This printer is intended primarily for printing photos at the semi-professional and even professional levels, so plain paper print is very definitely a secondary function. Epson doesn't even quote print speeds for black or colour plain paper print. Printing our five-page black text document took two minutes, 17 seconds and the black text and colour graphics took two minutes, 45 seconds, giving real-world print speeds of 2.2ppm and a 1.8ppm, respectively. These are both pretty slow.
A 15 x 10cm photo print from a PC in high-quality mode took one minute, 45 seconds, which is more respectable and in normal print mode, printing from a PictBridge camera, the Stylus Photo R2880 took one minute, which is quick. Increasing the print size to A4, the printer still managed to complete the print in one minute, 59 seconds and going right up to A3+ (the largest paper size it can handle), it took four minutes, 13 seconds.
For comparison, the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mk II completed a 15 x 10cm print in one minute, 14 seconds and an A3, not A3+, print in one minute, 53 seconds. The Epson is therefore noticeably slower than the Canon, but neither is sluggish when printing photos.
Print quality from Epson’s eight-ink, UltraChrome K3 system is very impressive. Both the vivid magenta and vivid light magenta inks do improve the quality of flesh tones, as well as a range of colours from reds to purples. The light inks do their job in helping with pastels and the extra greys make black-and-white prints sharp, with good greyscale neutrality and very little sign of colour casts.
With eight inks to service, we didn't expect print costs to be particularly low, but were surprised to calculate an ISO black page cost at 2.2p and an equivalent colour cost of 7.8p. These ISO tests are based on coverage of around 5 percent black and 20 percent colour, both of which are hopelessly low for photo printing. Even so, from our calculations, we would expect photo costs to be more than competitive with other medium-format printers in the same price range.
Again comparing with the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mk II, which has equivalent costs of 3.2p and 9.1p, the Epson machine comes out quite a bit cheaper to run.
Epson has had an enviable reputation for its medium and wide-format photo printers for many years and the Stylus Photo R2880 continues this tradition. Epson has concentrated on the areas most photographers will buy medium-format photo printers for, and has improved flesh tones for portraiture and greyscales for high-quality black-and-white prints. Allied with this is the versatility of multiple paper paths, roll paper handling and direct print of CDs and DVDs. Although a little more expensive than some of its rivals, our tests would say it's worth the extra outlay.