Register

The Joy of Printing with the Epson SureColor P400 Inkjet Printer

By Jeff Wignall   Friday February 10, 2017

Joy Will Find a Way

Make me a bed of fond memories
Make me to lie down with a smile
Everything that rises afterward falls
But all that dies has first to live.

As longing becomes love
As night turns to day
Everything changes
Joy will find a way

            —Bruce Cockburn


In brief: From simple set-up to pro printing with the affordable Epson SureColor P400 wide-format pro printer.


For me, other than shooting the photos, nothing beats the fun of seeing a print come sliding out of a desktop printer. I began printing my own photos more than a dozen years ago and the thrill never gets old. That's the Château du Chenonceau in the Loire Valley in France--worth a trip from almost anywhere.

Snapshot:

Name: SureColor P400
Number of Inks:  8-color pigment ink set; 200-year archival quality
Resolution: Resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi
Paper:  cut-sheet and roll paper in sizes up to 13" wide including borderless
Maximum Printable Area: Cut-sheet size 13" x 19”
Maximum printable Area: Roll paper: 13” x 129”
Print speed:  8" x 10" Photo: Approx. 1 min 8 sec; 11" x 14" Photo: Approx. 1 min 42 sec
Full Specs: Here

What’s in the Box:

SureColor P400 inkjet printer
Set of eight Epson UltraChrome Inks
CD print tray and software
Roll paper holder accessory
Fine art single sheet guide
Printer documentation
USB and Ethernet cables not included
You can download the complete user’s guide here: P400 User Guide


I first started inkjet printing with the Epson Stylus Photo 2200 as I was writing my first book on digital, The Joy of Digital Photography. That printer taught me how to print and also showed me that inkjet printers were capable of making prints equal to or superior to custom lab prints. By the way, this stack of books was shot in a Barnes & Noble in Westport, Connecticut, the very first time I ever saw that book on sale in a store--talk about an ego boost.

The Joy of Printing

I started using Epson photo printers when digital photography was young (and so was I), cameras were considered cutting edge if they had five (yes five) megapixels, and I was writing my first digital book The Joy of Digital Photography. My first serious printer was an Epson Stylus Photo 2200 (which I just noticed that writer Mike Pasini referred to in a review as the “Old Gray Mare” and I kind of like that) and it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever owned. The years have become a bit of a blur to me now, but I’m pretty sure that was in around 2004. That landmark printer still prints what I consider to be extraordinary-quality prints and now it’s sitting on my printer table right next to the shiny new SureColor P400 that has taken up residence in my office. Printing technology has improved in quantum leaps since i first began printing, however, and Epson’s release of the P400 (along with the P600 and P800 models) seems to me to be a continuation of Epson’s dedication to making serious, pro-level printers available at an affordable price. TheP400, which retails for just a bit over $500, is being marketed as an entry-point printer for photographers, artists, designers and other creatives who want to want to take a first step into the world of professional-level color printing.


Epson's UltraChrome® HG2 Ink have a tested longevity of 200 years. There are a total of eight ink cartridges, including: yellow, magenta, matte black, red, organge, photo black, a gloss optimizer and cyan. Installing them takes just a few seconds, it's a very fast process.

One of the very impressive things about the P400 is that it uses UltraChrome® HG2 Ink and that have a longevity of 200 years. You might not think that a print life that long is of much value compared to our life expectancy, but as photographer Brian Oglesbee pointed out in our interview about his work with the SureColor P9000 printer (you can read that interview here):  “…Let’s say that you’re a collector or a curator at a museum, you want your collection to have lasting value. The prints don’t cost any more to make on either printer since the cost of materials is the basically the same. So which would you put your money into? Which printer would you buy? Are you going to buy the one that will last 100 years or the one that will last 200 years? You’re going to buy the one with the longer life.”

No question, Brian’s right. Archival technology is really not about our lifetimes, it’s all about the print's lifetime.

Tis a Gift to Be Simple

Setting up a printer for me is always a bit nerve wracking partly because I always think it’s going to be vastly more complex than it actually is. In reality unboxing and setting up the P400is a painless and very straightforward process. I'm sure it can be done in an hour. Once the printer is on your desk you’ll spend about ten minutes on a blue-tape treasure hunt and my advice is that if you haven’t done this before be patient, don’t force anything and be sure you find every piece of tape.

The printer comes with both a handy fold-out quick-start guide and a nicely-written “Basics” instruction manual. I have to compliment Epson for keeping both documents very simple and easy to understand and for using a font that’s large enough and clean enough for my aging hippie eyes to read without reaching for a magnifier. Inking the printer is very straightforward and takes just a few minutes.

There are two things that are not in the box (just to save you from looking): there is no USB cord or network cord if you decide to wire things up directly and there is no installation/operation software cd. You can find the driver software (for Mac and Windows) here. Software download and installation took just a few seconds on my Mac. Once you have the software downloaded and the inks installed, you’re ready to rock. You have three options for connecting the P400 to your computer: direct USB, wireless or via a wired-network connection. I chose the direct USB primarily because I’ll do most of my printing direct from my computer and it sits only a few feet away from the printer.


The Epson SureColor P400 printer can print sheets up to 13-inches wide and rolls as long as 129-inches.

The Old Gray Mare and the New Black Beauty

As much as I love that old gray mare, having a wide-format printer with UltraChrome® HG2 pigment inks with a resolution of  5760 x 1440 dpi and a longevity of 200 years is really exciting. One other interesting ink innovation with the P400 is that the ink set includes both red and orange inks for a very vibrant and true-to-life color palette--particularly with skin tones. The vibrant pinkish/orange color of the flamingo (shown below) is a good example of just how practical and exciting the addition of that orange ink can be. Also, one of the other eight cartridges is a gloss optimizer used for enhancing the sheen of glossy papers. There are also dedicated channels for both Matte and Photo Black inks (they’re auto-selecting, the printer chooses the right one) that are intended to provide deep blacks on matte, fine art and photo papers.

By the way, I didn’t have time to try this (I hope to shortly), but the printer will also print directly onto inkjet-printable CDs/DVDs, saving you the hassle of creating labels. There’s software on the Epson site to help you design your CDs. If I keep playing blues harp another 20 years, I’ll release my own limited-edition (very limited) CD and create my own printed discs. Of course, I’ll be the oldest harp player on Earth by then, but my discs will be very cool. The printer prints roll paper in sizes up to 13" wide (including borderless) and up to 129-inches long--10 feet! My upcoming weekend project is going to be printing one of my pan photos.

The very first thing that I printed with the P400 (chicken that I am) was a simple text document on plain paper. I just wanted to be sure that all of my connections were in order. Wow: slow! But this was never meant to be a text printer, of course. The pages were however, perfect—so far so good. Considering that I have a laser printer next to my photo printers that prints at 30ppm, it will likely be the last time I use plain paper for that printer.


This is my very first photo print from the Epson P400. I chose the shot of the flamingo because I wanted to see how the combination of red and orange inks would handle the colors of the bird. They are a spot-on match of what was on my screen.

Next up I anxiously called up a photograph of a pink flamingo (see above) which in reality is a lot more of a reddish/orange/scarlet flamingo and loaded a few sheets of Epson Ultra Premium Photo Paper Luster (my Epson paper of choice). After navigating the menus a bit and selecting the Epson Luster paper option, I hit the print button and within a few seconds the printer was whirring away. The very first print was nearly perfect, but I thought it needed a tad more saturation, so I returned to the image in Photoshop and bumped up the saturation a bit and printed it again. It was perfect. The next print was a shot of a team of trapeze artists (below) with a rich blue sky; I just wanted to see if the blues would be as simple and as accurate. Once again, perfection on the very first print. Very impressive.


This is the second print that I made on the P400. I wanted to see how nicely the blues in the print would match my monitor colors and again, just gorgeous. That's the P400 on the left of this shot and the Old Gray Mare (the Epson 2200) behind the print. It was fun to have old and new side-by-side on my desk, but I'm certain the P400 will win a print-off contest based largely on Epson's fine new inks and the higher resolution.

Needless to say I spent the next few hours rocking out with Van the Man (his Duets album) and burning through a sizable stack of Epson Luster paper. TheP400 is quite a speedy printer and an 8.5 x 11-inch print takes just over a minute to print. I fussed with my print menus a bit to create and save a perfect printing set up for use with the Luster paper, but once that was done printing was a piece of cake and I never had to deal with those menus again. Epson was kind enough to supply me with a nice assortment of papers for my testing but no true fine art papers. I’ll have to buy my own fine-art papers, but I can’t wait to do that and I’ll talk about them in a future column to be sure. Printing is nothing if not addictive.


My paper of preference or everyday work is Epson's Ultra Premium Luster Paper, but the printer is capable of accepting an extremely wide-range of photo and fine-art papers. By the way the size of the printer in storage mode is 24.5" x 12.8" x 8.6" (W x D x H) and it weighs just a hair over 27 pounds.

The P400 printer is capable of printing on a variety of Epson fine-art papers, including: Epson Velvet Fine Art Paper, Watercolor Paper Radiant White, Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured, UltraSmooth Fine Art Paper, Hot Press Bright, Hot Press Natural, Cold Press Bright and Cold Press Natural. There is a special feeder tray (included) for use with fine-art papers.

One final paper-related thought: As I mentioned, the P400 has a gloss optimizer (it’s the “OS” cartridge in the shot of the inks) that really adds a bright and delicate sheen to glossy surfaces. Interestingly, the optimizer only hits the print where there is no ink because the inks themselves already have a glossy resin in them. This basically assures that the entire surface is evenly glossy but minimizes the use of optimizer, saving you money. This printer makes great glossy prints that are very professional-looking and attention getting.


The colors from the P400 are as vibrant as you can imagine. I printed this on both the Epson Ultra Premium Photo Luster paper and their very fine Metallic Photo Glossy paper.

Conclusion

The first thing that I have to say about this printer is that I loved the ease of setting it up. As much as I live in a world of computers and cables and software, I still have this nagging doubt that the next time I try to set up a printer, it’s all going to turn into a pile of pixie dust and blow away. The printer itself is pretty much (you new this word was coming), a joy to use. I’m always astounded at how nicely Epson printers take the colors from my monitor and magically transform them into prints with very little tweaking. The colors on both the luster and the glossy paper are so nice that I never had to stop and rework a file after that first print.

Any problems? No, none. I did notice that when I'm down to one or two sheets of paper the printer has a hard time loading them, so I tried to keep a half dozen or so sheets of paper loaded all the time. Minor issue and it was quickly solved.

I think if you’re starting out in color printing and or stepping up to a pro printer, the SureColor P400is a great place to start. For about $500 you can own a printer that puts out wonderful prints with almost no effort. Inks are around $17 per color and the capacity is 14 mL. If you have a little more change to spend and need bigger prints or do a lot of black-and-white printing, you might also want to consider the P600 or P800. In any event, once you begin printing, I would suggest spending some time studying both your editor’s (in my case Photoshop CC) print menus, as well as Epson’s print menus to get the best and most efficient results. The trick to easy printing is to set up a system that works for you and stick with it and soon you’ll be looking at prints that are good enough for a gallery wall—just be sure you have a little of Van’s music to keep you company in the wee hours because, as I said, addictive, addictive, addictive.


I had a good time revisiting a lot of the music photos I've shot over the years and printing them out. This is the legendary blue-eyed soul singer Mitch Ryder belting out blues 40 years after the first time that I saw him in concert (he wasn't really thrilled when I told him that). His was the first rock concert I ever attended.


And this is a portrait I did of Pete Seeger at age 87. The P400 creates great prints on 8.5 x 11-inch Luster paper in just over a minute. 

New Product News

Sony Radio Control Wireless Commander (FA-WRC1M) and Radio Control Receiver (FA-WRR1). Sony has introduced a new radio control wireless command module along with a new radio control receiver for creating wireless flash set ups over a very large area. The new pairing, says Sony, lets you take full advantage of the flexibility of radio wireless flash and camera triggering, even in bright lighting conditions or around obstacles (even with the flash behind the camera), making difficult-to-light shots much easier. The FA-WRC1M wireless radio commander, attached to compatible cameras (including the a7 II, a7R II, and a7S II cameras), allows reliable triggering when combined with the FA-WRR1 wireless radio receiver. The commander has a range of 98.4' (30m) and lets you create multiple flash setups over a very wide area. The commander pairs easily with with the FA-WRR1 radio receivers and you can combine up to 15 receivers using up to five groups. The bundle includes:  Sony FA-WRR1 Wireless Radio Control Receiver, one Sony FA-WRC1M Wireless Radio Commander and a Sony 64GB 94MB/s Class 10 UHS-1/U3 SDXC Memory Card.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH5. In what is surely one of the most anticipated and exciting new camera introductions (and what Huffington Post referred to as one of the “worst kept” secrets in the camera world), Panasonic has announced the release of the LUMIX GH5 camera body. The camera features a 20.3MP Four Thirds sensor with no low pass filters and shoots 4K video at up to 60 fps (and full HD/1080p at up to 180fps for great slow-motion video shooting) and will provide 4:2:2 10-bit 4K video. Also cool, a 6K Photo mode enables you to extract huge 18MP stills from burst footage, or 8MP stills from 60p 4K video clips. Dig that--pulling 18MP stills from video--you'll never miss a shot. With Ultra-high-speed 4K Plus, there’s also no recording duration limit so, says Panasonic, you can go beyond 30 minutes in all record settings.The magnesium alloy body is also said to have greatly improved weather sealing. The body, in fact, is freezeproof down to -10-degrees in addition to being splash and dustproof construction thanks to weather sealing on every joint, dial, and button. More about this new camera soon.

Blackmagic Design Web Presenter. If streaming video live is something that you’re like to explore or something that you’ve already struggled with, the new Blackmagic Web Presenter should help radically simplify the process. The device makes it possible to use your professional SDI and HDMI video sources with streaming software and services such as YouTube Live, Facebook Live, and more. Featuring 12G-SDI and HDMI connections this clever black box will down convert any SD, HD and Ultra HD sources and make them look like a 720p USB webcam. Also, says the company, “Customers using Blackmagic Web Presenter don’t need to install any additional drivers because it is a standard UVC and UAC compatible USB video device. That means Mac, Windows, Linux and even Chromebook computers will automatically recognize Blackmagic Web Presenter as a standard webcam.” My head is spinning a bit reading all of this, but you can read more about the device and watch a demo video here.

0 Comments

No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now


StreetTests