Epson Stylus C86 Color Photo Inkjet Printer

RJO’s Reviews on Amazon.com

These brief product reviews have been posted to Amazon.com, and they may be viewed there in their original form either collectively (on my public reviews page) or individually (by following the link at each title below).

Remarkable Print Quality for the Price

The Epson Stylus C86 is an ideal personal desktop printer that can produce outstanding photographic prints when used with care.

I needed a personal printer to sit beside my computer that could handle moderate volume. I still use the networked office printer down the hall for occasional bulk jobs, but the Stylus C86 is perfect for most day-to-day work. Ordinary text printing is fast and sharp. I’ve used it with perforated postcard sheets very successfully, and the ‘fine’ setting produces truly excellent typographic resolution.

Printing high quality digital photos on any printer is a skill that takes a good deal of practice, and the nature of the output depends as much on details of the input file as it does on the quality of the printer. With carefully prepared CMYK digital images and good photo paper such as Epson’s Enhanced Matte paper (a must for quality work), I’ve been able to produce amazing digital prints with the Stylus C86. Co-workers couldn’t believe they had been output from an inexpensive desktop printer.

Epson recommends the DuraBrite inks with this printer, and that is what I use. There’s no doubt they are expensive, and the cost of replacement cartridges is a drawback of all inkjet printers. The claimed advantage of these specific inks is that they are pigment based and so do not fade as dye-based inks do. I haven’t done a thorough test of this, but there is no question that the inks are more durable than the dye-based inks used in an older Canon printer I had: prints from that machine would be noticeably faded after only a few months. It is hardly worth making digital photo prints at all if the colors won’t last, and the DuraBrite inks used in the Stylus C86 are certainly superior to many others. Further, the cartridges are individually replaceable so if you use a lot of cyan (say), you can replace only the cyan cartridge without having to discard the remaining yellow and magenta. The software that comes with the printer is adequate (if inelegant), and it lets you check the amount of ink remaining in each color and clean the print nozzles when needed.

It’s important not to judge this printer by the wrong standards. It isn’t meant to be a rugged, high-volume, multi-user office printer. It’s a personal printer that will perform very well for an individual user, and it can produce stunning photo prints with good paper and a good input file. Are there more durable, heavy-duty printers available? Of course. They cost much more. Are there printers that will produce commercial-quality photo prints quickly and in high volume? Of course. They cost much more, too. It is the combination of both quality and price that make the Epson Stylus C86 a truly remarkable personal printer. I use mine every day.

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