Epson combines 2880 dpi, PRINT Image Matching, and standalone operation for a real winner of a photo printer!
Page 2: Overview
Review First Posted: 7/18/2001
MSRP $249 US
The Stylus Photo 785EPX 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 785EPX incorporates the industry standard Digital Print Order Format (DPOF), which reads printing instructions right off the memory card, and Epson's new PRINT Image Matching technology, a process that enables it to print perfectly matched color images (when made from PRINT-enabled cameras), without the need for computer processing or image editing software. It does this by reading detailed printing parameters (gamma level, color balance, highlights and shadows, etc.) written to the image file, and applying this information to produce optimum print quality. (Of course, the 785EPX also accepts cards from all DPOF cameras, but without the advantages of Epson's Image Matching technology.)
The 785EPX joins the growing market of standalone, photo-quality printers that use DPOF technology to make images directly from flash media storage cards, competing with models made by Hewlett-Packard, Canon USA, and Eastman Kodak / Lexmark Corp. (HP's three PhotoSmart printers -- ranging in price from $200 to $500 -- and Canon's S800, priced at $299, all deliver 2400 x 1200 dpi prints, while the $200 Kodak Personal Picture Maker 200 delivers lower-resolution 1200 x 1200 dpi prints.) Though DPOF-compatible printers are more expensive than models lacking standalone capability (due to the added intelligence needed to print from memory cards), their ability to work with or without a computer makes them highly versatile, and good all-around photo printers. The Stylus Photo 785EPX falls midrange in the cost category, with a list price of $249.
Measuring 18.4 x 10.1 x 8.4 inches (467 x 255.1 x 212.1mm) and weighing 11.6 lb (5.25 kg), the 785EPX has a medium-size footprint that extends to 23 inches (58.4cm) deep with the output tray extended (letter-size paper) and to 13 inches (33cm) high to accommodate the paper feed.
Using Epson's new BorderFree photo printing technology, the 785EPX can make borderless prints in standard photographic sizes, including 4 x 6-, 5 x 7-, and 8 x 10-inch, up to 8.5 x 11 inches. It accepts single sheets of paper up to 8.5 x 14 inches, in varying weights and sizes, plus envelopes, cards, transparencies, film, self-adhesive sheets, and stickers.
The 785EPX also comes with a roll paper holder that feeds Epson's special bulk photo paper for making large color banners, or for continuous printing of standard 4 x 6- or 8 x 10-inch prints.
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 785EPX 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 785EPX 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, and the internal PC card slot accepts adapters for CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, IBM Microdrive, and Secure Digital storage. Although the 785EPX ships with a CompactFlash card adapter, Epson provides free mail-in exchange for the other adapters, a nice bonus, since many standalone printers provide only one or two memory card options. 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).
785EPX'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 comparable,
if not a little less costly, than its competitors.) 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 785EPX uses "smart" cartridges, with chips in them that
keep track of how much ink has been used. 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.)
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.)
We didn't get to test it, but an optional 1.6-inch color Preview Monitor is also available as an accessory for $99. When operating in standalone mode, this little color LCD lets you see the contents of the memory cards you're printing from , without first printing an index print of the images. Very handy, if you plan to use the printer in standalone mode a lot.
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 785EPX 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. BorderFree 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, 785EPX can
double as a business printer, though it is slower than non-photo SOHO printers.
The 785EPX 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). When printing from a memory card, the 785EPX has only two print quality modes -- Normal (360 x 360 dpi) and High (360 x 720 dpi) -- which require additional time for file processing. (See Test Results for more timing data.)
printer control panel has eight menus available when printing directly from
a memory card: Print mode selects between printing index sheets, all photos
on the card, or printing one or more specified images; Paper Type includes selections
for plain, glossy, or matte papers; Paper Size offers four print sizes -- 4
x 6, 5 x 7, 8 x 10, 8.5 x 11-inch sheets, or 4-inch roll paper; Page Layout
is used to select borderless prints or multiple images per page; Select Photo
enables you to choose images by photo number; Copies determines the number of
copies to be printed; and PhotoEnhance turns the printer's automatic print enhancement
function On or Off. (PhotoEnhance adjusts for common digicam shortcomings, and
enables PRINT Image Matching when printing images from cameras that support
that Epson-driven technology.)