Epson 4880 colour inkjet

As has been mentioned in previous columns when reviewing the current crop of large format printers, the trend has been to go for more, and wider choice of inks to increase the colour gamut.
Epson have resisted the escalation into double figures and contented themselves with merely eight - well nine actually as there is an interchangeable black, photo or matte for different media.
The proven Ultrachrome pigment inks have been around for a number of years and are highly regarded by professionals in imaging. What's new, in this third generation, launched at the end of last summer, is the Vivid Magenta cartridge,
designed to enhance blues and purples.
Inkjet users will be familiar with the use of additional magenta and cyan hues to improve the tonal range, on skin tones for example. Other manufacturers are making the whole picture more punchy by adding extra green, red, blue, grey - you name it. Epson are confident their more economical package does the trick, and independent analysts confirm that an examination of the alternatives shows only a very small perceptible difference between the competition.
What you get with Epson is a simple functionality which has made it a favourite workhorse in the studio throughout its recent model range. The 4880 continues a familiar product line, with a well-established practical layout and user interface.
No need to burden this printer with extra gizmos, the basic Epson printer format has worked successfully over many years, and shares a number of straightforward features which anyone who has used one of their simple A4 desktop models would recognise.
The software is a little more elaborate, to allow for the choice of media available, but it is soon mastered, and easily demonstrated so the printer should hold no fears for additional members of staff who made need to use it. For the copy shop it is important to take the mystery out of the black art of large format printing. Sure there is a lot more to sorting colour profiles and matching media, but much of the issue revolves around the complexity of the machines themselves - and the software that drives them.
Epson like to keep it simple. That's not to say that the printer itself is not sophisticated, but like a modern car, you don't need to grapple with all the complicated technical stuff just to be able to drive it.
The 4880 is an A2 plus printer in that it can print up to 17 inches across. More than that, which makes it very versatile, it can take media from roll, single sheet or tray feed including many thicker types of material. The print head can be raised, for example to take special printable waterproof board.
Having the print tray and roll feed at the same times makes it a lot easier changing media at short notice - like having photo paper in one matt sheet in the other for convenience. The paper tray picks up the feed automatically once selected, and for the roll its only a matter of feeding the leading edge through, or removing it when the alternative is called for.
This may not seem much but can save valuable time in a print shop where the needs of print on demand may change at a moments notice. A lot of large format time is spent changing paper rolls - particularly if the printer refuses to co-operate, and in the process of changing there or issues of wastage.
There is also waste with large format if posters cannot be nested to make the best use of paper -and this is often the case if time is of the essence in a busy shop. In this case, instead of binning the unwanted parts of a roll, the 4880 will take anything down to A5 in size to use up every last scrap.
An A2 printer is a good choice for a copy shop which may not have a modern inkjet option - superb quality archival prints that can be sold at a premium, or accurate colour proofing for job sent to litho print.
A large proportion of poster jobs are A2, and although the 4880, with its additional tray feeds occupies quite a large footprint, its adaptability is a major asset. Even if you already have a larger inkjet printer, the economy of running smaller jobs and using up all the leftovers from the bigger one, makes it an attractive option.
The beauty of the Epson is its easy of use. All manual paper feeding - the bane of many machines - is controlled by a single mechanical lever, the same as every other Epson for years. Media can be fed and adjusted accurately and again no time is wasted while the printer tries to decide whether your choice is acceptable or not.
Epson have sensibly kept sensors and any electronically controlled mechanisms to a minimum, allowing instead for the common sense and experience of the operator to be at the controls.
Another continuity feature is the design of the inkjet cartridges themselves, both in shape, size and location. The standard, 110 ml items can be replaced with 220ml ones if required, as has been the case with all Epson large format machines over the years. This is another feature which helps towards efficient and economic printing, as the larger cartridges not only last longer but are proportionally better buys.
All in all a very well thought out printer which is what you would expect from an established leading in the large format market. Epson know what is needed and continue to come up with the goodies.

Next month we'll be taking a look at a neat little laser printer from HP, the 2605.
Always a solid workhorse, the printer is raising the colour stakes of toner based machines matched with some of HP's new high resolution paper.