Canon PIXMA Pro-100 Printer


    Photo Review 8.3
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    Canon PIXMA Pro-100 Printer

      In summary

      Buy this printer if:
       - You want a solidly-built A3+ printer that delivers excellent results on glossy media.
       - You're looking for an A3+ printer that supports 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 require high-volume production performance. 
       - You prefer using matte papers.
       - You need facilities for roll paper printing.
       - You require flawless paper handling on non-standard paper sizes.

      Full review

      Launched at Photokina 2012, Canon's PIXMA Pro-100 is the entry-level model in Canon's PIXMA Pro series of A3+ desktop printers. The other model is the pigment-ink PIXMA Pro-10. Both models  have been designed primarily for photo enthusiasts and feature a similar body design to the PIXMA Pro-1, which we reviewed in January 2012.
       

      The PIXMA Pro-100. (Source: Canon.)

      The Pro-100 is a successor to the PIXMA Pro 9000 Mark II but with a re-jigged ink set and support for ICC profiles (see below). Although it uses the same ChromaLife 100+ inks, Canon has dropped the red and green inks, replacing them with a re-formulated magenta that Canon says delivers better reds.

      It has also added grey and light grey tanks to the single black tank used by the Pro 9000 Mk II, to provide better shadow reproduction and improve the quality of monochrome prints from this printer. This makes the Pro-100 the first Canon dye-based printer with three monochrome inks.

      The Pro-10 and Pro-100 use fewer inks than the Pro-1 and the tanks are smaller and ride on the print head, which means they have lower capacities.  However, the new printers add some features not available in the Pro-1 including a wireless printing option, a new Pro Mode, and the Print Studio Pro plug-in to help with layouts and print options in Photoshop and Lightroom.

      The table below compares the key features of the three printers.

       

      Pro-100

      Pro-10

      Pro-1

      Ink type

      ChromaLife100+ dye

      LUCIA pigment + Chroma Optimiser

      Ink tanks

      8

      10

      12

      Tank capacity

      13 ml

      14 ml

      35 ml

      Print nozzles

      6144

      7680

      12,288

      Droplet size

      3 picolitre

      4 picolitre

      Resolution

      4800 x 2400dpi

      A3+ photo printing speeds¹

      Approx. 1m 30s (PT-101, PP-201, SG-201, LU-101)

      Approx. 3m 35s PP-201, LU-101, PP-201; Approx. 5m 20s PT-101

      Approx. 2m 55s (Standard)

      Power consumption

      Max: 19.0W, Standby: 2.3W, Off: 0.3W 

      Max: 17W, Standby: 2.3W, Off: 0.3W 

      Max: 24W, Standby: 1.6W, Off: 0.4W

      Acoustic noise

      38.5dB(A)

       33.9 dB(A)

      35.5dB(A)

      Dimensions (wxhxd)

      689 x 385 x 215 mm

      689 x 385 x 215 mm

      695 x 462 x 239 mm

      Weight

      19.7 kg

      20.0 kg

      27.7 kg

      RRP

      AU$799

      AU$999

      AU$1499

      What's in the Box?
       The Pro-100  comes wrapped in thin plastic foam and is packaged in a large plastic bag that sits in a Styrofoam cradle. The cradle is in four pieces, so you can remove the top sections to extract the printer from the box.

      Packed with the printer is a user-installable print head plus eight ink tanks, an 8 cm disc adapter and optical disk printing tray. Setting up instructions are provided in four languages  (English, French, German and Dutch) on two large sheets of paper folded to roughly A4 size. One contains general-purpose 'Getting Started' instructions; the other specific instructions for using the printer with 'Non-PC Devices' via Wireless LAN.

      A slightly smaller sheet (also folded) provides 'Safety and Important Information' instructions. There's also a single information sheet for Windows 8/Mac OS X 10.8, 10.7 and 10.6 users and another covering Apple AirPrint.  A warranty card is included.

      Taped to the plastic bag in which the printer is packed is a multi-lingual sheet covering installation of the print head. Separate software disks are provided for Windows and Mac computers, each containing the printer driver and online user manual.  USB and mains power cables are provided.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Physically, the Pro-100 resembles its siblings (and also the Pro 9000 Mark II), having a boxy body styling. although it's slightly smaller than the Pro-1. The Pro-100 and Pro-10 are identical in size and both use paper feeds that are similar to those on the Pro-1.

      The output tray pulls out from the front of the printer. Two feed-in trays are located towards the back of the printer. The nearer one is a multi-sheet tray that opens with one lift-up extension. Behind it is the tray for heavier 'fine art' papers, which has two small extensions and accepts one sheet at a time, as shown in the illustration below.

       

       

      The power lead plugs into a connector on the rear left hand corner while the USB and Ethernet connectors are on the right rear corner. Storage space is provided below the front panel for the supplied CD/DVD holder that enables printing on coated optical disks.  It's fairly shallow but the holder has an up-tilted rim to make it easy to extract.

      Optical discs are loaded into the CD/DVD holder. The holder slides into the left hand side of the front panel when the printer isn't operating as shown in the illustration below.
       
       This tray shouldn't be inserted and removed while the printer is in use because of the risk of damage to the printer or disc tray. Canon claims 'the disc tray may become dirty if software other than My Image Garden is used'.

      Setting Up
      Although not as heavy as the Pro-1, the Pro-100 is a large printer and weighs almost 20 kg. You'll probably need two people to lift it out of the box and onto a desk but from there it's reasonably easy to move. Canon recommends allowing at least 25 cm behind the printer and 43 cm in front of it free so the paper feed trays can be pulled out.

      As usual, there's a lot of packing tape and other materials to remove before you can set up the printer. Once this has been done, you can connect the power cord to the figure-eight socket in the rear left hand corner of the machine. The printer is powered-up by pressing the Power button on the front right side panel. It takes a few seconds for the Power button to glow white.
       

      The control buttons on the front panel of the printer.

      You then open the paper output tray and lift the top cover. This moves the print head holder into place, after which you can install the print head and ink cartridges. Clear instructions are provided on the printed sheet, so fitting these components is straightforward. Slots for each ink tank are clearly indicated and as each tank is inserted a red LED on the print head lights up.
       

      Loading the ink tanks causes red LEDs on the print head to light up.

      Once all tanks have been loaded you can close the top cover and wait for the head to be primed with ink. This takes roughly two minutes, during which time the power lamp flashes. When the flashing stops, the printer is ready for use.

      The next step is to connect the USB cable and install the software from the supplied CD. You can choose between an Easy Install or a Custom installation. The former installs the entire software suite; the latter lets you choose which applications to install (see below) and should only be selected if you have a good understanding of what they do.
       

      Loading the software for the printer.

      You're then prompted to carry out a Print Head Alignment, which takes a couple of minutes. Load two sheets of plain paper in A4 or Letter size into the rear feed slot and click on OK.

      Like the Pro-1, the paper loads into the middle of the top sheet feeder; not the side.  It's held in place with two guides which converge as you move one into position. Printing can't start until you close the flap in front of the feed slot. When the second page has been printed, the process is complete.

      Examine the printouts to ensure the patterns have been evenly printed. They should be, but it can be difficult to be sure as no reference showing what the printouts should look like is provided.

      Once the software has been installed, you're prompted to choose a connection method and given a choice between USB and Network connection (via wireless LAN). An access point or router is required for the second option.

       
      Selecting the connection method.

      Setting up the printer's Wi-Fi interface should be straightforward but you'll need to consult  the on-screen manual's Network Communication pages for details of how to configure the Wireless LAN settings for your own situation. The same applies if you want to use the printer on a local area network (LAN), where additional cables may be required.

      When the Wi-Fi lamp on the front panel is lit, it shows Wireless LAN is active. If you want to change the wireless settings, the printer should be connected temporarily to a computer via a USB cable. Without this connection the computer may not be able to communicate with the printer after the settings have been changed.
       

      Configuring the printer for Wireless LAN operation.

      To find a Wi-Fi connection you must press and hold the Wi-Fi and Resume/Cancel  buttons simultaneously until the power lamp flashes 10 times. To set up a wired connection, you press the Resume/Cancel button until the Power button LED has flashed 12 times.

      Canon recommends that the printer should always be switched off with the Power button before it is unplugged from the mains. This 'parks' the print head safely so it won't dry out and cause the inks to clog.

      Features
      Aside from the differences in ink tanks, the most significant difference between the Pro-100 and its predecessor from a photographer's viewpoint, is that the new printer provides support for ICC profiles. This enables users to print on third-party papers and also use paper profiles created with devices like the X-Rite ColorMunki.

      Out-of-the-box ICC profile support is provided for relevant Canon Papers as well as more than 48 other media from leading manufacturers such as Ilford, Hahnemuhle, Canson and Moab.

      The built-in Wireless LAN support enables wireless  printing from iOS and Android devices like smart-phones and tablets. Direct printing from digital cameras is supported via the standard USB-based PictBridge technology.

      The Pro-100's ink tanks are the same size as those in the Pro9000 Mark II and the print head uses the same FINE (Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) technology to deliver 4800 x 2400 dpi print resolution. The 3pl ink droplets are marginally larger than the 2pl droplets produced by the Pro9000 Mark II, but the difference isn't enough to be noticeable. While the Pro9000 Mark II claims a slightly higher output speed than the Pro-100, we found the new printer to be faster in practice, particularly for monochrome printing (see the Performance section below).

      The Optimum Image Generating System introduced in the Pixma Pro-1 has been ported across to the Pro-100. It analyses the photo colour and calculates the optimum ink combination and volume of ink droplets, and how they are deposited on the paper to enhance colour reproduction and tonal gradations and ensure uniform glossiness in each print, regardless of the printing mode and media type.

      The new PRO mode analyses the colour gamut and adjusts the colours to deliver prints that should match the image as seen on the screen, simplifying workflow. In practice, the match was pretty close. This software is very useful for those who want quality prints and colour accuracy, but don’t necessarily have the colour management knowhow.

      Software
      The software bundle is different from the Pro-1's and contains fewer applications.  It takes approximately 15 minutes to complete the installation and the printer must be connected to your computer and switched on.

      As well as the printer driver and on-screen manual, the disk contains the following programs: My Printer, My Image Garden, Quick Menu, Print Studio Pro, Adobe RGB (1998), Easy-WebPrint EX and XPS driver. My Printer lets you access the normal set-up and maintenance settings, much as you would through the normal driver interface.

      My Image Garden indexes photos on your computer automatically and they presents them in what it decides is an 'optimal layout'. Face detection is used to group photos of the same subjects together. 

      My Image Garden includes a Print Your Daysapp that makes it easy to print Facebook photos. A Full HD Movie Print function lets you print frames from MOV and MP4 video clips. Filter effects like Toy Camera, Soft Focus, Blur Background, Miniature and Fish Eye are also available.
       

      The Quick Menu display showing all the available functions.

      Quick Menu is a bit like the earlier Canon Navigator. It occupies the lower right corner of your monitor and has an Image Display window that provides a slideshow of  things you can do with the installed software. If you don't want it, you can collapse it down to a single, relatively unobtrusive icon and remove the displayed image by clicking on arrows and crosses in the displays.

      Easy-WebPrint EX makes it easy to print web pages. It's the same application as we covered in our review of the PIXMA Pro-1.

      Print Studio Pro is a new plug-in that claims to work with all versions of Canon's Digital Photo Professional from version 2.1 on as well as Adobe Photoshop CS, Photoshop Elements and Photoshop Lightroom. It's usable if you have any of the following programs:

      - Adobe Photoshop CS4/CS5/CS5.1

      - Adobe Photoshop Elements 8/9/10

      - Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.7/3

      - Digital Photo Professional Ver.3.12 or later

      Unfortunately, the latest versions of the Adobe applications aren't supported. Having to keep our Adobe software up-to-date in order to be able to use the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw for camera testing, we could not use Print Studio Pro. It's difficult to understand why Canon didn't support the latest versions in a printer that was announced in September 2012 but not actually released until a few months later. The latest versions of Photoshop Lightroom and Photoshop were released in March and May 2012 respectively, with Photoshop Elements at the beginning of September.

      If you're running the appropriate editing/organising application, you can access Print Studio Pro from within the image editor/converter. In Photoshop it's in the File > Automate sub-menu. It can handle JPEG and TIFF files but not PSD.

       
      Printing directly through Photoshop.

      This plug-in replaces Easy-PhotoPrint Pro (which was covered in our review of the PIXMA Pro-1) and has a re-jigged user interface that lets you adjust page formats and layouts and manage printer settings. Colour management adjustments are also included with four options: Color Mode which supports ICC profiles; Printer Profile, which displays all installed ink/paper profiles; Rendering Intent (the usual choice of Perceptual or Relative Colorimetric) and Color Matching Method.

      A Black Point Compensation check box is provided, along with a Correction section you can tweak brightness and contrast, correct colour casts and set colour balance sliders for cyan, magenta and yellow. Canon also provides a Pattern Print option for printing ring-arounds showing variations in a five-column, nine-row grid.

      Consumables
       Despite its different ink configuration, the Pro-100 uses the same ChromaLife 100+ dye-based ink system as the Pro9000 Mark II it replaces. The ink tanks are the same size and have a capacity of approximately 13 ml. Replacement cartridges are priced at AU$25.99 each (or US$16.99 MSRP from Canon USA).

      Canon offers bundled sets of replacement cartridges at a discount for some PIXMA printers but we couldn't find any for the Pro-100 when this review was written.

      Canon publishes the following ink yield figures for this printer, based on the ISO/JIS-SCID N2 test file at 11 x 14-inch size:
       Black: 65 photos
       Grey: 70 photos
       Light Grey: 111 photos
       Cyan: 58 photos
       Magenta: 48 photos
       Yellow: 51 photos
       Photo Cyan: 60 photos
       Photo Magenta: 37 photos 

      For this test, prints were made continuously on A3+ PT-101 Pro Platinum Paper, with the default settings of the testing paper using Windows 7 printer driver and Photoshop In practice, with a totally new printer straight out of the box and using the High quality setting and the same OS and software, we found the first cartridge to be depleted was Grey, which ran out after we had printed an area equivalent to about 30 photo prints at the same output size (less than half the capacity suggested by the standard test). The next cartridge to run out was light grey, quickly followed by Photo Magenta and Photo Cyan, all of which were depleted by the time we had covered an area equivalent to an additional 10 prints. Yellow went dry after a few more prints.  (No borderless prints were included in this test to minimise ink wastage)

      With half the ink consumed by the time we had printed an area equivalent to 40 A3+ bordered prints at High quality, we estimate ink costs to be roughly $2.60 per A3+ print for inks purchased in Australia (or about US$1.70 if the inks are bought at Canon's USA listed price). This is about average for a printer of this type.

      Canon offers some excellent papers and provided a representative sample of surfaces and bases for our review. Pro Platinum Paper was the stand-out partner for the ChromaLife 100+ ink set, delivering colour rendition and resolution of detail to satisfy the most demanding of photographers. This is a 'bright white' paper that includes optical brighteners, which bring out the best in the dye inks and make images almost 'jump off the paper'.

      Canon's Photo Paper Plus Glossy II has an attractive gloss surface but appears to be comparatively free of optical brighteners as its base colour is noticeably creamier. Prints on this surface looked nice and details were well resolved, but colours didn't 'jump' as they did with the prints on Pro Platinum Paper and prints looked dull when compared side-by-side with those on Pro Platinum Paper.

      Photo Paper Pro Luster (LU-101) and Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss (SG-201) have similar base colours to Photo Paper Plus Glossy II but low-gloss surfaces that print well with ChromaLife 100+ inks. The SG-201 is smoother than the slightly stippled surface on the LU-101.

      Prints made on papers with matte surfaces, such as Canon's Fine Art Paper 'Museum Etching' appeared relatively flat when compared with those on the glossy and semi-gloss surfaces. Shadowed areas tended to block up more and normally-lit and highlight regions lacked the rich colours the glossy surfaces delivered.

      We also printed on a couple of third-party papers, including Ilford's Galerie Smooth Gloss and Smooth Pearl and Longbottom Coated matt 2/s and Photo Lustre Pearlescent 2/s (which we favour for producing photo books). Ilford provides downloadable ICC profiles for the PRO-100. Both Ilford papers contain optical brighteners and produced vibrant colours and rich, deep blacks with the ChromaLife 100+ inks.

      After making only a few prints on the Longbottom Coated matt 2/s paper it was clear this paper doesn't produce its optimal performance with the dye inks. While the results were smooth and free of unwanted colour casts (and a bit punchier than prints on 'Museum Etching' ), they lacked the liveliness of prints made on the glossy papers.

      We printed a very nice-looking photo book on Longbottom's Photo Lustre Pearlescent 2/s paper. This paper contains optical brighteners and produced more vibrant prints than Canon's LU-101 paper, which has a similar surface texture. However, none of the third-party papers we tested could quite match the saturation and vibrancy of the prints produced on Canon's Pro Platinum Paper.

      The Custom settings in the Page Setup section of the printer driver allow you to set the printer for printing on paper up to a maximum of 420 x 676 mm, which is the same width as but slightly longer than A2 size. However, you'll have a hard time fitting that paper width into either feed tray, although the rear tray comes close to accepting it.
       

      The Custom Paper settings, circled in red.

      It's vital to use the Print Preview function to check how the image will be printed each time you print on non-standard papers. We weren't able to test the extremities of the paper handling range through a lack of suitable paper, although we did make prints on cut sheets in several non-standard sizes. (See the Performance section below for the issues we encountered.)

       
      The Print Preview dialog box. (The top edge of the displayed print is printed first so this display is somewhat confusing.) 

      CD printing is accomplished through My Image Garden, using the Disc Label setting in the New Art dialog box. The software is a bit clunky and non-intuitive but if you're prepared to work with the pre-set templates and select the images before opening the dialog box, it's easy to create labels for printing.

      There are plenty of layouts to select from and a choice of different typefaces.  But the designs are pretty standard and making changes isn't as easy as it should be (drag and drop doesn't appear to be supported).

      The software is wizard-based right through to the printing process so all you need do is load the disc tray with the large arrow facing forward. An on-screen message will prompt you to insert a printable disc while the printer is in standby mode with the orange Resume button flashing. Clicking on Print outputs a professional-looking disc label.

      Performance
      We found the average time to produce an A3+ print with 20 mm borders top and bottom was one minute and 45 seconds with the Standard quality setting or three minutes and 40 seconds with High quality.

      Borderless A3+ prints took five minutes and 55 seconds on average with the High setting. A4  prints took one minute and two seconds with the Standard quality setting or two minutes and nine seconds with the High setting, averaged across several different paper types. (Printing times showed little variation between different types of paper.)

      Test prints on glossy paper were free of gloss differential (surface irregularities) and the resolution of detail was so fine we were unable to see any dot patterning at all. These factors were true for both colour and monochrome prints.

      Monochrome prints made by checking the monochrome box in the printer driver contained very faint traces of residual colour, indicating use of all the inks in the set; not just the black and grey ones. Prints made through the monochrome settings in Photoshop were free of these colour casts and the software gives you much more control over how the end results will appear (including the ability to adjust the 'tone' of the prints), making this the preferred option.

      Whereas the Pro9000 Mark II took much longer to print in black and white, we noticed no difference in printing times between colour and monochrome prints with the Pro-100. Tonal rendition was visibly better with the new printer, thanks to its extra grey inks.

      During the review period we actually used two printers. The first one had 'been around the block' a lot of times and was due for servicing. After we had made the equivalent of roughly 20 A3+ prints, it began to deposit streaks and blotches of dark-coloured ink on the last 3 cm of each print we made.

      We carried out the obvious cleaning routines without solving the problem. Then the printer began to exhibit paper handling problems, with an increase in operating noise and slight creasing on one edge of the paper as it emerged. When we looked inside, the maintenance sponge that collects the excess ink had pools of black ink on its surface, which were the likely source of the ink marks. So we returned the printer to Canon and received a brand new one as a substitute.

      The new printer performed almost faultlessly, although on three occasions we found traces of ink near the edges of the paper. In each case it was with a non-standard paper size, so we suggest you keep to standard papers when using this printer. We experienced no paper jams with either printer and no problems associated with the installation of ink tanks.
       
      Maintenance
      Maintenance tasks are as you would expect for a consumer-level printer and located in the labelled page of the printer driver. In addition to the regular cleaning, head alignment and nozzle check functions, this interface includes  functions for cleaning the bottom plate and feed rollers as well as settings for switching power off and adjusting noise levels.

       
      The Maintenance dialog box. 

      There's also a Custom Settings button that lets you set the printer to detect a printable disc in the disc tray, adjust the feed system to prevent paper abrasion, align the print heads manually and automatically detect the paper width. You can also set the ink drying wait time. By default, the disc and paper detection settings are selected.

      Conclusion

      This printer is ideal for enthusiast photographers who like printing on glossy paper and who don't produce large quantities of prints.

      The decision to purchase this printer will probably depend on whether you see it as good value for money. In fact, the main reason we haven't nominated the Pro-100 as an Editor's Choice is its comparatively high price tag in Australia. (At US$500, readers in North America should consider it worth its price.)

      If you own a PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II that is still working you won't gain a huge advantage by upgrading to the PIXMA Pro-100 unless you normally make use of ICC profiles, produce lots of B&W prints and/or require a Wi-Fi interface. These are the only quantifiable advantages we could find for the new printer over its predecessor.

      Potential purchasers should note that these printers are not designed for heavy usage. The tanks are small and relatively costly to replace. Equally important is the fact that the maintenance sponge, which soaks up the ink that gets dispersed about the interior of the printer as a normal part of the printing process, is NOT user-replaceable as it is in high-volume printers. The sponge will fill up over time and when it reaches capacity the overflowing ink will leave marks on prints. Replacing the sponge requires the printer to be serviced – which takes time and isn't cheap.

      Buy this printer if:
       - You want a solidly-built A3+ printer that delivers excellent results on glossy media.
       - You're looking for an A3+ printer that supports 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 require high-volume production performance. 
       - You prefer using matte papers.
       - You need facilities for roll paper printing.
       - You require flawless paper handling on non-standard paper sizes.

      SPECS

       Printer type: A3+ desktop dye-ink photo printer
       Resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi, 3 picolitre
       Paper sizes: A3+, A3, A4, Letter, Legal, Ledger, A5, B5; Photo cards (4x6-inch, 5x7-inch, 8x10-inch)
       Max. paper weight: approx. 350 gsm (up to 0.6mm thick)
       Ink cartridges: CLi-42 Y/M/C/PC/PM/Gy/Lgy/Bk
       Interfaces: Hi-Speed USB(B Port) , Wired LAN (IEEE802.3u(100BASETX) / IEEE802.3(10BASE-T)), Wireless LAN (IEEE802.11n/IEEE802.11g/IEEE802.11b), Camera Direct: Direct Print Port (PictBridge)
       Power consumption: Max: 19.0W, Standby: 2.3W, Off: 0.3W 
       Acoustic noise: 38.5dB(A) in default setting
       Dimensions (wxhxd): 689 x 385 x 215 mm (min. dimensions, paper trays & other extensions closed)
       Weight: 19.7 kg (including print head and ink tanks)

      Rating

      AU$799 (ASP) (RRP n/a), US$499.99 (MSRP)

      • Build: 9.0
      • Features: 8.3
      • Colour print quality: 8.8
      • Monochrome print quality: 8.8
      • Print speed: 8.5

      BUY

        No