For many enthusiast photographers Epson's Stylus Photo R2880 is the printer they use, or aspire to using. Though it produces excellent prints, it suffers from two often cited problems, both of which the new R3000 addresses.
The first of these is that although the R2880 is capable of using nine inks, it only has eight cartridge bays and the Matte Black and Photo Black ink tanks are interchangeable. This means that if you switch from printing on glossy media to matte, you must remember to swap the ink cartridges. It's not difficult or messy, just a pain having to remember.
Epson's new R3000 has nine cartridge bays to accept the Matte black, Photo Black, Light Black, Light Light Black, Cyan, Light Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Vivid Light Magenta and Photo Yellow tanks and it switches between the Matte and Photo Black inks as required. Just as the print media is selected via the print driver, the user can tell the R3000 whether to use the Matte or Photo Blacks.
We were originally told by Epson UK that the R3000 has 9 ink channels, one for each cartridge. This would mean that printer doesn't have to purge and recharge the black ink lines when swapping between the Matte and Photo Blacks.
However, the full specification of the R3000 has subsequently been released and mentions the ink usage when swapping between the Matte and Photo Black inks (approximately 3 ml when switching from Matte to Photo Black and 1ml when swapping from Photo to Matte Black) suggesting that they share a channel. I have checked this with Epson UK and it has confirmed that, like the R2880, the R3000 actually has 8 ink channels.
Another issue with the R2880 is part of a wider concern about the cost of inks. A cartridge capacity of just 11.4ml can also mean that keen A3+ printers are also likely to become anxious about the frequency with which the cartridges need replacing.
Epson has addressed this with the R3000 by fitting it with cartridges that contain 2.27x more ink, 25.9ml. As well as reducing the frequency with which the cartridges have to be replaced this allows some economy of scale. The list price of compatible cartridges is £24.35 (inc VAT) each, which means a complete set of nine cartridges will cost users £219.15.
As each R3000 cartridge contains 25.9ml of ink, a unit cost of £24.35 means that every millilitre of ink cost around 94 pence. This compares with 97 pence per millilitre for the R2880's ink which is supplied in cartridges with a volume of 11.4ml.
Some users may be disappointed that increasing the ink volume by 2.27x only reduces the ink cost per millimetre by 3 pence - though wastage is reduced as one cartridge is used for every 2.27 of in the R2880.
The Stylus Photo R3000 is set to retail for £699.99.