Epson C80 Printer Review
Alain Briot is one of the most successful landscape photographers working in the American Southwest today. His work is widely exhibited and collected. His new monthly column for this web site, of which this is part, is called Briot's View. An extensive interview with Alain is included in Issue #1 of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal.
This article and accompanying photographs are Copyright 2001 by Alain Briot
Epson C80 - Â© Epson Corporation
Under an unassuming appearance and an attractive $180 price tag the Epson C80 printer introduces a number of innovations to the world of desktop printers.
First of all this is a pigment ink printer. As such it is only the second Epson consumer-grade desktop printer to use pigmented inks, the first one being the Epson 2000p.
Second, the inks used in the C80 are of a brand new formulation used exclusively in the C80 at the time of this review (November 2001). Named DuraBrite these inks are said by Epson to have a 70 years light fastness when used in combination with EpsonÂºs Archival Matte paper. Certainly, this is less than half the light fastness offered by the Epson 2000p inks which are rated at 200 years with Epson Archival Matte Paper. However, in my estimate 70 years is long enough to qualify these inks as archival. 70 years is more than twice the light-fastness of Ilfochrome, as rated by Wilhelm imaging, and equal to Fuji crystal Archive, one of the longest lasting negative print materials.
There is one main advantage to the DuraBrite inks versus the 2000p inks: while prints done on the 2000p often exhibit metamerism, prints done on the C80 appear to be free of such problem. I could not observe any green color shift when looking at a print alternatively under tungsten light and natural light. This fact alone is enough to justify my interest in this printer.
Third, the C80 uses four separate ink cartridges — one each for cyan, magenta, yellow and black; allowing the user to replace only those ink cartridges which have run dry. This guarantees significant savings since the four ink colors run out at different rates. This is the first Epson desktop printer to offer separate ink cartridges, a feature so far offered only on Epson's professional line of printers such as the 5500, 7500, and 10000 to name only a few.
Fourth, the C80 boasts 2880 dpi resolution, not a first but still only one of a handful of desktop printers to offer this resolution at the time of this review. The C80 features variable droplet technology (up to three droplet sizes) with a smallest droplet size of 3 picoliter for color and 6 picoliter for black.
The C80 has a translucent black cover which spans the entire width and length of the printer giving it a unique look. The printer has all its controls located on the top of the case. From left to right: the ink cartridge change button, the paper feed button and the power button.
The four ink cartridges reside above the print head and move with it when printing. This design is consistent with previous Epson desktop printers but unlike the professional series which has the ink cartridges located away from the print head. The C80 cartridges are fairly small, the black cartridge being twice the size of the other cartridges. The cartridges have IC chips which keep track of ink usage.
The cartridges have to be shaken for a few seconds prior to installation probably to prevent the pigments from settling at the bottom of the cartridges. The ink can be heard sloshing around when the cartridges are shaken indicating that no sponges are used in the cartridges. The cartridges have only a 6 month shelf life, something to keep in mind if you plan to purchase and store spare cartridges.
From left to right: top view, side view and back view
The printer features the feared "pizza wheels", famous for making indelible marks on prints. However, even under close scrutiny, I was unable to find such marks on the prints made with the C80. This is true even with Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper which has a very delicate surface. Either the pressure applied by the wheels or the teeth themselves have been modified so as to be "inoffensive".
The maximum printing width is 8.5".
The C80 is capable of making beautiful archival prints with bright colors. However some fine tuning of the print settings is necessary to achieve satisfying results. My first attempts, using basic print settings (Profile>Printer Color Management and Color Adjustments> Automatic) resulted only in prints which lacked contrast and color saturation.
Here are the settings which produced the best prints on Archival Matte paper:
I started with a file which looked good printed on an Epson 1270 and applied these setting to it. From my tests it seems imperative to select Epson C80 printer as a profile in the printer driver (see screen shot). I also found that I got the best results by selecting Color Management>PhotoEnhance4, Tone>Hard and deselected Effect> Sharpness. Also make sure you deselect High Speed — which if selected causes a grainy print quality; and select Edge Smoothing. Print quality at 2880 dpi is only marginally better than at 1440 dpi and one needs a magnifier to see the difference.
In addition I found that the C80 tends to print with a slight yellow shift. To correct this I applied a slight color balance adjustment in Photoshop by simply adding 10 units of blue.
I also obtained very nice prints on Epson Photo Paper using the same settings. I selected Photo Quality Ink Jet Paper as media since there is no Photo Paper listing.
Finally the same settings also resulted in very nice prints on Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper (PGPP). This is a new formulation of the original PGPP which is supposed not to be subject to the Orange Shift experienced by some users. Since I personally never experienced any orange shift with prints done on PGPP I cannot attest to this problem being fixed.
Printing Black and White Photographs
I only printed in black and white (b&w) on the C80 using "Black ink only" an option which is available in the printer driver. I selected this option to avoid getting a color cast on the prints. I understand that this means I only get 256 shades of gray but for casual black and white printing this worked great plus it saved me time correcting for the inevitable color casts.
I could not see any metamerism on b&w prints done on the C80 with black ink only. Since color prints from the C80 are equally free of metamerism I would say that b&w prints done with all four inks would be free of metamerism as well.
The only drawback to printing b&w on the C80 is that blacks tend to be a little soft when compared to blacks from a dye printer such as the 1270/1280. I could not achieve the same level of contrast as on the 1270/1280. I regularly print b&w photographs with black ink only on the 1270 and I personally prefer the 1270/1280 for b&w printing. However, by increasing the contrast of the image and playing with the color controls in the printer driver, one may be able to obtain satisfying b&w prints from the C80.
Four Inks Vs. Six Inks
One of the main differences between the C80 and the 2000p is that the C80 uses only 4 inks compared to 6 for the 2000p (the 1270/1280 also uses 6 inks but is a dye ink printer while the C80 and 2000p are pigment ink printers). The C80 uses Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black ink cartridges. The two inks missing from the C80 are Light Cyan and Light Magenta,
This reduction from 6 to 4 inks may be one of the reasons why metamerism is absent from prints made on the C80. In other words metamerism may be caused by the Light Cyan or Light Magenta inks used by the 2000p and other printers which use Epson's archival inkset.
Typically Epson has introduced new inks on its desktop line and later introduced the same inks on its professional line. The pigmented inks introduced with the 2000p are now found on the Epson 5500, 7500, 9500 and the Archival version of the Epson 10000. Similarly the Photographic Dye inks introduced on the 1270/1280 are now offered on the Photographic Dye version of the 10000.
The same approach may be used with the new DuraBrite inks used on the C80. In other words we may see a wide format professional Epson printer using DuraBrite inks next summer. The lack of metamerism alone would justify such a move. Combined with the high color fidelity of the C80 a wide format printer using DuraBrite inks would be very attractive.
The C80 finds a niche between the 1270/1280 and the 2000p. Far less expensive than either printers the C80 also offers an archival solution midway between that of the 1270/1280 (25 years on Archival Matte) and of the 2000p (200 years on Archival Matte). Most importantly the C80 offers pigments inks without metamerism a feat which had eluded Epson until now.
My only wish regarding the C80 is for a 12" wide model. Both the 1270/1280 and the 2000p offer 12 inch wide printing and this capability would be nice to have on a C80 type printer as well.
Epson C80 Printer Review Update
I have received numerous emails about my C80 review asking me to expand on various aspects of this printer. Although I have answered many emails personally I thought I would summarize those questions here as they certainly concerns many other users.
The C80 is EpsonÂºs first consumer-grade printer to use pigment-based inks. The 2000p was Epson's first pigment-based ink printer but its $900 price tag is over 5 times more than the C80's $180 price tag.
The C80 should be compared to the 2000P rather than to the 1270/1280 since both C80 and 2000p are pigment-based printers while the 1270/1280 are dye-based printers.
If you can live with the C80's 70 years light fastness and with its 8.5" maximum printing width the C80 is a great deal. The C80 costs only $180 which is a $720 saving when compared to the $900 price tag of the 2000p.
Metamerism is an optical phenomenon which causes certain colors to look different under various light conditions. This has to do with the color of the light source.
Indoor tungsten lights, which comprise the majority of indoor lighting (except for neon tubes) have a warm color meaning they produce a light with a red tint to it. On the other hand sunlight, both direct and indirect (open shade) has a cool color meaning it produce a light with a blue tint to it.
Our eyes automatically adjust for the difference in light color and the result is that to our eyes both light sources seem to produce a neutral color. However when a print is viewed alternatively under those two different lights, under tungsten lighting and in sunlight or open shade the color of the light source affects it.
Most of the time this is not critical and the changes are hardly noticeable. Other times the pigments in the print react strongly to the light source and a noticeable color shift is visible in the print. This phenomenon is called metamerism. Typically prints affected by metamerism will exhibit a green color cast under one type of lighting and a neutral color cast under the other type of lighting. The print may also have a correct color balance in the evening — when the windows are closed and all light is artificial — and a green tint in the daytime — when the lights are off and all light comes from the open sky and the sun.
Again the two main lighting conditions are indoor artificial lighting — tungsten — and natural sunlight or open shade. Viewing a print alternatively under both types of lighting will reveal whether the print is subject to metamerism or not. If a print is to be viewed under one type of light only, say in a room without windows and thus lit only with tungsten lights (such as a gallery for example) you can correct metamerism by adjusting the color balance of your print so that it will looks good under this specific light. However this is not always possible since most of the time rooms are lit by diffused sunlight during daytime and by tungsten lights at nighttime. For this reason metamerism is a severe problem.
Ink usage and ink cartridge size
I received many questions regarding ink usage. Some people were also concerned about the small size of the C80 ink cartridges.
We do have to keep in mind that the C80 is a consumer-grade desktop printer. The ink containers on the C80 are small but there are four of them and the total ink contained in the four cartridges of the C80Âºs most likely the same as in the two cartridges of the 1270 or 2000p.
As far as I can tell ink usage is similar to that of the 1270/1280 or 2000P. That is the C80 does not consume more ink than other printers. The fact that the C80 uses only four inks should make it more economical than the 2000P which uses six inks. Also, keep in mind that you can replace each color individually and that this makes the C80 much more economical than other two-cartridges printers. These two facts makes the cost of prints done on the C80 lower than that of prints done on the 1270 or 2000P.
Typical price of C80 cartridges:
Individual color cartridges, $12 each
All three color cartridges: $36
Black cartridge: $33
Epson C80 Printer Review Update #2
Photo Quality Printer
I received countless emails asking me if the C80 is a photo-quality printer. The answer is a resounding Yes! I did not mention it in my review since it seemed obvious to me (I would not review a non photo-quality printer).
To my knowledge the C80 cannot do borderless printing.
Printing on uncoated stock and plain paper
The C80 excels at printing photographs on plain paper. While my other Epson printers created muddy prints on non-coated papers the C80 gives me bright and attractive images on plain paper or card stock. I occasionally print notecards using my photographs as illustrations and prior to acquiring the C80 I was using an HP printer for that purpose. Now I can do it on the C80 and simplify my life. If you want to print on fine art uncoated papers such as Arches, Somerset Velvet or others you need to take a serious look at the C80.
While photographs printed on plain paper with the 2000p look muted, grainy and have very soft blacks the same photographs printed on the C80 look bright, colorful and exhibit deep blacks. To print on uncoated paper just use the "Plain Paper" setting. If you need to make color or contrast adjustments go to the advanced section of the driver and either use the sliders or the preset options. I try to stay away from the sliders since I have had problems with them and have received reports from other users saying that the sliders are not always working properly.
The C80 is an excellent printer for text and stationery. My other Epson printers either clipped text or printed only part of the page and before the C80 I used an HP printer for letters and PageMaker documents. I also hesitated at using expensive photographic inks for plain text. The C80 has changed my views on this matter. First, I can change individual cartridges as needed and no longer have to worry about ink usage. Second, the text quality of the C80 is outstanding, at least as good as that from my now-retired HP 970. The C80 is also great for PageMaker documents as it respects PageMaker formatting and prints documents as they appears on screen (this is not always the case with printers designed primarily for photographic output). The C80 is also very fast at printing text its speed being due in part to its rapid paper feeding mechanism and in part to its 180 black ink nozzles.
The C80 accurately monitors the ink level of each individual cartridge. Previous Epson printers, such as the 1270/1280 and 2000p, showed the level of the lowest ink in the color cartridge (the black cartridge was monitored separately) and made all 5 colors look as if they were at the same level. Certainly there was no need to know how low each color was since all 5 had to be replaced at once. However this approach was misleading since it made it look like all 5 colors were being used up at the same rate.
A review of Epson ColorLife paper by Alain Briot is also available.
This is one of a regular series of exclusive articles by Alain Briot called Briot's View