While photography is firmly ensconced in the world of ones and zeros, we’re still fond of the tactile pleasures that only a print provides. Unfortunately, unlike our actual universe, the universe of quality photo inkjet printers is shrinking, so when Epson announced the new P600, we were glad to see signs of life in the category. Together with photographer David Patiño, himself an avid printer and owner of an earlier-generation Epson (the Stylus Photo R2880), we ran dozens of test prints across a range of Epson papers—plus a few from third parties—to see if our enthusiasm was justified.
The P600 uses a newly formulated eight-color UltraChrome HD pigmented ink set. It offers a maximum print resolution of 5670×1440 with variable droplet sizes as small as 2 picoliters.
The printer supports papers up to 13 x 19 inches in size, but using roll media you can also produce a panoramic print that’s up to 10 feet long and 13 inches wide. For fine-art media lovers, the P600 supports papers up to 1.3mm thick through a front-loading single sheet feeder.
The P600 uses nine 25.9ml ink cartridges with automatic switching between Matte and Photo Black. You can connect to a PC via a wired Ethernet connection, or use the built-in Wi-Fi (802.11n).
To test the P600’s black performance, Patiño found an image from his archive of a woman clad in a black blouse against a black background. On screen, her blouse is faintly visible against the jet-black background. The P600 faithfully recreated the image, saturating the background in a deep black while preserving the distinguishing details of the black blouse.
Monochrome prints were similarly impressive. The printer uses three different black inks (black, light black and light, light black) to deliver excellent contrast across a range of tones.
We also ran a series of side-by-sides with Patiño’s Stylus R2880 and the difference, while subtle, was still noticeable. What stood out for Patiño were the skin tones. In isolation, prints from the R2880 looked perfectly acceptable. Placed next to the P600, skin tones from the R2880 took on a slight-but-noticeable magenta cast. The skin tones off the P600 were more natural, while bright colors popped off the page.
Design and Operation
The boxy P600 is certainly more esthetically attractive than Patiño’s R2880, but it’s also more functional. There is a 2.7-inch touchscreen display attached to a 3.5-inch control panel that can be tilted up from the unit for easier operation. The on-screen menu is easy to navigate, and we found the touchscreen to be very responsive, if rather small.
While the printer is simple enough to operate, Patiño felt the driver was a bit convoluted when it came to selecting paper options.
Loading thicker fine-art media through the front-loading tray was sometimes hit-or-miss. For 8.5 x 11-inch papers, Patiño said the printer would shift the paper about 20 percent of the time during intake, causing an error message. Larger papers with equal thickness didn’t suffer this fate. Loading and unloading roll media is a breeze.
With HP having mostly abandoned the market for small-format professional photo printers, it’s largely a two-horse race between Canon and Epson. As of this writing, Canon has yet to refresh its well-received Pixma Pro 1, which it introduced back in October 2011. In such a lethargic market, Epson could have easily rested on its laurels—but it hasn’t.
The P600 delivers stunning print quality in an affordable and easy-to-operate package. There were a few snags with loading smaller fine-art papers but overall, our experience operating the printer was a good one. The image quality definitely won over Patiño, who told us that he hopes Epson delivers a large-format version for print-lovers like himself.
PROS: Excellent print quality; easy menu navigation; wealth of media options.
CONS: Printer display is rather small; loading small fine-art papers can be difficult.