LENSBABY'S

Steve's Digicams

Epson

Stylus Photo 960








Application Software

Epson includes a Photoshop import filter and a standalone application program to allow for PRINT Image Matching (PIM) compatibility with images made with PIM compliant digital cameras.



Epson Stylus Photo 960 Photo Printer

This is the Photoshop PRINT Image Matching file import filter. You enable it from Photoshop's FILE menu:   FILE - IMPORT - Print Image Matching II

This import filter will only display JPEG files that have valid PIM, PIM II or Exif Print info embedded in the image header. You can select one file for import or check the "Import consecutively" option to select more than one image file.




Epson Stylus Photo 960 Photo Printer

Photoshop does not retain the PIM information separately in the JPEG's header file when you import your PIM image. Instead it converts that information in the file and embeds a color space called EPSON RGB 2001. This profile supports all the PIM color advantages and enhancements.

The PIM plug-in works with Photoshop 7.0, 6.0 and Photoshop Elements 2.0, 1.0. It requires the ICC profiles for the Stylus 960 that are installed with the plug-in (Windows) or the printer driver (Macintosh).



Epson Stylus Photo 960 Photo Printer

Epson also includes their Film Factory program on the CD. This is an easy to use viewing and printing utility that lets you organize your images the same as if they were rolls of film. It has printing options to easily make standard prints, index prints, duplicates, album pages, sticker prints and combo prints. The preview window shows you thumbnails of all of your images and if they are PIM-compliant there is a little PIM icon in the upper right corner across from the file number.



Epson Stylus Photo 960 Photo Printer

Epson Print CD software lets you design your own custom CD or DVD labels and then print it on most inkjet printable CD/DVD media. Epson Print CD makes it easy to add graphics, photos and custom text effects and then position it anywhere on the disc using a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor interface.

It isn't Mac OS X compatible, sorry guys.





Steve's Conclusion


The Epson Stylus Photo 960 at $349 (as of June 2003) is a very versatile and high quality photo printer for the home or small business user. It functions as a fast general purpose text and color graphics printer, a high-resolution photo printer and a CD/DVD label printer (when used with inkjet printable CD/DVD media.) Both the PC Windows and Macintosh operating system platforms are supported via its USB and parallel port.

The Photo 960 supports Epson PRINT Image Matching (P.I.M. and P.I.M. II) as well as the new Exif Print standards. You can visit the Epson PIM site for a complete rundown of its features. In a nutshell, the printer takes the exposure information stored in the header of a P.I.M. image and uses this to make the best possible picture, faithfully reproducing the colors, lighting and shadow detail found in the original scene. Color management has always been a big stumbling block in the workflow of the non-professional user and P.I.M. helps to overcome this all too common problem.

Installation and setup on my Windows XP Pro system was quick and painless. You install the software first and then turn the printer on when prompted. After the printer and port are identified the rest of the driver software is installed. It takes longer to install all of the ink cartridges and complete the initial "pump up" primer cycle then it does to install the software. And as noted in the manual, the first set of ink cartridges will not yield as many prints as others because a certain amount of ink is required to "prime" the printer's feed lines and print head.

The Stylus Photo 960 is faster than previous Epson photo printers, here's some of our own in-house test times. The timer was started when the printer fed the paper in and was stopped when the print dropped in the output tray.

    QualityHigh SpeedPaper Size/TypeLayoutPrint Time
    720dpi ON 4x6" PGPP borderless 1:22
    720dpi ON 5x7" PGPP borderless 1:47
    1440dpi ON 5x7" PGPP borderless 3:05
    720dpi ON 8.5x11" PGPP min border 2:35
    1440dpi ON 8.5x11" PGPP min border 4:10
    2880dpi ON 8.5x11" PGPP min border 9:20
    2880dpi OFF 8.5x11" PGPP min border 14:35
    720dpi ON 8.5x11" DWM min border 2:20
    1440dpi ON 8.5x11" DWM min border 4:05
    2880dpi ON 8.5x11" DWM min border 9:05
    720dpi ON 8.5x11" PLP min border 2:30
    1440dpi ON 8.5x11" PLP min border 4:10
    2880dpi ON 8.5x11" PLP min border 8:50
    1440dpi ON 8.5x11" CPP min border 5:10
    2880dpi ON 8.5x11" CPP min border 9:30

    Paper Types: PGPP Premium Glossy Photo Paper, DWM Double-weight Matte
    PLP Premium Luster Photo Paper, CPP Colorlife Photo Paper.

The driver software has been changed since we reviewed the Epson Stylus 925 printer. They've added five icon/choices for Quality (Draft, Text, Text & Image, Photo and Best Photo) to help simplify setting the printer up for the best possible output for the task at hand. You still need to select the paper type, size and orientation before printing. There's no less than 13 different paper choices (Plain Paper, 360 dpi Inkjet Paper, Photo Quality Inkjet Paper, Matte Paper - Heavyweight, Photo Paper, Glossy Photo Paper, Premium Glossy Photo Paper, Photo Quality Glossy Film, Inkjet Transparencies, Colorlife Photo Paper, Premium Luster Photo Paper and Premium Semigloss Photo Paper.) The Stylus 960 has a straight-through manual feed path to accommodate the heavyweight fine art papers up to 1.3mm thick.

More experienced users can click on the Advanced button to access all of the possible printer settings. Output resolution choices (360, 720, 1440, 2880 dpi), paper source (sheet, roll, manual), paper type, paper size, orientation, high speed, edge smoothing, minimize margins, black ink only, print preview and color management controls. It all sounds rather mind-boggling but once you know what it all does you can make even better prints.

The Photo 960 supports roll paper in 4" and 8.3" widths with an adjustable roll holder and an automatic paper cutter assembly. With the 4" paper you can print borderless 4x6" prints faster and cheaper than when using the 4x6" cut sheets. The problem with using roll paper is that the prints retain their "curl" next to forever. This isn't a real problem when making wall size 8.3 x 44-inch panoramas but it's very annoying for the 4 x 6-inch prints you hold in your hand. The cutter is easily adjusted in the driver software and you can choose between "normal" which makes two cuts between prints and wastes a bit of paper, "paper saver" which makes only one cut or manual.

Printing on CD-R media is a very useful thing seeing as how most computers have CD writers and archiving your digital photos to CD is definitely the way to go. But I'm sure that you're as tired of sloppy looking hand-written CD labels as I am. Or maybe you've tried one of those CD labeling gizmos like the Disc Stomper where you print on a self-adhesive round label that you stick on the CD disc. They're OK if and only if the label goes on right the first time - with no bubbles or wrinkles and it's properly aligned. Even when applied properly you run the risk of the label "peeling up" after time and then getting stuck in or damaging your CD drive. And with the 40X and higher speed CD readers you also run the risk of spinning an unbalanced disc because of the label and what's printed on it. Ever wonder what makes some of those CDs buzz like a bee hive when they're spinning?

Epson Stylus Photo 960 Photo Printer

Actual scan of a printed CD disc


The Stylus Photo 960 makes it easy to print directly on CD or DVD discs. Attach the special printing support tray over the top of the normal tray and place your CD or DVD in the provided CD carrier. Move the paper thickness lever all the way up and then push the carrier in to the marked position. Pull the paper thickness lever down to the "+" position, hit the paper feed button and it lines up the CD for printing. Using the Epson Print CD software makes creating and printing these custom labels a snap. Alignment is always difficult when printing on circular media so there's an adjustment setting to get things right. However, I would recommend staying away from full-coverage photos or backgrounds, keeping them perfectly centered is often difficult. If you stick to just graphics and text instead of a full coverage background image then no one will ever notice if it isn't perfectly centered.

Epson recommends allowing the CD to dry for at least 24 hours to prevent any smearing of the ink. Not all printable discs are the same, I much prefer the white-sided ones to the silver ones, they have better color reproduction. You can only print on those discs that are specifically manufactured as "ink jet printable" discs, regular CD discs cannot be used.



The bottom line - The Stylus Photo 960 is a good choice for those searching for the "one printer that can do it all."   It can handle the day-to-day text and graphics printing tasks as well as producing excellent photo-quality prints. And as an extra bonus it can be used to label the CD and DVD discs that you create. It's a fast text printer and a fast photo printer and now it's more economical to operate than previous Epson dye-based ink jet printers thanks to its individual ink cartridges. The 2-picoliter sized ink droplets make photos that are nearly indistinguishable from conventional photographs and when printed on the proper Epson media, they can last just as long.





Return to our





Go to Steve's




802,086,795


Note: All photographs and page content
Copyright © 2003 Steve's Digicam Online, Inc.

Nothing on this page may be used, distributed or
copied without the author's prior permission.