EPSON SURECOLOR P5070
Aimed at both photo pros and enthusiasts, Epson’s A2 format P5070 is a big printer capable of big results. Trevern Dawes puts this formidable machine through its paces.
Get the (really) big picture with Epson’s A2+ format photo printer which packs pro-level capabilities and performance into a mode still (just) suitable for desktop use.
Epson’s SureColor P5070 replaces the Pro 4900 model (which we reviewed back in 2011) as the only available A2 format photo printer to utilise 200-millilitre ink cartridges and incorporate a permanent roll holder.
The P5070 (designated P5000 in most other countries) is designed to address the exacting requirements of job proofing, packaging markets and fine-art photography endeavours and it does so in three editions – Standard with light light black (LLB) ink for 98 percent Pantone range capacity, Commercial with violet instead of LLB for 99 percent Pantone range and Designer which adds EFI Fiery eXpress, a software RIP with Adobe PostScript 3 for accurate CMYK and spot colour printing. The Standard version is best suited for photo printing, particularly for black and white work.
Competitors for the SureColor P5070 are the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 and Epson’s own SureColor P1800 model. Both produce excellent result and both utilise 80 millilitres ink cartridges. The P5070 essentially stands alone as a heavy-duty work horse intended for commercial use or for the enthusiast who either intends to produce a heap of prints or who simply enjoys working with a solid and versatile printer.
The printer arrives on a timber pallet so, if collecting it yourself from a supplier, you’ll need a large vehicle and two people to deal with the 100x 91x59 centimetres box weighing a substantial 62.5 kilograms. Even if you have it delivered, you’ll still require two people to move this box, unpack it and place the printer on a very solid bench or desk.
IN THE (BIG) BOX
The packaging box contains the printer, roll media adapter for two-inch and three-inch cores, the power cord, 80 millilitres ‘start-
up’ inks, a maintenance tank, a borderless maintenance tank, the installation/safety manual, utilities software and a user manual (on CD). Both the violet and the light light black ink cartridges are included, with the owner making the choice about discarding, selling or swapping the cartridge no longer required.
The P5070 has Epson’s ‘PrecisionCore Thin Film’ (TFP) print head with ‘Variable Sized Droplet’ technology (the minimum droplet size is 3.5 picolitres) and a maximum resolution of 2880x1440 dpi. This enables superior fidelity and tonal gradations. The latest Epson UltraChrome HDX pigment aqueous ink set enhances colour gamut, Dmax and image durability with better water and scratch resistant properties. An optional SpectroProofer (ILS30) – developed in association with X-Rite – is available for precision colour management and ISO standard proofing work.
Significant changes have been made with the HDX inks compared to the HD and K3 sets. There is less bronzing and gloss differential characteristics while a new resin coating and much denser blacks improves density by a factor of 1.5. Epson quotes optical densities of 2.8 on its Premium Gloss Photo paper, 1.77 on the Enhanced Matte paper and 1.65 on the Ultra Smooth Fine Art media.
A new ink-repellent surface coating is incorporated in the PrecisionCore TFP print head. The tighter seals and reduced static enhancement are intended to both minimise any likelihood of nozzle clogging and limit maintenance.
DESIGN AND CONTROLS
The printer is finished in a handsome black except for a 30 millimetres wide silver decorative strip across the top, a clear lift-up panel over the print head and a translucent lift over cover for the roll holder.
All the controls are located on the right-hand side. Above the 2.7-inch colour LCD screen are the ‘On/Off’ and ‘Pause/Cancel’ buttons, while under the screen are buttons for auto/manual black ink switching, roller pressure release and manual paper cut from the roll. The menu is accessed via four arrows plus the ‘OK’ button with the up arrow serving to release paper and the down arrow to insert paper. At the end of the silver strip and above the SureColor P5070 badge is a large white light cover which glows orange when paper is not loaded correctly.
The paper receiving bay handles smaller prints, but for large prints a tray extends out 34 centimetres in two sections and has a small foldup paper stopper at the end. Under the tray is the paper cassette. The front loading pathway lies on top of the receiving tray, and the rear manual load is located under a lid immediately in front of the roll holder. Six cartridges reside at the front in the lower left corner and five on the right corner.
There are four paper loading systems – front manual, rear manual, front cassette and roll. Borderless printing capacity is programmed to print on standard sizes of cut sheets.
Although going through the user manual (installed with a desktop icon) in detail might take quite a few hours, it’s time well spent, as it pays to be fully aware of the capabilities of this printer, including all the preferences. The on-screen manual is very well presented, with quick cross references from the contents listing. Items like page printable area, paper skew on and off, auto or manual switching of black inks, sleep times etc., can be left at the default or changed as required.
The set-up procedure begins with the installation of the ink cartridges and priming of the print head. This will take about 18 minutes. A further six minutes is added as the printer performs an auto nozzle check. Installation of the software driver follows, adding about another 15 minutes.
About 20 millilitres of ink from each start-up cartridge is required to fill the supply lines to the print head. This leaves about 60 millilitres per cartridge or a total of about 660 millilitres to start making prints. As the P5070 is intended for volume printing, it won’t be long before you’ll need to acquire a full set of 200 millilitres Standard cartridges at $139 each. Although this represents a considerable outlay on top of the printer acquisition, it does mean a heap of ink (start-ups plus standards) capable of producing over 700 A2-size prints (allowing four millilitres per print) at a very economical cost.
The paper cassette can handle up to 100 sheets of A2 paper with paper thicknesses of 0.08 to 0.27 millimetres. Paper must be placed coated side down so, when each sheet is transported, it rolls through at 180 degrees to the print head position.
The rear, single sheet, manual feed can handle paper that’s 254 to 610 millimetres long, and 203 to 432 millimetres wide with thicknesses of 0.08 to 0.79 millimetres. After raising the paper support, a sheet is inserted and pushed down gently down until it stops. The edge guide is secured and the down button pressed. Printing can then proceed at the ‘Ready’ message. If the paper is not positioned correctly, the big orange light comes on and a ‘Paper Out’ message appears, advising pressing the up button to retrieve the paper and start again. Alternatively, the print file may be sent first and the orange light plus message will advise to load up the paper. The printer is very particular with manual paper loading so expect some initial rejects.
The front manual feed is intended for heavyweight paper from 0.8 to 1.5 millimetres in thickness (e.g. Epson Cold Press Bright at 340 gsm). It involves pressing the release pressure button, opening the print cover
PRINTS MADE ON EPSON’S HOT AND COLD PRESS BRIGHT PAPERS WERE EVERYTHING ONE COULD HOPE FOR. HERE IS WHERE THE SURECOLOR P5070 EXCELS.
to facilitate the hand feeding of a single sheet over the black rollers and under the grey rollers, and finally the accurate positioning of the trailing right hand corner of the paper against the corner guide marker. A4/B4 papers take a different corner guide. After closing the lid and pressing the release press button the ‘Ready’ message appears. Get this wrong and the ‘Paper Load Error’ message with the orange light will appear to indicate starting again. This is not the best of manual front load systems, but after a little practice it is simple enough. Because of the amount of paper handling involved the use of gloves is recommended.
The user manual provides an excellent guide – along with the menu – for the assembly of the roll holder and loading a paper roll. The leading edge of the paper roll is inserted as far as it will travel and the LCD screen then organises paper type, auto or manual paper cut and printing of a cut line if required. Manual cutting via the printed line is recommended for heavy-weight papers in order to prevent dulling the blade. No issues with paper transport should occur, thanks to its own powerdriven mechanism.
The paper width must be established (e.g. 406 or 432 millimetres according to roll width) in custom sizing and various heights stipulated and saved. This might involve settings such as 406x350 millimetres for typical 3:2 aspect ratio images to be printed across the paper, or 406 x 610 millimetres for maximum enlargement of 3:2 ratio images. Panoramas take on other sizes such as 406x900 millimetres. Maximum paper length extends all the way to 15 metres!
Specifications for the roll are
established on the menu where the remaining length of paper is shown. There is even an alert to notify when it’s close to the end of the roll according to a value determined by the user.
The roll feed and the three paper feed systems work in unison and all it takes is a button press and a disengagement/link up of the roll.
The ‘Main’ print panel controls the media type, colour mode, print quality, paper source, paper size and advanced paper options. ‘Page Layout’ and ‘Utility’ are supporting panels. In the ‘Main’ panel Epson Standard sRGB, Adobe RGB and PhotoEnhance are the printer’s basic colour management options, while for the most accurate results ICM locks into ICC profiles. Photoshop devotees usually let the printer manage colour (if Photoshop is to manage colour then ‘Off –no colour adjustment’ must be selected).
Right clicking on the mouse over any feature in a print panel will allow access to a ‘Help’ facility for further information. The ‘Main’ print panel has initial default settings. When different settings are established for a print, they can be saved for quick recall in subsequent printing sessions. Ideally, every favourite paper will have its own name and that will make working with different papers quick and convenient, instead of needing to construct a new set from the default for just one print.
A series of tests will need to be conducted to determine the most appropriate settings for the Quality Levels and the ‘High Speed’ option. Normally the default level of quality of four (i.e. SuperFine, 720x1440 dpi) would be adopted but going up to level five (SuperPhoto, 2880x1440 dpi) with the ‘High Speed’ setting switched off may be preferred, despite the significant increase in print times.
If imposed non-printable margins become a problem and the preview image is not centred, then there is scope to override via ‘Main/Paper Settings/ Printable Area’. Changes may be necessary here to alter the selection for ‘Standard’, ‘Centred’ and ‘Maximum’, with regard to the advisory note that “Extending the printable area could lead to a decline in print quality”.
‘Media Type’ is divided into five categories. ‘Photo Paper’ has 11 profiles (including baryta), ‘Proofing Paper’ has two, ‘Fine Art’ has five (including Canvas Matte and Canvas Satin), ‘Matte Paper’ has five and ‘Plain Paper’ has two. Paper manufacturers like Hahnemühle, Innova, Canson and Moab already provide ICC profiles for the printer. Although the profiles incorporated in the printer and those provided by thirdparty paper manufacturers will be perfect for most users, those who like to extract the utmost performance will invariably resort to customised ICC profiles.
All print files used in this review were assigned the Adobe RGB (1998) colour space. Printing via Photoshop involved locking into ‘ICM’ and the appropriate profile for each paper.
The photo black and matte black inks continue to share a common line to the print head. Swapping from one to the other takes two minutes for the photo-to-matte changeover and 3.40 minutes for matte-to-photo, purging four and five millilitres of ink respectively.
This situation has been in practice over many Epson models and for a good reason. If a dedicated ink line doesn’t get used over a long period, it can lead to serious clogging problems. Having the switchover between photo and matte blacks significantly reduces the possibility of a blockage, hence a small inconvenience in the system to ensure trouble-free operation. Ideally, if print runs are well organised, ink swapping can be kept to a minimum.
The relationship between print speed, print resolution and ink consumption is something only the individual can assess according to the tasks involved.
There are five levels of quality, starting with ‘Draft’ at 360x360 dpi, through’ Normal’ at 360x720 dpi, ‘Fine’ at 720x720 dpi, ‘Superfine’ at 720x1440 dpi and, finally, to ‘Super Photo’ at 2880x1440 dpi. Print times for an A2 size print – as specified by Epson – are 0.5, 0.8, 1.8, 3.6 and 7.0 minutes.
A3+ size prints on Epson Cold Press Bright at the default Level Four quality (i.e. 1440x720 dpi) took 4.30 mins, while stepping up to Level 5 (2880x1440 dpi) took 10.40 minutes. Both prints were produced with ‘High Speed’ switched off. Generally, the default level is appropriate as it locks into the ICC profile. However, there may be advantages in changing the quality levels. This is a matter for the individual, depending on various factors such as image quality, paper type, time frames or client stipulations. Needless to say, we might well ask who uses a magnifying glass to view prints or is it simply that, if the high 2880x1440 dpi resolution, is available then why not use it?
Paper selection is purely a personal matter, but with the P5070 the most appealing gloss type paper proved to be a baryta gloss (such as Epson Traditional Fibre or Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta). These papers have substantial weight and have the impact of a gloss surface without the high sheen – ideal for both hand viewing and framing. A2 prints at maximum quality (and ‘High Speed’ off) took 10.45 minutes. Certainly not quick, but when ultimate quality is involved then print times really don’t matter.
As noted earlier, the maximum print length from a roll is 15 metres. Any attempts to produce a banner or panorama extending over many metres would require a check on available paper length
on the roll and ink supply, several small test prints before committing to the job and continual monitoring to support the print as it emerges.
The first panoramic produced was organised to fit a frame size. The image was 80x25 centimetres and printed on a 406 millimetres wide roll of Epson Lustre Premium Photo Paper (260 gsm) on a custom paper size of 406x900 millimetres. At Level Five quality and with ‘High Speed’ off, the print time was 10.30 minutes.
The longest panorama print produced was an image of 980x370 millimetres made on custom-sized paper at 406x1100 millimetres. For this print Level Four quality was set with ‘High Speed’ switched on which gave a print time of 7.10 minutes. On that basis, a 15 metres long panorama print would take nearly one-and-ahalf hours!
BLack and White
The performance of Epson printers using UltraChrome inks for black and white printing has always been of the highest order and the SureColor P5070 just keeps this tradition going.
The ‘Advanced’ black and white mode allows a high degree of control. Printing on gloss and semi-gloss media with pigments usually results in gloss differential problems, but the UltraChrome HDX ink set goes a long way in keeping this to a minimum. Then there is the option in ‘Colour Controls’ of having the ‘Highlight Point Shift’ set to ‘On’. This places more dots to slightly grey out the non-inked areas in a print. The blackness of the photo black ink on gloss media is more pronounced than the matte black and this helps to promotes top-class black and white printing.
The process of reviewing an inkjet printer involves putting the unit to work with typical projects. In the case of the SureColor P5070 this meant concentrating on A2 display prints made on a variety of papers, a few panorama prints and a D-I-Y photo book.
The book format was 345x297 millimetres with 70 pages, and the paper was Schoeller 230 gsm dualsided matte. The ICC profile was downloaded from the Schoeller Website. Everything progressed beautifully and the final, bound book looked splendid. Text was clean and crisp, right down to the 8-point Garamond captions.
The paper cassette is ideal for D-I-Y photo book projects. Paper is inserted, printing is organised for the odd page numbers, the print preview is accepted and the operator walks away to let the printer look after everything. After drying down, the even-numbered pages are attended to.
Pigment printers and matte or fine-art papers are a popular combination. Prints made on Epson’s Hot and Cold Press Bright papers were everything one could hope for. Here is where the SureColor P5070 excels.
Gloss differential occurs with pigments on gloss/semi-gloss or lustre surface media and happens around clear or un-inked areas of a print. Chroma or gloss optimiser cartridges are used in some printers to place a clear layer over the print. Those that work well tend to dull down the surface, while others have little effect at all. The improved microcrystal encapsulation of the UltraChrome HDX inks lessens the problem and represents a considerable improvement on older ink sets. On a Gloss Traditional Baryta paper, gloss differential is not as noticeable because the surface is not entirely smooth. For some people, gloss differential is not an issue and is something only visible when the print is viewed at an acute angle. Furthermore, once prints are framed under glass the problem goes away.
Throughout the extensive print-making tests we conducted with the P5070, there were no paper jams or head strikes, the profiles were spot-on and the detail rendered in shadow areas was excellent. Operating noise is relatively quiet. Print head activity is barely audible and, while the exhaust fan does buzz away, it is hardly objectionable. When ‘Auto Nozzle Check’ is selected (rather than timed intervals), the printer will stop whenever it needs to, and display a “Cleaning, Please Wait” message in the LCD panel.
The life span of an ink/paper combination should be a critical factor in any high-end inkjet printer.
The performance of epson prinTers using ulTrachrome inks for black and whiTe prinTing has always been of The highesT order and The p5070 jusT keeps This TradiTion going.
According to the Epson report on the Wilhelm-Research.com Website, the longevity ratings for the UltraChrome HDX inks are expected to be up 200 years for colour prints in dark storage and in excess of 400 years in dark storage for black and white prints. These ratings would be about twice that of the earlier generations of UltraChrome inks.
All Wilhelm Research ratings are projections based on laboratory-controlled accelerated fading tests. There may indeed be some scepticism involved because most of us don’t have access to ideal display or storage environments while the real, long term behaviour of inks and paper cannot be assessed. Even so, it’s still a comparative matter and the UltraChrome HDX inks just happen to be on top of the list.
The availability of a five-year on-site service pack with the P5070 which costs $3895 in total represents top value for commercial enterprises as this provides peace of mind. Likewise, once the outlay for a set of 200 millilitres inks has been overcome, the value and convenience of those large, lowcost-per-millilitre cartridges can be immeasurable.
The capacity to have the printer loaded up with media in the paper cassette tray, two manual feed and a roll means plenty of guns to go. A second or third spindle with different paper can further enhance this capacity. The convenience of being able to print from rolls – where handling really only relates to collecting from the receiving tray – is a major advantage. Accurate paper alignment and smooth paper transport mean producing panorama prints is a simple process.
The SureColor P5070 is essentially a junior version of the much larger SureColor P7000 (24 inches wide) and P9000 (44 inches) professional printers. It doesn’t really have a direct competitor in the A2/17 inches wide category because of the included roll feed system and generous 200 millilitres cartridges.
For those who are familiar with inkjet printers the set-up and running of the P5070 will be straightforward. However, newcomers would be advised to talk to a dealer, not just about the purchase and delivery, but also about having an expert look after the set-up and provide instruction.
It is likely to take several days, if not weeks, to become fully conversant with all the features of the P5070 and to organise the defaults and regular routines. Thereafter, though, this solid and versatile printer is ready for work.
Longevity ratings for ink and paper combinations are most important when fine-art printing is concerned. The ratings for the UltraChrome HDX ink set could well be the factor that ‘seals the deal’. Enhancements to the ink set ensure the best combination of print longevity, colour range, neutrality in black and white work, ink economy and the reduction in gloss differential and bronzing characteristics that no longer need limit the use of gloss and semigloss media for pigment printing.
The previous Stylus Pro 4900 model was one of those heavyduty units that simply delivered the goods with a decent ink supply. Its replacement unit adds a few features, extends both gamut and print life, comes with lower prices, and carries on regardless to become a stand-out choice for the busy print-maker.
For the most accurate printing, selecting an ICC profile is the best method.
The LCD read-out screen provides an ink level and maintenance tanks check, but for more accurate results plus a print progress the ‘Ink Level’ panel is preferred.
Custom paper sizes are established and saved to a listing.
Quality levels range from One to Five with the option of having ‘High Speed’ printing switched on or off. The ‘Utility’ panel controls the printer’s various maintenance operations.
The ‘Page Layout’ panel.
The ‘Advanced’ black and white panel provides access to comprehensive control options for B&W printing.
All manner of adjustment are available in the ‘Colour Controls’ panel.
The ‘Preview’ panel is the final and critical stage for printing.
The ‘Main’ print panel controls the media type, colour mode, print quality, paper source, paper size and advanced paper options.
EPSON SURECOLOR P5070
With the receiving tray fully extended, a very wide table is required for the printer. All the printer controls and the LCD panel are located at bottom right of the printer.