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Buy an Epson R1900 or Epson R2880?

Epson offers two 13" wide pigment inkjet printers and the question comes up often on discussion forums and from Red River customers: "Which one is best for my needs?"

They are definitely great printers with different attributes. It is important for you to diagnose your situation and then use what you find to buy the right printer. Here's a little help on that journey.

To start it is important to get one thing straight about these printers. They are designed to make long lasting photography. 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. Don't need that function? Don't care how long your prints will last? You might be better off with another dye based printer.

So if you decide you need long lasting prints, think about what you print most. Is it people, wildlife, landscapes, or other things? Now, think about what kind of paper you like to use most often. It's OK if you use other paper types, but be honest with yourself about what you prefer: glossy, matte, or watercolor papers? Next, do you primarily print color or black & white?

Taking these answers, check out the chart below for our suggestion of which printer to buy.

Epson R1900

Subject - all photographic subjects especially people, commercial subjects, and brilliant color work

Optimized for (in order of importance):


Will work with other types of paper

Recommended for:

Brilliant color printing. The R1900 features orange and red "spiker" colors that expand its color gamut close to what dye ink printers can achieve.

This printer features a "gloss optimizer" tank. It is a clear coat that is activated (optional) with glossy and satin papers. The gloss does two things - It fills in the highlights and flattens the darks (which can be problem areas for pigment inks). It also slightly deepens blacks and color for a more saturated look. It does not offer extension of print life.

Epson R2880

Subject - all photographic subjects, especially portrait and art photography

Optimized for (in order of importance):

Watercolor/Artistic Papers

Will work with other types of paper

Recommended for:

Black & white photo printing. True to life color reproductions, especially for art photography. The R2880's color pallet includes light magenta and light cyan. Unlike the super saturated colors of the R1900 (think Velvia prints), this printer is more "realistic" and hence good for portrait or art type printing.

With no gloss optimizer, the K3 inks do show some gloss differential and dark area buildup, particularily on glossy papers. Use of luster or a satin surface will help to a great degree. For users are more particular about their output, or those that tend to inspect their prints closely (holding them at angles to the light, may be cause for distress.

Potential problems that will crop up with both printers

For portfolio work, both printers offer great photo reproductions. The R1900 is certainly more vibrant in many respects than the R2880. However, the pigment inks in both printers offer a potential roadblock for portfolio printing: ink rub off.

Ink ruboff can occur between pages in a portfolio if the book is handled often or your photography contains primarily dark colors. These inks do not sink fully into the page, leaving a light dried residue on the surface. This residue can offset to fingers and other sheets in the book. We have seen this problem on many different paper stocks from various manufacturers.

To avoid the problem totally, we recommend portfolio printing with dye ink printers. Why make a portfolio that will last 50 years when you will replace it in one or two?

Bottom Line Recommendation

If you print primarily color on glossy and satin, buy an R1900. If black and white is at all important, you should seriously consider an R2880. Also for fine art work, portraiture, and printing on matte and cotton papers, the R2880 excells. If you can swing it, buy them both! It's still cheaper than a one good lens.

This suggestion is of course, our opinion based on using these machines with a wide variety of inkjet papers. Your experience may differ.

Continue to our selection of papers for the R2880 and R1900