Page 10 – 29th March 2011
Fine Art Media printing
If you want a printer as a general jobbing workhorse then close this review. However, if you want a printer that delivers high quality Fine Art prints then read on.
The R3800 caters for the photographer – artist who demands the highest quality fine art printing. The printer can handle thick card as well as a variety of media types. For my first print I will be trying out some Epson’s Traditional Photo Paper, this is 330g/m weight, fiber base, Acid and liginin free, smooth glossy surface. This media has to be loaded one sheet at a time using the rear single sheet feeder (not the main rear auto sheet feeder).
Loading Fine art media is not that intuitive, as with all my reviews I try to accomplish tasks without having to refer to the manual and see where it takes me. I loaded the media into the rear media holder and received an error message saying my Roll media was not correctly loaded. OK, if in doubt, read the instructions. The front LCD panel gives fully illustrated instructions on how to load straight paper path media.
First depress the front straight paper tray to open it, now load your media, printing surface upwards, align the media with the guide line mark on the tray and then press the OK button. The media is drawn into the printer and makes a partial exit at the rear media holder. Now you have to close the front straight paper tray and pull out the bottom media catcher tray. Now you are ready to start printing. When in the printer driver you must ensure that you select the correct media tray, i.e. Front – Fine Art. I am sure that some clever technician at Epson will one day come up with a solution that would automatically select this option in the driver once the media is loaded. Although Epson refers to this as a straight paper path, in reality it isn’t, the paper does go through a 45 degree angle when making an exit at the rear. However, for thick card there is a genuine straight paper path, but this requires sufficient clearance at the rear of the printer.
For the Traditional Photo Paper you have to select Epson Premium Glossy media and set the highest quality setting. This media produces stunning quality prints, it is also nice to see a surface that resembles traditional photo paper rather than a glossy glass like surface that we are becoming accustomed to. Just to add an extra touch, the media is packaged in a black lightproof envelope – just like the old packaging for bromide papers.
The following images are scans of prints. The scans were made on an Epson V750 flatbed scanner, there may be a slight variation in colour when compared to the original prints.
The Premium Glossy profile consistently produced a darker print which for the above picture works well, but on portraits it can produce an underexposed looking photograph. The Advanced B/W setting produced lighter prints but lacked a dynamic quality. Understanding how your printer interprets images on the printed page is the key to producing great looking prints. Profiles shouldn’t be regarded as an instant fix, think of them as an Auto setting which will get you great results most of the time, but occasionally you may have to make a tweak here & there to suite the image.
The R3000 doesn’t have a gloss optimizer ink so there can be a gloss differential when using high glossy media, you can get around this by selecting a High Point Shift in the Advanced B/W Photo setting. This applies a very light grey to the white (paper base) areas. For colour printing you will have to apply a Levels and set the White Output Level to 248 (approx) this then also applies a light grey to the white areas thereby eliminating any gloss differential.
The flower pot above was printed on Epson Premium Glossy Media, generally pigment inks and high gloss media don’t go to well together, mainly because pigment inks sit on the surface. However, the print looks OK to me and I would not have any issue with using this media type for exhibition work.
The North Wales photo was printed on Traditional Photo Paper. This also uses the Premium Glossy setting for media type. There are many very subtle tones in the print, detail is held in the dark trees and on the print in hand you can see all the subtle tones in the sky. The heavy weight (330 g/m) gives the print a true quality feel.
Green has always been a problematic colour to print accurately. The print above is about is as close to the original as you can get. It is more or less spot on.
The final print shows how this printer can cope with portraits. (Sophie is the baby in our test chart shot, she is now 11)