Epson Stylus Photo 1290  /  1280 / 1270 / 890 / 870 / 900

The Epson Stylus Photo 1290 was another important turning point in digital photography. With the Epson Stylus Photo 1270 and then the 1290, Epson produced the first affordable pro quality A3 inkjet photo printers. It was what we had all been waiting for so every photographer bought one. The fact that the Epson Stylus Photo 1290S was still on sale 5 years later gives you some idea how big a leap in quality it represented. The S means it was silver. Used with Epson’s own Premium Glossy Photo Paper the 1290 or any of it’s relatives gives you beautiful smooth tones and bright saturated colours, and, even now it’s output is right up with the best. The only thing Epson didn’t manage to include in the mix was speed. The 1290 takes about 15 minutes to print a high quality A4 image, which if you just want one, is no big deal. But if you’re printing a whole set of images or a run of A3 prints, that, whee, whee, noise the printer makes will become a permanent background to your life. You’ll find that the 8 or 10 prints you’ve sent to the printer driver will mean leaving your PC on overnight to produce a batch of prints a Canon photo printer would have finished in about 15 minutes. The 1290 isn’t just slow, it’s very, very slow indeed.

Epson Stylus Photo 900 printer
Having used several 1290’s and an Epson Stylus Photo 900 A4 version the other main gripes with these printers are colour balance and cartridge life. Although the 1290 has a good set of controls in the driver and overall it’s capable of great results, it has a strong tendancy to give a magenta cast to some images. Rather like some reversal films which try to give you images of a world slightly rosier and brighter than the real one, the Epson 1290 overdoes the magentas at times and can be hard to correct. The 1290 uses Epson’s T007 black and T009 photo colour cartridges, which, with the T008 are used by many Epson Photo printers, and the good news is that even official Epson ink for these printers is now very reasonably priced, so don’t even think of using cheap inks - it’s not worth the clogged heads.  The bad news though, as with all Epson printers, is that when the chip on the ink cartridge says it’s empty the printer stops. Even if you’re printing text and it’s the colour that’s run out, there is nothing you can do. If you haven’t got a spare cart handy you’re stuffed. This situation is even more annoying when you learn that the ink cartridges are set to read empty when there is actually about 30% left. Canon and HP printers can be made to keep going even if a tank reads empty, and in my experience they always give you quite a few more prints, before anything really does run out. Epson’s reasoning here is that continuing until any colour really does run out, will damage the print head, which with most Epson printers is fatal, as the head can’t be replaced. In reality you can fight back - read my page about : 

Resetting Epson Cartridges

Despite it’s age the 1290 is still a great printer, and uses the first inkset that really did resist fading - Epson claim 25 years life using Epson Premium Glossy Paper. Things have moved on though, so, if you’re looking for a reasonably priced A3 printer the Epson Stylus Photo 1400 is the 1290’s replacement and has similar strengths. It’s also much quicker.

Epson Stylus Photo 1290 Recommended Photo Papers

Buying Cheap Ink

Fade Test with an Epson Stylus Photo 870

© David Gold
All text and images copyright David Gold 2006 - 2011
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