These days, it seems that my digital camera is attached to me, and that I only look at the world through its 2-inch LCD. If that describes you too, you might be looking for a way to print your ever-growing library of digital photos so you can easily give them away to family and friends. The Epson Stylus Photo R340 is a great choice for printing brilliant color photos, with or without the help of your computer. Its individual ink tanks, ability to print onto CDs and DVDs, and nice, big LCD certainly sweeten the deal.
Setting up the R340 is easy. Its six individual, dye-based, ink cartridges snap into place and a USB 2.0 port on the back connects the printer to your Mac. Aside from the necessary printer drivers, the R340’s installation CD comes with a couple of applications. For simple image editing, Epson provides its Film Factory software. Its Print CD software is necessary if you want to do what its name states.
If you don’t need to involve your Mac in the process, you can easily print from a PictBridge-enabled camera or from virtually any type of camera memory card. The R340’s 2.4-inch color LCD lets you preview, select, edit and print your digital photos without as much as one keystroke on your trusty old Mac.
The color photos I printed on the R340 came out excellent. The print of our standard Macworld test image, a food scene with many different elements, printed from Adobe Photoshop using the included ICC profile, closely matched our control print. And though other midrange photo printers have been this accurate, the R340’s print appeared to have much more depth, which I’ll attribute to its excellent reproduction of shadow details.
Like many other photo printers, the R340 had a little difficulty with black-and-white prints. Our test shot is a landscape shot from our San Francisco office’s fifth floor patio. While the buildings all printed well, the glimpses of the Bay were sepia-toned and the sky had some areas with a slight bluish appearance and others with a little bit of yellow. The high-end Epson Stylus Pro 2400, which costs $899, uses three different black inks in order to get black-and-white just right, so it is no big surprise that $200 printers can struggle.
It’s tempting to print Web pages, e-mail messages, and other text-heavy documents on plain paper with a photo printer. On this printer, text printed very legibly, but it wasn’t as clean as prints from four-color ink-jets that cost half as much.
|10-page Word test||5:06|
|22MB Photoshop image||7:48|
Scale= Minutes: Seconds
|Graphics quality||Very Good|
Scale= Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable
|Number of ink cartridges||6|
|Cost to replace ink/toner cartridges||$79|
|Connections||USB 2.0, PictBridge USB port, Flash Memory Card reader|
|Printer resolution||5,760-by-1,440 optimized|
|Special features||CD/DVD printing tray and software; 2.4-inch Color LCD|
Macworld’s buying advice
If you want to print pictures at home, Epson’s Stylus Photo R340 prints the best color photos in its class. It has a 2.4-inch LCD preview screen to help you print directly from your camera or camera’s memory card. It can also print directly onto ink-jet-printable CD and DVD media. Its only weakness as a photo printer is its black and white prints, with their slight color cast.
[ James Galbraith is Macworld ’s lab director. ]Epson Stylus Photo R340