The first thing you need to know about the ‘new’ Epson P-series, the first manifestation of which is the 44-inch Epson Surecolor P8560D, is that it is quite different to the old Epson P series, including the 44-inch P8070 (which still remains in the range).
In fact it could be argued that the P8560D is the wide-format version of the Surecolor D series of inkjet ‘dry minilab’ printers. (Hey, maybe that’s what the ‘D’ at the end of the string of numbers is trying to tell us!)
The P8560D, which has other designations in other markets (in the US it is the SureColor SC-P8570D), is actually a totally new printing beast: While wide format photographic inkjet printing in the past has been all about superb print quality and maximum colour gamut, the P8560D puts more emphasis on print speed, ease of use and a smaller footprint, combined with good (or in marketing speak ‘sharp, detailed and colourful’) photographic prints.
As Epson Australia explained following our impertinent queries: ‘The P8560D is aimed at the High Print Volume Photo Retail and Print 4 Pay markets. These are markets that Epson is now focusing on, addressing and taking care of in true Epson fashion. The printer combines a high print speed with a compact footprint, a low running cost and enhanced media handling.’
Market segmentation is the name of the game, and with the P8560D Epson is attempting to create a new segment: ‘If a customer’s focus is on colour (quality) Epson recommends either the P8070, P9070 or P9560. If, however, the customer’s focus is on productivity then the P8560D is well worth a look.’
But according to Keith Cooper of Northlight Images, a leading independent specialist reviewing and writing on photographic inkjet technology, ‘Most modern printers are as good as it’s going to get for quite a while. There are differences, but they are increasingly small.’ He said choice of paper is a much bigger influence on image quality than choice of printer.
Given this, it may well be that professionals and prolabs conclude that marginally higher image quality is worth trading off for the promised efficiencies, speed and lower operating costs of this new breed of wide formats. It’s worth noting that many photo retailers and even leading volume photography labs already use the Epson Surecolor D-series printers running a (different) six-colour Ultrachrome pigment inkset on a daily basis. Many millions of retail photo prints have been sold to consumers around Australia using this technology over the past five years or so.
Epson makes the claim in its press material that the UltraChrome PRO6 six colour pigment inkset produces ‘vivid, beautiful outputs that rival comparable 8-colour printers’. We followed up with Epson, which clarified that they were stating that they were referring to competing printers, not Epson machines. (Goodness gracious me no): ‘When Epson talk about the fact that the P8560D provides a colour gamut that is better than printers with 8 colours or more they are referring to their competitors, not the P8070.’
‘Epson’s internal testing indicates that the results they have managed to achieve with their UltraChrome ink and 2.64-inch PrecisionCore head is much better than their competitors with a lot more inks onboard.
‘Epson don’t see any benefit in naming models or brands, but they do openly welcome customers who want proof of their claims and they expect to be in a position to provide print samples to that effect in the not-too-distant future.’
While Epson hasn’t released any detailed information on the the printer, a PDF on the Epson US website provides some interesting extra specs:
– US MSRP US$6445 ($8760);
– 24-inch model to come later (P6560)
– 6-color inkset (CMY, Matte Black and Photo Black, and Grey). 110, 350, or 700 mL cartridges and, in some markets at least, 1.5L ink packs;
– 2.2 times faster than Epson P8000 at high quality;
– Optional production sheet stacker;
– Print Direct to Rigid Matte Posterboard (to 1.5mm thick, incl coated aluminium);
– PrecisionCore 2.6-ich MicroTFP printhead is double the size of previous generation printhead.
As you know the P8560D is aimed at the High Print Volume Photo Retail and Print 4 Pay markets. These are markets that Epson is now focusing on, addressing and taking care of in true Epson fashion. The printer combines a high print speed with a compact footprint, a low running cost and enhanced media handling. With its focus on high PV Epson have also ensured it has support for Epson Cloud Solution PORT and the advanced reporting capabilities that it provides.