Sound Advice Column: Epson all-in-ones a great pick

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich
Q:   I like the idea of having the functionality of an all-in-one printer/scanner/copier and have been considering buying one.   What is holding me back is  I have heard that if you want to make high quality photo prints, they are not a good choice and I should get a dedicated inkjet photo printer.   Do you agree with this?   Photography is important to me and if an all-in-one will compromise the quality of my photo prints, I’m not interested.
-Yolanda Beasley, Toronto, ON Canada
A:   What you have been hearing is largely true, but it has more to do with the configuration of most models on the market today, not because it has multiple functions.   There is no reason an all-in-one can’t produce great photo prints, and  some of them do- you just have to know what to look for.
The reason most all-in-ones  are not optimal for photo printing is  most models have a 4-color ink system.    Photo prints made  with  4-color printers  can certainly look good,   but having only four colors  limits the tonal graduation and  color gamut  of the printer- simply put, fine details and nuances of color are lost.    If you compare 4-color inkjet prints to those  made with a 6-color printer you will clearly see the difference.   You should remember this whether buying either a printer or an all-in-one and look for a six (or more) color model if photographic printing is important to you.
I recently tested Epson’s Stylus Photo RX580 all-in-one and am happy to report it is an oustanding performer in all respects.  The RX580  uses Epson’s Claria Hi-Definition inks, rated to last 98 years in display conditions and 200 years in an album.   Take those figures with a grain of salt as it is unlikely any of us will be around in 98 or 200  years to verify it, suffice it to say the prints are long lasting and durable.   I can also vouch from experience that the prints  look fantastic, with bright, brilliant colors  with detail and depth that look extremely realistic and  natural.
Scanning and copying tasks are also handled very well.   Epson’s scanning software has both an easy scanning mode and an advanced mode for more critical work, and the scans themselves are sharp with accurate color.   It prints on CDs and DVDs and has a built-in memory card reader and LCD display for printing directly from memory cards.  
The RX580  is being phased out and will be replaced  by models RX595 and RX680.    Both use the same Claria ink system and should perform just as well, if not better than the RX580.  I have seen RX580s for sale online and in stores for $149 or less, so if you look you should be able to find one, or simply opt for the RX595 or RX680.   The RX595 retails for $149 and the RX680 for $199.   Overall they are great values and hard to beat for the convenience, functionality and high performance they all offer, for not much more than a good scanner or printer.
To make your photo printing easier, stick with photo paper made by the printer’s manufacturer, no matter what  printer you own.   The printer driver’s paper presets will be set for it, making it easier to get good results, and the inks and paper themselves are chemically formulated to work well together.

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