A portable general-purpose inkjet printer that can produce photo prints that match 'lab quality'.Designed for portability, Canon's PIXMA iP100 printer promises to produce 'photo lab quality prints', although its specifications are more attuned to office printing. It's a four-colour printer with separate cartridges for black pigment ink and dye-based colour inks (cyan, magenta and yellow plus a photo black to improve darker tones in photo prints). The ChromaLife 100 colour inks promise long-lasting photo prints on Canon's photo papers (although no test results have been posted on the Wilhelm Research website). . . [more]
Designed for portability, Canon's PIXMA iP100 printer promises to produce 'photo lab quality prints', although its specifications are more attuned to office printing. It's a four-colour printer with separate cartridges for black pigment ink and dye-based colour inks (cyan, magenta and yellow plus a photo black to improve darker tones in photo prints). The ChromaLife 100 colour inks promise long-lasting photo prints on Canon's photo papers (although no test results have been posted on the Wilhelm Research website).
Physically, the iP100 resembles its predecessor, the iP90, although it's marginally larger and heavier. However, it's still a suitable adjunct to a laptop for today's road warriors and comes with a rechargeable battery that clips onto the rear panel and charges through the printer's mains connection.
The body of the iP100 has a brushed metal finish with glossy black side panels. The top lifts up to provide an input chute that can hold up to 50 sheets of plain office paper. In practice, photo paper is best fed in one or two sheets at a time to prevent jamming - although this didn't occur during our tests.
The PIXMA iP100 ready for printing. Note: only two control buttons are provided, the on/off button (with green light) and the paper eject button, which carries the alarm lamp.
Mains power feeds into a socket on the left side panel while on the right side panel are USB A and B ports plus an IrDA receiver for direct printing from mobile devices like camera-phones. Direct printing is supported from PictBridge-enabled digital cameras and the iP100 can be connected to a computer via USB cable. An optional Bluetooth Unit (BU-30) is available for plugging into the USB port but there's no built-in card reader for direct printing from camera memory cards.
Canon has increased the nozzle density on the print head from 1,088 to 1,856 to improve print quality and the new model is faster than its predecessor, particularly for document printing. The PIXMA iP100 comes with a 12-month warranty.
Setting up the printer is straightforward and the instructions provided in the Quick Start Manual coupled with the diagrams on the double-sized A3 sheet that comes with the printer are reasonably clear and easy to follow. The first step is to connect the printer to mains power then switch it on and load the print head. This requires you to lift a metal clip that surrounds the print head carriage so the head can be inserted.
The print head carriage with the print head inserted.
Once the ink cartridges have been inserted, the clip can be closed, locking them into place. The cover is then lowered and the printer is switched off while the software is loaded. This takes roughly five minutes, during which time you can connect the USB cable to your computer.
The ink cartridges in place.
The first step after loading the inks and software is to run a print head alignment.
The alarm lamp on the printer control panel begins to flash orange when an ink cartridge runs out. Initially, the flashes occur at intervals of approximately three seconds, indicating a low ink level. When the flashing rate reaches one second intervals for 17 flashes, the ink has run out and the cartridge should be replaced.
Unfortunately, the ink level monitor is too small to provide useful information on the amount of ink remaining in the cartridges and you can't access this information through the printer driver. Icons will appear in the ink monitor above the relevant cartridge when ink levels run low and when the ink runs out - but, again, they are pretty small.
The ink levels monitor.
Not having any IrDA enabled devices at hand (or a Bluetooth device and antenna), Photo Review wasn't able to test the review printer's wireless capabilities. However, we were able to connect it to our computer and print through Photoshop CS4 and other editing applications. Unfortunately, the ICC profiles loaded with the printer driver had no apparent relationship to any of Canon's papers, so the exercise proved a little pointless.
The software disk contains drivers for Windows and Macintosh plus Canon's Easy-PhotoPrint EX application software and an on-line user manual. Easy-PhotoPrint EX is a highly automated, wizard-based application that provides few options for user adjustments but is otherwise attractively designed.
The online user manual.
The browser window displays all the images in the selected folder and indicates their file format. It can 'read' both JPEG and TIFF files but not raw files. A Selection bar below the thumbnails shows images that have been selected for printing. Icons above the folder display let you set the printer to make one print of each image, clear the selection, correct or enhance a selected image or zoom in on an image.
The browser window in Easy-PhotoPrint EX.
Having selected the images to print, you move on to the Select Paper page, which presents the various sizes and types of paper the iP100 can use. Clicking on your selections finalises this step and you can move on to the Layout/Print page.
Media options for the PIXMA iP100.
The layout page presents 11 layout options (shown below) with a preview window that shows how the final print will appear and how many pages will be printed.
Layout options for photo printing.
An interesting (and for many photographers, worthwhile) setting on this page is the Captured Info setting, which prints three images to a page with selected metadata.
Easy-PhotoPrint EX also provides wizard templates for producing calendars and photo album pages, all with some level of customization. You can change background colours or use an image as a background. Inserted images can also be re-sized and re-positioned. Screen grabs of the user interfaces for these functions are shown below.
The Calendar template.
The Album template.
Performance and Costs
Document print quality from the black, pigmented-ink cartridge was clean and almost laser-like in quality. Coloured documents also printed out very well with even solid colours and accurate registration of text on coloured backgrounds.
Photo prints on the A4-size High Resolution Paper (HR-101N) were variable in quality but even the best of our test prints looked very ordinary when compared with prints on dedicated photo paper. The dynamic range (from white to black) was noticeably lower and colours lacked 'punch' and accuracy. Tonal subtleties were almost totally lost and only images that were slightly over-saturated printed with any real impact.
On Photo Paper Plus Glossy II paper, print quality was almost a match for prints from a good photo lab. Even better quality was obtained by printing on Photo Paper Pro II. The main issue for photographers is the lack of control the bundled software provides and the limitations it places on using ICC profiles. Printing through a more sophisticated image editor that provides full ICC profile support goes a long way towards rectifying these deficiencies.
In our tests, the review unit took just under two minutes to print an A4 photo on High Resolution Paper (HR-101N) with narrow white borders, including approximately six seconds of spooling time. On A4-sized Photo Paper Pro II (Canon's high-quality glossy paper), printing times averaged two minutes and 47 seconds.
The average time for a postcard-sized print on Photo Paper Plus Glossy II paper was 58 seconds. Average document printing speeds were marginally slower than Canon's claims of 20 pages/minute for black or 14 pages/minute for colour.
Recommended retail prices for the colour and black ink cartridges are $34.50 and $17.50 respectively. The 4 x 6 inch Photo Paper Plus Glossy II paper sells for $9.96 per 20-sheet pack, while the Photo Paper Pro II has an RRP of $15.95 per 20-sheet pack. Twenty-sheet packs of A4 paper sell for RRPs of $16.45 for Photo Paper Plus Glossy II and $23.95 for Photo Paper Pro II.
Manufacturers tend to over-estimate the ink capacities of printers for photo printing and we didn't have enough paper to run prints until both ink cartridges were depleted. However, we estimate an approximate ink cost of 40 cents per 4 x 6 inch colour photo print and $1.50 per A4 photo print. Assuming no paper wastage, that would give approximate per-print costs of between 90 cents and $1.20 per postcard-sized photo print and $2.30 and $2.70 per A4 print.
Printing through an image editor allows you to access the printer driver, which has an Ink Usage Control setting in the Maintenance menu that lets you reduce the amount of black ink for printing or print blacks with the coloured inks. The latter can buy you time when the black ink cartridge is depleted and a replacement is not immediately available. Both cases carry warnings about potential deterioration of print quality.
The Ink Usage Control in the printer driver.
Canon's PIXMA iP100 combines an attractive design with portability and good general performance. Its high-resolution print head can produce very good photo and document prints. Set-up is straightforward and, despite its limited capabilities for enthusiast photographers, for the average consumer, the iP100 will provide most of the functions they require.
The acquisition cost of this printer is relatively high for its capabilities, particularly since there's a similar-sized HP mobile printer that sells for about a quarter of the cost of the iP 100. Admittedly the resolution of the HP model is significantly lower but it comes with memory card slots, which the iP100 lacks.
Canon offers a Bluetooth interface (BU 30; RRP $69) and a car power unit/battery charger (PU-200U; RRP $129) as optional accessories for the iP100. However, you'll need to look elsewhere for a carrying case to protect the printer while you're on the road.
Buy this printer if:
- You need a portable general-purpose printer that can also produce decent-looking photo prints.
- You want direct wireless printing from IrDA-enabled devices.
Don't buy this printer if:
- You require a full range of user-adjustable controls plus direct printing from memory cards.
- You're looking for low-cost prints.
Printer type: Colour thermal inkjet
Resolution: 9600 x 2400 dpi
Paper sizes: A4, Letter, Legal, A5, B5, Envelopes (DL, COM10), 4 x 6 inch, 4 x 8 inch, 5 x 7 inch, 8 x 10 inch, Credit Card, Wide
Max. paper weight: Approx. 273g/m2
Ink cartridges: CLI-36 Colour cartridge; PGI-35 Black cartridge
Ink yield: Borderless 6x4-inch photo - CLI-36: approx 111; PGI-35: approx. 2020; plain paper A4 document - CLI-36: approx 249 PGI-35: approx 191
Interfaces: USB 2.0 Hi-Speed; IrDA 1.4; Optional Bluetooth Ver. 2.0 + EDR (option, HCRP)
Power consumption: Standby: 1.5 W. OFF: 0.4W. Printing: 9 W
Acoustic noise level: Approx. 38.5 dB (A)
Battery life: Approximately 290 sheets
Dimensions (wxhxd): 322 x 61.7 x 183 mm
Weight: Approx. 2.0 kg
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Features: 8.0
- Print quality: 8.5
- Print speed: 8.5
- OVERALL: 8.0