Epson Stylus Photo R3000 review

Compact A3 printer for high-quality prints with nine inks
Photo of Epson Stylus Photo R3000
£669.99

Apart from its size, the big thing about the Epson Stylus Photo R3000 is its nine-ink UltraChrome K3 inkset. These mid-size cartridges (25.9ml capacity) include three densities of black ink that will appeal to photographers and graphic artists who want accurate full-colour or greyscale A3 printing. With the ability to print photos on a range of paper stock, large and small, and cope with regular text, the WiFi-enabled Epson – which has a maximum resolution of 5760x1440dpi – is compatible with both PC and Mac computers.

Design
While it’s still a black box, the R3000 isn’t as ugly as it could be. Some fake brushed’ effects on the casing aside, it’s a fairly utilitarian: a traditional yet streamlined design that sees a top-loading feed at the back and an output tray at the bottom.
It can accept photo paper up to A3 size (and other papers up to 1.3mm in thickness), either as single sheets or as rolls (holders are provided in the box) up to 44 inches long. A sliding guide is present to help it handle smaller sizes. In practice, the slider isn’t actually needed: the mechanism that steadies then draws in paper of all sizes is exceptionally accurate. The R3000 didn’t jam once in our tests despite being fed some pretty ropey old paper.

As well as being used for output, that tray on the front is also able to support a CD/DVD tray for direct printing, and acts as a feeder for individual sheets of art paper, enabling users to to bypass the top section altogether.

At the left-hand side of the unit is a control panel featuring a 2.5in LCD screen that’s in colour, which proves handy for monitoring ink levels – something the R3000 constantly checks.

The R3000′s printer drivers and software are also reasonably easy to use, with customised settings possible as well as ICC profiling, though we were mostly happy with presets.

Connecting the printer to our home wireless network also proved fuss-free, though Ethernet LAN is also provided, as is USB for direct connection to a PC or Mac.

Performance
We tried the R3000 out with various tasks and papers, and were mostly very pleased with the results.
A full-colour shot on both traditional and premium glossy A3 photo paper in ‘super high quality’ mode was produced in 9min 15s (this came down to seven minutes at high quality), with the latter the most impressive.

Detail is decent, colour exceptional with accurate saturations, though there was some discolouration at the very top edge when we printed full-page. A selection of full-colour, whole page A4 shots also featured some yellow discolouration 2-3mm in from the top of each photo, which required cropping.

Two quick (1min 35s) arty prints on some Cold Press Bright paper helped demonstrate the difference in blacks the R3000 can produce. Both took just over a minute and a half. Photo Black ink won the day by achieving much greater contrast and colour depth throughout, while the Matt Black ink image looked a little washed out.

Both test images included a bloke in a black suit, which the matt black managed to produce more evenly – the photo black image held more visible lines and a blue-tinged look to the top half of the uniformly black clothing.

Black and white images printed using the ‘Advanced Black & White’ mode (a full-page A4 picture took 4min 10s) boast excellent contrast and shadow detail, particularly using the neutral’ preset, though there is some room for improvement here. The R3000 intelligently chooses between Photo and Matt black, as well as ‘Light’ and Light Light’ black to produce stunning prints. Manual fine-tuning of tones is also possible.

Running costs
Although the R3000 does a sterling job at monitoring ink levels, it did falter when we changed a cartridge; it reminded us to replace it several more times before sensing the new supply had been installed. Its excellent results using black inks also come at a cost.

Although otherwise a silent operator, the R3000 does make a racket when it needs to change between black inks; an audible flush’ takes place for around three or four seconds post-print, which also wastes some ink; there may be nine inks, but there are just eight channels.
Inks in the UltraChrome K3 inkset (which comprises Matt Black, Photo Black, Light Black, Light Light Black, Cyan, Light Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Vivid Light Magenta and Photo Yellow) cost £23.98 each, so a full set will cost you a whopping £215.82 (including VAT). It took around 30 colour A3, 10 B&W A3 and 10 A4 colour shots before the first cartridges ran dry.

Company: Epson

Contact: 0871 4237766

Positives
  • Good quality colour prints up to A3 size; Wi-Fi option is welcome.
Negative
  • Nine inks make running costs expensive.

Verdict

The R3000's nine pigments will be welcomed by some, and detested by others. Although the shared feed between Photo Black and Matt Black does appear a bit of a botch job - particularly given the need to flush the system between uses - it's a nice option to have all nine, though it does make this an expensive printer to feed. At least the size of the cartridges is reasonably large, while the option of WiFi connection is rare in this class of printer. At its core this is very good - and reasonably versatile - colour printer with exceptional black and white images, though only well-heeled users who want high-grade A3 prints need apply.