Epson The Next Generation
Update: July 26, 2000:
A review of the Epson Stylus Photo 2000P, which uses the same inks and papers as the 7500 and 9500 models has now been published. It can be found here.
Update: January 17,2001:
What Do We Know
As of early June, 2000, here's what is known about the next generation of Epson archival photographic printers. Each of them will be 6 ink design and will use the same inks and papers, though not the same physical cartridges. These inks and papers will be rated as having 200+ year life expectancy (using Wilhelm Research's methodology) and 100+ years using regular paper!
The inks are pigment based rather than dye based, which is what gives them their fade resistance. The problem up until now with trying to create pigment inks for inkjet printers has been the inability to put pigments into a suspension that's fine enough to go through the ultra-fine nozzles of a photo printer. Epson now appears to have solved this problem.
From 54" to 24", down to 13" in width, the only question now is cost and need.
Initially there will be 3 archival printers; the 2000P, the 7500 and the 9500. The 7500 and 9500 are wide carriage models (9500 = 44", 7500 = 24"), and are similar in most respects to their non-archival cousins, the also new 7000 and existing 9000. They will have parallel and USB interfaces. The usual RIPs and Ethernet connections will be available for the 7500 and 9500.
For current owners of the model 9000 there will be an upgrade kit available. It won't be possible to upgrade a 7000 to a 7500 though. It's important to note that the differences between the 7000 and 7500 and the 9000 and 9500 are more than just different inks. There's a firmware difference as well.
The 2000P is a separate, brand-new model and additional details are currently available in Epson's press release.
Availability and delivery dates will vary, depending on the country, but all three should be available worldwide by late summer or early fall. The 7500 will be priced at about USD $4,500 and the 2000P at USD $899.
As mentioned, all three archival models will use the same inks, but the cartridge sizes are different and incompatible. These inks will not be usable in any previous model Epson printers and it appears that no third party inks will work with these printers either.
Apparently the gamut of these inks is (not surprisingly) somewhat less than dye-based inks as used in previous and current non-archival models. I'll have to wait until I can do a first-hand comparison but it's my guess that this will only be apparent on a critical side-by-side comparison. For me, the trade-off of a somewhat reduced colour gamut in exchange for 200+ year light-fastness is one that I'll take any time.
It appears that Epson is out to dominate the photographic ink-jet printer market. Together with the 2000P these new models clearly put Epson in the forefront. It will likely be very hard for another company to catch up at this point.
While the 7500 printer is certainly appealing, my need for very large prints is only occasional. As a fine-art landscape photographer the 2000P with its 13X18" prints will suit me just fine. When I need something larger a service bureau print from a 7500 or 9500 will be a reasonably priced solution.
The Epson 2000P has started to ship in the U.K. but is not yet available in the U.S. or Canada. There is no word yet on the Epson 7500 and 9500 models, which still appear to be some months away from shipping.
A very good site called http://www.large-format-printers.org/ is now online and promises to provide undated information about wide carriage printers and especially ones designed for fine-art photographic printing.
January 15, 2001
Guest contributor Nick Rains reports on his hands-on experience with an Epson 9500.