The medium format pro and semi-pro photo print markets are surprisingly well catered for, with machines from Canon and HP. The leaders in the field are Epson, though, and the Stylus Photo R1900, a replacement for the very popular Stylus Photo R1800, needs to be a class act.
Very few medium and wide carriage printers are what you’d call beautiful, but Epson has tried to keep things simple with a few well-chosen curves in the R1900’s elongated body. In an attempt to keep the overall footprint of the machine down, both the feed and output trays are heavily telescoped in three sections. If you only occasionally print on papers up to A3+, the maximum the printer supports, you can reduce the telescoping and with it the size of the printer.
As well as a standard feed tray at the rear, which can take up to 120-sheets of plain paper and rather less glossy photo paper, there's a separate tray at a smaller angle for single-sheet feed of long grain artistic papers. You can also fit the supplied roll paper holders, if print throughput is high.
Controls are notoriously simple, almost as if Epson believes photographers get easily confused. It consists of four buttons, for paper feed, cartridge replacement and roll paper cut off, and three LED indicators.
There are no memory card slots on the machine, which we have always thought was a shortcoming. While most photographers will probably choose to connect the camera via PictBridge, for which there is a socket, having the option of plugging in a CompactFlash or SD card would surely be a benefit.
This machine has a strange set of inks, though they turn out to be a sensible mix when you consider what the printer will be used for. As well as the obvious CMYK set for basic colour print, Epson has augmented it with both red and orange inks, particularly useful to improve flesh tones in portraiture.
It has then added a clear gloss coat, giving printed photos both extra protection and ensuring a bright, shiny finish. Finally, it adds in a matte black ink for printing your invoices on plain paper. Altogether, a tailored set of inks, aimed specifically at the market that Epson has highlighted for the Stylus Photo R1900.
All the ink cartridges plug directly into the piezo-electric print head and the support software includes an ink monitor, as well as the driver itself, available for both Windows and OS X. With so many inks to keep in stock, this utility is particularly useful.