Canon PIXMA PRO-100S

      Photo Review 8.8
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      In summary

      The PIXMA PRO-100S is an excellent performer for  A3+sized (483 x 329 mm) prints for framing and displaying. It’s also a good choice for anyone who wants to print their own photo books.

      Like most dye-based printers, it delivers optimal results on glossy, semi-gloss and lustre papers, although it’s no slouch when printing on matt surfaces. Inks dry quickly enough for double-sided printing, partly because they are absorbed into the surface of the paper. This also makes them more scuff-resistant than prints made with pigment inks.

      When you take into account the built-in support for ICC profiles, it’s arguably the most sophisticated dye ink printer of its type on the market.  

      This printer is best used with glossy and semi-gloss papers but its ink cartridges are small and relatively costly to replace, so it’s not suitable for high-volume printing.

       

      Full review

      Announced in February 2015, the PIXMA Pro-100S is a minor update to the original PIXMA Pro-100 printer we reviewed in February 2013. Essentially identical to its predecessor, the latest model adds improvements to WiFi, Cloud and Ethernet  connectivity. Users can now print directly from Canon’s PIXMA Cloud Link or other cloud storage services or use Wi-Fi, Ethernet, PictBridge for direct printing from cameras and smart devices.
       

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       Canon’s new PIXMA Pro-100S dye-based inkjet printer. (Source: Canon.)

      The new printer uses the same ChromaLife100+ dye inks as the PIXMA PRO-100 (and its predecessor, the Pro9000 Mark II). Eight cartridges are supplied with the printer, covering the standard yellow, magenta, cyan and black colours as well as grey and light grey plus photo magenta and photo cyan. These inks claim to maintain their colours for more than 100 years when prints are stored in an album.

      The three monochrome inks allow the printer to produce black and white prints free of unwanted colour casts and ensure smoother tonal gradations in shadowed areas. The Optimum Image Generating System introduced in the Pixma Pro-1 (and included in the PRO-100) analyses the photo colour and calculates the optimum ink combination and volume of ink droplets.

      This system also controls   how the inks are deposited on the paper to enhance colour reproduction and tonal gradations and ensure uniform glossiness in each print, regardless of the printing mode or media type. Inks are delivered in three-picolitre droplets for fine resolution of details at a high resolution of 4800 x 2400 dpi (dots/inch).

      Who’s it For?
       If you already have a PIXMA PRO-100 printer, the only reason to upgrade to the new model is for its Wi-Fi capabilities. However, it’s debatable whether serious photographers will actually want to print directly from either a smartphone or a tablet without editing their images first.

      Although there are plenty of editing apps available, the capabilities of most are pretty limited and even the best of them can’t offer the versatility and performance of a dedicated photo editor. The screens on portable devices can seldom be calibrated so translating colour data between device and printer could be problematic.

      As a printer, the PIXMA PRO-100S will suit keen photographers who want to make A3+sized (483 x 329 mm) prints for framing and displaying. It’s also a good choice for anyone who wants to print their own photo books.

      Like most dye-based printers, it delivers optimal results on glossy, semi-gloss and lustre papers, although it’s no slouch when printing on matt surfaces. Inks dry quickly enough for double-sided printing, partly because they are absorbed into the surface of the paper. This also makes them more scuff-resistant than prints made with pigment inks.

      What’s in the Box?
       The PRO-100S   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 seven languages   (English, French, German, Dutch, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish) on two sheets of paper folded to roughly A5 size.

      The larger one contains general-purpose ‘Getting Started’ instructions; the smaller has specific instructions for using the printer with ‘Non-PC Devices’. A smaller sheet provides ‘Safety and Important Information’ instructions. There’s also a warranty card.

      Taped to the plastic bag in which the printer is packed is a multi-lingual sheet covering installation of the print head. The single software disk contains the printer driver for Windows computers plus a link to the online user manual (which can’t be downloaded for printing).   Mac users must download the driver from Canon’s support site. USB and mains power cables are provided.

      Build, Ergonomics and Set-up
      Physically, the PRO-100S is identical to the PRO-100 and setting the printer up involves the same steps. We’ve already covered these factors in our review of the PRO-100.

      Fitting the print head holder and loading the ink cartridges involves the same steps as in the PRO-100, as shown in the illustrations below. Red LED lamps on the front of the print head indicate the ink tank status (they flash when the cartridge should be replaced).  

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      Installing the print head holder (the orange plastic protector has to be removed before the holder is fitted).
       

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       Installing the print head. Note the colour coding showing which inks go in which bays.
       

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      The print head with all ink cartridges installed, showing the ink status lamps.

      Like its predecessors, the PRO-100S uses its rear ‘tray’ as the main paper feed-in slot. This tray accepts a modest stack (20-25 sheets) of plain or photo paper with weights up to 170 gsm. Paper support extensions flip up from the cover of the rear tray.

      Heavier papers should be fed in   one at a time through the manual feed tray, which hinges out from the rear panel of the printer. You have to engage the feed-in guides by gently jiggling the paper up and down until they ‘grab’ the sheet.

      Prints are ejected via the output tray at the front of the printer, which has pull-out extensions to support larger sheets of paper. CDs and DVDs are printed in the supplied disc tray, which slots in behind a pull-down flap just above the output tray.

      The printer driver is the same as the PRO-100’s, with four pages covering Quick Setup, Main, Page Setup and Maintenance tasks. The screen grabs below show each page’s functions.  

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      Quick Setup.

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       Main.
       

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       The Custom Quality settings on the Main page.
       

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         Page Setup.
       

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       Maintenance .

      The Custom settings in the Page Setup section of the printer driver is the same as on the PRO100. It allows 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, neither of which is quite wide enough.
       
      Wi-Fi
       The main difference between the PRO-100S and the PRO-100 lies in its connectivity options. Whereas the PRO-100 included a wireless LAN interface, the PRO-100S is fully Wi-Fi enabled and supports direct printing via Wi-Fi from smart devices is also available via Canon’s Easy-PhotoPrint+ (EPP+) app.

      Once the Wi-Fi connection is established, users should be able to print images stored in cloud storage services such as DropBox, Flickr, Facebook, Google Drive, One Drive and Photobucket or Canon’s PIXMA Cloud Link. (You can find a list of Google Cloud Print-compatible apps.)

       EPP+ includes templates for creating personalised items such as greeting cards, stickers, collages and calendars and facilities for saving projects so users can return to complete them at a later stage. The app also lets users check printer information and settings remotely, displaying the ink status, utilities, printing status and detailed error information. This information is also available when the printer is connected to a network.

      Links are provided to take users to the printer support page and Canon’s Web Services, along with the IJ Cloud Printing Centre. Mac users can specify the Apple  AirPrint settings. The app also provides access to  a record of the printer’s usage data enabling users to see the number of pages printed. Security settings can be managed via the app, as can firmware updates. The online user’s manual is also accessible.
       

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       Selecting Wi-Fi connection.

      To use the PRO-100S wirelessly, you must first select the Wireless LAN connection setting from the printer connection method menu (shown above). If you’ve opted for another connection method you’ll need to re-load the supplied CD and reset it to Wi-Fi when the page shown below is displayed.

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      Re-setting the connection method.

      We had limited success when we tried printing images from smartphones and our Nexus 6 tablet. As mentioned in the review, we were unable to connect the Panasonic CM1 camera-phone to the PRO-100S, either via Wi-Fi or with the Bluetooth interface, largely because both processes are involved and clunky.

      Once the app is loaded on the smart device, you should be able to establish a connection by following four steps. Start by holding down the Resume/Cancel  button on the printer, then release the Resume/Cancel button after the sixth flash. This should cause the wireless connection setting information including the PIN code to be printed. (This step was where our failures occurred.)

      Then hold down the Resume/Cancel button until the POWER lamp flashes eight times and release it after the eighth flash. The WPS PIN Code should be displayed on the smart device’s screen, along with instructions for finalising the connection. (When we couldn’t see the PIN Code, we tried the Troubleshooting function, but it wasn’t helpful and the 10 minute time limit for establishing the link elapsed before we could make any further progress.)

      Attempting to connect to the printer via Bluetooth was also unsuccessful. Neither the printer nor the enabled device we used gave any sign of recognising the other device. So we gave up.

      We haven’t penalised the printer for these problems because we don’t think many readers will see remote printing as a key aspect of this printer. The majority of serious photographers will want to edit their images before committing them to paper and the printer works perfectly with popular image editors from Adobe as well as freeware like GIMP.

      Software

      The software bundle is essentially the same as for the PIXMA PRO-100. As well as the printer driver and on-screen manual, the disk contains links to the following programs: My Printer, My Image Garden, Quick Menu, Print Studio Pro, Easy-WebPrint EX and XPS driver. Missing is Adobe RGB (1998).

      Easy-PhotoPrint+ is a new web-based application for remote printing and image sharing (which we were unable to try out).   Users must be registered with the  Canon Inkjet Cloud Printing Centre and the password used for it must be entered to login to the application, along with your email address.

      This application can be used to print images from a computer or tablet, create personalised disc labels, and access templates with preset designs for creating and printing greeting cards and collages. A selection of paper crafts is available for printing and assembling and the application includes some basic editing adjustments for brightness and colour tones.

      Images can be shared via the application and recipients can also edit and print shared items. Intended recipients must be registered as ‘sharers’ in order to access shared items but, once that’s done, they are free to use them and leave comments while editing them.

      We had the same problems accessing Print Studio Pro from Adobe Photoshop as we did with the PRO-100. The latest versions of Photoshop CC (2014 and 2015) didn’t appear to be supported.

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      PS-Automate

      The plug-in should be automatically added to compatible photo applications  when the software is installed and is accessed via the Automate sub-menu. However, as you can see from the screen grab above, it wasn’t there when we looked. (We suspect most readers will prefer printing directly through Photoshop – or their favourite editor.)

      Consumables
       Canon’s ChromaLife100+ dye inks claim to be able to resist fading for approximately 30 years when framed prints are displayed under normal lighting or 300 years for prints stored in albums. This durability is closer to that of typical pigment inks than previous dye inks of 5-10 years ago.

      Individual CLI-42 series cartridges are priced at AU$25 each on Canon Australia’s online store, putting the cost of a complete set of inks at AU$200. Canon USA has them listed at US$16.99 each and they include free shipping plus two 20-sheet packs of Photo Paper plus glossy II (8.5 x 11 inches and 5 x 7 inches) when you buy four cartridges at once. (This offer is restricted to US buyers.)

      The lowest local price we’ve found for ‘genuine Canon cartridges is around $18.55 each or roughly $150 for a set of eight, which works out at about $1.43 per millilitre. That would be close to the US prices, given current exchange rates. Free shipping for orders worth more than $50 was offered by one supplier, while others offered reduced rates for orders over $99. So it seems local pricing can be competitive.

      Canon publishes the following ink yield figures for this printer, based on the ISO/JIS-SCID N2 test file on A3+ size plain paper using default settings. (We’ve included the figures for the PIXMA PRO-100 in brackets for comparison. Note: these figures are based on printing the same test pattern at 11 x 14-inch size continuously on A3+ PT-101 Pro Platinum Paper, which may account for the differences.)
       Black: 62 (65) photos
       Grey: 66 (70) photos
       Light Grey: 142 (111) photos
       Cyan: 53 (58) photos
       Magenta: 49 (48) photos
       Yellow: 52 (51) photos
       Photo Cyan: 59 (60) photos
       Photo Magenta: 38 (37) photos  

      In our tests, the first ink to indicate a low warning was the Grey cartridge, which occurred after 56 A4 and 8 A3+ prints, all with standard white borders. The ink in this cartridge ran out after two more A3+ prints.

      The Black and Light Grey inks simultaneously displayed warnings after a further four A3 and five A4 prints, with both showing depleted warnings after two more A3 prints. The Yellow cartridge was the next to go, indicating a warning after five more A3 prints and requiring replacement after two additional A3+ prints. The Photo Magenta cartridge displayed a low ink warning after two more A3+ prints and ran out after a further two A3+ prints.
       

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       Two views of the ink status monitor, the top one at the start of printing and the lower one when we ended out print run.

      We also printed a 50-page A4 photo book through Microsoft’s Publisher software using Longbottom Coated matt 170 gsm double-sided paper. Printing this book depleted the Photo Cyan cartridge along with a second Grey cartridge. Measuring the areas covered by ink, we estimate it would cost approximately $2.60 per A3+ print (with white borders) for inks purchased in Australia, which is the same as we found for the PRO-100 printer we reviewed. This is about average for a printer of this type.

      Actual printing costs will be dictated by your choice of paper. Canon supplied a three different papers for our review: Pro Platinum Paper, Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss and Photo Paper Pro Semi-matte. We also had some Museum Etching paper left over from a previous review as well as the afore-mentioned Longbottom Coated matt 170 gsm double-sided paper.

      CD printing is accomplished through My Image Garden, using the Disc Label setting in the New Art dialog box. The software isn’t particularly intuitive but if you’re prepared to work with the pre-set templates and select the images you want to use before opening the dialog box, it’s easy to create labels and print them on prepared disks using the supplied holder.

      Performance
      Printing speeds haven’t changed since the PRO100 and we found no significant variations in times with the different papers we used. The average time to produce an A4 print with 10-15 mm borders top and bottom from a 3:2 aspect ratio image was one minute and 15 seconds with the Standard quality setting or one minute and 59 seconds with High quality.

      For an A3 print (again with borders), the same image took one minute and 40 seconds with the Standard quality setting or two minutes and 53 seconds with High quality. A3+ prints took two minutes and 20 seconds with the Standard quality setting or three minutes and 35 seconds with High quality.

      Printing images with a 4:3 aspect ratio generally took a second or two longer than these times. Opting for borderless prints roughly doubled the times it took to output prints.

      As with the PRO-100, the stand-out paper was Canon’s Pro Platinum Paper, which is designed to bring out the best in the dye inks. Test prints on all the papers we tried were free from gloss differential (surface irregularities) and the resolution of detail was so fine we were unable to see any dot patterning or raster lines.  

      Prints made on matte paper were slightly less vibrant than those on glossy and semi-gloss/lustre papers but difficult to tell from prints of the same images made with pigment inks on similar papers. We would advise against printing on papers without optical brighteners as their creamy surfaces will prevent the vibrant colours of the dye inks from being displayed with their normal intensity. (Canon’s Museum Etching paper produced very dull-looking prints.)

      Monochrome prints were as good as the colour prints on the same papers. They contained plenty of detail and subtle tonal nuances and could readily be rated as ‘exhibition quality’. There was no difference in printing times between colour and monochrome prints.

      Prints produced by checking the monochrome box in the printer driver were virtually free of colour casts, even though we’re pretty sure at least some of the colour inks were used in their production. Prints of the same images made through the monochrome settings in Photoshop were totally neutral in tone. Photoshop provides plenty of scope for adjusting image tone to add warmth or coolness to printed images.

      We had no problems with head strike (which leaves traces of ink around the edges of prints) or loading problems. There were no paper jams and no problems associated with the installation of ink tanks. In fact, when printing from editing software, the printer performed almost faultlessly, even with non-standard-sized papers.

      Maintenance tasks are the same as for the PRO-100 and shown in the screen grab above. Unlike professional printers, 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.

      When it fills, the printer will have to go back to a Canon service centre to have it replaced, which takes time and isn’t cheap. (Unfortunately, the user manual has no information on how to recognise when the maintenance tank is full. )

      Conclusion

      If you’re in the market for an A3+ desktop printer, the PIXMA PRO-100S is an excellent performer and certainly worth a look. When you take into account the built-in support for ICC profiles, it’s arguably the most sophisticated dye ink printer of its type on the market. It’s also the most expensive.

      Interestingly the prices posted on Canon’s Australian online store are the same for both printers at AU$799, although the PRO-100S is currently being offered at a ‘sale’ price of $689, while the PRO-100 is being sold at $699. (We couldn’t find this printer listed on any US website, hence the lack of US prices.)

      Shopping online will allow you to access cheaper prices for both the printer and replacement ink cartridges, particularly from printer specialists. (Most photo specialists are quoting Canon’s prices.) But allow for the shipping costs, which are likely to be substantial for such a large and heavy package.

      This printer is best used with glossy and semi-gloss papers but its ink cartridges are small and relatively costly to replace, so it’s not suitable for high-volume printing.  

       

      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 (4×6″,5×7″, 8×10″)
       Supported paper weights: Plain Paper: 64-105 gsm, Canon specialty paper:  up to 350gsm (0.6mm thick)
       Ink cartridges: ChromaLife 100+  CLI-42BK (Black), CLI-42GY (Grey), CLI-42LGY (Light Grey), CLI-42C (Cyan), CLI-42M (Magenta), CLI-42Y (Yellow), CLI-42PC (Photo Cyan), CLI-42PM (Photo Magenta)
       Ink yield: CLi-42Y ““ 52, CLi-42M – 49, CLi-42C – 53, CLi-42PC – 59, CLi-42PM – 38, CLi-42GY – 66, CLi-42LGY – 142, CLi-42Bk – 62 (when printing ISO/JIS-SCID N2 pattern on A3+ size plain paper using default settings)  
       Interfaces: Hi-Speed USB(B Port), Wired LAN (IEEE802.3u(100BASE-TX)/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  (closed)
       Weight: 19.7 kg (including print head and ink tanks)

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$799 (sale price AU$689)

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

       

      Buy