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CANON RAISES THE BAR

Canon MP980 --
Top of the Line, State of the Art

MP980.150x120.jpg By MIKE PASINI
Editor
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter

Review Date: January 2009

No sooner had we posted our Canon MP620 review of the company's inexpensive entry-level multifunction device than we heard a big thump outside the front door as a delivery truck sped away. It was the top-of-the-line MP980.

The array of Canon MP printers is astonishing. Sit down and make a list of exactly which features you want in an all-in-one device. We're confident you'll find a Canon MP that fits like a glove. So if the MP620 is too little and the MP980 too much, their derivatives should be just right.

Three big advantages of the MP980 over the MP620 are the addition of negative scanning, duplex printing and a gray cartridge for black and white printing. Although after our review, we did copy a few antique black and whites (from the 1920s) on the MP620, printing them on Canon Photo Paper Pro in color and they were spot on.

Among the advantages of the MP620 is its compact size. The MP980 isn't much bigger, but it's bigger. And that can matter in a dorm room or a TV den. We have a fond spot for the little MP620 and don't think it will disappoint you, either.

But we also have a lot of negatives (unlike a college kid) and it's a real blessing to be able to make a 4x6 print directly from film. So we unboxed the MP980 and got right to it.

FEATURES | Back to Contents

The average price of the MP980 is just over $280 with a low of $180 and a high of $300. But you can get one for $100 off the $299.99 list price if you pick one up at the same time you buy a Mac from the Apple store.

And if you're not buying a Mac, you can still get the MP980 heavily discounted through the Imaging Resource Amazon affiliate link for $275.99.

The feature list starts with Canon's ChromaLife100 ink system. Using Canon photo papers and one-picoliter droplet FINE print head technology, photos printed on the MP980 are rated up to 300 years archival storage. The MP980 also includes a gray ink to enhance the tonal range of black and white images.

We also found the no warm-up/low-energy usage feature of the MP980 very attractive. The high-luminance white LED scanner lamps are ready to go almost as soon as you press the Power button and they just as quickly switch to standby mode. We found ourselves leaving the printer on all the time.

And the WiFi connectivity was a real blessing. Just install the driver on any computer in the house and it can print to and scan from the MP980. You can also connect the MP980 via Ethernet or use the built-in card reader to print directly from memory cards.

Bluetooth connectivity is also supported with the use of an optional Bluetooth dongle. But we don't find it particularly useful. About the only thing that can send an image to the printer via Bluetooth is a cellphone and images from most cellphones hardly have the resolution to print a 4x6. Still, it can be done.

The 3.5-inch LCD displays images from memory cards as well as presents the MP980's menu system. An Easy Scroll Wheel navigates the menu system. The larger LCD displays type much larger on the MP980 than on the MP620, which may be a consideration for older eyes.

Unlike the MP620, the MP980 provides auto duplex printing so you can print on both sides of a plain paper sheet. That's particularly helpful with template printing (ruled sheets) but it also means paper cost savings.

Finally, Smart Copying uses Canon's Dual Color Gamut Processing technology to optimize copying based on the type of original.

SPECIFICATIONS | Back to Contents

Printer

Print Speed: 4x6 borderless color photos in approximately 20 seconds; Up to 26 ppm (as fast as 2.3 seconds per page) black; Up to 21 ppm (approximately 2.9 seconds per page) color

Number of Nozzles: 512 black and 5,632 color for 6,144 total

Picoliter Size: 1, 2 and 5 depending on cartridge (colors are one picoliter)

Print Resolution: 600x600 dpi black and 9600x2400 dpi color

Output Tray Capacity: Letter, Legal, 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, U.S. #10 Envelopes

Automatic Sheet Feeder: 150 pages (cassette: 150 pages)

Copier

Copy Speed: Up to 24 cpm (as fast as 2.5 seconds per page) black; Up to 19 cpm (as fast as 3.2 seconds per page) color

Reductions Enlargement: 25 to 400 percent

Copy Features: 4-in-1, 2-in-1, Auto Duplex Copy, Auto Exposure/Intensity Copy, Continuous Copy, Face Brightener/Fading Correction, Film Copy, Fit-to-Page, Image Repeat, Manual Color Adjustment, Masking Copy, Multiple Copy: 1-99 Pages, Photo Reprint, Preset Copy Ratios, Trimming Copy, Zoom

Scanner

Scanner Element: Charged-coupled device

Max. Resolutions: 4800x9600 dpi optical resolution; 19,200 x 19,200 dpi interpolated

Scanner Features: Auto Scan Mode, Film Scan, Gutter Shadow Correction, Network Scan, Push Scan, Scan to Memory, White LED

Color Depth: 48-bit internal/24-bit external

Max. Document Size: Print: 8.5x11.7

Card Reader

Supported Media: SD Memory Card, SDHC MultiMedia CardCard, (v4.1), MultiMediaCard Plus, Compact Flash Card, Microdrive, Memory Stick, Memory Stick Pro, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo (v4.1). With an optional adapter: miniSD Card, miniSDHC, microSD Card, microSDHC, RS-MMC (v4.1), Memory Stick Micro, xD-Picture Card, xD-Picture Card Type M, xD-Picture Card Type H General Specifications

Other Features: Auto Duplex Print, Auto Photo Fix, Borderless Printing, Calendar Print, Direct Print, Document Printing, Grayscale Printing, ID Photo Print, Photo Index Sheet, Photo Printing, Template Print, 3.5" LCD, Dual Color Gamut Processing Technology, PictBridge, Quick Start,Self Opening Tray

OS Compatibility: Windows Vista, Windows XP/2000 and Mac OSX v. 10.3.9 to 10.5x12

Standard Interface: Wireless LAN (IEEE802.11b/g), Bluetooth v2.07 (optional), Card Slots, Ethernet, IrDA IR, PictBridge, USB 2.0 Hi-Speed

Software Included: Included in box: Setup Software & User's Guide CD-ROM, PIXMA MP980 Printer Driver, Easy-PhotoPrint EX, Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, MP Navigator EX, ArcSoft PhotoStudio, Solution Menu

Dimensions: 18.5 x 15.2 x 7.9 inches (W x D x H)

Weight: 23.6 lbs.

Warranty: Toll-free technical phone support plus one-year limited warranty with InstantExchange program

Cartridge. They're smart enough to light up when correctly installed (which is a snap, really) and they last a good long time printing documents and 4x6 prints. The control panel likes to show how full they are, too.

CONSUMABLES | Back to Contents

The Canon Web page for the MP980 has complete details, but generally speaking:

  • 100 sheets of 4x6 Photo Paper Pro goes for $40 but lesser quality sheets are available for under $20 in packs of 100
  • CMYK and Gray ink tanks each go for $12.99
  • The larger pigment black ink tank goes for $14.99

Just for the record, the ink tank numbers are PGI-220BK for pigment black, CLI-221 for black, yellow, magenta, cyan and gray.

And the cartidges seemed to last. We kept checking the ink levels (you can get ink status wirelessly, too) only to be surprised to find they were still full. We were so surprised, in fact, that we popped a few of the cartridges out just to see for ourselves. And indeed they were still full.

Secret Ingredients. Documentation is the bulk of it -- but the operating manual is on CD in HTML, making it easy to search for solutions.

IN THE BOX | Back to Contents

The MP980 ships with these items in the box:

  • MP980 printer including film holder
  • Cartridges: PG-220 Pigment Black, CLI-221(Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black/Gray)
  • Power cord
  • Print head
  • Sample media (five sheets of 4x6 Photo Paper Pro)
  • Two special calibration sheets
  • USB cable
  • Documentation kit: Cross Sell Sheet, Getting Started, Important Information Sheet, Network Troubleshooting Guide, Safety Information Sheet, Setup Software & User's Guide CD-ROM, Warranty Card

INSTALLATION | Back to Contents

We connected the MP980 to our wireless network, installing the full software package on one OS X 10.4 machine and just the drivers for wireless printing on another.

That took about an hour. It's a slightly more involved process than some multifunction devices because of the wireless setup. But its wireless setup isn't really much more involved than other wireless devices.

Having just gone through this with the MP620, you'd think we'd sail through the MP980 installation. But we didn't. We managed to disconnect the USB connection (required for installing the printer on the first machine) a bit too early and had to repeat the step. But otherwise, it went as we described in our MP620 installation, requiring about three separate procedures to complete.

All you have to do is following the (convoluted) directions (precisely), of course. But that is made more difficult than it has to be by the installation booklet. We love Canon's installation posters, but for the MP980 the company wrote a booklet. And the booklet, which requires skipping around a lot depending on how you want to connect to the device, is accompanied by another booklet for troubleshooting.

The booklet is, unfortunately, a little confused. It thinks it's a poster, relying on big numerals to identify each section you are supposed to go to. In little parentheses, though, you get the actual page number. After all, it's a book, not a poster. You need the page numbers.

Self-Calibrating. The MP980 scans as it prints the calibration sheet, but you have to use special calibration paper and Canon only supplies two sheets.

Calibration went smoother than with the MP620, though, because the MP980 can handle the task automatically. You don't have to choose which bars are printed most smoothly; the scanner can tell during printing. You do have to use special heavy calibration sheets, though. Canon only provides two with the MP980.

Software installation of the Canon applications went smoothly. Easy-PhotoPrint EX is a sleeper printing application, making it a pleasure to print specialty products like albums, calendars, stickers, greeting cards and, well, just more than one picture on a page. All without requiring you to put your images in a particular place on your hard drive, too.

A TOUR | Back to Contents

Let's take a quick tour of the printer before we put it to work.

Size. It is a good bit bigger than the MP620 at 15.2 x 18.5 x 7.9 inches. The top rear opens to reveal the photo paper tray that extends upwards and slightly back a bit (you don't need much room behind the printer). The front output tray opens automatically a few inches with an optional additional extension we never bothered with. But it easily fits on a typing table.

Large But Compact. The MP980 is larger than the MP620 but it still fits on a typing table.

One nice thing about the photo paper tray is that the guides move in and out together. That probably exercises the printer parts a bit more than using a common side guide with one sliding guide. Which is probably good for the printer.

Power. It starts up almost instantly, which turns out to be a real blessing in a WiFi device. You don't want to have to walk back and forth (sometimes using stairs!) from your work station to the printer to see if it's ready.

It shuts down quickly, too, on the first press of the button. Some printers (like HP's, to name names) go to sleep and will only awake when you try to shut them down. You have to wait for them to wake up before pressing the Power button again to shut them down. Not the MP980. It understands.

But you really don't have to turn it off. The only thing that stays on is the rather large blue LED that indicates it's on. The monitor goes to sleep and the printer itself is quiet. Until you want to print something. Then it perks right up. We ended up leaving it on for days. Just because it seemed to be off.

And just one more small thing: the power cord. Some companies give you a brick because either they haven't bothered to incorporate it into the printer (Kodak) or they find some manufacturing efficiency in sticking you with it (HP). Canon took the time to do it right. You just have to plug a cord into the wall and the printer. No brick.

Warm-up. You might think you'd pay for leaving the printer on in standby mode with a long warm-up time as the cartridges clean the print heads, but that wasn't the case. The MP980 was quite responsive whether it was just turned on or left on.

It does, of course, clean the heads occasionally. But not every time you print something.

Control Panel. The MP980's control panel with its large, 3.5-inch LCD is silver (unlike the black one on the MP620), making it easier to find the buttons. Otherwise it's identical.

Control Panel. After using the HP C8180's touchscreen, we expected to be disappointed with the MP980's control panel. It consists of a 3.5-inch color LCD on a flip-up panel that is a bit larger to cover the Easy-Scroll Wheel and other buttons on the top lid of the printer. Color display is far from accurate, however. Your prints of images on memory cards will look better than the LCD displays.

The buttons include two function buttons aligned right below the LCD, which labels them depending on which operation you're engaged in. Below them is the four-way navigator and OK button with the Easy-Scroll Wheel in silver orbiting between them. We weren't very fond of the wheel. It scrolls a little too easily so we were constantly overruning our navigation until we decided to rely on the arrow keys instead. Which really should be incorporated into the wheel.

To the left of the navigator is a small Back button to move back a screen (just like in your Browser). Left of that are two large buttons labeled Navi and Home. Navi pops up a list of common functions on the LCD and Home takes you to the signon screen. We rarely used either. Left of them is the Power button.

On the right of the navigator are two small Copies buttons. One is Plus to increase the number of copies and one is Minus to decrease them. Further right are two large Start buttons, one for Black and White and the other for Color. Those we used a lot. Just to the right of those is the Stop button to cancel operations.

Those are a lot of buttons and perhaps not a pretty site. But in actual use, we found them very convenient and, in fact, easy to find. We didn't fumble around looking for a button. But most operations are designed so you just have to use the navigator, OK button and a Start button to get things done. If you need something else, you check the function buttons. If you get confused, you hit the Back button.

The firmware seems to know what you want to do and present just the information you need to get it done. Options are clearly laid out and there really don't seem to be any false steps or sweaty hand holding. It's among the more efficient firmware implementations we've seen.

Card Reader. Note the PictBridge USB port below it.

Card Reader. The card reader is hidden away behind a plastic door. It's pretty rudimentary. You push your card in until it stops. You pull your card out when you're done. No push and click, no release mechanism. It can be a little tight getting big hands in there, but it can be done.

Scanner Lock. Unlike the MP620, the MP980 has a scanner lock on the scanner bed. Remember to unlock the scanner before using it -- and to lock it before moving the MP980 to another location.

Connections. The rear of the unit has the Ethernet connector at one corner and the power connector at the other.

COPYING | Back to Contents

Our real-life daily use of the MP980 involved using it in a variety of ways, if not all of them. The simplest was making copies (without using the computer). There isn't even a lightness/darkness control to worry about.

Document Copying. High on the list of standalone uses is copying a document. Inkjets make very nice copies (no scumming from toners, no paper warping from the heat) and with a built-in scanner they can perform some useful tricks, too.

For example, we repeated our MP620 copy with a yellow receipt, a carbon copy really. There was some printed matter on it and some carboned dot matrix printing that was legible but just barely.

When we pressed the Black button to Copy it, the scanner dropped the yellow background and made a very readable image of the receipt. Better than the original, actually.

A color copy of a pale green sheet with black and blue handwriting also reproduced very well. It was easily read with the green dropping a shade.

Photo Copying. Another popular standalone task is making copies of old photos. Someone visits, you go through your old albums just for fun, they want a copy of a picture of themselves when they looked good and ... well, you just pop it on the scanner bed, put some photo paper in and make a copy.

The MP980 does make it that easy to copy old photos. Just select the Easy Photo Reprint option and put them on the scanner glass (it will advise you how to lay them out, unlike either Kodak or HP). It scans them and then presents them on the LCD so you can select them for printing (and indicate the number of copies you want).

You can preview the scan to see before printing if it's all right. Some printers just copy photos as if they were copying a document, so you don't realize you placed the image in the scanner in the wrong orientation.

Cropping. The yellow border indicating the crop can be enlarged or reduced with the wheel and moved around with the arrow keys.

You can also set the crop and enlargement visually. You simply use the Easy Scroll Wheel to include as much of the original as your paper size permits and move that around to crop exactly what you want in the image.

The quality of our first copy just blew our socks off. It was a difficult image with a bright red background and a yellow pillow and a child's face in the middle. The skin tones were an excellent match, the detail like eyelashes perfect and contrast just slightly subdued (the blacks were not quite as black). But even though both images were 4x6, the copy was slightly enlarged, just as it had been on the MP620.

One cool thing we learned about copying a photo on the MP980 is that you can leave it in the frame. The focus adjusted about 3/8 inch inside the frame to capture the image without removing it from the frame.

And if you just have the negatives, it really isn't much more difficult to get a print using the including slide/negative carrier. More about that in the scanning section.

PRINTING | Back to Contents

Normal page printing to the MP980 was no challenge. Even duplex printing was fool-proof (just enable it from the Duplex Printing & Margin page of the printer driver).

Card Reader. You can print directly from your PictBridge camera or you can pop the card into the MP980's card reader and rely on the its LCD to navigate and print your images. Unlike many other multifunction devices, the MP980 will print out an index of the card contents.

We slipped an SD card full of Canon PowerShot G10 images into the card reader, waited until the LCD told us it had read the card and then scrolled through looking for images to print.

Prints. The original is the small on the right. The color and monotone copies were made without computer assistance, right at the machine.

The LCD tells you, "A card is inserted," before "Reading photo data..." is displayed. Then it displays the first image it found.

There are two function buttons just below the screen on the control panel. Two boxes on the bottom of the LCD tell you what they do in any particular application. The options with a card installed are Change the Display or Edit. Change the Display lets you view thumbnails or a slide show. You can also enlarge the image, scrolling with the arrow keys until you press OK, or choose full screen or normal displays. Edit lets you trim an image or search for images by date.

You select an image for printing by pressing the Plus copies button. Deselect it by pressing the Minus copies button. A little yellow check mark appears on the image to indicate its status.

Slide I. Good color balance, shadow and highlight detail for a multifunction device.

To print, you just press the Color button. And away it goes. Anything selected for printing will be printed after you confirm the print settings.

The print settings (like paper size, print quality and borderless printing) can be changed by scrolling to them and pressing the OK button. A screen of options will be displayed.

Slide II. Another good job on a tough subject. Note that the film scans were not done at full resolution.

It all works very clearly -- perhaps the best workflow of any un-computer-assisted operation we've used.

The closest we can come to a complaint is to suggest the outer ring with the arrow keys be merged with the Easy Scroll Wheel so you don't have to fumble from one to the other.

Importing from Reader. When you pop a card into the MP980 it does not function like a USB card reader to transfer images to your computer unless you have a USB connection.

That's good behavior for a network printer. After all, how would it know which computer to transfer the images to?

Color Negative. A dark subject but the MP980 had no trouble holding detail in the shadows.

Bluetooth Printing. Printing from a wireless device like a cellphone was simple, too. We popped a D-Link Bluetooth adapter into the USB port of the MP980, turned on our cell phone and copied the image to the printer. The printer printed it on a sheet of 4x6 paper and that was that.

PictBridge Printing. Cabling a digicam to the USB port of the printer lets you use the camera itself as your kiosk rather than the printer. Camera LCDs display images a good deal better than the printer LCD, so that might be an attractive alternative. And if you have several cameras with shots to print, it might even be more efficient, since each camera can select which images to print and how many to print before connecting to the printer.

Quality. With one-picoliter droplets and 9600x2400 dpi, the MP980 makes very nice prints from just four dye inks: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. The small droplet size compensates for the minimal inkset.

At the virtual water color one day, we asked Dave to explain how four inks can match a high-fidelity inkset with light magenta and light cyan in addition the cyan, magenta, yellow and black.

"The main reason for pastel inks," he began, "was to permit finer gradations in very light areas of an image (or in darker areas, fine gradations of the 'contaminant color,' making subtle shadows in highly-saturated objects, which are rendered using a complementary color to that of the object itself).

"Early inkjets could only make droplets just so small, and drops could only be there or not, so the range of tones was somewhat limited in the highlights, and/or the highlights would get grainy looking because the printer would have to put down rather visible dots with very sparse spacing, to get the desired tone. With pastel inks, the dots themselves were lighter and less obtrusive, and you could put more of them into a given area in the highlights, both of which contributed to smoother-looking gradations in highlights.

IT8 by MP980. Color is uncalibrated but note the gray scale.

IT8 by Microtek M1. Calibrated, high-end flatbed film scanner for comparison.

"Now that the minimum droplet size is one picoliter, the individual dots are way below the size that a human eye can resolve, so graininess in highlights is no longer an issue. That's great news when it comes to ink costs, given the number of PC and PM cartridges you run through on high fidelity printers."

We printed a snowy scene with lots of highlight detail and a Chihuly glass exhibit with a pitch black background and both images were stunning. The icy highlights of the snow scene had exquisite detail with no screen artifacts at all. This tempts some people to call the prints "lab quality" but they're better than anything we ever got from a commercial lab.

Template Printing. Under the Settings menu option there are a number of templates you can print including variously ruled notebook paper, music paper, graph paper and more. This is very handy with school-age kids in the house -- it eliminates a popular homework excuse.

And yes, you can print the pattern on both sides with the MP980.

SCANNING | Back to Contents

The MP980 can scan letter-sized reflective material as well as 35mm film strips and mounted slides. And it can do it wirelessly, too (from the MP980 or your computer). Or just write the scanned data to a thumbdrive or memory card in the card reader.

Canon provides not only the console on the MP980 to control scanning but its MP Navigator EX application software and ScanGear, its TWAIN driver. All are admirable examples of their genre.

Placing Documents. While the top left corner of the platen is marked with an arrow to align text documents, Canon recommends putting photos with a little space around them (3/8 inch) on the platen. That's because the scanner can batch scan them.

Slide Holder. Just drop the slides in.

Scanning film is another matter, however. Inside the removable document cover you'll find the film guide, which can hold either a single strip of 35mm film containing up to six images or four mounted slides.

It's actually rather ingenious -- and among the best film holders we've seen. The base holds a removable filmstrip holder. Without the filmstrip holder, the base can accommodate four slides. It doesn't actually "hold" them, though. It merely positions them. You put the base on the platen first (there is a pin and indentations to align it), then drop the slides in, with the emulsion facing up as indicated on the base.

Negative Holder. Very easy to use.

To scan a filmstrip, you open the holder and slip your filmstrip in. Just two small tabs hold down the film end by the hinge until you close the holder so the whole strip lies flat. Nothing rubs against the film as you align it, so there's no danger of scratching the film. Very nice.

Film Scanning. We scanned a couple of slides of show cars and a color negative using the TWAIN driver from Photoshop CS4. Both kinds of original scanned exceptionally well with good density range and accurate (even improved) color. Density range is usually an issue with a device like this but we were not disappointed in what the MP980 delivered.

Negative Holder Detail. Slip the strip under two small plastic tabs to anchor it.

We don't usually recommend multifunction devices for scanning film having seen some terrible efforts from HP (Kodak doesn't even offer the capability). But Canon seems to get this right. You can pop your old film negs into the MP980 and make 4x6 prints that won't just rival the old one-hour prints you have but will surpass them.

And it was easy to scan them, too. We attribute that to ScanGear.

ScanGear. ScanGear, the TWAIN driver, provides three modes: Basic, Advanced and Auto Scan. The ScanGear driver also provides Preferences for its Scanner, Preview, Scan and Color settings behavior across all three modes.

Basic is a good choice if you're new to scanning. You simply tell the driver what you are scanning (a document, color photo, magazine, newspaper), tell it to display a preview, tell it what you want (a print, image or OCR), pick the output size, crop, correct the image (fade, backlight, gutter shadow for books, color pattern corrections) and finally perform the scan.

The Advanced tab -- what we used to scan our originals to 1600x1000-pixel images -- can save settings and is a bit more specific about them so you can set the resolution or adjust the color yourself. Image Settings, for example, can toggle unsharp masking and descreening. It can also set the level of dust and scratch removal, fade correction, grain correct on, backlight correction and gutter shadow correction. It's something like a manual mode for the driver compared to Basic.

Canon ScanGear TWAIN Driver

Slides. ScanGear TWAIN driver in Advanced Mode.

Negatives. Click on the box under the image to include it in the batch.

Auto Scan lets the scanner figure everything out for itself. You just load the scanner and click the Scan button in the driver.

ScanGear is a pretty thorough scanner driver. Although there's no color calibration for reading IT8 targets, you can specify color matching profiles for the scanner and the target in the Color Settings Preferences.

Third party scanning software like VueScan didn't work wirelessly with the MP980, but that didn't surprise us. But VueScan did work when connected via USB cable to the MP980. So anything you can't find in ScanGear, you can find in VueScan (like calibration).

On the Mac, Image Capture also can control the MP620.

Reflective Scanning. Scanning a print or document is not as difficult as scanning film. Density does not range nearly as far, so what shadow and highlight detail there is on the original is easily captured.

We were pleased with our reflective scanning whether we were copying prints as described above or using ScanGear to grab an image over the network.

Smart Scanning. The MP980 sports a smart scanning feature that turns out to be a bit more useful than it might at first appear. It can detect, according to Canon, "the type of original you're scanning -- a photo, business card, personal notebook or form -- then automatically scans and saves the image with the appropriate settings."

Some people new to scanning might be confused about those categories, but we came to find it a convenience even if you do know the difference between scanning a photo and a business card. It was a little like auto Scene modes in a digicam. One less thing we had to do.

The scanner can also detect and straighten several images on the scanner glass, correcting up to 10 degrees of skew. So you can load the scanner with prints and let it make image files for you. Another convenience.

WiFi Scanning. Both the MP620 and MP980 do WiFi scanning but you do have to install the WiFi driver using Canon's IJ Network Scan Utility, which (if you follow the installation directions precisely) appears after a reboot.

WiFi. Strong signal in the bunker.

You just locate the scanner in that utility to register it so you can scan from the MP980 panel to that computer. Then you activate or add the printer to your printer list. The network version of the driver will be listed with a MAC hardware address.

In Canon's Solutions Menu software, which provides a sort of virtual control panel for the device on your computer, you can also direct the scanner to compress data it transmits over the network, so the scan happens pretty quickly.

The scanning command can Save to a folder on your computer (any computer on your network with the software installed), save a PDF, Email the scan, do OCR or you can fiddle with the setting manually. And there are a few to fiddle with, including whether the scanner auto detects a document or photo and how it crops (multiple images or various sized images in various orientations).

We've used other scanning aids in the past (notably HP's) without much enthusiasm, but this one was pretty straightforward. It handles everything automatically but lets you chime in if you prefer.

MAINTENANCE | Back to Contents

Inkjet machines have a reputation for being temperamental, but a few simple procedures can just about eliminate the problems. For any inkjet:

1. Do not use a power strip to control the printer, use the printer's own Power button. The printer button, unlike the power strip button, initiates a shut down procedure that parks the print head where it won't dry out.

2. Use it. Letting the printer sit for weeks between uses will degrade the print head. Print something every week. If you've let the printer sit as long as a month, you may have to run the print head cleaning maintenance utility to flush the print head out. Which just dumps ink through the head, so you might as well print something every now and then.

By following those two simple procedures, you can eliminate many print quality problems and printer performance issue. If you do discover a problem, Canon's printer utility provides commands to check the nozzle pattern, flush the print head, do deep cleaning of the print head and realign the print head.

Our experience with the MP980 was remarkably trouble-free. It became our everyday printer but we don't print every day. The cartridges lasted a long time and we didn't experience any clogs or print defects we could attribute to maintenance issues. Canons and HPs, which tend to use dye inks, tend to clog less than Epsons, which rely on larger pigment inks. But the same rules apply. Kodaks use pigment inks but they are ground much finer than Epson inks, so less frequent use doesn't clog them as quickly.

All-in-ones have a couple of other cleaning requirements often overlooked. The first is to clean the glass. Fingerprints, smudges, hair and dust can all degrade a scanned image. Use a glass cleaner sprayed onto a cloth to avoid any chance the liquid will seep under the glass and into the scanner.

At the same time, gently clean the document cover (the white lid backing), which can pick up all kinds of dirt from the glass and the backs of the items you've been scanning. Use no more than mild soap and water to clean the backing gently without scrubbing. But only if necessary. As Canon points out, the document cover is easily damaged. So start with just a clean, soft, lint-free cloth.

Exterior cleaning is becoming a real specialty with all the high-gloss surfaces. Canon warns against using "issue paper, paper towels, rough-textured cloth, or similar materials for cleaning so as not to scratch the surface. Paper tissue powder or fine threads may remain inside the machine and cause problems such as Print Head blockage and poor printing results. Be sure to use a soft cloth."

Canon also recommends cleaning the bottom plate by folding a piece of letter-size paper in half width-wise and running it through the printer from the rear tray until the fold is not smudged with ink.

We didn't need to perform any of this extended maintenance.

CONCLUSION | Back to Contents

Having reviewed (and therefore lived with) several multifunction devices over the last year, we've come to expect a glitch here and there. A function not well implemented, a feature forgotten, quality that was good-enough but not great. The attraction has been convenience.

But Canon's MP line impressed us even at the low end with the MP620 and the top of the line MP980 simply fills out our wish list with film scanning and duplex printing. It may still only have four color inks but they do the job of six.

More remarkable was the excellent quality of the film scans, far better than anything we've seen in a multifunction device or even an inexpensive flatbed scanner.

And most appreciated by this user is Canon's commitment to engineering. The MP980 does a lot but it does everything well. Our nitpicking is limited to suggesting a wheel that includes arrow clicks.

Canon has raised the bar beyond mere convenience with the MP line. Outright prolonged applause.

 

 

 

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