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The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter

As soon as ourCanon Pro-1 reviewwas published, we heard from Epson. You really should take a look at our R3000, they said.

Indeed, the R3000, which beat the Pro-1 to market by several months, has a lot going for it that the Pro-1 does not. Ethernet, for one. And a small pigment droplet size, too.

Like the Pro-1, its a 13-inch printer but it handles roll paper, too. Closed up, its quite a bit more compact.

And like the Pro-1, it can print color or black and white images, swapping matte and photo black ink cartridges.

List price is $849.99 but Epson itself sells it for just $649.99, a significant bargain compared to the $999.99 Pro-1.

Epson lists the highlights of its R3000 as:

Pigment ink technology. Epson UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta Ink Technology (delivering intense blues and violets and improved skin tones) for either color or black-and-white prints

Individual high-capacity ink cartridges. Nine large 25.9ml individual ink cartridges

Advanced media handling. Consistent, reliable performance with front-in, front-out paper path; Cut sheets up to 13 inches wide, 13-inch roll paper; supports photographic and fine art paper, canvas, art boards (up to 1.3mm thick) and CD/DVDs

Unparalleled connectivity. Hi-Speed USB 2.0, wireless 802.11n and 100 Mbit Ethernet support

Auto-switching black inks. Enjoy the highest black density and superior contrast on glossy, matte or fine art papers from either Matte or Photo Black ink; driver indicates which to use based on paper type; switching is done at the printers control panel

Leading-edge image-quality architecture. Smooth color transitions and outstanding highlight and shadow detail with AccuPhoto HD2 imaging technology

Precision 9-color, 8-channel print head technology. MicroPiezo AMC, one-inch wide print head with ink-repelling coating for accurate dot placement and reduced maintenance

Professional control. Advanced Black-and-White Photo Mode to create neutral or toned black-and-white prints from color or monochrome images; ICC profile support is available for many third-party papers

While thats Epsons list, we can certainly confirm it matched our experience of the R3000s highlights, with particular appreciation for the paper feeding approach, ink set and connectivity.

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SPECIFICATIONSBack to Contents

: Advanced Micro Piezo AMC print head with ink-repelling coating technology, 8-channel, drop-on-demand, inkjet print head

: 2 picoliters. Variable Droplet Technology can produce up to 3 different droplet sizes per print line

: Maximum paper width: 13 inches; Maximum cut-sheet size: 13×19; Minimum cut-sheet size: 3.5×5; Maximum printable area: 13×44

: 8×10 in approx. 1 min 33 sec; 13×19 in approx. 2 min 30 sec

: One-year limited warranty in the U.S. and Canada with additional extended service plans, including exchange/repairs plans and replacement plans available.

: Main top-loading feeder holds up to 13×19-inch sheet and up to 120 sheets plain; 30 sheets photo; Front media path holds up to 13×19, single sheet manual feeder designed for fine art paper and media up to 1.3mm thick; CD/DVD (using included tray)

: 3.5×5, 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, A4 (8.3×11.7), letter (8.5×11), 11×14, 12×12, B (11×17), A3 (11.7×16.5) and Super B (13×19) sizes

: Pigment-based Epson UltraChrome K3 with Vivid Magenta ink technology

: 9-color Photo or Matte Black, Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Yellow, Light Cyan, Vivid Light Magenta, Light Black, Light Light Black

: Auto-Switching Black Ink Technology. Standard Black ink conversion times are Matte to Photo Black in approx. 3 min 30 sec and Photo to Matte Black in approx. 2 min sec. Ink used during conversion is Matte to Photo Black approx. three milliliters and Photo to Matte Black approx. one milliliter. An economy mode unique to the R3000 uses one milliliter instead of three milliliters to flush Matte.

: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, 100Base-T Ethernet, Wi-Fi Certified (802.11n only)

: Windows 7 (32-bit, 64-bit), Windows Vista (32-bit, 64-bit), Windows XP, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition Mac O X 10.5.x to 10.7.x

: Epson ESC/P2R2 raster photographic drivers standard

: Operating at 50 to 95 degrees F; Storage at -4 to 104 degrees F

: Operating at 20 to 80 pct. (no condensation); Storage at 5 to 85 pct. (no condensation)

: Approx. 38 dB according to ISO 7779

: Printing requires approx. 21 W while Sleep Mode uses less than 3.5 W; Energy Star compliant (Tier 2)

: UL1950, CSA 22.2 950 FDA, EMI: FCC Part 15 subpart B class B, CSA C108.8 class B, AS/NZS 3548 class B

: When printing, its 24.2 x 32 x 16.7 (WxDxH) and when stored, its 24.2 x 14.5 x 9 (WxDxH)

Fully expanded, it easily fits on the end of our work table

Epson Stylus Photo R3000 Photo Printer

Ink Cartridges: Photo Black UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157120), Cyan UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157220), Vivid Magenta UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157320), Yellow UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157420), Light Cyan UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157520), Vivid Light Magenta UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157620), Light Black UltraChrome K3i ink cartridge (T157720), Matte Black UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157820), Light Light Black UltraChrome K3 ink cartridge (T157920)

USB and Ethernet cables not included

CD-ROM with printer drivers and software

The vigilant reader will notice theres no gloss optimizer in the ink set. More about that below.

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SYSTEM REQUIREMENTSBack to Contents

Epson lists Windows 7 (32-bit, 64-bit), Windows Vista (32-bit, 64-bit), Windows XP, Windows XP Professional x64 Edition and Mac OS X 10.5.x to 10.6.x as the supported operating systems.

But our tests were done on several versions of Mac OS X 10.7.

We had none of the trouble installing the software that we had with theR2000, were happy to say.

But we did have a problem installing the drivers on a second machine. The solution to that was simply to reset the printer system. That, unfortunately, removes all your printers. But we hadnt cleaned house in a while. And we only mention it here in case your housekeeping suffers similar enthusiasm. It really has nothing to do with the R3000 itself.

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CONSUMABLESBack to Contents

The high-capacity (25.9ml) 157 cartridges list for $31.49 each. Amazon sells them for $29.95 or the whole set for $265.95. If you use theImaging Resource Amazon affiliate program, youll help support reviews like this.

Photo Black ink is optimized for printing on glossy sheets (including glossy, luster, satin and semigloss finishes). Matte Black is designed for matte finishes and fine art media. Your usage of these two inks will depend on what paper you use.

Paper costs will vary depending on the sheet you select, of course. The R3000 can handle a variety of media, including printable CDs.

For the review, Epson sent us a representative sample of papers. Those included:

Epson Signature Worthy Sample Pack with Hot Press Bright, Hot Press Natural, Exhibition Fiber, Cold Press Bright, Cold Press Natural, Velvet Fine Art, Ultra Premium Lustre

But as part of our comparison with the Canon Pro-1 we also printed on a number of third-party art papers including:

We used the R3000 ICC profiles for those papers supplied by the manufacturers on their respective Web sites. And our results were uniformly excellent. So if you happen to read somewhere (as we did) that you can only use Epson paper, consider the source deluded.

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HARDWARE TOURBack to Contents

Compact as it is, the R3000 has a lot of secret compartments.

The paper support on top is the most obvious of them. You simply rotate it on its hinges before pulling out its two extensions. It only needs two because the well into the printer is quite deep. Note also the rubber bumpers on the inside lid to grip the sheet.

The front output tray is the next obvious. The cover drops down so you can pull our the extensions. Note the orange bracket on the inside on the side of the control panel and remove it. But dont discard it. Epson calls it a transportation lock. Youll want to reinstall it if you move the printer.

In that same compartment is the gray manual feed tray for thick paper (up to 1.3mm, in fact) and the CD tray. You press in the indent with the three bumps to drop it into position. The drop-down tray allows for the full release of the feed rollers so you can easily slip a thick sheet of fine art paper into the printer.

There are, in fact, two sets of rollers for borderless printing: the main drive rollers and the secondary set of star rollers on top required for borderless images, which leave no marks on the paper.

We really liked the fine art feeding, finding it the best of any Epson printer weve used and preferring it to Canons various approaches as well. What we particularly liked about it was that you could get your hands on both ends of a 13×19 and snug it up to the side guide, confident it was parallel to the printer. Most just let you line up the front edge and hope its parallel.

The proof of this approachs superiority came when we had only a quarter inch of an image printed on a nice piece of fine art paper before the job aborted. Wed canceled printing for some reason that now escapes us. Rather than waste the sheet, we reloaded it and reprinted. There was no misregistration of the image.

To actually load paper in that tray, you have to open the rear paper support. Thats on the back of the printer. It opens just a bit, dropping down into the printer slightly, so you can pull out the two extensions

The rear support is also used for roll paper, which exits the printer on the output tray in front. But with roll paper, you leave the extensions in and hook the roll paper holders (with paper already attached to them) where the orange labels indicate. In addition to paper, you can also load canvas on the roll holders.

The back of the printer is where youll find the power connection (to the left) and the USB and Ethernet connection (to the right of center). In front, theres a PictBridge USB port as well.

Although it isnt immediately obvious, the whole top of the printer swings up to reveal the ink compartment in the front left. A gray latch on the cover releases when you push it toward the back of the printer.

The front top right panel hosts the R3000 controls. The Power button is at the left with an Ink status indicator and Delete button next to it on the right. They are just left of the LCD, which itself borders the four-way navigator with an OK button in the center. A WiFi status indicator and the Back button are to the right of that. All of the buttons are quite large with deep indents. Thats a good thing.

The rear feed, used for lighter sheets, doesnt require a lot of room in the back

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INSTALLATIONBack to Contents

We found the end of our work table a good location for the R3000. There was plenty of room behind it and even more in front. It doesnt seem to need more than a few inches in the back but it does eat up space in front to deliver the 19-inch sheets.

We followed the instructions on the handy installation poster.

Removing all the blue tape in all the compartments can be quite a challenge. We missed a couple on the back securing the rear support.

Dont forget about the transportation lock, either. And do save it in case you have to move your printer.

Next we connected the power cable and turned the printer on.

Time to load the cartridges. We opened the top lid and released the ink compartment cover. The bays are clearly labeled.

Epson recommends shaking the cartridges before installing them. Then theres a small yellow tape to pull off before you insert the cartridge into the bay.

A slot on the cartridge guarantees you wont put it in the wrong bay. We tried. No go. But youll have to remember to actually snap the cartridge down to fully seat it. The small release seems seated prematurely and theres no red LED to confirm youve seated the cartridge. So push down.

Note the slot on the end to seat the cartridge

When you close the cartridge cover and then the top cover of the printer, the ink system is primed. This gives you a chance to open the rear paper feed and drop some letter-size sheets in. Move the outside paper guide in, too. And dont forget to open the output tray and extend the extensions.

A progress bar on the LCD will let you know how things are going. It takes a while. Check your email.

We wanted to connect the R3000 to our router, making a WiFi connection rather than an Ethernet or USB connection. But if we were not testing the printer, we would prefer that Ethernet connection for its speed.

Epson recommends using a USB cable to create the WiFi connection. They dont supply one and, it turns out, it really isnt necessary. You can do it from the control panel. So thats how we did it.

It really isnt hard. It would have been harder to dig up a USB cable, really. You just have to know your routers password. The R3000 will automatically find your router. And it can even log in magically with a couple of options we never use. All we had to do was pick our router, put in the password and the connection was made.

We printed the network report just to see if the printer could actually print. It didnt do a head alignment as part of the setup, which we would have found strange except the head on the R3000 is far from the ink cartridges, so installing a cartridge has no effect on alignment. And, in fact, the R3000 printed our black and white network status page just fine.

So we continued with the software installation on Mac OS 10.7.

That went very smoothly and didnt take more than a couple of minutes. We installed the drivers and utilities, which is the default, but added Print CD and the Users Gide.

Read left to right, row by row, to follow the sequence

Before finishing the install, we printed a test sheet, which came out fine. We were ready for action.

We didnt have as much trouble setting up the R3000 for a print job as we did the R2000, a reflection on our own confusion. Experience helps, apparently.

When youve got the wrong black ink active, the driver will tell you.

As we usually do, we worked with the R3000 from Mac OS X rather than Windows. While the issues are similar, the process is a bit different.

Unlike many other printers, the R3000 has a variety of feeding options plus a large selection of compatible paper sizes and surfaces. You have to get all of those ducks in a row every time you print to get 1) a sheet to be printed and 2) the results you expect.

Adding to the fun is that there are multiple listings for Paper Size and both Paper Size and Source are expressed in a one-line description in the driver. And just to stir the pot, the option to print borderless (and whether to automatically enlarge to do it) are also in there.

We did stumble now and then on the paper size names. There are quite a few in the Epson driver and its pure guess work selecting one. Fortunately the preview gave us a hint when we were way off base, showing odd margins or poor layout.

Saving a configuration didnt particularly help us keep all of these options aligned, either.

Driver options, showing required black ink

The Basic Guide makes the process for Mac OS X clear:

Pick the appropriate Paper Size (with a Borderless option if you want)

Set the Orientation (landscape or portrait)

Use Print Settings to set the Media Type to the sheet you are using (which depends on the Paper Size setting)

Continue with Print Settings to set other options

You have more work to do if you let the printer manage the color (which also lets you tap into some Epson technologies), but we prefer to manage color in our image editing software. That way, we can select the appropriate ICC profile for the paper were using.

That was itself a challenge using Photoshop CS6, which insisted we were trying to print without a profile when we selected some third-party profiles. The workaround we used was to pick an Epson-supplied profile for a similar finish. Photoshop CS6 didnt complain about that and our results, if not exactly matched to the sheet, were reliable.

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THE CONTROL PANELBack to Contents

Compared to the Pro-1s two button front panel, the R3000 has an airliners dashboard with a color LCD, four-way navigator, Delete and Back buttons.

It might seem a bit retro to have an actual control panel on a big, network printer but you do actually have to visit the printer now and then when you have to load fine art paper or switch blacks.

The advantage of the LCD is that it not only provides a menu system but it also provides a nicely-illustrated help system. So when its time to front load a heavy sheet, you dont have to look up the procedure in the manual. Just step through it on the LCD.

That was particularly helpful when we wanted to print a CD. All we had to do was click the Right arrow button until that option was displayed and follow the instructions. Which, as these things go, were pretty simple. Drop the CD into the black plastic carrier, slide it onto the gray tray, align it to the notch and tell the printer its ready.

Ultrachrome K3 Inks. The K3 inkset is a palette of eight active inks, three of which are black. There is no gloss optimizer in the K3 inkset because the inks themselves include a resin.

In addition, the darkest black ink swaps out depending on the paper with Photo Black used for glossy sheets and Matte Black for uncoated stock. Epson says its microcrystal encapsulated Photo Black can be used on any surface but the non-resin, self-dispersing Matte Black delivers a darker black on matte and fine art papers by not sinking into the sheet quite so much.

While the driver will advise you which black is preferred, you have to make the switch at the printer using the control panel.

Theres been quite a lot of online grumbling about the amount of ink wasted when switching between Photo Black and Matte Black. Going from Matte to Photo takes 3 milliliters and going from Photo to Matte takes 1 milliliter. Why?

Epson explained that Photo Black, with resins incorporated into it, works on any paper but Matte Black, with no resin and chemistry designed to avoid sinking into uncoated sheets (and will consequently sit on glossy paper without drying, which is why Epson flushes three milliliters of it when you switch back to Photo Black), only works well on uncoated papers. So you dont have to clear Photo Black from the ink line as much as you do have to clear Matte Black.

However, Epson pointed out, among the Setup options on the printer itself, there is a Black Ink Change setting that lets you select between this Standard flushing and an Economy flushing that only uses one milliliter to flush Matte Black instead of three milliliters. We found it interesting that the option wasnt two milliliters but one milliliter, suggesting three milliliters does a more than thorough job.

For black and white printing, you have three tones in the ink set: a very light black (Light Light Black), a Light Black and Photo or Matte Black. The advantage to using tritone monochrome printing over quadtone color printing in monochrome is the elimination of a color cast not only at the time of printing but also as the print ages.

Gray tray popped down to load thick fine art paper and CDs

In addition, Epson claims the Light Light black significantly reduces gloss differences, especially combined with the high-gloss microcrystal encapsulation technology of the K3 ink set and its unique screening algorithms. Finer pigments and precise ink laydown minimize gloss variation, in short.

Youll still have an issue where you dont lay down ink, however, as in blown-out or specular highlights. The print driver option to enable Highlight Point Shift will print very lightly in the highlight area to avoid this in black and white prints. This is the one area in which a gloss optimizer helps.

For color prints, you can use the Levels command in most image editing software to shift the output level down from pure white at 255 to something short of that.

Epson has also revised the magenta component of the inkset, referring to it as Vivid Magenta and Vivid Light Magenta. Using these magentas instead of, say, the orange ink in the R2000, expands the range of blues and purples while warming skin tones, Epson told us.

With yellow, two densities of cyan and two of magenta delivering a wide color gamut, the K3 inkset relies on the three densities of black to deliver a stable gray balance much like gray undercolor removal in offset printing in which less color ink is used in preference for black. The technique avoids laying 100 percent of yellow, cyan and magenta down under black areas (which produces a color much like mud), relying instead on black to cover.

Gloss level is improved with a special resin in the K3 inkset that improves the smoothness of the printed surface.

Pigment Agitation. With the ink stored in an immobile tank, how does the R3000 agitate the pigment so it doesnt all settle at the bottom of the tank? You can actually hear it agitate the ink using a pressurization system borrowed from the Epson 3800. It sounds a bit like a vacuum cleaner every now and then as the pigments are stirred up in the tank using fluid pressure.

Print Head. The R3000 uses the same print head as the R2000. Thats the MicroPiezo AMC, one-inch wide print head with ink-repelling coating for more accurate dot placement and reduced maintenance.

AccuPhoto HG. Epsons AccuPhoto HG image technology was created with the Rochester Institute of Technologys Munsell Color Science Laboratory. The HG stands for High Gloss.

Using an advanced mathematical architecture and screening technology, it optimizes the use of each ink color to maximize color gamut, providing smoother color transitions and ensuring consistent color under different lighting, actually calculating the metameric index.

Epson claims AccuPhoto HG can produce truly photographic prints even with high-speed and in lower resolution print modes.

It isnt an option in the print driver, however, unless you let the printer manage color. We never do that, preferring to use an ICC profile in Photoshop for the ink and paper and manipulating color there.

Theres no proof like pudding, so we quickly put the R3000 to work. We were particularly interested in comparing its output to the Canon Pro-1 prints wed been producing.

First Prints. To get familiar with the printer, we ran off half a dozen quick prints. Three 8×10 Velvets from Lightroom 4 beta and three 13×19 Lustres from Photoshop CS5, one of which we sent 16-bit data to the printer. Wed printed only one before (on the R2000). A good mix.

Then we tried 4-inch roll paper. No sale. Unlike the R2000, the R3000 wont let you hang a short roll on the back. You have to have a full-width roll.

Two early 13×19 prints on Epson Lustre

Epson told us that narrower rolls arent supported because the support tray is in the way. It preferred to have a front-loading fine art mechanism than support 4-inch roll paper.

So we moved on to black and white on art paper, loading the paper through the front art paper slot. The LCD will confirm that art paper can be loaded. Just slide it in. It will pop out the back (which you opened) so you can carefully align it to the front scribe mark and side guide. Then press OK so the printer can actually load the paper. When it has, be sure to push in the front loading tray and pull out the output tray.

We printed on a matte fine art paper. Or wanted to. The driver complained that the black ink cartridge wasnt correct. In fact, we had been printing on lustre, which uses the Photo Black cartridge. For a matte paper, we needed Matte Black. The driver dialog did indicate that was the ink to use.

But the driver complained, The black ink cartridge differs from the one installed in the printer. Change the black ink cartridge in the printer. We were a little confused, but the manual came to the rescue explaining we have to walk over to the printer and use the Menu system to actually switch black inks.

That takes a few minutes to flush the supply lines.

We had a job queued so as soon as the ink switch had been completed, the job started printing.

Dueling Pianos. We fired off the same image file to both the R3000 and the Pro-1, both using the same papers (using the paper manufacturers ICC profiles for that sheet on that particular printer).

It was interesting. So interesting, we asked for a vote. So this isnt just our opinion but a consensus.

Everybody noticed the R3000 uncoated black and white prints had more contrast and more detail. That smaller droplet size apparently matters. And though both printers feature a matte black, Epsons was clearly more dense. So the R3000 delivered better tonality and detail on monochrome matte prints.

Three prints on uncoated fine arts sheets. Top print is from a Canon 9100 dye printer and clearly packs more of a punch than either of the pigment prints. R3000 (left) is stronger than the Pro-1 print (right).

It was, frankly, a significant difference. Guests didnt blink an eye before picking the Epson prints over the Canon.

We also printed a set of portraits on Ilford Galerie Smooth Perl using Ilfords ICC profiles for both printers. The file was printed first to one printer then the other, with only the driver settings changed. So they were the identical image on the same paper.

The results were very hard to tell apart. Virtually identical. We did notice very slight gloss variation on the Canon prints, but only when we angled the image to look for it. And the Epson prints did produce more saturated color, which was only noticeable on things like T-shirt lettering and vivid package printing. Skin tones were spectacular on both.

One of the virtues of the Pro-1 is it hardly ever produces a lousy print. Right out of the box, the results are impressive. We have to say the R3000 matched that experience for us — but we have to add that it has quite a few more options and its easy to get lost in the driver.

Glossies. We had two images taken at City Lights Bookstore that seemed to go well together. Both were of windows, but one showed the interior, the daylight illuminating books on a table by the window, and other showed the view over lower rooftops out its window.

We used Ilford Galerie Smooth Gloss on these with Ilfords ICC profiles. But we printed the set both in color and in black and white.

Same image data, Moab Rag Natural, paper manufacturers ICC profile for each printer. R3000 (left) was preferred over the Pro-1 print by everyone who saw them side by side.

Epson claims the image is stable out of the printer, but our room lighting isnt as bright in the evening as it is in the day. So we held off evaluating the images until we had good sunlight. We had excellent detail in the shadows and highlights of both versions of the prints and a glowing color that matched the weather that day.

The Bridge.Newsletter subscribershave been treated to our Just for Fun series describing an evolving black and white project.

We started with a 12-panel 13×19 printed on Moab Entrada Natural. At first we thought the black and white print was a bit greenish. Epson suggested it might be a profile issue. This is another of those driver settings that you can get lost in. The workaround is, in general, to try Velvet Fine Art for cold, bluish papers rather than Radiant White (which is what Moab itself suggests) and use Ultrasmooth Fine Art in Advanced Black and White Photo mode for natural white papers with no brighteners.

The problem is commonly seen when printing the U.S. flags blue field. If it looks purple, youll want to pick a different profile.

Both of these were printed from Photoshop CS6 on the R3000 from the same image data. The split-toned image (right) used a new Photographic Toning option in the Gradient Map panel.

The most recent episode recounted our poster prints of the Golden Gate Bridge on its 75th anniversary.

We did two versions of the original image, a square black and white taken with an Olympus E-PL1. The simpler version is a straight monochrome image. The other version is a split-toned image using four tones.

The image itself was taken just a few days before the anniversary but looks for all the world as if it were taken 75 years ago. Credit the black and white palette and the square aspect ratio. And the setting, which with the golden Marin headlands in the background and low tide in the foreground did not betray the era.

But even the split-tone image, which ranged from black to red to blue to yellow and colored the bridges dark tones in red and the water in blue, had a colorized antique effect.

We really couldnt pick between them. Nor could anyone else.

Printed on Museo Silver Rag, they both stopped visitors to the bunker in their tracks.

CD Printing. Epson recommends burning the CD or DVD before printing it, which makes sense to us.

Loading the CD is as simple as loading fine art media. You drop the gray tray, put a CD in the black CD inser.