Want to make big, gorgeous, color and black-and-white prints? We put three
pro-level printers to the test.
The largest, most expensive printer in this roundup, the Canon must offer more to compete. And it does in terms of speed, with the fastest print times in both color and black-and-white.
The Canon has dual replaceable print heads (each with more than 15,000 nozzles), assigned to six individual Lucia pigment inks. These cartridges are normally loaded with 130ml of ink each, so you'll be able to make more prints from a fully loaded iPF5000 than from the other two printers. Sticker shock may set in when you realize it costs nearly $900 to replace all 12 inks when they eventually run dry. (The starter inks that ship with are just 90ml each, so that will happen more quickly the first time around.) But because the inks cost less per milliliter than the others, this printer could pay for itself in the long term -- especially if you make a lot of prints and use lower-cost-per-page roll media.
The control panel lets you monitor ink levels, switch between the three paper paths (including roll media), and set paper types and sizes.
The Canon uses up to 10 color inks at one time, plus either matte black or photo black, depending on the paper. It has the largest color gamut of the three, most evident in dark blue and purple colors, plus a maximum black density of 4.9L.
We were impressed by the detail, low gloss differential, and durable feel on test prints made on Canon's Heavyweight Glossy Photo paper and several other papers. The print driver provides exceptional control over print quality and includes a 16-pass mode that's optimized for printing 16-bit-per-color image files. It also offers advanced black-and-white controls that nearly match the capabilities and results from the Epson. Color prints on photo and fine-art paper have a preliminary WIR rating from Wilhelm Imaging Research of more than 100 years.
This printer ships with an extensive software bundle, including GARO Status Monitor, Canon's Digital Photo Print Pro, PosterArtist 2006 for Windows, and print plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop.
Complaints? Switching between the built-in paper tray, feed slot, and roll paper can be confusing, since you must set the proper paper and sizes on the printer control panel as well as in the print driver -- and the color profiles that ship with the printer don't give you maximum color saturation. You also have to shell out an additional $225 (street) for the RU-01 roll feeder to make borderless prints on rolls from 10 to 17 inches wide. And the Canon is large, weighing twice as much as the Epson. It's certainly no "desktop" printer.
However, its ability to produce a 16x20-inch borderless print in just four minutes and 20 seconds (in High Quality mode) can't be beat, and its roll-media option makes it the workhorse of this group.
Maximum DPI: 2400x1200.
Droplet size: 4 picoliters.
Inks: 12 individual pigment inks (Y, PC, C, PGY, GY, PM, M, R, G, B, MBK, BK) in 130ml cartridges ($75, street).
Print size: 8x10-in. bordered to 17x22-in. bordered.
Connections: Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and 10/100 Base-T Ethernet.
Size/weight: 39.3x28.9x12.5 in.; 99 lb.
For info: www.usa.canon.com.
Color: Excellent image quality. Prints on Canon's Heavyweight Glossy roll paper showed Excellent color accuracy (Avg. Delta E of 5.27) and saturated colors (with custom profiles), plus plenty of detail in shadows and highlights.
B&W: Excellent image quality. Prints show great detail and neutral tones, and print driver allows fine-tuning of contrast, tonality, and sharpness.
Speed: Extremely Fast. 16x20-in. borderless: 4 min, 20 sec in 8-pass (High) mode. 13x19-in. bordered: 5 min, 45 sec in 16-pass (Highest); 3 min in 8-pass (High) mode.