It's been a long six years since Epson last updated the 13-inch dye-based model in its popular Stylus Photo line of photo printers. While the Stylus Photo 1280 remains a very popular printer, some of its specs feel a bit outdated. For example, the new Epson Stylus Photo 1400 can spray out ink drops as small as 1.5 picoliters, compared to the 1280's minimum 4-picoliter drop size. Plus, the 1400 uses six separate ink cartridges, while the 1280 bunched all but its black ink into one cartridge. That means the 1400 won't make you waste the rest of your unused color ink just because the light magenta ran out again.
Speaking of ink, most of the 13-inch Stylus Photo line uses pigment-based inks, which typically last longer than dye-based inks. However, Epson says that the dye-based Claria Hi-Definition inks used by the 1400 are rated to last as long as 98 years behind glass and even longer in dark storage. According to Wilhem Imaging Research, the 1280 can only claim a print permanence of as long as 26 years when displayed behind glass. Not only that, if you've used the 1280 in the past, you should notice that the Stylus Photo 1400 prints faster, thanks to its newer DX5 MicroPiezo print head.
Scrapbookers, who often use 12x12-inch paper, will probably welcome the Stylus Photo 1400, since it lists for $150 less than the Stylus Photo R1800, which is the next step up in Epson's 13-inch line. However, photographers looking for more neutral black-and-white prints should take a look at Epson's Stylus Photo R2400, which earned high scores for its mastery of monochromatic printing. When I was in grade school, printers were massive, ugly, heavy behemoths clad in industrial-looking tan plastic. Color wasn't an option, and the dot-matrix print engine sounded as if it was etching your words into a wood plaque instead of churning out a book report. Thankfully, that has changed. Sleek silver-and-black styling keeps the Stylus Photo 1400 from becoming an eyesore in your home office. Despite that, it's still a bit large, measuring 24.2x12.4x8.8 inches when it's all closed up. Once you open it fully to print, the machine grows to 24.2x31.6x16.3 inches.
Fans of PictBridge printing, which lets you print directly from your camera by connecting it to the printer via USB, will appreciate the convenience of the 1400's front-panel USB jack. But, unlike some of its competitors, this Epson doesn't include a card reader, so you can't print directly from a memory card. Epson probably thinks that the market for this printer is too advanced for that feature, but it does come in handy from time to time. Epson does include the ability to print onto CDs and DVDs, both full size and their smaller 8cm cousins used in camcorders. Just be sure you get the ones with the special white surface on top.