Epson launches color-smart iOS app and updates pro photo printers with P700, P900

Good, if expensive, news for the stuck-at-home creative.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography | PCs and laptops | Gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
3 min read

If you've been waiting to preview and print from an iPad or iPhone to your Epson printer with correct color profiles for your media, the wait is over -- sort of. Epson is rolling a version of its Print Layout software for mobile that adds color-managed printing for all Epson-profiled media. The catch is for technical reasons it will only work with the company's two just-announced pro wide-format desktop photo printers, the 13x19 SureColor P700 and 17x22 P900.

The app will be available first for iPad in May, followed by an iOS version in July. The $799 P700 (about £645 or AU$1,270) will ship in early May as well, with the $1,295 P900 coming a month later. Epson has no plans to keep their predecessors, the P600 and P800, available for sale at a lower price. 

There's no system-wide color management in iOS or iPad OS. Apple makes all its displays as consistent as possible and their mobile operating systems can map to sRGB, but the rest is punted to individual app developers for workarounds. Thus you end up with neutered color-matching apps like X-Rite's ColorTrue.  

That's tolerable for most display-only based workflows but for printers, not so much. Printers can have multiple profiles, each for different paper, and their color gamuts can't be assumed as you can with the lowest-common-denominator sRGB gamut. This can be especially annoying because the common color space used for editing to go to print, Adobe RGB, doesn't completely overlap with P3, Apple's beloved color space. Printer gamuts are nowhere near. They're also heavily dependent on light color since they're reflective, not emissive like displays.

Unfortunately, that means you still can't edit for accurate print color within various apps: They can't "see" the profiles for printers in order to map the colors properly to the screen, and iOS doesn't play middleman. So Epson's solution is a layout app where you can make high-level global adjustments just before printing (including support for Advanced Black and White) with accurate-as-possible previews. You'll also be able to match paper color by eye for unsupported stock.

Epson is launching it for iOS because at least the closed ecosystem means it can assume a standard display profile. Android is anarchy in comparison.

The printers are unequivocally welcome, though. It feels like forever since Epson last upgraded its SureColor P600 and P800 wide-format desktop photo printers. Two years ago I held off buying a P600 because I thought the 4-year-old printer would be imminently replaced. Nope. 

Now it's been six years and Epson's finally refreshed the 13x19 and 17x22  printers, bringing down much of the new technology and features that debuted in October 2019 with the floorstanding SureColor P7570 and P9570, as well as making some long-needed changes. The new P700 and P900:

  • Have been physically redesigned, with larger touchscreens and a smaller footprint. The printers can now track settings and print jobs. 
  • Use new roll feed configurations. The P600's doesn't require the cumbersome mounts anymore, and the P900's is optional. Neither has a built-in cutter.
  • Adopt the current-gen Micro Piezo AMC printheads with separate photo and matte black channels -- no swapping!
  • Move to 5GHz Wi-Fi
  • Switch to a 10-color UltraChrome Pro10 inkset, which adds Violet ink that expands the color gamut by about 6% for better reproduction of colors in sunsets, skies, ocean and more. It also supports Carbon Black mode, which selectively increases black density. Oh, and say goodbye to "Light Black" and "Light Light Black." They're now the more sensible "Gray" and "Light Gray."

Epson has also decreased the volume of the ink cartridges for the P900. The smaller cartridges preserve the cost per milliliter, but are less expensive to reduce sticker shock and to accommodate a majority of people who don't need the higher capacity. 

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