By Joan T. Sherwood, Senior Editor
The new Epson P-7000 Multimedia Photo Viewer takes the same basic package of the P-5000, puts in a new screen (Epson Photo Fine Premia Technology), adds 80 more gigabytes of storage (160GB total), and includes a travel pack (case, viewing stand, car adapter, dual battery charger, cleaning cloth and a bit of clear film to protect the LCD). A new jog dial under the four-way navigator also adds convenience in menu navigation and browsing through large sets of images. This review is based on a pre-launch sample unit.
By far the biggest viewer assets are the 4-inch, 720x480-pixel screen, large storage capacity and the ability to backup direct from media cards. The viewer is compatible with UDMA CF cards and Secure Digital/SDHC cards. Epson boasts a 35-percent increase in transfer speed over previous models, but Epson doesn't provide any actual transfer rates based on card types. The new model also offers a wider viewing angle, and display color that covers 94 percent of Adobe RGB.
The colors are, indeed, beautiful on the display, and there’s even an Enhanced Photo Display Mode that is supposed to optimize color based on the image content, but it seems more trouble than it’s worth—I couldn’t really see a difference. It may be more obvious if you’ve got a set of images that aren’t popping the way you’d like.
For pro photographers, the slideshow capability may be the feature that could make the viewer pay for itself in terms of potential on-location marketing. At events, meetings or civic functions—wherever there may be a dull moment—you can take advantage of the opportunity to draw a crowd and show off some images.
To create a quick-pick slideshow, use the star button to rate your favorites, filter to show one star or more, and choose slideshow from the menu.
The native slideshow options are a little disappointing. Transition effects are None, Blend, Random, Tile, and Roll. With the Blend effect, the image fades in, in-motion from a corner or side, fades out, then fades in a centered, full-screen view, then fades out to the next image in motion. It’s a bit much, and you can’t select the keypoint where the motion stops and starts, so if you tend to compose using the rule of thirds with a lot of open space, the transition of your image may not look quite right. Random, Tile and Roll options are a waste of the big screen. You can set the duration for the image display, but not for the blend transition.
Click the image below to see a video of the Blend, Roll and Tide slideshows, each set to 1-second duration.
The sample music that comes on the player is pretty generic stuff. Go to Broken Joey Records or Triple Scoop Music and pick out some great music for your slide presentations.
My wishes for the next version include a simple cross-fade style and faster transition options. It would also be great to be able to save particular slideshow settings and music selections to particular photo folders.
You can change the slideshow settings by pressing the Menu button during a slideshow.
The player supports several types of video files, so your best option is to load the viewer with a few of your own well-edited multimedia presentations, created with third party software like iMovie, ProShow or ProSelect. If you want to create slideshows on the P-7000 with images you’ve shot on site, you’ll have to keep it simple.
Some of the P-7000 functions are very intuitive and take minimal effort, like copying a folder from the Backup files to the Photos folder. Others, such as creating a Playlist, take some User Guide research.
I tried the Print Wizard with my PictBridge-enabled Canon Pixma Pro9000, and it worked beautifully. The custom print adjustment (image editing) settings are simple, and there’s something a little freeing about that. You start with the Print Wizard, select from several print options (custom, crop, original, contact sheet, etc.), then select the image(s) you want to print. You can also add a watermark to your prints. The watermark can be simple text created on the viewer or a PNG file created on your computer and transferred to the viewer.
Like all the Epson viewer models before it, the P-7000 is an impressive tool to have in your bag, especially when you want to work without a laptop. It’s great looking and constructed with high-quality material—you’re not afraid a button will fall off or stop working over time, as I have been with a few other viewers I’ve tried.
But there are a few additional small issues that I have with the design.
The jog dial/scroll wheel is small. My hands are small, and I found myself getting a bit of a thumb cramp scrolling through a large folder of images and applying star ratings to my favorites. The 4-way nav occupies the optimal thumb placement, and the scroll is a little below that, making it not quite ergonomic. A combination circular scroll wheel and 4-way nav button like the ones on the back of high-end Canon cameras would be much easier on the thumb.
With my Mac setup, even though I would disconnect properly, the viewer screen still displayed a warning not to disconnect the USB cord. That issue may be fixed with post-production models.
The battery icon indicates general remaining battery life, but an option to check a numeric estimate of the percentage remaining would be more comforting to a photographer in the field. Many of the new DSLRs have this feature. The photo viewer uses more or less battery capacity depending on what you’re doing, so Epson may be a bit nervous about users feeling misled if the juice doesn’t jibe with expectations.
The Epson Link2 software (below) is crude looking, but effective in keeping images organized optimally for the viewer and encouraging you to have a complete backup. I couldn’t always adjust the interface windows to a larger view—in some sessions the expand handle would pop up, in others it wouldn't—making the file names difficult to read when there was deep folder nesting. Also, my mouse wheel wouldn’t work to scroll in the interface.
Be aware, too, that the viewer will not support RAW format images from some of the highest resolution DSLRs, like the Canon EOS 1D series or the Nikon D3. It will certainly download, transfer and backup the images, but you may not be able to see a thumbnail or do any of the RAW image editing that the viewer is capable of with the cameras it does support. I wouldn’t recommend raw editing with the viewer anyway—it’s just not the right tool for that kind of work.
The P-7000 supports RAW format images from the following digital SLR cameras:
(as of Sept. 8, 2008)
Canon: EOS 5D, 10D, Digital Rebel, Digital Rebel XT, Digital Rebel XTi, 20D, 30D, 40D
Epson: R-D1, R-D1s
Nikon: D2X, D2Xs, D70, D70s, D80, D50, D40, D40X, D200, D300
Olympus: E-330, E-500
Pentax: *istD, *istDs, *istDL, *istDs2, *istDL2, K100D, K10D
The camera models listed here have been tested by Epson and were found to be compatible. Other camera models may be compatible, but have not been tested.
From the Epson FAQs:
If you play continuous videos with audio, using headphones, the battery supplied with your P-7000 should last approximately 3 hours. The following table gives the approximate battery life expectancy for various activities.
Playing a slide show (in default settings): 3 hours
Playing video (MPEG4, 2 Mbps, using headphones): 3 hours
Playing audio (MP3, 128 kbps, using headphones): 6 hours
The Epson P-7000 is available now at an MSRP of $799.99.