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Both printers are designed to make long lasting photographic quality prints. You can use them for all sorts of projects, but keep in mind that they are primarily good at printing photos that will last many decades.
The two machines are quite similar in terms of technology and print quality capability. The R2000 and R3000 both use the versions of the Epson UltraChrome pigment ink system to reproduce a wide color gamut on many different types of paper. Pigment ink is designed to resist fade for long periods of time - usually well in excess of what the traditional photo lab can offer. Both printers are 13" wide and are capable of using rolls and long sheets of paper. Both can print borderless and can use custom paper sizes.
The meaningful differences bewteen the printers are the ink color palette and resulting output, media optimization, black & white capability and black ink switching.
Ink Color Palette and Resulting Output Differences
While both machines use the standard cyan, yellow, magenta, and black inks, they use different "spiker colors" to fill in and round out the color gamut.
The Epson R2000 seems focused on more brilliant and punchy color. This makes sense as it is optimized for glossy and satin/luster papers. The red and orange inks help push color saturation. If you were a film shooter you can think of it in terms of the Velvia look. If prints come out a little too punchy for your tastes the fix is as simple as a little desaturation in Photoshop.
The Epson R3000 uses light cyan and vivid light magenta as its two fill in photo colors. The result is more subtle "real world" hues and tones. You might think of the R3000 as developed more for the portrait and fine art printing market. With some work in Photoshop you can certainly ramp up the saturation of prints if the punchy look is desired.
Let's get this out of the way quickly - both machines are perfectly capable of using all types of photo inkjet paper. That being said, the R2000's Gloss Optimizer cartridge is used to improve print quality on glossy and satin/luster media. The optimizer coats the entire image (or sheet if desired). The result being that gloss differential and bronzing are prevented. The Epson R3000 works well on these same papers, but in some cases the differential and bronzing may still be present, especially when using high gloss media.
As far as matte and fine art papers are concerned, both the R2000 and R3000 perform well.
Black & White Capability
The Epson R3000 offers the Advanced Black & White (ABW) system, which mixes three black inks (Photo or Matte Black, Light Black, and Light Light Black) to create neutral grayscale images. You can also use the ABW controls to add tonality to your prints. Having the extra two black inks allows for smoother mid-tones and transitions from light to dark areas of an image.
The Epson R2000 can print grayscale either via a B&W converted image printed under color management, or by choosing the grayscale option in the printer driver. What you need to know is that with the R2000, black & white is not a feature specifically factored into its design. Consequently, you cannot be positive each image will come out with neutral tonality if that is your intent. You can add a level of certainty by toning your image before printing. By adding some hint of color (duo-tone or tri-tone in Photoshop), you give the printer a much better chance of matching your intended look.
Black Ink Switching
Both the R2000 and R3000 have Photo Black (PK)and Matte Black (MK) inks on board at all times. Photo Black is used for glossy, luster, satin, and semigloss papers. Matte Black is used for matte and most cotton fine art media.
The Epson R3000 performs an ink switching procedure when you go from a media type that requires PK, to one that works with MK. The switch is automatic (once you give the OK) and takes about two minutes. In the process ink is purged from the lines and replaced with the black ink needed. From the Epson.com website:
Black ink conversion times
In contrast, the R2000 keeps both PK and MK inks "at the ready". This means that you can print on glossy paper, then switch directly to a matte paper with no down time or line purge. We consider this a more convenient design and think it would be an awesome idea for any future multi-black ink Epson printers.
Cost of Operation
The Epson R2000 and R3000 have been subjected to Red River's "true cost of printing" analysis. The reports addresse concerns and arguments about the true cost of ink in desktop photo printing. Using the Epson Stylus R2000 and R3000, we conducted a series of print tests to determine how much ink is used in a full coverage 8”x10” print. From that figure we extrapolated ink usage per square inch. The objective is to share a realistic cost per print vision with inkjet users. The choice to pursue photo inkjet printing is in the end an individual economic choice.
As you can see below, the Epson R2000 costs less per print to operate than the Epson R3000. We do not consider the difference all too significant given how the benefits, convenience, and quality you get from either machine.
These charts show the cost of ink used in making prints:
You can read more and see full details of each test here.
Bottom Line Recommendation
So our take on which printer to choose boils down to:
Either printer is a good option in our opinion. Good luck and happy printing!
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