the photo prin­ter mar­ket has changed out of all recog­ni­tion from when we first in­tro­duced this award cat­e­gory. As the tech­nol­ogy has ma­tured, the life cy­cles of mod­els have steadily in­creased and the im­per­a­tive to up­grade on a reg­u­lar ba­sis has steadily di­min­ished. Any break­throughs are in­cre­men­tal (although Ep­son’s ‘EcoTank’ con­cept was def­i­nitely a big bang) and it’s now more likely that your photo prin­ter will break me­chan­i­cally be­fore you’ll find any tech­no­log­i­cal or per­for­mancere­lated rea­sons to re­place it.

It’s now more about tweak­ing the com­bi­na­tion of ca­pa­bil­i­ties, per­for­mance, economies and pric­ing, which is ex­actly what Ep­son has done with the Ex­pres­sion Photo HD XP-15000. It’s a ded­i­cated A3+ photo prin­ter and it uses Ep­son’s Claria dye-based inks rather than the more trendy pig­ments. Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, there are some sound rea­sons for print­ing pho­tographs with dyes, in­clud­ing longevity (up to 200 years in dark stor­age for the Claria dyes) and the ab­sence of the gloss dif­fer­en­tial and bronz­ing ef­fects as­so­ci­ated with us­ing pig­ment inks. The XP-15000 is both more com­pact and lighter weight than its pre­de­ces­sor, plus it em­bod­ies some small but none­the­less im­por­tant up­dates such as a much more ef­fi­cient print head, which uses less ink with­out com­pro­mis­ing image qual­ity. It also has a pre-in­stalled main­te­nance tank (ac­tu­ally a first in an A3+ photo prin­ter), a mo­torised out­put tray, a tilt-ad­justable 6.1 cm colour LCD con­trol screen (which en­ables eas­ier print set-up), and au­to­matic two-sided doc­u­ment print­ing. It may only use as six-colour inkset, but what it does with them is very im­pres­sive in terms of the image qual­ity, and the ex­tra bright­ness of the dyes helps give colour prints some ex­tra dy­namism and depth. The colour gamut may not quite match that of a pig­mented-ink prin­ter us­ing as many as 12 colours, but it’s still com­mend­ably wide – and on all sur­face types – with nicely smooth tonal gra­da­tions. And the ex­cel­lent longevity means that they can be ad­mired and en­joyed for a very long time.

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