A Little Background
I’ve used Epson printers exclusively for many years. Some years back I reviewed the Stylus Photo R2880—an early predecessor to the new P600 in the 13x19-inch printer arena. And I fell in love with that printer. One of the things lacking, however, was wireless capability.
Both the R2880 and P600 are 9-ink cartridge systems, with one substantial difference—well, actually more than one, as you’ll soon see. The one particular feature that annoyed me when I worked with the R2880 was that I had to exchange ink cartridges – matte in place of photo black, or the other way around – when using matte or glossy paper, respectively. To top it off, I couldn’t feel assured that the removed cartridge would remain viable for long, despite being stored inside two zipped baggies.
Well, the new SureColor P600 remedies both situations. It features wireless connectivity. So now I don’t have to feel claustrophobic with a large desktop printer fencing me in or have to deal with tripping over overly long USB cables when the printer was positioned some distance away (or having to plug/unplug the cable each time I used the printer to get around that problem).
What’s more, this printer employs both matte and photo black inks as part of the 9-ink system—without you having to physically swap them out. Meaning, they both reside inside the printer, ready to go when called upon.
And there are of course numerous other improvements, not least of which is the new and improved ink set - Epson UltraChrome HD (it seems everyone likes to get in on the “HD” craze these days).
Features at a Glance
- Advanced media handling up to 13 inches wide – front-in and front-out paper path; print with a wide variety of media, including fine art papers; roll-paper printing for panoramas over 10 feet long (roll-paper holders included)
- New ink set with denser blacks – Epson UltraChrome HD pigment ink delivers black density richer than previous Epson pigment ink printers for the richest blacks
- Greater productivity with high-capacity cartridges – nine 25.9 ml pigment ink cartridges with auto-switching photo and matte black inks
- Versatility – prints on canvas, art boards, and CD/DVDs
- Intuitive interface – easy-to-use 2.7-inch tilting touch panel color LCD
- Optimized dot placement – for more precise dot placement and enhanced image quality
- Professional control – Advanced Black-and-White Mode for professional level neutral or toned B&W prints
- Enhanced connectivity – Apple AirPrint and Google Cloud Print support; USB 2.0; Wireless n, Wi-Fi Direct, and 100Mbit Ethernet
What’s Special About the P600
First, it’s sleekly styled yet unassuming in design, with functionality standing at the forefront. The very inviting interface consists of a control panel with three buttons and touch panel, making the P600 even less intimidating to first-time wide-format printer users than the R2880.
Second, it’s fairly easy to set up and use right out of the box. You don’t really have to know anything about inkjet printing to get started right away, although it does help to have an understanding of how to get prints to look the way you want them to. Everything went smoothly, from unboxing to setup and making my first print.
Third, the P600 features an Advanced Micro Piezo AMC print head with ink-repelling coating technology incorporated in the new ink set. The nozzles lay down ink with a minimum droplet size of 2 picoliters (compared with 3 picoliters on the R2880). And I can’t emphasize it enough: You no longer need to switch out photo and matte black – the printer automatically selects the correct ink (based on paper settings). You have to see the results for yourself to fully appreciate all of this.
Setting up the printer was a breeze. The toughest part probably was removing all the packing tape. Just follow the instruction sheet and you should be fine.
Ditto installing the print cartridges.
Except one thing: when inserting a cartridge, make sure you hear it snap into place. I initially installed them just short of that when I realized my mistake—it takes a bit more pressure to get the cartridge to go down all the way—click! Oh, and be sure to shake each cartridge (gently, you’re not on the dance floor) and be super-diligent to remove the yellow tape (hard to miss when it’s practically staring you in the face).
One more thing, if you’re new to inkjet printing, especially on Epson, be careful to not touch the green chip on each cartridge. That chip is how the printer communicates with the cartridge, and vice versa.
When setting up, once you plug in and turn the printer on, don’t leave it idle too long, or the display will black out. If and when that happens, don’t touch the screen if you haven’t completed the setup process. I made that mistake and ended up choosing German as my language. With a little backtracking, I managed to correct the error. Henceforward I learned to simply hit the power button to turn the display back on.
It does take the printer a few minutes to initialize for the first time, which includes charging the print head. But once that was done, I was ready to print.
I can’t emphasize enough how effortless the process of printing was with the P600, at least when using auto sheet feed. That is, once I made one or two adjustments.
There were a few critical settings that I had to make in Lightroom and in the Epson printer software before printing: namely, setting paper type and size and setting Epson color management (managed by printer, not Adobe Lightroom, the software I used for printing). Using Epson color management follows Epson’s recommendation, and I have to say it was on the money. I was especially pleased with prints that featured good color depth, rich colors, and clean blacks and whites. There was no need to soft-proof when following this approach. (Some may argue with this.)
Printing on Fine-Art Paper: Manual Feed
This is where things can get a bit tricky. Nothing bad, only somewhat circuitous. Be sure to follow the instructions to the letter. The most prevalent problem I encountered was with the paper being fed askew (ever so slightly, I might add). I figured out a workaround: I place a finger along the edge of the paper to make sure it lies flush against the right side—with very gentle pressure, releasing as the paper starts to feed. (Manual feed is actually semi-automatic: once you’ve positioned the paper and directed the printer to move to the next step, the process once again becomes fully automatic.)
Once the paper is ready at the printer’s end, you can return to the computer and click Print (or make your settings, if you hadn’t already done so).
Don’t be intimidated. On-screen prompts (on the printer, not the computer) guide you step by step. Just be sure to position the paper with the print side up. If you get an error message after you hit Print on your computer, retrace your steps. In your software, make sure you’ve set the correct paper type, set “Matte” (where applicable), and set the applicable color management (for Epson papers, I used “Managed by Printer”). There was no need for Print Adjustment. Again, I’m using Lightroom CC for my printing.
Manual feed works with fine art media with a thickness ranging from 0.012 to 0.028 in. (0.3 to 0.7mm). Unfortunately, paper thickness on the package is given in “mil.” (Equivalent values in “mm” are given below.)
Epson sent a generous selection of papers, mostly letter-size, but also one 13x19 pack. A fellow photographer that I showed sample prints to was duly impressed by the output.
My recommendation is to limit switching back and forth between papers requiring different black inks. More to the point, gang all jobs that use either photo or matte black ink together, where possible. As it turns out, you waste considerable ink in the process, as Jon Canfield pointed out in his review of the larger Epson SureColor P800 on shutterbug.com. This would, of course, apply to any papers, regardless of manufacturer. By the way, the P800 would be a good desktop choice in a 17-inch printer if you don’t want to step all the way up to a floor-standing model but still want larger prints that the P600 can deliver.
The papers I tested, and which produced truly admirable and striking results, included the following. But what it really comes down to is this: You have to try each of these (and the other available Epson papers) for yourself. Choice of paper is always personal, although end use and subject may dictate or at least influence those choices.
Epson Photographic Papers (papers tested with photo black and auto-sheet feeder). Sheet size tested shown.
PERSONAL OBSERVATION: a good choice for everyday printing, although, of the three listed, I tend to favor the metallic media for their added depth.
- Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster (letter-size & 13x19). 10 mil (= 0.254mm). USAGE NOTE: a more economical, all-around paper – really handy, especially if you’re handing out free or sample prints.
- Metallic Photo Paper Luster (letter-size). 10.5 mil (= 0.2667mm). USAGE NOTE: according to the guidelines that came with this paper, it should use the manual feed slot, although I had no problem using the auto-feeder. I like the look and feel of these metallic papers. It’s different.
- Metallic Photo Paper Glossy (letter-size). 10.5 mil (= 0.2667mm). USAGE NOTE: according to the guidelines that came with this paper, it should use the manual feed slot, although I had no problem using the auto-feeder. Choose Glossy if you prefer a slicker look.
Epson Fine Art Papers (papers tested with matte black and manual sheet feed). All tested papers were letter-size.
PERSONAL OBSERVATION: I love these papers! I don’t know why anyone would use papers from another manufacturer, especially given the fact that, in combination with the P600, prints come out deliciously rich without soft-proofing or profiling.
- Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured (letter-size). 22 mil (= 0.5588). USAGE NOTE: you can fairly easily detect the printable side. It has a rough feel to it. The prints have a soft, painterly quality, but with a certain richness to them.
- Velvet Fine Art Paper (letter-size). 19 mil (= 0.4826). USAGE NOTE: I don’t know why Epson clearly labels some print packages as the printable side and not others. In this case, much more so than the watercolor paper, it’s difficult to discern the printable side – even by touch. When I have difficulty, I hold my papers up to the light at an angle to see which side looks more heavily textured – look for an embossed (stippled/dimpled) look. If that doesn’t work, a neat trick is to very mildly dampen thumb and index finger (saliva will do – apply to one finger then gently rub fingers together); next, hold the paper between these two fingers, pressing firmly, on one corner (supporting the rest of the sheet so it doesn’t bend). Whichever side really sticks – that’s the printable side. However, if you print full-bleed (borderless), this may mar the print in that corner, so proceed with caution. This is my favorite paper of those tested for this review. Prints have a tactile quality and beautiful depth, yet easily hold their crisp clarity.
- Hot Press Bright (letter-size). 18 mil (= 0.4572). USAGE NOTE: even though the package label identifies the printable side, both sides are printable (from information gleaned from other Epson websites). On the P600, select the option Ultrasmooth Fine Art paper.
You can find more information on Epson professional imaging media by clicking here.
Epson also sent a couple of roll papers, but I didn’t have any panoramas that I felt worthy of using that much ink. When I do, I’ll update this review. (One of these rolls is canvas, and previous experience has taught me to be careful when using this substrate, to prevent clogging of print heads. So, even though it’s possible to simply print standard print sizes and manually cut as needed, I’m opting not to go this route.)
The Epson SureColor P600 is a great choice, whether you’re stepping up from a letter-size or all-in-one printer or updating your current wide-format workflow. It’s easy to use, and, in combination with Epson papers, delivers output of outstanding quality.
I should point out that Advanced Black-and-White Mode was particularly beneficial and rewarding for monochrome printing. (This setting is found under Printer Settings/Print Mode under Print Settings.) You have a choice of neutral, cool, warm, or sepia.
If you’re looking to treat yourself this holiday season or to treat that special photographer in your life for the holidays, this 13x19 printer would be a solid and affordable investment. Keep that small printer for the daily grind and dedicate this printer to producing meaningful, archival, artistic prints you and others will appreciate and treasure for years to come.
Want a Less Expensive Large-Format Experience?
Give the Epson SureColor P400 a try. This machine is not quite on the same level as the P600, but it’s an easier-to-use starter printer for large format (13x19 in.) and may be more economical overall. It’s still a big step up from letter-size printers (in terms of overall quality) and an even bigger step up from all-in-ones, especially for those of you who only print occasionally but still want top-quality output. I haven’t tested this one so I can’t compare. As for myself, I’ll stick with the P600.
For more information, click here.
SureColor P600: What’s Cool…
…And What’s Not
SureColor P600: Best Use
Where can I get more info?
Epson’s website (click here for the P600 page).
How much is it?
Direct: $799.99 ($549.99 after $250 mail-in rebate) (On back-order at this time at B&H
and at Adorama.)
Ultachrome HD Ink for the P600:
$31.99 per cartridge (you may be able to save by buying all 9 cartridges in one kit)
What’s in the Box