Our Epson Stylus Photo 1270 Printer Should Be Retired

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Back in 1999, this whole "digital darkroom" idea was still pretty young. Yes, Photoshop had been around for a quite a while and "desktop" publishing was a well-established industry--but using a computer for photographic work was still pretty bleeding edge. Despite that, I foraged ahead into the relative-unknown with two second-generation products: a Nikon CoolScan III film scanner (don't let the name fool you--it's a 2nd gen product) and an Epson Stylus Photo 1270 wide-format photo printer. These allowed me to scan my slides and negatives into the computer, then make prints of them.

Calling the 1270 a second generation product is a little debatable. Epson had been producing inkjet printers capable of great results (photo-realistic, even) for quite some time. The 1270 was the second generation of 6-color inkjet printers, though, which radically changed how photo-realistic a print could be. Results were startlingly better.

I had been getting 8- × 10-inch prints made on a Fujix Pictrography machine at $20 a pop for quite a while. Results were always fantastic. However, the professional photofinisher who did these prints was closing shop to move to Alabama (if memory serves) and I didn't want to start the long process of finding a capable photofinisher again. So I tried the 1270. The results it gave left me very impressed, often capable of better detail and tonality than the Pictography prints were. An 8 × 10 print only cost about $4.00 to make; an 11 × 14 cost about $7.50.

A testament to its excellent quality, when Epson updated the 1270 to the 1280 they only made two minor changes: the 1280 is capable of borderless printing, and it can print at the 2880 dpi resolution. (And the resolution is really a moot point. I always print at 720 dpi even though 1440 dpi is an option. 1440 dpi uses signifcantly more ink and the quality difference is basically unnoticeable without a magnifying glass. What does 2880 dpi offer?) The 1280 is still Epson's consumer-grade wide-format photo printer today. For what it's worth, the more expensive 2200 is a significantly better printer, though.

From about 1999 to 2002 I used this printer heavily, and it always met my needs. Between most of 2002 and 2003, the printer hadn't seen much use. I don't know why, exactly, I just didn't print so much.

But this past year I haven't really used the 1270 because it's getting old and doesn't work so well anymore. The heads need constant cleaning to get good results on the "nozzle check" test. And even then, getting a good print isn't guaranteed--yellow, light magenta, and/or light cyan often don't print, requiring more head cleanings; shadows rarely print well anymore, often blocking up; and it often drops blobs of ink on an otherwise perfect print. All that wasted paper and ink adds up pretty quickly. I'm sure the per-print cost is much higher than it was initially. Mouseover each image below for a brief description of its problem.

I have two full color ink cartridges left. I think after they're gone it'll be time to trash the 1270. Maybe I'll look for a new printer then, too. I really like the 7600 I use at work!

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