New Tools

Epson R3000.   Epson has just announced the Stylus Photo R3000 which no doubt will quickly become the standard-bearer for their line of wide-format 13” printers.  Delivery won’t begin until March, so we have a bit of a wait for production units and the in-depth testing many of us rely on to make informed decisions.

In general the R3000 design is more like a down-sized 3880 than an upgraded R2880.  There are plenty of new (or improved) features, such as connectivity (USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi), media handling (up to 1.3mm think paper), smaller ink droplet size (down to 2 picoliters), and the ability to auto-switch black inks, use roll paper, and print on CD/DVDs solve most of the complaints about previous models.  The ink cartridges are also much larger.  For years, one of the dilemmas for those using any of Epson’s archival (pigment) ink models (such as the R1900, R2400, R2880) has been the limited cartridge capacity.  Though Epson didn’t list the volume in these small cartridges, other sources show them to be around 11 ml.  Capacity is a compromise of course; larger cartridges cost more but last longer, which is fine as long as you use the printer regularly so the cartridges don’t dry out and cause head clogging or (perhaps) a failure to be recognized when loaded.  Epson says the capacity of R3000 cartridges will be 25.9 ml, over twice the previous for the same category of printer.  Hopefully that will translate (in the long run) into slightly lower ink cost per print.  If the 13”x19” size is adequate for your needs and you’re aiming for the highest quality color and black & white prints, this is the model to look very hard at.  (For more info see Epson US, Rob Galbraith, Northlight Images, and Pixiq.)

PhotoKit Sharpener 2.   For those who have been working with digital imaging for a while, you know that sharpening is a part of the process that may seem simple but really isn’t (if you want to do it optimally).  Not only that, by the very nature of the equipment used to capture digital files, sharpening is required on every file, whether you let the camera do it as part of the internal JPEG conversion, or whether you choose to apply it selectively during RAW conversion and in the final output phase.

Some have denigrated an over-emphasis on the technical nature of the sharpening process.  This is somewhat understandable since there are (literally) books written on the subject, and though they are scholarly treatises by some of the best in the business (particularly the late Bruce Fraser and continued by Jeff Schewe), they are theoretical, extremely detailed, and rather dry.  The good news is that some of the best of the theory and practice has actually been folded into the code of Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom.  In addition to that, PixelGenius has marketed their PhotoKit Sharpener plug-in for Photoshop for some time which uses many of the same sharpening principles.  PKS, as it is known, has now been upgraded to PKS 2 and is available here.  If you owned the original PKS the upgrade is only $30, otherwise it’s $99.99.

If you’re not familiar with PKS, the basic concept is to parse the sharpening process into Capture, Creative, and Output phases.  There are many variables in each phase, and carefully crafting the sharpening application can make a huge difference in your final result.  You can peruse feature highlights here.  The new version considerably expands on the original, and learning to use it to best advantage will take some serious study (the User’s Manual is 39 pages in length, with many screen captures and illustrations), but one of the best tools in the business has gotten better.  Read a thorough review here.

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