi accuracy with
which individual ink droplets are laid down. Being a true continuous-tone
device though, the P-400 edges the 785EPX in terms of smoothness, if
only just slightly. Even in this greatly magnified view though, the
785's dots are barely visible: At 2880 dpi, they're completely invisible
to the human eye.
Compared to the 2400 x 1200 Canon S800 at left, the 785's image is
a bit smoother to our eye, as seen in the area just under the peak of
the roof. In this region, the S800's image is slightly grainy, while
that of the 785 is a bit smoother. (Really though, we're splitting hairs
on this score: The dots either produces are so small as to be either
nearly or entirely invisible to the unaided eye.)
At its highest resolution, we saw almost no tendency of the 785's print
drivers to produce "jags" along the sloping edges of the roof
trim. (We did feel that the S800 edged the 785 just slightly in its
rendering of the diagonal edges of the roof trim though.) Overall, very
clean, very sharp, very smooth!
The image above was printed on the Canon S800 printer. The source image
had a resolution of 400 dpi, while the printer engine resolution was
set to 2400x1200 dpi.
This image was printed on the Kodak Personal Picture Maker 200, with
the printer set at 600x1200 dpi. (The source image had a resolution
of 400 dpi.)
The 785 EPX's output was very crisp, very smooth, and highly detailed.
It showed few of problems with image resampling within the driver software
that we've occasionally seen with other printers (At least, at its highest
resolution). Its resolution and detail were absolutely outstanding.
It resolved more detail than a 314 dpi dye-sub printer that's been somewhat
of a standard of image quality for us, while giving up virtually nothing
in smooth gradations in the highlights. Overall, a very impressive performance!
We've mentioned at several points that we saw relatively little benefit in
the 785's 2880 dpi printing mode. There is a very significant improvement between
720 and 1440 however. The ultra-macro shots below will help you make up your
own mind. There is a bit more detail visible in the 2880-mode print,
but you have to enlarge it to this extent see it. (And even then, it's pretty
subtle.) For most routine printing, we'd say that the 1440 x 720 dpi printing
mode will be more than adequate for the majority of users.
At 2880 dpi, the Stylus Photo 785EPX's output is crisp, sharp, and very
smooth. Virtually no signs of jaggies, although there's a microscopic
roughness on the diagonal lines of the roof trim, as seen at right.
At 1440 dpi, the output is virtually identical. Still very crisp, still
very smooth, really no more jaggies than we saw in the 2880 dpi image
above. Given the markedly shorter print times for virtually no decrease
in quality, we'd recommend 1440 dpi for virtually all your photo printing
If we were surprised by how little difference we saw between 2880 and
1440, we were eve more surprised by how much difference we saw when we
dropped down to 720 dpi. If you have an earlier 720 dpi Epson printer,
this alone could be the justification for an upgrade! (We must nonetheless
point out that these are still very small imperfections: The area
at left is only about a half inch (12mm) across on the print itself.)
Wow, what a great printer! Overall, the Stylus Photo 785EPX showed excellent
color rendition and exceptional resolution. Epson's unique borderless printing
capability and the easy standalone operation are really the icing on the cake.
For a long time, we've held that people will resist printing their digital images
until the process gets as easy as just dropping your film at the corner drugstore.
The 785 demands a bit more than that, but it's definitely a step in the right
direction. Epson's PRINT Image Matching also makes a very discernible difference
when printing images from digicams that support the technology. - Gone are the
days of sickly-looking "digital skin tones." About the only knock
we have against the 785 relative to some of the competition is that it's no
speed demon. With full-page print times of 6-10 minutes in its 1440 dpi mode,
it's only about average in its print speed among inkjet printers we've tested.
Overall though, the whole package is a very compelling proposition: Great prints
with or without a computer, PRINT Image Matching for great color from your digicam,
and a 20+ year estimated print life. If you're interested in standalone printing,
the Stylus Photo 785EPX is hard to beat. (If you don't need the standalone option,
the Stylus Photo 780 has essentially identical print characteristics, at a lower
price.) Highly recommended!