Over the years I spent as a working photographer I used at least a half dozen different 13x19 format photo printers. These wide-format printers have become one of the cornerstones of a working photographer's studio since the transition from film to digital. The Epson Stylus Photo R1900 is the latest and greatest wide-format photo printer and it offers incredible print quality, versatility and speed so you can make lab-quality photos in your office or home. With a MSRP of $549.99 and a street price as low as just $399.99, is this the ultimate photo printer? Let's take a closer look and find out.
Stylus Photo R1900 Specifications
What’s in the Box
Build and Design
The Epson Stylus Photo R1900 is a rather massive wide-format photo printer tipping the scales at 26.9 lbs. Its dimensions are 24.3" x 31.4" x 16.3" with the paper trays closed (24.3" x 12.7" x 8.4" with the paper trays open) so it’s safe to say this beauty takes more desk space than a regular printer.
The exterior of the R1900 looks like a boxier evolution of the Epson R1800 released way back in 2005. In fact, the R1900 most closely resembles Epson’s premium wide-format photo printer; the Epson Stylus Photo R2880. The combination of matte black and silver plastics is much easier to keep clean than the glossy plastics found on cheaper printers, but the overall look is still very modern. Both the input and output paper trays fold into the printer to keep it compact when not in use.
The top panel controls are extremely basic on the R1900. The control panel consists of just four buttons. While that might sound like too few buttons, it keeps things remarkably simple, and the Epson printer software allows you to make all the needed adjustments electronically rather than needing to mess with buttons on the printer.
The back of the R1900 is rather Spartan in terms of layout, but there are two nice features on the back of this photo printer. We were glad to see that Epson included two USB ports on the back of the R1900 so that a photographer can have the main studio desktop connected at all times and have a second USB cable available to connect a laptop. Granted, a wireless connection would have worked just as well, but adding Wi-Fi to this printer would have made it even more expensive.
One very minor annoyance with the design of the R1900 is the lack of a built-in card reader. Granted, every serious photographer who buys this printer will already have an external card reader or a card reader built-in to their desktop. However, for those photographers who use laptop computers it would have been nice to have a card reader built into the R1900 so you don’t have to clutter the desk with an external Compact Flash reader.
You can’t judge a printer by its cover
The biggest differences between the old R1800 and the new R1900 are inside the printer. The new Epson Advanced MicroPiezo print head with AMC (Advanced Meniscus Control) allows the R1900 to produce prints with strikingly incredible detail. This permanent, high-performance print head can create variable sized droplets as small as 1.5 picoliters and place them exactly where they’re needed for fantastic prints. Each ink droplet is so incredibly small that dots are indiscernible even under a magnifying glass. The new Advanced MicroPiezo print head also incorporates an ink-repelling coating which decreases maintenance and increases reliability over the life of the printer. This means not only will you get amazing prints, but you won’t have to send the printer back to Epson for service to clean out the print head the way you might have with older printers.
The Epson R1900 uses the latest “Epson UltraChrome Hi-Gloss 2” 8-color pigment ink system that produces exceptional glossy prints with vibrant color and rich contrast. The newly reformulated red and orange ink cartridges provide improved facial tones with more vibrant colors. The reformulated magenta and yellow inks similarly produce richer blues and crisper-looking greens. Unlike dye inks that suffer from short-term color shifting and “chroming” problems, the pigment inks used in the R1900 provide immediate color stability so colors look the way they should as soon as the print comes out and the colors stay that way. Epson claims the pigment inks last up to 200 years under glass and up to 300 years in an album. Additionally, the new “Gloss Optimizer” features a clearer resin chemistry that produces better gloss levels and fills in gaps between ink droplets to provide a smooth, uniform surface.
There is only one major complaint we have with the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 in terms of ink, and that is the size of the ink cartridges. Although the R1900 is a well-calibrated printer that uses just the right amount of ink to produce fantastic 13x19 prints, it uses the same size ink cartridges as a standard 8.5x11 printer. Granted, this means it’s easy to find replacement ink cartridges at an office supply store, but the obvious problem is that the R1900 consumes more ink than a smaller printer simply because larger prints require more ink. For example, during our initial lab tests we made four 11x17 color prints on Epson Ultra Premium Luster Photo Paper and one borderless 13x19 color print on Epson Ultra Premium Glossy Photo Paper. After making those five prints (using the “best photo” setting) we were amazed to see that the Epson ink management system reported that the cyan (blue) ink cartridge was down to only 75% capacity. It doesn’t take advanced math skills to determine that the R1900 would have required a new ink cartridge after printing only about 20 large photos.
There are continuous ink flow systems on the market, but it would have been nice if Epson used larger ink cartridges so photographers don’t feel the need to immediately buy an expensive continuous ink system and non-Epson ink.
While we’re talking about ink consumption, it is worth mentioning power consumption as well. The R1900 is an ENERGY STAR compliant printer, so if you want to keep your office “green” and avoid costly electric bills this might be a great photo printer for you. The Epson R1900 consumes approximately 20 W when printing and only a modest 1 W in standby mode. That’s almost as little power consumption as an ENERGY STAR compliant all-in-one office printer … impressive for a wide-format photo printer.
One of the primary new technologies that Epson is promoting with the R1900 is something called "Radiance." Radiance technology is an advanced mathematical architecture that optimizes the use of each color of ink more efficiently to maximize the total color gamut. Radiance also ensures smoother color transitions, reduced grain and more consistent color under different lighting conditions. In theory, the result is a truer photographic look with the best color possible.
In terms of print speed, the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 deserves the award for the fastest 13x19 photo printer we've ever seen. You can produce high resolution prints at even faster speeds than its predecessor, the Epson Stylus Photo R1800. Now, you can produce an 11x14 glossy enlargement at the highest resolution "best photo" mode in as fast as 2 minutes, 38 seconds. That's almost as fast as the R1800 was able to print at lower resolution settings! If you're willing to sacrifice a little bit of photo quality you can make an 11x14 print in about a minute and a half using the standard "photo" mode rather than "best photo."
The Epson Stylus Photo R1900 has the ability to accommodate a wide variety of media types including cut-sheet, fine art and roll-fed media. The auto sheet feeder can handle up to 120 sheets of plain paper or up to 30 sheets of thick photo paper. As mentioned previously, the R1900 can create border-free prints in many popular sizes including 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 8.5x11, 11x14, 12x12, 13x19 and more. Using roll paper you can print panoramas up to 13x44.
In addition to printing on a variety of paper and canvas media, the R1900 can also print directly onto CD/DVDs for clean, professional results without messy labels. The included CD/DVD printing tray allows you to make professional looking discs that are easy to identify directly from the printer. The included Epson Print CD software is also remarkably easy to use so you can get great results in almost no time at all.
Of course, at the end of the day the most important performance benchmark for a photo printer is the quality of the photos. What did we think of the print quality from the R1900? In short, the R1900 produces the best photo quality we’ve seen in a wide-format printer available to consumers. Using Epson Ultra Premium Luster Photo Paper and the “best photo” quality setting the Epson Stylus Photo R1900 produces photos that are indistinguishable from prints produced by a professional photo lab using a commercial-grade printer. Bottom line, at the present time even more expensive printers cannot produce better looking prints.
Chances are if you read the previous paragraph you won’t even need to read this conclusion. The Epson Stylus Photo R1900 is quite simply a fantastic wide-format photo printer. If you are a working photographer who needs to quickly deliver large prints to customers or a photo enthusiast who wants control over your prints at home, the R1900 is the arguably the best choice currently on the market.
Print speed is nice and fast, power consumption is lower than expected, and the print quality is simply outstanding. The pathetically tiny ink cartridges are an annoyance, but it’s a small (pun intended) price to pay for such an amazing photo printer.
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