Epson SureLab SL-D700 review
Epson SL-D700 six colour photo printer review.
Roll media from 102-210mm wide. Prints to 1 metre in length
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Sometimes you just want to print a lot of images at fairly standard sizes. Whilst printers like the Epson P5000 has a paper tray and takes smaller papers, and roll paper, it’s not really meant for what might be described as ‘Photo Lab’ style operations.
Epson have a printer specifically aimed at this market, taking roll paper at up 210mm wide, with a dye based inkset and built in cutter. Great for heavy duty production use, but what about the print quality?
Keith Cooper has been trying out the SureColor SL-D700, including colour profiling and looking at the printer’s ability to print up to 1 metre in length.
Epson headlines the printer as:
The SL-D700 is designed for photo shops and photographers who want to print high quality photos and expand their printing business.
It uses a six-colour dye based ink set – UltraChrome D6-S with 200ml ink carts. Print longevity should be on a par with the similar ‘Claria’ inks, and under glass should outlast any of our readers.
The inks come in a CMYK set with additional LC and LM. Since they are dye based inks, there is no need for a separate photo and matte black, so no black ink switching.
I’m just going to be driving the printer from Photoshop (CS6). You could drive a whole rack full of them this way with different papers, but for production purposes Epson do make specialist software (Epson Order Controller) which lets you manage multiple printers and handle bulk printing, along with scheduling, image adjustment and colour management. Unfortunately I couldn’t test this software, since it’s Windows PC only, and we’ve not had one here this century…
It’s also supported by the Mirage print software I looked at a while ago with the 24″ Canon PRO-2000.
The normal print driver supports prints up to 1 metre long, so a 39″ x 8″ panoramic print is easy to do.
I was easily able to get a 2 metre print out of it, so the actual maximum is somewhat more.
The printer can print at a fair old rate, hitting ~430 prints per hour for 6″x 4″ prints on glossy paper at it’s fastest rate. Apart from a few samples though, I stuck to best quality for my testing.
There’s not a lot of difference visible between high and standard quality without getting a strong hand-lens out and even ‘fast’ would likely not be noticed by many looking at the prints.
The printer turned up in its own wheeled case.
The printer was already configured, so you’ll need to set aside an hour or so for full setup, with new ink carts, for a brand new machine.
The ~23kg printer is relatively easy to get out of the box, if you remember that the front panel hinges forward.
There is no paper tray as standard – the clear plastic box you can see is for collecting trimmings of paper.
There are optional trays if you need them.
They do look nice, but I just pulled out the drawer below for the prints to fall onto assorted tea towels. The printer has a powerful dryer/fan for prints as they come out, and they are fully dry.
There’s no networking to take care of, the D700 has a basic USB 2 connection and power cable.
In the photo of the back, you can also see the rear paper path access. It’s the centre section above the box at the back and used if you get a severe paper jam. I’m not sure how this could happen, but user skills vary…
If you’re tight for space, the minimum space required is:
Ink carts sit at either side.
The maintenance cart is situated above the inks at the right
The maintenance cart is pre-installed with new printers.
The print head assembly sits under a panel at the top, accessible for any paper jams and cleaning.
For my tests, I’ve plugged the D700 into my Macbook Pro and shared it over our network.
Whilst software is provided, I just went to Epson UK on the web, to download the latest Mac drivers and other files.
There’s also paper definition info available, which you can install via the printer setup software.
Whilst all of the stages work with a directly connected printer, running this software from one of my networked Macs failed attempting the firmware update. Not a problem since I’d already set things up on my Macbook.
I downloaded the paper info from the printer’s support page [Epson UK]
The printer is shared via my laptop (which has to be running).
I also had to remember to enable printer sharing on the laptop.
There are relatively few printer options that you can set from the printer utility.
It’s worth setting the paper type though – this is important if you’re running several printers with different paper types in them. It also helps the printer keep track of paper left on the roll.
The printer can do periodic automatic nozzle checks.
The standard nozzle check pattern is still available – no blockages in the month I’ve used the machine.
The printer takes several sizes of paper from 210mm wide (for A4) to 4″.
The rolls of paper (8″ and 6″ below) are pretty easy to fit, since after all this is a production printer and aimed at non-expert users.
There’s a big empty space in the middle of the printer where the paper sits.
Here’s a graphic showing the paper path – from an Epson video about the printer.
The spindle is adjustable for different paper sizes.
I’ve set it for the 8″ roll of matte paper I’m loading.
The paper roll simply drops in place once you’ve pulled forward the mechanism.
Note the large gear teeth on the spindle.
All the drive mechanism is solidly built – this printer is intended to work every day for a long while.
At the front there is a plastic slider that you need to set to the paper width.
Paper is fed into the slot at the front and the mechanism pushed back.
A blue light comes on once you’ve fed enough paper into the printer for it to complete the loading process.
You can see it reflected off the paper at the left.
Note the reminder of the loading procedure on the back of the cuttings tray.
If you’ve been using the printer, then do take care, since the trimmings will exit the tray very easily…
The driver offers a wide range of standard paper sizes.
If you’re printing borderless, then there are a number of resizing options available. I’d suggest reading the well written user guide to be certain of what you’re going to get.
I wondered just why I was initially getting a border along one edge until I realised I’d got A4 (210mm) paper installed rather than the 8″ I thought was there. Setting the printer paper size when you swap paper is important.
Here’s an 8″ x 12″ profiling target on 8″ matte paper (with border)
A borderless 6″ x 9″ print on a lustre paper.
Custom print sizes
You can specify print lengths up to 1 metre – or just a bit more as I noticed when looking to print a very long print.
The panoramic shot of the viaduct prints on an 8″ x 75cm paper size that I’ve specified.
I’m printing with the ICC printer profile I’ve created for this paper.
Regular readers might notice the image as the source for the standard page header of all our articles on this site.
The print only takes a few minutes at the highest quality setting.
You can set a new custom size, or just trim the print later.
This panoramic shot is just a bit short.
It was watching this print come out, and the landscape one above it, when I realised just how good these prints look on matte paper.
The paper is very similar to the Epson Matte papers I’ve tried over the years with many of the printers I’ve reviewed and the colours are the strongest I’ve seen on a paper like this.
The depth of colour is impressive – put this ink set (with a few more colours) into a larger format printer and you would have a very interesting option.
Setting up a 1 metre page size for 6 inch lustre paper, lets me print a giant multi-shot image I recently completed for an industrial client (the full size image would easily print at 5 metres long).
I’ve created a printer settings preset, to make sure the settings are the same every time I print.
I’m printing at full quality, since I’m not in a hurry…
Print time for the big print was 3m 25s at best quality, with around about 40 seconds initial start time for the printer to ready itself. This seems fairly constant if you do just one print at a time – multiple copies are much faster.
Suffice to say, I now have a collection of long thin prints…
But wait, there’s more…
You might remember, that I just bumped into a 1004mm page limit? The clue is in the warning message – the PPD file specifies the page limit. Finding the ‘EPSON SL-D700.gz’ file in my printer PPD list, I edited the maximum page length to double what it was set to and decided to see what would happen. Ignore the .gz ending, I just used a basic text editor to change two numbers.
First I created a new printer instance in my printers list – this reads my new PPD file to create the printer.
Then using this new printer, I set a custom media size for a print – the maximum print size is now listed as 2008mm.
With 6″ lustre paper, I decided to print one of my widest panoramic images, of Leicester city centre at dusk. The file is some 60k pixels wide, so prints at ~790ppi on 6″ paper
The image is one I exhibited a while ago as a 14 metre print – there’s a making of article if you’re curious.
It printed – just like any other long print I’ve made. I’ve no idea what the maximum possible length is, but it’s certainly a lot more than 1004mm.
Please note that hand editing PPD files is at your own risk – if you’re unsure and want to try it I can give some pointers for doing it on a Mac, but with a PC, you’re on your own…
Even though the printer is supplied with icc colour profiles for the six media types, I still like to run off some icc profiles of my own, to see how the printer is laying down ink.
There are only three basic media types gloss/lustre/matte.
The two sets relate to two different versions of the paper produced by Epson.
Whilst you can print with any media setting to any paper, I experimented with this when profiling and they are genuinely optimised (not a lot of difference between lustre and gloss though).
I’m printing my targets using the Mac ColorSync Utility – making sure to set the size at 100% and set ‘print as color target’.
I’m using X-rite i1 Profiler to make my profiles, measuring the targets with my i1iSis XL spectro.
Looking at the measurement data shows the distinct peak from optical brightener (OBA) in the paper.
The Epson papers are pretty standard photo papers, I’d note that several specialist paper suppliers I know didn’t stock the rolls of paper, since the market for them was largely at the ‘very price sensitive’ end and they simply didn’t want the cost of the business.
A quick test print with my Datacolor test image looked fine. (from my printer test image collection)
I then moved to the much trickier test images from the i1Profiler package. These really push gamut, but this screen shot of the print preview (and the print) has no glaring issues.
A quick gamut check from the print preview in Photoshop shows that as expected, the six inks are having problems reaching the gamuts I’d expect for a printer with a wider range of inks (such as the P5000)
These out of gamut [OOG] areas are just that – however the grey areas only tell you that they are OOG not by how much or whether you’d notice it.
Time also for a quick check of my bright red flowers – as used in a recent article about printing strong colours.
The first shot shows a preview using my optimised icc profile.
The second shows Epson’s own profile.
With caveats due to looking at images on the web, notice how reds in the flowers are handled differently. My profile captures the slightly more yellow of the actual flowers, but the Epson profile shows more detail. The prints showed exactly the same difference, but slightly less obviously.
If you have one of these printers, email me and I’ll happily send my profiles to look at – strictly for non commercial use though.
I should note that even printing without any colour management (printer manages color) results were broadly acceptable, indicating that the driver and printer are quite well tuned for the media options.
Black and white?
With the single black ink set, this is not a printer you’d automatically think of for B&W printing. There is no B&W mode in the printer driver.
I used my standard B&W test print to check performance on the different papers, using the Epson supplied profiles.
Linearity was just fine and I’d not want to use any of the correction techniques I use for some papers in other machines (see my Epson P7000 review for more about this)
The depth of black was very good and the images crisply printed. However, the shot above (under halogen lighting) shows a slight brown/magenta cast. taking the test prints into the conservatory (diffuse daylight) changed this to a slight greenish look.
Both colours are slight, but once you’d noticed them, it’s not something you could ‘un-see’.
This is the sort of metamerism that you can’t dial out with a simple adjustment in the printer driver. Yes, you can improve results for a particular lighting, but not for all. You could deliberately tone or tint you photos, but that isn’t a proper fix for me.
I’d note that this isn’t just a problem for printers with the single black – B&W reproduction needs care. If this is an issue and you don’t mind a bit of photoshop work, I’ve written up an article discussing ways of dealing with residual colour tints in black and white prints.
The printer is designed for doing a lot of printing, with features like the long life cutter blade meaning that you should only have to keep feeding it paper, ink and occasionally a maintenance cart.
The printer feels a bit industrial, particularly round the back. Then again it’s very likely to be fitted in some kind of kiosk or multi printer cabinet.
It’s also noisy – one of the noisiest printers I’ve ever tested – drawing complaints from the house management reading in the next room.
Why so? well it prints quickly, so generates a fair bit of heat. It also has powerful fans to make sure the prints are fully dry when they come out, and any paper dust doesn’t build up. The airflow is such that making the printer quiet would take a lot of engineering and space. We come back to the primary uses of the printer – applications where the fan noise isn’t really an issue.
If you’re putting one of these in your studio then some care in positioning is needed. You can set how long the printer takes before going into a fans-off sleep mode from the main setup options.
Print costs are not something I can easily calculate, but ink costs with the big 200ml carts are going to be a small fraction of what you’re paying for A4/A3 desktop printers.
I should note that I was only printing to the printer via Photoshop, which is hardly the software you’d choose if running the printer at an event, wanting quick print turnaround. Even Lightroom would struggle, so you could well be looking at Epson’s Order controller LE software, which will set you back several hundred pounds, and won’t run on Macs
Print quality is excellent, given the printer’s 720 x 1440 resolution. I was able to convince myself that the quickest print mode (720 x 360) had a little less detail, but not without my close-up glasses.
Prints on the gloss and lustre media showed none of the surface texturing you see with pigment inks when lit at a glancing angle.
Prints on matte media were superb, even more so when considering the basic 6 ink setup.
The media selection is a bit limited, for someone like myself, who’s used to shelves of different papers to choose from. However for the basic print market, the Epson options are fine. If I’d like to see something more, then some slightly heavier media would give a more solid feel when handing out sample prints, and maybe be of use for cards and the like.
The printer has an (ex VAT) list price of £2455 in the UK
Print Times – averages from Epson
Gloss/lustre – fast speed:
- 545 per hour for 5.0×3.5-inches
- 430 per hour for 6×4-inches
- 140 per hour for 8×10-inches
Gloss/lustre – standard quality
- 455 per hour for 5.0×3.5-inches
- 360 per hour for 6×4-inches
- 120 per hour for 8×10-inches
Gloss/lustre/matte – high quality
- 225 per hour for 5.0×3.5-inches
- 180 per hour for 6×4-inches
- 60 per hour for 8×10-inches
Specs – from Epson UK
|Printing Method||Epson Micro Piezo drop-on-demand inkjet technology, High-performance print head technology designed for robust printing environments, Variable Sized Droplet Technology|
|Printing Resolution||720x720dpi on Lustre Paper
720x720dpi on Glossy Paper
720x360dpi on Lustre Paper
720x360dpi on Glossy Paper
1440x720dpi on Matte Paper
1440x720dpi on Lustre Paper
1440x720dpi on Glossy Paper
|Minimum Droplet Size||2.5 pl, With Variable-Sized Droplet Technology|
|Max. Print speed||360 – 4″ x 6″ (10 x 15cm) Prints/hour
8 Secs per 4″ x 6″ print
|Ink Technology||Ultrachrome D6-S|
|Ink Set||6 colours|
|Available Colours||Black, Cyan, Light Cyan, Light Magenta, Magenta, Yellow|
|Cartridge Size||200 ml|
|Supported Media||Glossy, Lustre, Matte|
|Media Handling||Roll Paper|
|No. Of Roll holders||1 pcs|
|Rear Roll specs||Weight < 4 kg
External Diameter 170 mm
Core Diameter 76 mm ± 2 mm ( 3 inch )
Max. Roll Length 66 m
|Supported Media Width||102mm (4-inch)
|Print Size||4 inches x 3.5 inches to 8.25 inches x 39 inches, 10.2 cm x 8.9 cm to 21 cm x 100 cm|
|Max. Print width||210 mm|
|Print Margins||Border defined by application, Borderless|
|Other Hardware||Control LED for roll paper and ink|
|Environmental Conditions – Temperature||Storage: -20 – 40 °C, Matte: 15 – 25 °C, Operating: 10 – 35 °C (except Matte)|
|Environmental Conditions – Humidity||Matte 40 – 60 % (no condensation), Storage 5 – 85 % (no condensation), Operating 20 – 80 % (except Matte, no condensation)|
|Power Consumption||Operating approx. 120 W|
|Voltage||50/ 60 Hz, 200 V- 240 V, 100 V- 120 V|
|Available Software||Printer Driver (standard bundling), Order Controller (optional)|
|Sound Pressure Level||< 55 dB (A) (ISO9296 Standard)|
|Compatible Operating Systems||Mac OS 10.5+, Windows 7, Windows 7 x64, Windows 8 (32/64 bit), Windows 8.1, Windows 8.1 x64 Edition|
|Interfaces||USB 2.0 Type A|
|Product dimensions||460mm x 430 x 354 mm (Width x Depth x Height)|
|Product weight||23 kg without media and ink|
|What’s in the box||CD Manual, Driver and utilities (CD), Maintenance Tank, Power cable, Setup guide, Spindle Unit(s)|
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