Monday, October 08, 2007

Epson 1400 Review

From time to time I use the front page space on this site to create a review or comparison of some of the equipment I use. Because there are many excellent reviews already out there, I try, as much as possible, not to reproduce a test I can find somewhere else.

Recently I purchased an Epson 1400 printer to get back in the inkjet game at some level and to be able to print enlargements up to 13 inches wide. My local Staples was carrying them on a sale and with an Epson rebate. So I picked up the printer and some paper from Staples and I was in inkjet-printing-business.

A couple of years ago I bought an Epson RX500 so I already had a basic familiarity with Epson's print drivers etc. The 1400 was very similar--in fact, the color management profile that worked for me with the RX500 is the same one what works with the 1400. In the advanced setting I chose the "Standard" rather than the "Vivid" settings and disabled the high-speed printing and the edge smoothing; then set for the paper size and finish. This combination delivers very consistent results and produces an image that is a very close match to what is on my screen, although with a wider color gamut. The prints were very pleasing on all different kinds of paper. The 1400 will also print on printable CDs and the results there were also very nice.

In fact, the quality of the prints surprised me. When I compared the photos side by side with those printed by a reputable photo-lab chain, I, and everyone I asked, chose the photo from the 1400.

Here's a side by side comparison of the photos I was showing people. The difference was even more dramatic in person.


Here's another photo to give you an idea of how it showed up in other photos as well. The difference were not as dramatic in every example, but the Epson prints consistently exhibited a broader dynamic range with brighter colors, deeper blacks, and better transitions. The detail in dark areas of the photos was also dramatically improved over the lab prints.

Initially I was thinking I would get a CIS (Continuous Ink System) for the 1400 to reduce print cost and just do lots of cool enlargements on the cheap. However, after looking at the print quality and realizing that these were not just prints I could do at home that would be close to lab prints--rather they were going to be better and preferable to lab prints, I realized that I needed to look for quality ink to put in a CIS, if I was going that route. I did find a number of 3rd party manufacturers who sold compatible ink, but in each case they were careful to clarify that their inks were not rated to perform like Epson's "Claria" inks (which the 1400 uses) when it comes to print durability and lightfastness. I even talked to a representative of one of the more reputable third party ink companies and he said he had tested Claria ink and his hat was off to Epson for the good job they did with this new ink. The bottom line: there are no third party inks out there that will produce durable longlasting prints--Epson's dye based Claria inks are in their own league.

So, as you may have guessed, I'm sticking with the Epson Ink for now. But what about that lightfastness and durability? Claria Ink is tested and rated to last between 50-100 years on display and up to 200 years in an album without significant fading. It's water, smudge, and smear resistant and, as I already mentioned, looks great. The downside? You guessed it, it's very expensive. $19.95 x 6 (for each color) from my Staples. And so, of course, you want to know how long these cartridges will last. Epson doesn't supply any kind of estimate, that I've been able to find, and neither do any other reviews that I've seen. Here's my best estimate of what I printed before all the print cartridges had to be replaced.

[Clarifying comment: All the prints below (not just one line) are included in one whole set of ink cartriges]

80+ borderless 4x6
30+ borderless 5x7
15+/- 8x10 or 8.5x11 borderless
3 exactly 11x14
2 exactly 13x19 borderless prints.

All prints were made at the highest quality setting with the the high speed printing and edge smoothing off. Prints were made on matte, gloss, and semigloss photo paper. I only had to clean the nozzles once. I think the cost of printing almost keeps up with taking your prints to a lab when you are doing the smaller sizes, and enlargements should be a better deal than at the lab.

So Epson has served us up another new printer with new technology and so far we might just say, "so what else is new?" The big news here, for me, is the clear performance advantage that this printer offers even over a photo-lab. And because it is a dye ink that has been specially engineered to last, we can have every expectation that the Claria prints will not only look better today, but should continue to look better for many years to come. The only problem is, this means I have to make my own prints.... at least for customers who want premium quality and longevity.

****Comment Disclaimer****
The more I look at the example photos the more dissatisfied I am with them. I may try get some better examples here if I can get the time. PR

Review Update Posted 5/20/2008

15 comments:

d_jgreene said...

Can you provide the print settings you like best? Do you use photoshop? I have a slight magenta cast to some of my prints.

Thanks

clayhaus said...

Thank you for your review of the 1400. I need to move from my long-suffering and now-ailing 1280 to another Epson and am considering the 1400. I want to be clear that I understood your ink statement: 2 13x19 prints exhausted all of your cartridges? I know the cartridges are small but at that rate I would be burning through them at a fierce pace.

clayhaus said...

Okay...now i've read the rest of the thread on the DPReview site and am feeling better about the 1400 and it's ink use.

Peter said...

I need to re-read and edit that section, clearly. And I do have some better pictures I can add now, I just need to do it. No, not just 2 13x19's but the whole bunch of prints listed. And, of course, the inks don't run out uniformly. The light cyan and magenta were the first that needed replacing. Basically I printed all those photos before all the cartridges were replaced. They all ran out within a day or so of each other since I was printing a rather large order for customers.

After more than one person was confused I'll review my language there.

Peter said...

I am rather unsophisticated in my color settings--but hey, it's working so far. I go into the advanced settings in the print driver and make sure I use the "color controls" in the upper right hand corner and choose, "Epson Standard" from the drop down menu to below and leave the gamma at 1.8.

I turn off high speed printing and edge smoothing. That's about it.

I will add this caveat--I am red-green colorblind. That means I am sensitive to somethings that most people don't see, but it also means I'm not a good person to be picking out magenta color casts. Which does mean I rely heavily on other people to give me a final word on the colors of a print--so far they are all passing.

Also, I'm currently using PSPX2--couldn't quite bring myself to fork over the $ for PS.

robin said...

hi, I just brought a 1400...I am confused...I thought you could help...I went to epson and downloaded the updates printer drivers...but when I go back into PS they are not in the drop down menu for the profiles....the 1400 shows up as a printer choice and I have printed a few 12x12's but the color is very dark and not like the monitor....i am disappointed and I would think that my driver should say something like Epson....something...am I right?

Peter said...

Hi, Robin.

First, let me just say that I am not your most sophisticated user, especially when it comes to colors. I'm colorblind, in fact, so while I do have definite opinions about color I do run my final products by someone (my wife, usually) who is not color blind.

As far as getting reliable results, each setup will be different so I'm afraid I can't tell you what exactly will work for you. I did about 6-8 prints to figure out what worked for me and I've outlined the setup in other responses. If you have specific questions about that just let me know. I'm not using a custom profile. I just used the standard Epson Print Driver and adjusted the settings until I found a combination that was close to what I saw on the screen--close to what I liked. There will always be differences between you screen and your print.

A couple of ideas for your particular situation.

1. Try changing the color settings in advanced. "Epson Vivid" is default, and certainly didn't work for me. Colors look dark and too contrasty. "Epson Standard" works well for me.
2. Since you are talking about a brightness problem specifically you can also change the brightness settings in your advanced settings. The gamma settings are what I would try first. I know they have specifically to do with brightness and monitor calibration, but I don't remember the specifics off hand. I'm sure the information is out there. Anyhow, the simplest plan might just be to try a print with each of these settings.
3. So far I've suggested fiddling with your printer settings, however, I know that many authorities suggest monitor calibration first. I haven't needed to do this yet, and of course the whole process is complicated by my colorblindness, so I'm letting that sleeping dog lie. For someone who can see properly, however, this might be the best thing to do first.

Finally, I have actually had my first printer switched out with Epson under warranty since I first wrote the review. There was a strange discolored band at the top of borderless prints. The warranty coverage is pretty good, and there is some chance you've got a bad unit. If the first few tries don't solve your problem, I recommend calling Epson.

Patrick Matte said...

I just bought a 1400 and I'm very happy with it. I was Googling for third-party ink when I found your article.

Maybe I'll stick with genuine Epson "Claria" inks. I'll just try to find where I can get the cheapest ones in Canada.

Thanks.

TomB said...

Possibly I can help. Several times when I have run into prints way too dark and saturated, it has invariably been a case of double profiling. This means that the photo program is told to manage the color to print, and the printer also tries to manage the color. You always get prints which are too dark and saturated. If you have Photoshop or Adobe Elements, and if you tell the program to manage the printer colors, then on the printer driver screen, the color management has to be turned off, not 'normal', 'vivid'. Try it and see and let me know.

Tom said...

I love my new 1400. Had trouble with dark and no contrast. I've figured out the correction in print settings but, I want to save a profile so I don't have to manually set color every time. How do I save a print profile?

Tom said...

I love my new 1400. Had trouble with dark and no contrast. I've figured out the correction in print settings but, I want to save a profile so I don't have to manually set color every time. How do I save a print profile?

Harris Benjamin said...

Everyone's comments are very interesting, I have owned my 1400 since early 2009. I have only ever enjoyed great print quality. I am photographer and consequently only use original inks to maintain quality, especially for repeat prints. I use photoshop and quite often I have to slightly lighten images on screen, probably a monitor problem. As far as usage is concerned, that's a difficult one to measure, perhaps that's a chellenge Epson needs to address. However if your prints earn good money then the cost really is not that significant. I have earned up GB£75 per panorama GB£45 for A3, so no worries there. It's an acceptable business cost.

Hi said...

Hi,

Thank you for your input. I am an artist and photographer and I just invested in a 1400 and am a novice. I am using cheap paper until I see the results I want but I am wondering if that is the reason I get blurry photos....

Harris Benjamin said...

Occasionally when I print off articles from web sites, I just use ordinary paper 80 or 90gm, and any included images never reproduce properly as cheaper paper will always bleed and is not made to reproduce images to any acceptable level, unless it is a hard coated paper. If you are exhibiting or presenting any images it would obviously be best to use quality papers. I mainly use semi gloss/satin which work exceptionally well with the 1400.
I use gloss from time to time, but prefer the depth of colour produced on semi gloss or satin, matt and various art papers are also excellent.

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