The third generation of Epson’s wide-format printer line, the $2,995 Stylus Pro 7600, represents the culmination of the company’s growth in the professional graphics market. When used with Epson’s UltraChrome pigment inks, this printer offers great quality and speed for photographers and fine artists interested in selling their work without having to worry about the longevity problems of dye inks.
The Stylus Pro 7600 can print on media as wide as 24 inches (the $4,995 Stylus Pro 9600 can print on 44-inch media). Epson does offer a dye-based version of the 7600, but most potential users will be interested in the pigment inks. Epson claims that with these inks — also found in the Stylus Photo 2200 (Reviews, October 2002) — you can get archival-quality prints that last as long as or longer than photographic prints: up to 100 years, depending on the medium used. And unlike Epson’s previous generation of pigment inks, the UltraChrome inks have a color gamut very similar to that of dye inks, so you don’t have to compromise on color to achieve print longevity.
To provide the best photographic output, the 7600 prints with seven inks: cyan, light cyan, magenta, light magenta, yellow, light black, and either photo or matte black. The matte black ink — which doesn’t come with the printer — is best for nonglossy, uncoated paper, while the photo black ink is perfect for semigloss or glossy photo paper (the photo ink does print well on matte papers, but you’ll get the richest blacks from the matte black ink). You can easily swap between the two black inks, but the process consumes large amounts of ink, an expensive proposition given the $70 price per ink cartridge. For this reason, we recommend picking the ink set that’s better for you and sticking with it.
The printer comes with a built-in paper cutter, and it can print borderless images as wide as 24 inches. Epson offers more than 25 roll-fed media for the printer, including resin-coated glossy and semigloss papers, canvas, fine-art paper, matte-finish and proofing stock, and vinyl.
The 7600’s tiny, 4-picoliter droplet size and seven inks add up to true photo-quality prints with balanced skin tones; a bright, wide color gamut; and no visible dot patterns at the standard, 1,440-dpi setting (a 2,880-dpi setting is available but really isn’t needed for most images). Another benefit of the UltraChrome inks is their ability to produce a true neutral gray: Photographers looking to reproduce black-and-white images can do so without the annoying green color cast caused by Epson’s first pigment-ink set. As is the case with print quality, Epson has kicked print speed significantly above that of its previous wide-format printers: a borderless 18-by-24 inch print took roughly 30 minutes to print at the standard-quality setting, and a letter-size photo printed in eight minutes. Depending on the print type, the 7600 printed 20 to 30 percent faster than its predecessor, the Stylus Pro 7500.
Beyond the ink-swapping issue, the only real problem with the Stylus Pro 7600 is its lack of an OS X driver. Epson told us that issues related to paper sizes prevented the development of a driver until the release of Jaguar. A driver, now in the works, is due early in 2003. While all the printer’s features worked flawlessly with Adobe Photoshop in Classic mode, we’d prefer not having to drop into Classic simply to print.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The Epson Stylus Pro 7600 offers the best and most efficient output for photographers or artists looking to sell their work in quantity, especially at larger print sizes. With excellent quality and print speed, a color gamut that rivals that of dye-based printers, flexible options for many media, and true archival print life, the 7600 is a great buy, and it will be even closer to perfect once OS X drivers become available.