An update to Canon's popular PIXMA Pro9000 dye ink desktop A3+ printer for photographers who wish to produce durable, exhibition quality prints.Although originally scheduled for release in July, it was late October before we received the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II printer to review. Interestingly, very little has changed in the three years since we reviewed the Pro9000. Even the RRPs have remained the same over the three-year period - which could be seen as remarkable. . . [more]
Although originally scheduled for release in July, it was late October before we received the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II printer to review. Interestingly, very little has changed in the three years since we reviewed the Pro9000. Even the RRPs have remained the same over the three-year period - which could be seen as remarkable.
The new model is almost identical to the model it replaces - and very similar in appearance and functionality to the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II we reviewed in September (which uses pigment inks and costs $300 more). Aside from a few, very minor, cosmetic changes to the casing, the print head technology, user interface, ink set and connection ports are unchanged. The auto sheet feeder can handle slightly heavier paper (300 gsm max.) but the front feed is unchanged with a maximum thickness of 1.2 mm. And there are still no facilities for using roll paper.
The black and dark grey case covers the same 660 x 354 mm footprint, which means you need to allow at least 40 cm behind the printer when loading heavyweight paper and another 30 cm in front when you pull out the front tray. The front panel carries the same operating controls, which consist of an on/off button, resume/cancel button, front feed button and USB port for connecting a digital camera. Two status lamps, covering power and alarm, sit left of the top two buttons.
Canon's PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II set up for direct printing from a DSLR camera. (Source: Canon.)
Power and USB 2.0 Hi-Speed ports are located at either end of the rear panel, while the top panel lifts up to reveal the print head and ink tanks. No memory card slots are provided for direct printing and you must provide your own USB cable. There's also no provision for networking the printer. The Canon-to-Canon direct printing connection via the front USB port provides a range of camera-based adjustments (including Picture Style) for direct printing from EOS DSLRs, should it be required.
Setting up the printer and installing the print head and ink cartridges is easy and a brief, multi-lingual booklet provides step-by-step instructions. A more comprehensive manual is provided on the software CD. It's well laid out and covers most facets of printer operation, including an ample Troubleshooting section.
Two problems we encountered with the review unit included a paper jam, which was easily solved by consulting the Troubleshooting information, and the printer stalling because an ink cartridge had not been securely located in its bay. (You have to push down firmly on the cartridges near the edge of the printer to lock them in.)
All Canon's PIXMA Pro printers come with Canon's Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) print head technology. In the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II, the 6,144-nozzle print head can deliver ink droplets as small as two picolitres, ensuring the finest detail can be resolved.
Like its predecessor, the Mark II uses Canon's ChromaLife100 inks, which come in individual cartridges with the following colours: cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, photo black, red, and green. According to Canon, the archival life span of prints from these inks on certain Canon papers is over 100 years for colour or 200 years for B&W prints, which is comparable with some pigment inks.
Claimed ink usage is slightly lower than the previous model - but not enough to make an impact on overall print costs. Sadly, power consumption has not been reduced and the ink cartridge capacities are still small (12.6 ml as far as we've been able to determine).
Although Canon claims the Mark II is three times faster than its predecessor, thanks to an enhanced double encoder system for media control, in our tests we found printing times depended on the output mode selected, the amount of detail and dark areas in the image and the percentage of the paper covered by the image. And they weren't all that fast, as you can see in the Performance section below.
The PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II comes with the same software bundle as the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II. The key application on the disk is Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, a software plug-in designed for Adobe applications such as Photoshop and Photoshop Elements plus Canon Digital Photo Pro (DPP) that enables direct printing from Photoshop using embedded profiles.
Designed for printing images captured on EOS digital cameras, Easy-PhotoPrint Pro supports one-click image transfer, simple controls for colour management and allows users to configure printer settings once and use them with subsequent prints. It also lets you print RAW image files (converted to TIFF or JPEG) directly from applications like DPP.
The Mark II handles data in both the sRGB and Adobe RBG colour spaces, accepting both 8-bit and 16-bit files. It also supports ICC profiles. Canon's Ambient Light Correction technology, which was introduced with the Mark II models, is also provided. This feature is of minimal interest as it is only compatible with Windows Vista, which has been superseded (and was relatively unpopular).
It's designed to enable users to optimise print colour for the lighting conditions under which the final print will be shown. However, its value to professionals who plan to sell their prints is very limited since the display lighting should be customised to suit the print - not the other way round.
We also found the Auto Photo Fix function to be ineffectual as it frequently failed to deliver the corrections we felt were required. Although there were a few times when it hit the mark and saved us a minute or two of editing time, its failures far exceeded the successes. More consistent results are obtained - and less paper and ink wasted - by calibrating your monitor properly and printing test strips to check visual evaluations.
Other Canon-developed applications in the bundle include CD-LabelPrint for Windows and Mac and Easy-WebPrint and PhotoRecord for Windows only. Adobe's Photoshop Elements 6 is supplied on a separate disk. (Readers should note that Elements 6 was released in September 2007 and subsequently upgraded to Version 7 in August 2008 and Version 8 at the end of September in 2009. Visit www.adobe.com/products/photoshopelwin/upgrade/ for a comparison of the features in the three versions.)
We've covered the Canon applications in previous reviews of Canon printers and screen grabs can be found in the review of the original PIXMA Pro9000 printer.
The Printer Driver
The user interface for the Mark II is essentially unchanged from the previous model and varies, depending on whether you decide to print directly from an editing application like Photoshop, Photoshop Elements or The GIMP or through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro. While it's a reasonably capable printer, some significant restrictions are still placed on what you can and cannot do.
By default, the printer is set to detect the paper size automatically - and this means the driver interface carries only standard paper sizes. There are 30 in the list, including the popular 4 x 6-inch (snapshot), A4, A3 and A3+, all of which can be handled by both the rear and front sheet feeders. If you want to produce borderless prints, you must stick with these standard paper sizes.
However, you can't make borderless prints on thicker ‘fine art' papers, such as Museum Etching and Premium Matte. These papers require use of the front feed system and the driver imposes a 35 mm wide margin around the image, regardless of the paper size you've selected. This makes printing on A4 Museum Etching and Premium Matte papers pretty pointless.
Printing via the front feed is fiddly. You have to half-open the front tray and tilt and lift it upwards to slot it into position before tilting it down into position. The Front Feed button just above the USB port lights up when the tray is in place. You then press the Rear Support button on the back of the printer to drop down the rear support tray. Pull out the extension arms when printing on paper larger than A4 size.
The paper must be loaded one sheet at a time with the printing side facing up and aligned carefully to avoid mis-feeds. The Front Feed button flashes quickly while you do this - and you must complete the task within five minutes or the flashing will stop and you'll have to start again. Pressing the Front Feed button feeds the paper into the printer so you can start printing.
Regardless of which feed slot you use and the type of paper you print on, if you wish to print on a non-standard-sized sheet of paper (something serious enthusiasts may wish to do), it's extremely difficult. For starters, the default setting for the printer is to detect the paper size automatically - and this function only works with pre-set paper sizes. So you have to switch the auto-detect system off.
The warning message that pops up when you load non-standard paper sizes.
Unchecking the Detect paper width box in the Custom Settings sub-menu on the Maintenance page.
Next you must find a way to input the new paper size so the printer driver knows the dimensions of the paper. Unfortunately, the Custom paper size setting is only accessible when you print with borders so you must uncheck the Borderless box and search through the Printer Paper Size dropdown menu to locate the Custom setting at the bottom of the list.
Suppose you want to print on a half sheet of A3+ paper (which measures 329 x 242 mm), you can set up the image size and border thicknesses in the Custom dialog box. But you must also work out where to position the image and input the appropriate margin settings before committing to a print.
It's vital to use the Print Preview function to check how the image will be printed because we found the printer driver often ignored our input, with some unfortunate results. Although we were able to fit an image on a half A3+ sheet of paper, we had difficulty setting the exact margins we required. However, when we tried to print a panoramic image on a sheet of paper measuring 620 x 200 mm, even though this is well within the limits of the Custom paper settings, (shown in the dialog box below), we couldn't make the driver recognise the dimensions we input.
Although it was possible to set up the print in both Photoshop and Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, the print preview showed less than half our panorama in place. We tried rotating the image and selecting Portrait orientation, to no avail; the image was still incomplete - and incorrectly orientated on the paper. We even turned the printer off and left it for ten minutes before switching it back on but couldn't find a way to ‘persuade' the printer to print the panorama on a non-standard paper size.
Printing from an Image Editor
Not unexpectedly, you can print directly from virtually any editor's workspace and thereby benefit from ISS profiles support. However, for optimal results, the editing application MUST be set to handle colour management; not the printer. Screen grabs showing key settings are shown below.
The correct setting for Photoshop Elements is shown in the red circle.
The next step involves setting Printer Preferences in the printer driver. When you click on this tab, the dialog box below is displayed.
The main page in the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II's driver interface with the Colour adjustment tab circled.
Check the Media Type, paper size, quality settings and paper source are correct in this dialog box and ensure the printer is set for Photo Printing by checking Photo Printing in the Commonly Used Settings box. In the Additional Features box, checking Borderless printing lets you cover the entire sheet of paper with the image (some edge clipping of the picture may result, depending on the aspect ratios of the image and paper). When this box is unchecked, a narrow margin (between 7 and 8 mm) will be added - unless you're printing on a heavier paper, where the enforced 35 mm wide margin applies.
Select the paper in the Media Type box and the printer size then set the Print Quality to High or Standard (we found little difference between them in the appearance of shots, although printing was faster with the Standard setting). Finally, select the paper source (rear or front tray). Then click on the Colour/Intensity Manual Adjustment check box (circled). This opens the dialog box shown below.
Now you have to make sure the printer doesn't intervene and start re-adjusting the image colours before the print is made. This involves setting the driver to apply no colour corrections. The Canon GUI doesn't provide this setting on the main colour adjustment page; you have to click on the Matching tab to open the dialog box below so you can set Colour Correction to None.
Printing from Easy-PhotoPrint Pro
If you've edited an image in Photoshop, to print via Easy-PhotoPrint Pro you simply select File>Automate>Easy-PhotoPrint Pro. Otherwise, you can simply launch Easy-PhotoPrint Pro and open image files or print directly from Digital Photo Professional.
Launching Easy-PhotoPrint Pro from Photoshop.
To print converted raw files directly from Digital Photo Professional, simply click on File > Plug-in printing, which takes you directly to Easy-PhotoPrint Pro.
Easy-PhotoPrint Pro uses the same basic set-up functions as the printer driver but includes several additional shortcuts for fine-tuning printing parameters. Checking the Greyscale Photo button converts the image into black and white for monochrome printing, while hitting the Colour Adjustment button lets you tweak the colour balance, brightness and contrast before making the print. (It's better to make these adjustments in the image editor).
Colour adjustments in Easy-PhotoPrint Pro.
Options for making B&W prints.
An interesting function in the Colour Adjustment pane is Pattern Print, which lets you print a colour ring-around with thumbnail images that have varying hues and brightness levels or a single-hue pattern with varying intensities. Adjustment parameters are shown beneath each thumbnail, making it easy to determine the correct setting for the print. The printout can be kept for reference when making additional prints.
One of the Pattern Print options in Easy-PhotoPrint Pro.
Hitting the Print button displays a checking screen showing the paper size and type, colour mode, printer profile and rendering intent. Hit OK to start printing if these are correct or Cancel to change any parameter.
The Print dialog box in Easy-PhotoPrint Pro.
Although we were expecting to see an improvement in output quality with the new model, is wasn't glaringly obvious in the prints we produced, probably because the original Pro9000 delivered very good colour and B&W prints. Suffice it to say that the new model should meet the needs of its target market - provided the images are set up correctly and users work correctly with the software and driver interface.
Test prints on glossy paper were almost totally free of gloss differential (surface irregularities) and the resolution of detail was so fine in colour prints we were unable to see any dot patterning at all. This is what you would expect of a print head that can deliver 2 picolitre dots. We also detected no evidence of metamerism in colour prints.
Traces of a raster pattern could be seen on some of our B&W prints on glossy and semi-gloss papers - but only with high magnification. They would not be visible at normal viewing distances for A3 and larger prints. Prints on matte paper were very smooth and totally raster-free. No unwanted colour casts were detected in any of the monochrome prints we made.
Unlike the Pro9500 II, which depended on matching the image to the paper, we obtained equally good results on all the papers we printed on. These ranged from the Photo Paper Pro glossy and Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss that were supplied with the printer to the Fine Art Photo Rag and Museum Etching papers left over from previous reviews. We also obtained excellent prints on our favourite book printing paper, Longbottom Digital double-sided matte paper.
Slow printing speeds were, unfortunately, a major problem with monochrome printing. Regardless of whether you printed through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro or an image editor, printing speeds were at least four times longer than for colour prints. And, even though throughput speeds are less relevant for printing individual pictures, having the printer unusable for almost 20 minutes while an A3 B&W print is produced can be frustrating for even the most dedicated enthusiast.
Canon claims the Pro9000 Mark II can produce an A3+ print with borders in approximately 83 seconds. However, we failed to achieve such a short printing time for this size, even when printing through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro. Average times for colour printing found in our tests were:
A3+: Standard quality: 3 minutes and 13 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 4 minutes and 8 seconds through Photoshop; High quality: 3 minutes and 53 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 5 minutes and 10 seconds through Photoshop.
A3: Standard quality: 1 minute and 55 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 2 minutes and 27 seconds through Photoshop; High quality: 3 minutes and 20 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 4 minutes and 11 seconds through Photoshop.
A4: Standard quality: 51 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 1 minute and 17 seconds through Photoshop; High quality: 2 minutes and 13 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 3 minutes and 6 seconds through Photoshop.
15 x 10 cm (snapshot): Standard quality: 29 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 46 seconds through Photoshop; High quality: 43 seconds through Easy-PhotoPrint Pro; 1 minute and 15 seconds through Photoshop.
Producing monochrome prints takes a lot longer. Our tests averaged 19 minutes and 10 seconds for an A3 borderless print and 3 minutes and 15 seconds for a 15 x 10 cm snapshot print. Spooling times ranged from around 10 seconds for A4 and smaller prints to 20 seconds for A3 and 25 seconds for A3+ prints.
Ink cartridges for the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II are slightly cheaper than for the Pro9500 II and by shopping around you can buy them for as low as $26.77 compared with the RRP of around $30. At the RRP, a complete set of cartridges is valued at around $240.
As the printer was supplied with cartridges pre-installed and had been used before we began our tests, we're unable to give precise running costs for the new printer. However, on the basis of our usage, we can provide some estimates.
The Photo Magenta ink was indicating low levels before we had produced three A3 prints and the Photo Cyan ran out after 11 A3 prints. (In each case, print quality was set on high.) After replacing both cartridges, we were able to produce a further 27 prints (all with the image covering at least 2/3 of the paper) before the Photo Magenta cartridge ran out again and an additional 13 before the Photo Cyan was depleted.
The Yellow cartridge ran out five prints later. We had to replace the Magenta cartridge shortly before the Photo Magenta cartridge ran out a second time, but the other cartridges still had ink remaining when we returned the printer to Canon. At the end of our tests, the ink status was as shown in the screen grab below, which indicates the red and green cartridges remained almost unused.
On the basis of our tests, we estimate the ink cost for an A3 print with 35mm margins to be approximately $2.12. Paper costs vary widely. A 40-sheet pack of Canon's Matte Photo paper in A3 size has an RRP of $37.95, while a 20-sheet pack of A3 260 gsm Semi Gloss Photo Paper sells for $59.95.
Fine Art papers are more expensive, with 20 sheets of 350 gsm Fine Art Museum Etching in A3+ size selling for $233.95 and 20 sheets of 188 gsm Fine Art Paper Photo Rag selling for $162.95. You can also purchase a glossy fine art paper, 300 gsm Photo Paper Pro Platinum, which costs $54 for 10 sheets in A3+ size.
Slow printing speeds and small ink cartridges mean this printer will be uneconomical for high-volume printing. It's best suited to photo enthusiasts and professional photographers who make individual prints for exhibition or sale or very low-volume print runs.
Buy this printer if:
- You want a solidly-built A3+ printer that can handle a wide variety of ‘fine art' media and produce exhibition-quality prints.
- You're looking for an A3+ printer that provides full support for ICC profiles.
- You'd like to be able to print labels on CDs and DVDs.
- You want to produce monochrome prints that are free of colour casts.
Don't buy this printer if:
- You want fast printing speeds.
- You require high-volume production performance.
- You'd like to be able to print on non-standard paper sizes or create panoramas or banners. (This printer lacks facilities for roll paper printing.)
Printer type: A3+ professional dye-ink photo printer
Resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi
Paper sizes: A3+, A3, A4, A5, B5, B4, LDR+, LDR, Letter, Legal, Envelopes (DL, Com. #10), 5 x 7-inch, 6 x 4-inch
Max. paper weight: ASF: 300 gsm; Front Feed: up to 1.2mm thick
Ink cartridges: CLI-8C/M/Y/K/PM/PC/R/G - individual ink tanks
Ink yield: 279 × 356 mm image: CLI-8C - approx. 70, CLI-8M - approx. 59, CLI-8Y - approx. 46, CLI-8Bk - approx. 76, CLI-8PC - approx. 37, CLI-8PM - approx. 26, CLI-8G - approx. 505, CLI-8R - approx. 500
Interfaces: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed; Camera Direct/Direct Print Port (PictBridge)
Power consumption: Max: 20W (printing); Standby: 1.8W
Acoustic noise: 39dB(A) in best quality mode
Dimensions (wxhxd): 660 x 191 x 354 mm (minimum dimensions with paper trays and other extensions closed)
Weight: Approx. 14.4 kg
Digital cameras, lenses and accessories with 100% genuine Australian manufacturer's warranties.
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 9.0
- Features: 8.0
- Print quality: 9.0
- Print speed: 8.0
- OVERALL: 8.5