Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300
The imagePROGRAF PRO-300 is a very capable A3+ printer that should meet the needs of most serious enthusiasts who don’t need to make prints larger than 329 x 483 mm.
Simple to set up and easy and reliable to operate, it produces admirable output quality. The 14 ml ink tanks mean it’s not cost-effective for high-volume output.
The latest model in Canon’s imagePROGRAF PRO series was announced on 9 July, offering a similar workflow and print quality to the imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 in a more compact A3+ model with a slightly different ink set, while still sticking with LUCIA PRO pigment inks. The imagePROGRAF PRO-300 will replace the PIXMA PRO-10S and become a new entry model to Canon’s imagePROGRAF PRO series. With a significantly smaller footprint, the PRO-300 provides a number of performance and output quality improvements over the previous model.
Angled view of the new imagePROGRAF PRO-300 printer. (Source: Canon.)
Features of the PRO-300 include bundled, easy-to-use software, new photo and matte black inks that produce deeper and more vivid blacks on glossy and fine art media and separate nozzles for photo and matte black inks. The printer automatically chooses the correct ink based on the paper loaded, saving time and reducing ink consumption, while Canon’s L-COA PRO processor can calculate the optimal ink droplet layout to ensure optimal output quality plus fast printing speeds.
The PRO-300 supports borderless printing in all print modes at the highest quality on a wide variety of media, including fine art paper, another improvement on the PIXMA PRO-10S. Custom paper sizes can be set with lengths up to 990.60 mm for printing panoramic images. Profile support is provided for Canon and third-party papers.
The 3-inch colour LCD shows the operational status (including ink levels for each tank) as well as menu items and messages. It’s not touch-sensitive so users must scroll through items with the arrows on the arrow pad. A Home button is provided for restoring the default status display, with a Back button below it to return to the previous screen. Extended control is available via functions provided in the printer driver when the printer is linked with a computer.
Canon’s Professional Print & Layout software is bundled with the imagePROGRAF PRO-300. It’s usable as standalone software, or as a plugin through Canon’s Digital Photo Professional imaging software or Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. This application covers settings like colour management, profiling selection and layout settings that include split gallery wrap printing and panoramic printing. Using this software, photographers can access the soft proofing and hard proofing functions to ensure precise colour matching from screen to print. The imagePROGRAF PRO-300 can connect with PC or Mac operating systems via a Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB connection to support multiple workflows. It can also work seamlessly with Canon’s EOS camera technology and supports functions such as DPRAW Prini and HDR Print, which can read the RAW image data from EOS cameras and accurately render sharp areas in an image, as well as recover highlights from single exposures.
Who’s it For?
The imagePROGRAF PRO-300 is designed to appeal to professional and enthusiast photographers, small studios and photo labs. Operators of camera shops could find this model attractive since it supports panorama printing and can be used to print on canvas media, although it can be difficult to find rolls at the 13-inch (329 mm) width.
The imagePROGRAF PRO-300 set up in a working environment. (Source: Canon.)
Photography schools may also see this printer as a worthwhile investment and its compact size and easy set-up could enable operators of tourist facilities to gain extra revenue through selling poster-sized prints of customers enjoying their facilities. Its relatively small footprint makes it an easy fit in most typical working environments.
What’s in the Box?
The PRO-300 comes in a cardboard box that is 725 mm long, 465 mm deep and 335 mm in height. The printer itself has a footprint of 639 x 368 x 196.5 mm and weighs 14.4 kg. Included in the box you’ll find 10 individual ink tanks (the full 14 ml capacity in their normal packages), the user-replaceable print head, a power cord, a CD printing tray, a software CD-ROM (Windows only; MacOS drivers are available online) and a printed 12-page starter guide.
The contents of the box are packed in Styrofoam, which is split to enable the top sections to be removed. The printer comes in a heavy-duty plastic bag with handles at each end and is strong enough to hold the printer while you lift it onto the desktop. It’s easy enough to remove the bag and foam sheeting by lifting each end of the printer and pulling the packaging out together before taking off the strips of orange tape and plastic mouldings that keep everything in place while the printer is in transit. Like the PRO-1000, the Pro-300 is essentially a rectangular box when the coverings are removed. But its footprint is almost 30% smaller.
Allow at about half to three-quarters of an hour to make the printer ready for printing, following the instructions in the starter guide, which are similar to those provided for the PRO-1000. But, unlike the PRO-100, the ink tanks ride on top of the print head so the first step is to plug in the power cable, switch on the printer and install the print head.
This illustration shows the ink tanks loaded on the print head.
Once this is done, each ink tank can be removed from its pack and clicked into the labelled slot on the print head. Closing the top cover completes this step and after the printer has made some initial adjustments – including agitating the ink – you will be ready to print.
The PRO-300 will agitate the ink periodically, including after you install new ink tanks, to prevent the pigments from settling out.
At this stage it’s a good idea to load a couple of sheets of plain paper into the top feed chute and run a nozzle check to make sure all the inks are being used and output is up to scratch. Raise the upper support flap behind the rear tray load the paper in the centre of the chute, adjusting the guides until they touch the edges of the sheets. The front tray should also be lowered to receive the paper as it exits the printer.
The paper type and size can be set via the LCD screen on the printer, a useful feature when you’re printing from a smartphone or camera or using the printer in standalone mode.
You may also be required to print a head alignment test if the printer is brand new. These tests should only take a couple of minutes. You can then install the software and set up the printer’s connection method.
Although the printer comes with a software disk for Windows users, we found it easier to download the software from Canon’s website using the URL on page 7 of the starter guide – which will be required for MacOS users. Installing the printer driver takes several minutes and you’re given the option of continuing on to install other applications, such as the Professional Print & Layout software, which supports ICC profiles, lets users freely arrange images on roll paper, correct image tones and print B&W image with warm or cool tones.
Other optional installations.
Once the software is installed, you can connect the printer to your computer. No USB cable is supplied with the printer but any cable with a Standard A plug at one end and a Standard B plug at the other will be adequate. The screen below will be displayed showing the setup has been completed.
This screen completed the setup process.
Unlike older printers which usually have three paper chutes, the PRO-300 has only two, a main top feed and a manual rear feed. Both have pull-out paper supports to help the media feed in correctly.
The top feed chute is a general-purpose feeder that accepts sheet sizes from 10 x 15 cm up to A3+ in size and up to 300 gsm in weight/thickness. It can accommodate up to 50 sheets of plain document paper, 10 sheets of A4 photo paper but only one sheet at a time for A3+ media.
The manual rear feed tray is for papers measuring 20 x 25 cm and larger. Accepting one sheet at a time, it should be used for thicker ‘fine art’ media up to 350 gsm or from 0.1 to 0.6 mm thick. Plain paper should not be fed in through this chute.
Using the LCD Control Panel
The printer’s control panel displays status messages and lets you access a number of functions. The arrow pad to its right is used for shifting between settings and selecting menu items or options. The menu is comprehensive enough to enable the printer to be operated as a stand-alone unit, although images to be printed would need to be supplied via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth since there’s no memory card slot.
The PRO-300’s control panel.
At the top of the menu is an ink status display. Selecting this item enables you to check ink levels, view the ink tank replacement procedure, or check ink tank numbers.
Below it is a paper settings display that enables you to specify the size and type of paper loaded in the rear tray. The paper type menu contains a list of all the media for which ‘canned profiles’ are already installed in the printer.
Below the paper settings is the Maintenance tab, which covers all the usual checking, cleaning and alignment operations.
After the Maintenance tab comes the Template print tab, which enables users to produce lines or graph paper. It is followed by the LAN settings, which are used to setup the printer on a network.
The Various settings tab is next in line. It enables users to change various printer wettings and access Web service functions. It is followed by the Printer information tab, which displays printer information and error histories.
The final tab is the Quick guide, which combines information on the main aspects of operating the printer, such as loading paper and changing ink tanks. It also contains a QR code for accessing the more detailed online manual.
The Printer Driver
The printer driver is essentially the same as Canon supplies with its PIXMA printers and covered in our review of the PIXMA iP8760. The only page with any differences is the fourth page (shown below), which has two click-on icons: Maintenance and Preferences and Update Media Information. Click on the Maintenance and Preferences icon and you open the standard maintenance function menu, as shown above.
Click on the Update Media Information icon and you open a dialog box (shown below) that lets you synchronise the media information in the driver and printer – should you feel a need to do so. (We only see a need for this if you’re printing directly from the printer rather than through an image editor.)
Borderless printing is available for the following output sizes: Letter (22 x 28 cm), 11” x 17” (279.4 x 431.8 mm), A4, A3, A3+, 10 x 15 cm, 13 x 18 cm, 18 x 25 cm, 20 x 25 cm, 210 x 594 mm, L 89 x 127 mm, 2L 127 x 178 mm, Square 13 x 13 cm, Square 30 x 30 cm, Hagaki (100 x 148 mm). It’s important to be aware that many of these paper sizes have different aspect ratios from those offered by today’s cameras so some image cropping will be applied.
We discovered an interesting aspect of borderless printing while checking out this function on the PRO-300: if you’re printing through an image editor and have set a scaled print size for a previous print, that size will be retained. This means when you make a borderless print the original may be cropped more (or sometimes less) than you expected.
This illustration shows how much of the image is cropped when an image with a 3:2 aspect ratio is printed in borderless mode on A3 (top) and A3+ (below) papers.
You can control the degree to which an image is cropped and also the size of any white margins you wish to add around an image with the Scaled Print Size adjustment (circled in red) in the image editor’s software interface.
This illustration shows the image set to 80% of the paper area, leaving a wide white margin around it.
Checking the Scale to Fit Media box enlarges the image to fit on the paper. Note the white margins top and bottom showing the aspect ratios of the image and paper don’t match.
You can adjust the Scale setting until the image completely covers the paper area to produce a borderless print with minimal cropping.
Like most photo printers, the PRO-300 includes a Custom Printer Paper Size setting that allows users to print on non-standard paper sizes, including long panoramas. It’s not available when the Borderless box is checked but when it’s unchecked paper widths can be set across a range of 89 to 330 mm and lengths between 127mm and 990.6 mm.
But you must allow for borders around the image. The printer will usually apply a 15 mm margin by default, although you can change this by cancelling the safety margin regulation by checking the Print Options box in the Page Setup section of the printer driver, as shown in the screen grab below.
You may also need to cancel the safety margins when printing on matte and fine art papers. We found it possible to make borderless prints on most media in these categories, although a warning appeared each time. It was also possible to print with very narrow margins (around 5 mm) without problems. In each case the paper must be absolutely flat with clean edges.
The printer was very quiet while running. We also encountered no paper feeding problems when using the top sheet feed chute. However, we were unable to get a sheet of canvas to feed in correctly via the rear feed slot, although we had no issues with printing on heavier papers when using this feed chute.
Printing times depend upon a number of factors including the output size, quality setting, relative density of inks that will be used (high-key images use less ink and take less time to print than low-key images) and whether the image is the first to be printed in a sequence or in the middle. The first print in a sequence will usually involve a longer ‘spooling’ time (normally between 30 seconds and a minute but sometimes longer) while the printer organises the various settings.
In our tests we recorded the following average times for prints made with small (10 mm or less) margins and borderless prints:
A4 prints at standard quality – 2 minutes 20 seconds at standard quality; 3 minutes 44 seconds at highest quality; HQ borderless prints averaged 4 minutes 40 seconds.
A3 prints at standard quality – 4 minutes 35 seconds at standard quality; 5 minutes 47 seconds at highest quality; HQ borderless prints averaged 6 minutes 18 seconds.
A3+ prints at standard quality – 4 minutes 44 seconds at standard quality; 7 minutes 8 seconds at highest quality; HQ borderless prints averaged 7 minutes 48 seconds.
Note that these are averages calculated over batches of between 10 and 30 prints.
It‘s normal to expect running costs for printers that use small ink tanks to be relatively high, largely due to the costs of the tanks themselves. And the 14mm cartridges used by the PRO-300 are not designed for high-volume production printing. This printer is most suitable for relatively low-volume use by individual amateur photographers and, possibly also, camera clubs.
Purchasers of this printer should also note that many retail stores (particularly photo specialists) don’t keep replacement inks for this printer in stock so you’ll need to shop online. Price differences can be wide; with the highest we found listing individual tanks at AU$49 each and the lowest at AU$24.86. Most were between $25 and $29.
A couple of outlets were offering 10 ink packs for between $241 and $253, although these may not be such a good investment for individuals since inks will run out at different rates, depending on the colour biases of the images that are printed. It’s generally best to purchase inks as you need them and many online outlets will ship overnight.
We were unable to obtain precise ink costs because the printer we received had been used before it reached us and some ink tanks were depleted while others were at different levels, which made calculating their capacities almost impossible. However, on the basis of our usage, we estimate the average ink cost for an A4 print with 10 mm margins to be slightly less than AU$1.50, while for an A3 print with 15 mm margins it is between AU$3.00 and $3.10. An A3+ print with 15mm margins would use approximately AU$3.20-$3-30 worth of ink. All these figures assume a cartridge cost of between $25 and $29 each.
Costs for other media will vary with each paper type and should be easy to calculate on the basis of the cost of each sheet. Like other Canon A3 printers, the PRO-300 can’t use roll paper, which limits its overall capabilities.
However, it does allow users to print with Custom sizes up to 330 x 990.6 mm, which provides some scope for panorama printing if you’re prepared to cut roll paper to a size between those limits. We found feeding long sheets of paper into the printer via the rear chute can be tricky, to say the least. Calculating media cost per print may also be difficult.
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Printer type: Thermal inkjet with L-COA PRO Image Processing Engine
Printing method: FINE: Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering
Minimum droplet size: 4 Picolitres
Resolution: Up to 4800 x 1200 dpi
Paper sizes: A3+, A3, A4, A5, B4, B5, Letter, Legal, Ledger, 4″x6″, 5″x7″, 8″x10″, 10″x12″, Envelopes (DL, COM10), Custom size (width 89 mm – 329 mm, length 127 mm – 676 mm)
Max. paper thickness: Approx. 380 gsm (0.1-0.6mm)
Ink system: LUCIA PRO pigment ink
Ink cartridges: 10 colours: MBK matte black, PBK photo black, GY grey, C cyan, PC photo cyan, M magenta, PM photo magenta, Y yellow, R red, CO Chroma Optimizer), 14.4 mL each
Display: 3.0-inch mechanical
Interfaces: Hi-Speed USB, Ethernet (10/100), Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n), PictBridge
Power consumption:16W16 (2.4W Standby, 0.2W Off)
Acoustic noise: 39.5 dB(A)
Dimensions (wxhxd): Approx. 639 x 379 x 200 mm
Weight: 14.4 kg
Distributor: Canon Australia; 1800 021 167
- Build: 8.9
- Features: 8.9
- Print quality: 8.9
- Print speed: 8.8