Epson Redefines Desktop Printing with Stylus Pro 4000
Offers larger print size and two-up proofs
Epson's Stylus Pro 4000 is the first desktop printer that Epson's Professional Graphics group has introduced since the Stylus Pro 5500 21/2 years ago. It has features that will appeal to all creative professionals in the graphics-production chain--from photographers to graphic designers to commercial printing firms.
The most noteworthy change from the 13- x 19-in. Stylus Pro 5500 is a 17- x 22-in. sheetfeed capability that enables graphic-arts pros to output two-up proofs, with plenty of the room in the margins for notations, fold marks, and crop marks.
Also of note is the price. The Epson Stylus Pro 5500 originally sold for around $3500. The Stylus Pro 4000 will have an estimated street price of $1795, while offering a brand-new eight-channel printhead and substantial improvements in print-engine technology, ink longevity, print speed, and resolution compared to the 5500.
The Epson Stylus Pro 4000 is the first to use Epson's new 1-in. wide printhead. Not only is the wider printhead faster, but it also carries eight channels of ink, so that photographers who like Epson's 7-color Ultrachrome inkset can automatically switch between Photo Black ink when using photo papers and Matte Black ink on art papers.
Businesses that want to use the Stylus Pro 4000 for faster output of documents such as engineering drawings and other line art can use two sets of CMYK ink instead of the 7-color inkset for photographic reproduction.
New cut-sheet size aids proofing: Epson senior product manager Mark Radogna believes the Stylus Pro 4000 will completely redefine the standards for desktop printers. Unlike most desktop printers that are 13 x 19 or 81/2 x 11 in., "the Stylus Pro 4000 is the first printer that supports 17-in. wide cut-sheet materials in an enclosed cassette." "
Radogna says the 13- x 19-in. size is "too confining" for many creative professionals: "Many graphic-design studios find that they have to output two-up comps at a 90% scale factor, then tape the two pages together." The 17- x 22-in. size allows designers to print everything at full scale, and still have room in the margins for crop marks, registration marks, and client sign-off information.
The media cassette can handle up to 250 sheets of plain paper or about 100 sheets of photo paper. Art papers of up to 400 gsm can be fed through a manual slot feeder in the front of the machine. The printer also has a straight-through paper path that can handle 1.5-mm poster board and artwork that can't be bent.
For photographers and artists who like to output greeting cards or postcards, the Stylus Pro 4000 was engineered to print on both sides of the media without damaging what was already printed on the other side.
Smaller drop sizes for better image quality: Epson has also upped the image-quality ante with the Stylus Pro 4000 by delivering a 3.5-picoliter drop size, compared to the 4-picoliter drops used on the 7600 and 9600. Because drop sizes this small make it difficult to visually check head alignment and nozzle clogging, Epson has incorporated white-beam sensor technology that will automatically perform head alignments in both the uni-directional and bi-directional print modes. The sensor technology can also automatically detect if nozzles are clogged.
The good news, says Radogna, is that a head alignment/nozzle-check that might normally take a half hour to complete can now be done in about seven minutes. This type of procedure only needs to be done once every three months or so, but for photography pros who like to do it immediately before every important print run, the time savings should be appealing.
Faster throughput: The wider printhead on the Epson Stylus Pro 4000 makes it possible to generate prints at twice the speeds of the 7600. Using the 7-color inkset and different print modes, it can take anywhere from 1 minute 44 seconds for a graphic designer to output a comp-quality 13- x 19-in. proof to 7 minutes 49 seconds for a contract-quality final proof. An everyday, production-quality 720-dpi proof can be generated in 2 minutes 23 seconds.
Photographers can output a grain-free, 8- x 10-in. image at speeds ranging from 3 minutes 48 seconds to a 2880-dpi, high-quality image in 9 minutes 16 seconds. It takes the Stylus Pro 4000 anywhere from 101/2 to almost 25 minutes to output a 16- x 20-in. photograph without any visible grain.
Less reliance on custom profiles: Radogna believes that photographers who use Epson inks and media in the Stylus Pro 4000 can avoid the need to spend additional time and money to obtain custom profiles either through online services or with additional profiling software. The RGB ICC profiles Epson has developed are, he says, second to none.
"Custom profiles have certain flaws," he states, "They dramatically compress the gamut of the printer to ensure the accuracy of the profile. In creating the RGB profiles, we were able to use less compression to ensure a wider color gamut while still ensuring the accuracy of the profile." "
Other features: The high-capacity ink system on the Stylus Pro 400 can use either 110-ml or 220-ml ink cartridges or a mix of both types at once. Other features include cross-platform support for Mac or Windows users, and one USB, one FireWire?, and one Epson expansion slot for installing the optional 10/100 BaseT Ethernet card.
According to Radogna, about 50 different RIP vendors are developing RIPs for the Stylus 4000. But Epson will also offer an Adobe? PostScript? 3 RIP for graphic designers who want to print documents that include text and images.
Considering the price point of the Stylus Pro 4000, Radogna believes the printer will not only be a hit with freelance graphic designers, design studios, ad agencies, and photographers, but also with commercial printing companies that want to be able to send color-accurate proofs to their client's site for remote hard-copy proofing. (Epson America: www.epson.com)