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FIRST PRINT PERFECT

Canon Pixma Pro-1 Launches
A New Era in Photo Printing

CanonPro1.150x81.jpg

By MIKE PASINI
Editor
The Imaging Resource Digital Photography Newsletter

Review Date: October 2011
Last Revised: 6 December 2011

It's no secret that Canon has been playing catch-up to Epson when it comes to exhibition-quality photo printing. But the new Pro-1 isn't panting for breath. Canon has designed it for commercial, professional work intended not just for exhibition but for years of appreciation -- in one form or another -- after.

While Canon considers the Pro-1 the perfect partner for the high-end images of commercial photographers, you don't have to run a photo studio to appreciate the Pro-1. We think it may find a home with any photographer who appreciates image quality, accuracy and consistency.

Canon has outfitted it with a full complement of black inks making it the first 13x19 printer the company has designed for black and white printing. And it brings CD printing to U.S. customers for the first time in a 13x19 printer.

The company has also developed a new set of Lucia inks with increased black density for color imaging. With a 4 picoliter droplet size, Canon revised just how the Pro-1 lays down ink from its new 12,288 nozzle print head, too. So strictly from an image quality perspective, the Pro-1 makes some interesting arguments.

Shrouded. The Pro-1 arrived shrouded in black plastic.

But it doesn't stop there. The new inks are packaged in what the company calls tanks rather than cartridges. They load in the front (both paper feeds are now in the back). The tanks feed the print head through a tube system that is stabilized by a mist fan. Ethernet and Hi-Speed USB are the connections. So the Pro-1 makes some good productivity arguments too.

We set one up in the bunker here and had just a few days to put it through its paces before Canon U.S. announced it. We'll be updating this report as we use it more in the days ahead, but there's no sense keeping you in suspense.

It delivered great images right out of the box.

FEATURES | Back to Contents

The quick list of the Pro-1's main features include:

• A 12-ink system with wide color gamut and increased black density
• Print head with 12,288 nozzles for faster printing
• 4800x2400 dpi from 12,000 ppi maximum input
• Chroma Optimizer for uniform glossiness and crisp, sharp blacks
• Optimum Image Generating system analyses the image's color to calculate the optimum ink combination and droplet volume
• Black and white printing with five monochrome inks
• New Lucia pigment inks in 36 milliliter tanks
• Print a gallery-quality 13x19 photo in about 2 minutes 55 seconds
• High capacity ink tanks
• Wide range of media support including CD/DVDs, 14" wide and thick media
• Canon Color Management Tool Pro for creating ICC profiles of any paper
• Easy-PhotoPrint Pro plug-in for efficient printing workflow
• Optional CarePack Pro service plan to extend warranty up to three years with 24/7 toll-free support with the EOS Professional support group, 200 Canon authorized service facilities, two-day delivery service for instant exchange replacement units.

Let's look at a few of these in more detail.

Speed. The Pro-1 improves on the Pro9500 Mark II's print time of 7:55 significantly, cutting that to just 2:55 for a 13x19-inch print. Its ink tanks provide 2.5 times the capacity of the Pro9500 Mark II, as well. Front panels enable easy access to them via a single button.

Size Comparison. Epson R2000, Canon Pro-1, Canon Pro9500 Mark II.

Repeatability. Canon has enhanced repeatability with features borrowed from wide format printers. A mist fan, for example, provides air circulation and a tubular ink supply system is separate from the print head, which itself provides real-time droplet volume control to stabilize color and ink density. Network sharing is provided via an Ethernet connection.

Color Management. You can download the Color Management Tool Pro software, which supports X-Rite tools, including the Color Munki Photo and Color Munki Design. It wasn't yet available when we were testing, however. You can create custom ICC profiles with these tools but Canon has worked with a number of mills including Moab, Ilford and Hahnemuhle to provide over 400 ICC profiles for their papers at launch.

Color Modes. The Pro-1 features three color modes: Photo Color for fresh blues and greens to match memory colors, Linear Tone to reproduce colors with a linear tone curve and ICC Profiles for special papers.

PIONEER PRINTER | Back to Contents

This feature set sounds more like a round map for a new printer line-up than a flagship in the current Pro line.

In fact, Katsuichi Shimizu, managing director, member of board and chief executive of Canon's inkjet products operations worldwide, told Dave Etchells told Dave at the PhotoPlus show (http://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2011/11/01/imaging-resource-interview-katsuichi-shimizu-and-michael-duffett-canon) that the Pro-1 line will likely expand both with less expensive models suited for enthusiasts and larger models for the high-end pro market.

The less expensive models won't likely included the "off-axis" tank ink system and would rely on few colors. The higher-end models would print on larger sheets.

SPECIFICATIONS | Back to Contents

The Pro-1 specifications include:

  • Printer Type: professional inkjet printer
  • Maximum Resolution: 4800x2400 dpi
  • Droplet Size: 4 picoliters (color)
  • Nozzles: 12,288 nozzles (1,024 x 12)
  • Print Speed: 2 min 5 secs for a 13x19 print
  • Inks: 12 Lucia PGI-29 pigment inks in individual tanks containing Photo Black, Matte Black, Dark Grey, Grey, Light Grey, Cyan, Photo Cyan, Magenta, Photo Magenta, Yellow, Red, Chroma Optimizer
  • Paper Sizes: 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, Letter, Legal, 11x17, 13x19 although you can feed 14-inch wide paper through it
  • Tray Capacity: Two rear trays, one for thick (300 gsm) media, one for up to 150 sheets of plain paper
  • Connectivity: Hi-Speed USB 2.0, Ethernet (100BASE-TX/10BASE-T), PictBridge
  • Operating Environment: 41 to 95 degrees, 10 to 90 percent humidity
  • Noise Level: Approx. 35.5 db(A) in Best quality mode
  • Power Consumption: 24 watts when printing, 1.6 watts standby, 0.4 watts when off
  • Dimensions: 27.4 x 18.2 x 9.5 (WDH)
  • Weight: 60.9 lbs. (71 lbs. with packaging)
  • Warranty: Toll-free technical phone support plus one year limited warranty with InstantExchnage Program, extendable with the optional CarePack Pro service plan to two or three years
  • Software Included: Easy-PhotoPrint EX/PRO, Easy-WebPrint EX, Solution Menu, drivers, manual; Color Management Tool Pro (downloadable)

Unshrouded. It's a big box at 71 lbs.

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS | Back to Contents

System requirements include:

  • 1.5 GB hard disk space for the bundled software installation
  • CD-ROM drive

Windows requirements add:

  • Windows 7: 1-GHz or faster 32-bit or 64-bit processor with 1-GB RAM for 32-bit systems and 2 GB for 64-bit systems
  • Windows Vista/SP1/SP2: 1-GHz processor with 512-MB RAM
  • Windows XP/SP2/SP3: 300-MHz processor with 128-MB RAM
  • Internet Explorer 6+

Macintosh requirements add:

  • Snow Leopard: Intel processor with 1-GB RAM
  • Leopard: 867-MHz processor (PowerPC G5/G4 or Intel) with 512-MB RAM
  • Tiger: PowerPC G5/G4/G3 or Intel with 256-MB RAM
  • Safari 3+

That begs the question about Lion compatibility. So we installed on Lion.

Contents. Neatly arranged, easy to get to, easy to lift out.

IN THE BOX | Back to Contents

The retail box includes:

  • PIXMA Pro-1 inkjet photo printer
  • Print head
  • 12 ink tanks: Photo Black, Matte Black, Dark Grey, Grey, Light Grey, Cyan, Photo Cyan, Magenta, Photo Magenta, Yellow, Red, Chroma Optimizer
  • CD tray
  • Power cord (no brick required)
  • Documentation kit

No cable is provided. You can connect the printer via USB or Ethernet.

CONSUMABLES | Back to Contents

Tentative pricing for the 36 milliliter ink tanks is $35.99 each. The Chroma Optimizer tank is $29.99. Canon plans to offer multipacks for additional savings.

Cartridge Comparison. The Pro-1 tank is surrounded by a Canon all-in-one cartridge (left), a Pro9500 Mark II cartridge (top) and an Epson R2000 cartridge (bottom).

So a complete set of inks is $425.88. In our experience with other pigment printers, however, you don't use all the inks equally with colors like red lasting a long time while gloss optimizers are the first to run out. The Pro-1 bucks that trend with surprisingly even ink usage, however.

Because the Pro-1 can print varied images on a variety of surfaces a page cost is not feasible to calculate.

HARDWARE TOUR | Back to Contents

There isn't much to see on the Pro-1 hardware tour.

On the rear left is the power cord connection and on the rear right are the two wired connections: USB and Ethernet.

At the top right front are the Power button and the Resume button with small LEDs at their noon positions. On the very top of the printer above them is the ink compartment button that opens the castle drawers so you can install ink. And just to the left of the buttons is the PictBridge USB port.

Top Cover

 

Resume and Power buttons

Power port

 

USB and Ethernet ports

The front of the printer drops down into the output tray, revealing the cover to the CD printing slot above it. The output tray itself extends out in three sections, a bit awkwardly (you have to pull straight out or they jam). A Misfeed button is on the right side of the output tray drawer.

On the back, an input tray folds out in two sections to support 13x19 media. The gray paper guides center the sheet and are simply slid into position. The fingers on the guides merely snug up to the inserted paper and do not release the guides. They aren't locked to begin with.

On top, the familiar Canon input tray with the four-leaf foldout holder doubles as a rear cover. And the front cover opens to provide access to the print head.

PREP | Back to Contents

When the shrouded box containing the Pro-1 arrived here at the bunker, the FedEx guy had to take a break. It's 71 lbs. in the box (about the limit delivery guys handle). We put the box on a dolly to get it into the studio.

There are handle cutouts on the sides of the box, but you'd be wise to enlist a helper to move it around. It's significantly larger than the Pro9500 Mark II or any other 13x19-inch printer we've had in here.

But as with every Canon printer we've unboxed -- from the least expensive all-in-one to the Pro-1 -- it was very well packaged. Ink tanks are in the corners of the Styrofoam, as is the power cord. And the Styrofoam separates into four sections so you can just lift the top two off to get at the printer without removing the bottom two.

Along the front and back edges of the printer are the cardboard holders for the CD tray and the documentation. The print head is in there too. Remove everything before you lift out the printer by the two handles of its protective bag.

To locate the printer, consider that it requires 10 inches clearance behind it for the input trays and 14 inches in front for the output tray. Canon warns against setting it up on the rug, too.

The installation booklet predicts it will take 40 minutes to set up the hardware and an additional 20 minutes to install the software.

It took us a bit longer because we were documenting the process, but that seems like a reasonable estimate for the hardware. Essentially, you are simply shaking some tanks and pushing them into their bays then dropping the print head in and locking it into position.

While that doesn't take long, it does take the printer 20 minutes to prepare itself after you install the print head. So give yourself some time.

HARDWARE INSTALLATION | Back to Contents

Removing all the orange tape is harder than it seems. It's hidden all over the place. Open every door to find it. We left a few on without realizing it until we installed the ink tanks.

Power. After finding a good place for the printer, we removed the tape and opened the top cover to remove the print head cover. Then we closed the top cover. Apparently this signals the Pro-1 that we're installing because you usually run with the print head cover on.

Next we connected the power cord. There is a small slot at the waist of the figure eight connector that indicates you are fully seated. We routinely attach a new power cord a couple of times to make sure we've got it in, so we appreciated the visual confirmation.

Next we powered the printer on by pressing the Power button. It takes a few seconds for the Power button to work after you've connected power, but we didn't notice any particular delay before it started flashing. It flashes for about two minutes before it remains lit. Wait for it to stop flashing.

In its excellent installation manual, Canon warns that you should never just unplug the Pro-1 (or any printer) without powering it down first. Typically, this moves the print head to a service station so it won't dry out. There may be other service routines done at that time as well. But it's always good advice.

Ink. To install the ink tanks, you have to open the large doors on either side of the front of the printer. You do that by pressing the ink door button on the top of the printer. It should be lit blue as a hint but it doesn't need to be.

Both the left and right ink tank covers will drop down. There are slots for each tank with a red LED above to indicate status and a push button to eject the cartidge below that.

The tanks are much larger than the typical ink jet cartridge. Even so, Canon warns that this first set of tanks has to prime the printing system by filling the tubes from the tanks to the print head, so you won't get as many prints from them as you will from subsequent sets. We found you lose about a third of the capacity filling the tubes.

You do have to shake the ink tanks five or six times holding them horizontally. Also be careful not to touch the electronics at one end.

We had trouble removing the tanks from their packaging. There's a notch to make it easy but we could never get the side to rip open completely. In fact, we gave up, resorting to cutting off the top with a pair of scissors.

To set the ink tank, you slide it into the appropriate slot, matching the label on the tank to the label of the slot. Then you give it a little push from the center of the label until the red LED lights up. Simple.

Then you close the ink tank doors. The Ink Tank Cover Open button should no longer be lit.

Print Head. With the Tank Cover Button off, you can open the Top Cover. The Print Head Holder will move to the open slot for you.

Print Head I. First you have to open the two latches -- or jaws. Start with that little blue button.

 

Print Head II. Then you have to close them back up, locking the print head in place.

When it stops, you can open the two gray latches that will hold the print head in place. Toward the rear you'll see a small blue button to push in. That unlocks the Joint Lever it's attached to so you can pull it all the way forward. With that out of the way, you can open the Print Head Lock Lever until it stops against the back of the assembly.

The print head itself is encased in foil which does rip open easily. A small white tray wrapped in yellow tape holds the print head safely. Remove the tape and lift the print head out by its blue handle.

Print Head Unwrapped

 

Nozzles

It's important not to bang the head against anything, nor to touch the electrical contacts or the heads themselves. Just restrict yourself to the blue handle and you'll be fine.

Lower the print head straight down into the opening in the holder. There is nothing to push into place.

Instead, lower the Print Head Lock Lever back into place, locking it in front. And then swing the Joint Lever over it, locking it into place in the back. That will completely seat the print head.

Now you can put the Head Cover back on and close the Top Cover. And wait those 20 minutes for the printer to prep itself.

That's a good time to do the software installation. Meanwhile, hold off on the actual USB or Ethernet connection.

SOFTWARE INSTALLATION | Back to Contents

We decided to use an Ethernet connection, connecting the Pro-1 to our ancient Ethernet switch so the printer could be used by any computer on the network.

We also decided to install the software on Mac OS X Lion to find out if it is indeed compatible. Just prior to the Pro-1 announcement, Apple had released a Canon driver update for Mac OS X.

Oops. Not Lion compatible?

The install started with a warning that Lion wasn't supported and suggesting we pop over to the Canon site for any updates. But this was before the Pro-1 had been announced, so we gambled and continued the install.

Drivers are often compatible while the software applications lag behind. So we thought it was not much of a gamble, even though one of those applications is how you print CD/DVDs on the Pro-1.

You are asked if you want to do the Easy Install or a Custom installation. We selected Easy. Then you are asked whether you are connecting via USB or Ethernet.

There were a couple of odd questions before the Easy Install started. One was asking permission to install an alias to the manual on the desktop and the other to install Easy-PhotoPrint in the dock. But the answers were "I agree/I do not agree," suggesting some sort of legal implication. A simple Yes or No would have been more appropriate.

While the driver was installing, we popped an Ethernet cable into the Pro-1.

When 85 percent of the installation was done, the installer wanted permission to download Easy-WebPrint EX from the Web.

After installing Easy-WebPrint EX, the installer continued with Printer Detection (which is why we connected it to our router). It did indeed find the Pro-1 on our network but it scared us when it said it would look for a wired connection. In fact, the connection to the printer is wired to the switch but we were on a wireless connection to the router that is wired to the switch. But it didn't matter.

There are two buttons on the detection screen. Follow the instructions and you won't confuse them. You only need to click Next if the printer is found, not Set Up.

Registering the printer makes it available to your operating system, not you to Canon. A bit confusing. And on Lion, we weren't able to register. No driver. So we were obliged to install the software on Snow Leopard after all.

But after a firmware update on our early 2011 MacBook Pro (which required a restart), we opened the System Preferences for Print & Scan to see if a driver had become available.

To our surprise the printer was installed with its own driver. We printed a test page and then launched Photoshop to print a Yosemite image -- and had no problem.

The only glitch is that we can't get supplies information.

So while the Canon installer warns against installing on Lion, you can in fact use the Pro-1 from Lion.

Print Head Alignment. That takes you to print head alignment. Paper loads into the top multi-sheet feeder from the center, not the side. When you move one side guide, the other moves as well.

Calibration: Sheet 1

 

Calibration: Sheet 2

There's also a small cover on the front side of the feed area that we flipped up to make it easier to access the guides. We closed it before printing.

You load two of the supplied calibration sheets. They take a few minutes each to print.

After calibration. Rollover to see what's left after printing the Yosemite and dahlia (and CD) images.

We took a screen shot of the ink levels after that. They were uniformly down 68 percent. That's before printing a single image other than the calibration sheets. It all went into the tubes.

Easy-WebPrint EX. This plug-in lets you print any selection of a Web page on your Canon printer. But the version on the CD does not support the current versions of Safari or Explorer. Keeping your browser up-to-date is a security measure you should not avoid and when plug-ins like Easy-WebPrint are not kept current, they aren't on your side. Skip the installation.

Easy PhotoPrint EX. The rationale for including this application with the Pro-1 must have been to provide CD printing. The program runs so slowly on an i7 processor, it's laughable and the image setup options are so minimal they seem to assume you have no idea what you're doing. It's not an application for professionals. On the other hand, the PRO version is a plug-in for image editing applications.

PERFORMANCE | Back to Contents

The Chief Inspector of Large Prints around here dropped in for a visit the other day and pronounced the first handful of 13x19 prints we'd done on the Pro-1 better than anything she'd seen us do before. "It's just another level of quality," she said.

So they make a good impression. Even the first ones.

Those first prints were Raw files from a Nikon dSLR and an Olympus Micro Four Thirds camera converted using Adobe Camera Raw (and heavily manipulated, sharpened and even converted to grayscale) to 8-bit images with Photoshop doing the color management using Canon-supplied ICC profiles. That's what we do when we want the most out of the image.

There is some price to pay for that, though. By relying on Photoshop to manage color, you forego some of the advances the printer manufacturer sneaks into the picture. So we did eventually try printing from Easy-PhotoPrint, too.

Our first images were all printed with the High quality setting in the printer driver, perhaps accounting for the longer-than-advertised print times we experienced. The printer was never waiting for data.

We then spent some time with black and white imaging as well, converting color images in Photoshop and again letting Photoshop manage the printing.

First Print. We let the printer sit with the power on for an hour and half before making our first print. There was some startup time involved after sending the 13x19 Yosemite print to the printer before printing began but it was just a few seconds.

We were surprised how quiet and stable the Pro-1 was as it printed. It didn't shake the table (as some 13x19 printers have) or make more than a whisper of noise. You could easily be heard on the phone over the printer (we were). There is a constant hum as it prints but otherwise you just hear the print head swooshing back and forth. Occasionally the fans come on.

Yosemite. Both color and grayscale (with a CD thrown in).

The driver options seemed a bit simple for such a high-end printer (especially after the Epson R2000), although there were options for applying the clear coat. And the ICC profiles were a bit confusing too. There were two for the Canon semi-gloss sheet we were printing. Apparently the 1/2 profile is higher quality than the 3 profile. Canon could stand to document this with the paper and on the Web.

The first print came out quite well, taking about 16 minutes on the High quality setting. Our network connection was to run the data from our computer to a router via a wired connection and from the router to our Ethernet switch. But the switch is 10BASE-T unlike our faster router. Still, the printer was never waiting for data. We wondered about the buffer size on the printer but after thinking about it a bit, we suspect it had to do with the High quality setting, which may slow things down.

The supply levels didn't show any difference after the first print.

That first print was a full color image from Yosemite. Blue sky, clear creek, waterfall, granite cliffs, trees. We made our usual adjustments to the Raw image, sharpened it and sent it off to the printer as a 24-bit image.

The borderless 13x19 print held no surprises. Our blue was sky blue, our cliffs were sharp and rocky, the trees stood out, the creek seemed cold. We felt like we could walk right into the image.

We got the loupe out to look over the dot pattern. For a four picoliter dot size, it was remarkably difficult to detect. No doubt the Photo Cyan and Photo Magenta help with the color gamut but the new screening technology knows how to place a dot.

Black & White. In our enthusiasm for printing a grayscale image, we forgot to load the Pro-1 with paper. The yellow LED at the top of the Resume button flashed at us until we did. One press and it went right back to work.

We did enable Grayscale printing in the print dialog for our grayscale images, which were converted from color using Photoshop's Black & White conversion sliders as detailed in our June 3 Newsletter story on Lee Varis.

Our initial impression is that the Pro-1 grayscale prints are very rich prints. We didn't feel like we were bumping into the printer's limits with any of them. And we thought we'd really like to try a few more things before coming to any conclusion. That's a far cry, though, from worrying about the color shift on a quadtone or the limited range of a single color black ink. So we're already ahead of the game.

Dahlias. Both color and grayscale.

The Pro-1 uses five monochrome gray inks: Photo Black, Matte Black, Dark Grey, Grey and Light Grey. That makes for rich detail in the shadows and smooth tonal gradations in the midtones. And there's no cartridge switching necessary when changing from matte to glossy papers.

Our view of Yosemite Valley on an overcast day needed that sort of subtlety to express its drama. And it got it. Half Dome was clear in the distance, easily recognizable. We didn't have to hunt for it.

Again the dot pattern was minimal, only detectable in the highlights. Grain was never so subtle.

Shutdown. At the end of the first day, we closed up the printer trays and pressed the Power button to shut it down. It went through a shutdown routine that took about a minute, maybe less, before the LED on the Power button turned off. That seemed pretty quick to us. You could leave it on until you were just about the leave the studio.

Startup. The second day with the Pro-1, we powered it on to print a CD. The white LED on the Power button flashed while the printer prepared itself. Less than a minute later (perhaps half a minute) it was ready to go. Very nice. It really didn't give us a chance to get impatient -- either shutting down or starting up.

CD Printing. Previously, thanks to an exclusive license, only Epson provided CD printing capability in the U.S., although Canon printers in other parts of the world included CD printing capability. HP doesn't think its customers want to print on CDs but Canon has added the capability to a number of its U.S. printers this year, including its all-in-ones.

Alignment

 

Results

Unfortunately it isn't as simple as including the CD tray. Canon's software wasn't nearly as refined as Epson's. There are a number of layouts to select from, yes. And you can import any of your images into the layout and change the type. But the options are pretty limited, enough to aggravate anyone who's done any graphic design.

Michael Steinbach of Bach Photography in Wisconsin recommended Discus [MW], a CD label printing application by Magic Mouse. Use the Canon Pixma series layout in Discus for the Pro-1.

Still, we were able to print a CD design for our Yosemite photos this year using Easy-PhotoPrint EX.

Actually printing the CD was a bit confusing as well. Don't touch the printer until you've gone through Easy-PhotoPrint's routine. All the way through Print. Then switch to your printer driver display for the all-clear to load the CD tray. You'll notice that the Resume button is flashing orange when the printer is ready for that.

The tray itself is loaded with the narrow end forward. If you're using a normal size disc, you remove the insert for small discs. Then drop in your printable disc (with a white coating).

To load the tray into the printer (with the orange Resume button LED flashing), open the output tray drawer and find the finger pull just under the "Canon" on the front of the printer to open the CD slot. Then slide the tray into the narrow opening until the two white arrows on the tray align with the two white arrows on the slot.

Printing was quick after that and the results were gorgeous. But they aren't waterproof. A rinse under tap water erased the image.

But Edward de Jong of Magic Mouse recommended two waterproof CD/DVD products: the JVC Taiyo Yuden Watershield and the Imation Aquaguard discs.

CREATING COLOR PROFILES | Back to Contents

The Pro-1 was designed to handle a wide variety of papers from typical photo papers to fine arts media. That's one of the strengths of pigment printing, which does not rely on a swellable surface to encapsulate the ink.

It's also one of the ways professionals distinguish themselves. By printing on papers they select, learning how to get the best results from them and sticking to them.

But to produce the best results, you have to either find or create ICC profiles for each ink and paper combination.

To do this, we relied on a ColorMunki Photo, which we used with both X-Rite's excellent software and Canon's Color Management Tool Pro, which can be downloaded at no charge from the Canon Pro-1 page.

We've detailed the process using the X-Rite software in our earlier review, so we won't repeat that here except to point out that the Pro-1 driver doesn't make it easy to disable color correction (Linear Tone color mode was as close as we got). Instead of rehashing the X-Rite process, we'll walk through the process using Canon's software.

The Main Menu presents two options: Create ICC Profile and Calibrate Printer. We'd already calibrated the printer when we set it up. What we want to do with a new paper is create an ICC profile.

There are also a couple of options for the measuring instrument, including the i1 Pro and the ColorMunki. So we selected ColorMunki. And we indicated we were profiling the Pro-1 in the Printer popup menu.

The printer driver was set up with color options obviously disabled. That's a good reason to prefer the Canon software.

The software then prints three sheets.

Then you go back to the Main Menu (or nearly). One click takes you to a screen that looks like the Main Menu with a new option: Measure Chart and Create ICC Profile.

The software then wants to calibrate the ColorMunki. It won't see the device if you connect it through a hub, so make sure you have a direct connection.

Once calibrated, you can start reading the charts. It's a little confusing, but the third chart is printed first and the first last, so you actually start reading the last chart printed first.

A misread generates a double beep, otherwise a single beep indicates success. It goes pretty quickly. We only had trouble reading one row.

Then you just name and save the ICC profile.

It's not as straight-forward a process as the X-Rite software and it therefore takes longer, but it isn't onerous, either. And having the color correction definitively turned off is a big help.

FINE ARTS PAPERS | Back to Contents

By fine arts papers, we mean nothing more than those thicker sheets of 13x19 photo paper like Canon's Museum Etching, Photo Rag, Premium Matte and Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss. Toss in that Kodak Premium Photo Paper Matte, too.

But toss in your favorite sheets as well, no matter who makes them (including Epson). One of the design goals of the Pro-1 was to make a printer that would perform well with any profiled paper.

That's why Canon provides profiling software at no charge for the Pro-1. You will have to provide your own hardware device to read the color patches, but it's reasonable to assume a pro (and any serious amateur) would already have one for monitor profiling.

Multi-sheet tray

 

Multi-sheet tray

Manual Feed Tray

 

Manual Feed Tray

Loading. On the Pro9000 and Pro9500 printers, you load thick media one sheet at a time through the front of the printer. It's a process that took some explaining, requiring the output tray be lifted up and reset at a flatter angle and the paper path cleared before manually aligning the edge of the sheet to some marks.

For the Pro-1, Canon has redesigned thick media handling. You now load it from the rear Manual Feed Tray, which handles anything from an 8x10 to a 14x17 as long as it is 4 mil or 0.1 mm thick.

The rear Manual Feed Tray is as simple as the rear Feed Tray but it only accepts single sheets. You just open the tray (making sure the other tray is closed) and pull out the extension to support larger sheets. Then just drop in your paper, adjusting the side guides to fit.

You do have to slide the paper down into the slot a bit to seat it. That can take a bit of effort with a stiff paper like Museum Etching. But don't just drop the sheet into the slot. It has to make the bend to get to the stop.

That's a big improvement, though, over the older method.

THE PRINTS | Back to Contents

Canon shipped its semi-gloss paper to us for testing. That shows off the improved gamut, the better brightness of the pigments, the gloss optimizer. By laying down as smooth a pigment surface as possible, light isn't scattered when reflected. Not a small trick with four picoliter droplets.

Monochrome. The Pro-1 can print a neutral print using its set of gray inks while the Pro9500 Mark II (right) monochrome print has a slight color cast.

We also tried a paper from left field, that Kodak matte, which we calibrated. Results were consistent and reliable, matching our monitor display faithfully (although, of course, not identically).

And we tried Canon's Fine Arts papers, too. Both in color and black and white.

We found it surprisingly difficult to get a bad print. Even our first print was more than acceptable. We weren't at all surprised by what came out of the printer, either.

For the first few days, we printed current work we hadn't printed before. Then we switched to some old favorites whose 13x19s had been printed on the Canon i9900, Pro9000, Pro9000 Mark II, Pro9500 Mark II and the Epson R2000.

The first thing we noticed was how well the older printers had done. There was nothing wrong with those prints. And in some cases, though the Pro-1 did very well, we preferred them. That was mainly an issue with the particular media we had printed on.

The biggest difference we noticed was in our black and white prints. As the illustration shows, the Pro-1 was able to produce a neutral print where the Pro9500 Mark II produced a monochromatic print with a slight color cast.

Sharpness and detail from identical files was harder to evaluate. In some cases the images were simply printed on different kinds of paper, making it impossible to draw conclusions.

But we aren't done with our comparison prints yet. We'll update the review when we've done the analysis.

MAINTENANCE | Back to Contents

The Pro-1 doesn't appear to require any special maintenance. The manual doesn't recommend anything, at least.

The normal caveats apply to cleaning the exterior and anything you can see in the interior (although it isn't very accessible). Turn off the power, don't use volatile chemicals and stick to a microfiber or cotton swab.

The driver's utility function provides several routines using letter-size paper:

  • Cleaning the print head, with two more intensive routines if the lighter doesn't work
  • Plate cleaning
  • Roller cleaning

In addition you can check the print head nozzles by printing a nozzle check pattern. If there's a problem, you run the cleaning routine above.

You can also align the print head using two sheets of MP-101 paper as you did for calibration. There's a manual print head alignment option, too, in which you select the best patterns instead of letter the printer choose.

And finally you can check the current ink levels.

But there doesn't appear to be any routine maintenance required.

PRICE & AVAILABILITY | Back to Contents

The Pro-1 will be available this month for $999.99.

Canon told us printers destined for the U.S. market are already on the boats, some even in port here already. The company has just brought online a new printer plant in northern Thailand on high ground, so production can continue there and in Vietnam. The company expects no short-term availability problems.

CONCLUSION | Back to Contents

While it's just too soon to draw any conclusions about the Pro-1 here, we can say it was a breeze to set up and the first prints out of the box (even using Photoshop to manage color) were good enough to frame. So it's no surprise Canon is providing a Pro-1 as the monthly first prize for our Photo of the Day Contest.

It started up quickly in the morning and shut down promptly at night, running reliably and quietly all day. We had no problem feeding paper or CDs, no paper jams, no crashes, no issues at all.

It was easy to make gorgeous prints.

But we've only just begun to see what it can do. And that's probably the highest praise we can give a printer.

 

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