Thursday, September 30, 2010

REVIEW: Lightroom 3 for Digital Photographers

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – this is the real users guide for Lightroom that Adobe never got around to writing. I use this book and its predecessor as the text book in my Lightroom 101 classes because it is the most in-depth, easy to follow and technically accurate book on Lightroom 3.0 – period.

If you are unfamiliar with this series by Scott Kelby, then you should know that Scott does a great job of breaking things down into easy to understand topics filled with images to illustrate the points he’s trying to make in each chapter. When you follow along using the original unprocessed photos he provides, you really learn the subject rather than just reading a bunch of words. Scott does a great job of having screen shots with the things you need to input highlighted so you know exactly what to do to get the same results as he would if he were doing a demo for you in real life. This technique makes the book thick, which can be intimidating to some, but realize that it’s mostly pictures and reads very much like a transcript of a video so it is very easy to follow. Each chapter ends with some useful tips and either hard to discover or undocumented feature usage recommendations.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that I’ve been singing the praises of Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System book for quite sometime, and that it has been on my What Photoshop books should I read? list since day one. We’ll I’m very pleased to announce that Scott has finally got around to writing his 7-Point System for Lightroom book that he mentions in my interview of him, and you don’t need to buy or read another book to get it – it’s included in the last chapter of this book! That’s right, Scott has incorporated this system into a new chapter inside of this book so that you can follow along editing some before and after examples – using real world images. This makes this book the one-stop, must read book for those for whom Lightroom is the only tool that they need to get the results that they want. This is a great improvement, and it makes this a no-brainer addition to my popular Which books should I read? article. If you own a digital SLR, you owe it to yourself to own Lightroom and if you own Lightroom, then this is the book you’ve gotta read to get the most out of it!

“But I know Lightroom inside out, why should I read this book?”

I use Lightroom nearly every day of the year, and I teach Lightroom classes throughout the year. I’m quite confident that I am an expert user and that I’ve probably mastered nearly every feature of the product. With that said, after reading this book on a flight to and from New York, I found myself putting 21 post-it flags on the pages for things that I never knew or wanted to make sure I revisited and committed to memory. This is nuts because I have used this product every day since version 1.0, but there’s tons of new features and Scott does a great job of providing new tips and discussing things that I didn’t discover while using the beta.

Even if you think you are the biggest Lightroom guru in your circle of friends, you need this book!  You won’t find a lot of these things I’ve flagged anywhere else like dust spot removal trick where you can use the page down button in the navigator panel (and its undocumented support for column wrapping) to efficiently search an entire image for dust spots. This is great stuff that you don’t find anywhere else (and if you do, they probably got the idea from Scott our his sources).

Chapter by Chapter Comments

In keeping with the tradition of my newer book reviews, I offer a peek inside of this book by listing out the chapters and offering my two cents on each one.

Chapter 1 – Importing

If you are coming from a previous version of Lightroom and you are wondering if you need this book, let me say right now that this is the chapter that you need to read. So much has changed in the Importing feature of Lightroom in version 3 that much of what we’ve become accustomed to in the past is very hard to rediscover. In addition this new dialog (which I initially hated with a passion) has several hidden features that once you discover them, you’ll start to warm up to this new design. In typical Kelby fashion, there’s loads of good stuff here that’ll make you say “wow, I didn’t even see that feature until he pointed it out!”.  Scott has also added sections on video and tethering, both of which are new additions to Lightroom 3.

Chapter 2 – Library

This is mostly a carryover from the previous edition. If you’ve read the previous version, it’s still worth re-reading this chapter so you can rediscover some features you’ve forgotten about and to become familiar ones you’ve never used before. However, if you are crunched on time then this is one that you can just skim as not a lot has changed in the library in this release.

Chapter 3 – Customizing

Once again, this is worth the refresh read if you have the time but otherwise not much new here either.

Chapter 4 – Editing Essentials

The first section of this chapter is the most important because it talks about the update process version feature of Lightroom 3. This is super important so you can understand the benefits and ramifications of this powerful new feature when using your older catalogs with this release. The rest of the chapter has been nicely refreshed so that familiar topics are still fresh enough to keep you following along. Tethering white balance is also included, so those who use this new feature will want to pay close attention to this new section.

Chapter 5 – Local Adjustments

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Click to see the History Panel of changes made to this image
Copyright 2010 – Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

From a casual glance, nothing has changed in Lightroom 3 over version 2 in this area. However, when you use the controls you can see that they’ve been improved to not be so damn slow, auto mask better, and not crash anymore. I’m happy with the new changes, and it’s always fun to see Scott put these powerful features into use so I highly recommend you don’t skip this chapter.

Chapter 6 – Photo Problems

This chapter is pure gold because Scott is basically telling you how to fix all of the things we face all of the time in our own photos. Read and learn from the master, and definitely work along on these examples. The lens correction and watermarking sections are especially useful as these are new improvements in Lightroom 3 that I think many will want to use, so don’t miss it!

Chapter 7 – Exporting Images

The big news here are the new publishing features are added to the already solid export feature set. While Scott does cover the subject, I suspect he was a victim of this feature not being fully baked while he was writing the book because he doesn’t cover it as well as he typically does. As a result, I’m still a bit confused about this feature (especially the publish to the Hard drive feature, and comments). This is an area I’d love to see Scott expand upon in the next version of this book as this is one of the great new features that I think everyone is going to love. I know that once I get the hang of “publish to Smugmug” (my favorite photo hosting site), my workflow will be much more streamlined.

Chapter 8 – Jumping to Photoshop

This is a nice informative section for those who are also using Photoshop and who wonder how Photoshop and Lightroom should be used together. Arguably some of the same concepts here for Photoshop could also apply to third party add-ins by Nik Software, onOne Software, etc…, so it makes sense to apply some of the logic here to those as well. Definitely take a moment to read this chapter.

Chapter 9 – In Black & White

Okay, I’ll admit that once you’ve had the photo processing crack that is Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, you can’t use anything else for you black & white images. With that said, if you can’t afford the Nik products yet (even with my discount coupon codes) then the next best thing here is the process that Scott describes.

Chapter 10 – Slideshow

If you were to sit down with me at the bar and talk to me about Lightroom after I’ve tossed back a few drinks, you’d get an earful of my opinion of the tabs to the right of the develop tab in Lightroom. My comments about the Slideshow would be less than politically correct, but despite that fact Scott has managed to show the beauty of this pig. In fact, this section is so cool that I find  myself following along so I can see it working as Scott does it. In both this and the previous book I think, “wow, this thing isn’t so bad”, so I think that says a lot about the cool example Scott does for this “feature”.

Chapter 11 – The Big Print

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Click to see the History Panel of changes made to this image
Copyright 2010 – Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

My printing series, is my life right now, so I care a lot about this subject. In fact, I’m printing quite a bit from Lightroom these days as part of my Canon and Epson printer paper and product testing. This chapter was an invaluable tool for me when I began to curse like a sailor at the screen because Lightroom wasn’t doing what I wanted. While some of my specific questions weren’t answered here, there was always enough to get me unblocked which made this an important chapter to me. Now I still dislike Lightroom for printing due to its lack of support of the wonderful Canon Export Module and its lack of soft-proofing support, but if you follow along as Scott suggests your odds of getting a decent print are certainly within reach. With that said, I still say that if you own something better – like Photoshop, then you should do your printing there instead of here.

Chapter 12 – Web Galleries

Children cover your ears when you are around me and you mention Lightroom’s Web Galleries. I have patents on work I did on Internet Explorer, so I have strong opinions on web galleries. Put quite simply, I’ve seen great web galleries, and the stuff Adobe provides isn’t it. However, they have improved over the last few releases and like with the Slideshow chapter, Scott shows some good examples of how to make the most of what Adobe provides. Score: Adobe 0 – Scott Kelby 1.

Chapter 13 – My (Scott Kelby’s) Portrait Workflow

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Click to see the History Panel of changes made to this image
Copyright 2010 – Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

This chapter is a big upgrade from the previous book. This time around a great step-by-step walkthrough of a studio portrait shoot of a pretty woman versus a flash gun umbrella shoot of a dude in the last book. Call me old fashion, but the pretty woman always wins in my book! In this iteration he goes through the whole process from tethered shooting, to image enhancement to output to DVD and print on a Epson R2880. I love this chapter because it proves how powerful Lightroom is and shows what can be accomplished from end-to-end. This is the “if you only read one chapter, read this one” chapter of this book. Great stuff!

Chapter 14 – 7 Point System for Lightroom

Instead of Travel Workflow chapter like Scott did in the last book (which is a reason not to toss out your old copy), this is where Kelby introduces his new 7 Point System fro Lightroom in four end-to-end examples. While these aren’t as in-depth and solid as what you’ll find in the 7 Point System book, they are very helpful. I highly recommend that you read this chapter, despite it being located at the end of the book.

Conclusion

Skill Level: All
Value: Excellent
Recommendation: Must Own. Everyone who owns a DSLR should own Lightroom, and if you own Lightroom you owe it to yourself to own this book. It’s simply fantastic, even for those like me who thought there wasn’t much more to learn about this awesome photo management software. You can learn enough from this book to delay purchasing Photoshop a bit longer (and for some, indefinitely) and that alone makes it worth the cover price.

As you can see from the examples I’ve done in this article – all of which have been edited ONLY in Lightroom 3 with no third party software, the changes can be quite impressive. If you hover over the images in this article you’ll see what I started with, and I think in all three cases I took a blah image and turned into something worth showing the world. I encourage you to read this book and apply what you learn so you can do the same!

Order The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographersalt using this link today and help to support this blog!

For those who follow my blog, this book has been added to my popular Which Books Should I Read article. It’s that good!

Disclaimer

Peachpit provided me with an evaluation copy of this book and I may get a commission if you purchase using some links found in this article. Thank you for supporting this blog by returning to this blog and using the links when making your final purchase.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Canon EOS Immersion Seminar Class Notes

I’m delighted to announce that Canon has a new wonderful resource for anyone on the EOS platform. What they have done is to create very comprehensive class notes from the great immersive seminars they do around the country to create these wonderful guides that are a must for anybody who wants to go beyond the manual. You can find the link here:

 http://www.usa.canon.com/canonlivelearning/classdownload

I love these guides as they answer a lot of questions that I have, so I highly recommend you read the ones that are relevant to you. I’d like to thank Chuck Westfall of Canon USA for sharing these with me, as these are a resource that I’m thrilled to have at my disposal. Keep up the fantastic work Chuck!

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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Printing Series: Tyler Stableford – Adventure Photographer and Canon Explorer of Light & Print Master


Copyright © Tyler Stableford  –All Rights Reserved

When I was writing my Top Photographers article I was getting feedback from a lot of sources as to who their top photographers were, and someone told me about Tyler Stableford. I hadn’t heard about him, so I did some research and found out that he was consider to be one of the hottest new photographers on the scene at the time I was collecting my data. After looking at his work I was immediately impressed, so I wasn’t at all surprised to see that he was a Canon Explorer of Light and featured on the Digital Learning Center.

Tyler is not only a great photographer, but a member of Canon’s prestigious Print Master program, so it’s no wonder that you’ll find prints of his work in fine art galleries in Denver near his home. His work takes him to some wonderful locations where he creates amazing outdoor shots for companies like Gore-Tec, REI, Polartex, etc… that have caused him to be know as an Adventure Photographer. From cliff hanger shots to ice caves, Tyler has done it! His portfolio is filled with amazing colors of thrilling adventures on land, in the sea and in the air!

Tyler is quick to point out that his web site opens the door for new business, but it’s the print that closes the door to help land the next big job. When you’ve got 3 to 5 busy art directors who are only going to give a handful of photographers 20 minutes to sell their work, nothing beats a great print! I had a great time talking to Tyler about his printing workflow, and definitely look forward to talking to him again next year about photography in general. What follows is Tyler on printing, so I hope you enjoy it this one dimension of a wonderfully multidimensional talent!

Printers

I’m a geek so I like to talk technical details and compare things at the macro level, but Tyler is much more practical. When we talked printers and platforms he was very matter of fact. He pointed out that he prints his own portfolio in-house because he wants the highest quality and to control the process from end to end, so he isn’t going to support a platform  unless he feels it is giving him the best quality. His prints are a reflection of him and send a message to clients about his work, so they need to be top notch. This is why he uses the Canon platform, because he feels he gets the top quality results that his work demands.

When we got into a conversation about the quality of the different platforms, it really came down to two – Epson and Canon, both of which he acknowledged are very good. However, each platform has its strengths, and for a variety of decision points one may be stronger than the other, but in the end they are about the same. What Tyler uses as his final decision point is not the technical details or what you’ll see using a loop under a GTI light box, but what his clients will see. He asks, are clients going to notice a difference? If the answer is yes, then it’s easy to pick the best the product for the job and move on. Today, that means the Canon iPF6350, so that’s what you’ll find him using for his very best prints. 

At the Canon EXPO 2010 in New York, the Canon reps chose a wonderful image from Tyler’s portfolio to use as a test canvas print on the huge iPF9100. The picture below doesn’t do it justice as the colors are hard to sort out in that mixed color environment, but I think you can get the idea that it was a cool print that I can assure you looked awesome in real life.


Photo by Ron Martinsen taken of Tyler Stableford’s image output from a Canon iPF9100 printer

Favorite Papers

Tyler’s favorite paper is the Moab Entrada Bright White 190, altwhich is what he uses to print his portfolio work. However, he’s quick to point out that his busy schedule has kept him from trying out the equally great and similar Canon Fine Art Bright Whitealtpaper. He loves a great matte paper with a nice cotton fiber texture and no glare, so if you are in the same camp then Tyler’s paper recommendations are just the ticket!

Tyler also loves the Canon Fine Art Rag Papersaltwhich he uses for a variety of projects as well.


Copyright © Tyler Stableford  –All Rights Reserved

Q&A Session

I asked Tyler about a lot of different printing topics during our interview, so some are best handled in a Q&A format for his response. Here’s a short transcript of some of those Q&A’s:

What volume of printing do you do over the course of a year and what’s the purpose (teaching, fine art resale? Exhibition?, etc…)?

I enjoy making a lot large format prints for the subjects in my photos. It is the true highlight of my relationship with them! I also keep three versions of my portfolio. I am currently considering selling prints online, so if that happens then I’ll be doing much more in the future.

What things to look in a print before it’s ready for Fine Art resale?

I do a lot of shooting straight into the sun which means my images have tones ranging from bright whites to deep blacks. On top of that I crank my saturation, so I’m looking for a smooth gradation of the colors to ensure that the represent my artistic intent.

Do you do custom profiles?

Yes, I use some custom profiles, but I don't create them myself. I use InkJetArt.com and have them create custom profiles for me. It's a great service that keeps me focused on the things I want to do rather than printer profile generation. [Yes, readers - I'll be covering services like this in the future!]


Copyright © Tyler Stableford  –All Rights Reserved

How many prints do you typically do before you feel you've got the perfect print that is ready for your signature?

I typically do around 5 to 10 test prints. I'm working on a current print and have three tests here and I'm still a ways from where I want to be! It's always like this.

I want it to look as good as possible, and so I judge the print itself - not how it may compare to the original scene, the results in-camera, on my display, etc... The print is the final output, so I stop printing when I look at it and feel that it's done.

What color space and bit depth are your images, and what rendering intent do you mostly print in?

I image using the ProPhoto RGB color space with 16-bit images. When I print, I typically use the perceptual rendering intent, but I’ll soft proof or even run a print sometimes to compare to see which is best for any given image.

Do you calibrate your displays?

Yes, I use an X-Rite Eye-One Display. The reality is that the color temperature is the most important thing, but I don’t worry about variances between devices. As long as those variances are consistent I can figure it out. That’s the most important thing to me, because without consistent results it's much more challenging.

Conclusion / Parting words


Photo taken by Ron Martinsen of Tyler Stableford  @ the Canon EXPO DLC training event

I had the pleasure of hearing Tyler teach at some of his mini-classes at the Canon EXPO in New York, and I quickly saw a man who is passionate about his work, yet patient with students to help them improve their skills. This is definitely a guy who I want to learn more from and hope to take a class with one day. I’m also proud to have him on my Top Photographer’s list and suspect he’ll be there for quite some time!

It was a pleasure to interview him, and despite his super busy schedule he gave me twice as much time as he actually had available to make sure I had all the info I need. That’s the mark of a true professional, so it’s no wonder that he’s in such high demand.

Great work is one thing, but it’s even better when you enjoy working with the artist who can provide it, and Tyler is definitely one of those types of guys. With his adventurous spirit, generous volunteer work, passion for the environment, and amazing composition skills, I think Tyler is definitely a great person to follow on many levels to know. He defines what it truly means to be a Top Photographer!

Visit Tyler’s cool portfolio here!

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Nik Radio Interview

Nik Radio regularly features some of the top pro photographers shooting today, so I was honored when Scott Sheppard asked me to be on his show. Here’s a link to the free podcast on iTunes, and to their web site schedule. It’s the 9/23/10 episode, and I think the interview starts at around the 30 minute mark.

It’s my typical speaking without thinking style, but hopefully I don’t offend to many people. :-)

I talk about photography in general, color management, and the printing series.

Enjoy my 20 minutes of fame – ha, ha!

About Nik Radio

Nik Radio delivers a variety of educational programming created to inspire digital photographers of all levels. Sponsored by Nik Software, Nik Radio features digital imaging tips and techniques, highlights the work of popular professional photographers and experts through in-depth interviews, showcases industry events, and shares insights and the stories behind the most popular images of our time. Listen today for unique educational content that will help you achieve your goals behind the camera and on the computer!

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Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Printing Series: Eddie Tapp – Photoshop Guru, Canon Explorer of Light and Canon Print Master

Carie
Copyright © Eddie Tapp –All Rights Reserved

In one of the first episodes of Scott Kelby’s Photoshop TV podcast that I watched, I saw how excited Matt Kloskowski was at idea of having Photoshop Hall of Fame member Eddie Tapp on their show. He exclaimed “Holy Crap, it’s Eddie Tapp” when Eddie arrived, and that pretty much sums up how I felt getting to talk to this Canon Explorer of Light.

Eddie has been a photographer since 1973, and was one of the early adopters to digital photography in 1993. He suffered through the early days of Photoshop and digital photography, but also helped to define many of the features we enjoy today. In the mid 90’s, Eddie was one of the first to take on the challenge of printing and by the mid 1990’s, he was already doing his own paper profiles. These days Eddie travels the world teaching Photoshop and digital workflow.

Eddie is not a high volume printer, but he does handle the printing needs of his portrait photographer fiancé Judy Host as well as doing printing for his classes and the occasional top pros who need assistance getting the most out of their Canon printer.

Eddie has had the opportunity to tour many of the major print facilities in the US and he’s observed that many labs have switched over to wide format Canon printers for their outstanding quality and high speed printing performance. Eddie was a former Epson printer user, and concedes that Epson prints are still very strong in the transitions in gradients, but that Canon has come along way to offer products (the 6300, 6350 & 8300) that match or surpass Epson’s performance in a variety of categories.

Eddie is quick to point out that he’s never had to replace the heads or had any issues with clogging on his Canon printers. Although he has one replacement print head on standby just in case there should be a problem, he’s never had to actually replace a head. He commends Canon for offering the solution of replaceable print heads as opposed to throwing the printer away as is required by some other in the industry. Eddie’s big tip to keep things working their best is to leave his Canon imagePROGRAF printers turned on as the printer will wake up occasionally and do what is necessary to avoid clogs. In addition, each head of the iPF6300/6350 features 2,560 nozzles with non-firing detection and compensation to ensure that a great print is always possible.

Black and White Printing

alt
Copyright © Eddie Tapp –All Rights Reserved

In all of the photography forums where printing is discussed, the hot topic for the geeks is always Black and White printing performance. Eddie has pointed out that he has had excellent success on his Canon iPF6350 with his black & white images. He said that he is getting extremely clean grayscale images printed both as native b&w and full color images converted to b&w via the driver. Both techniques produce “superior results”, he said.

For those who want to control their Black and White output, Eddie was no different than all of the pros who I’ve interviewed in recommending Silver Efex for it’s superior grayscale performance.

Color Management / Paper Profiling Recommendations?

Eddie (a member of the X-Rite Coloratti) recommends using X-Rite’s ColorMunki for 13” and under printers, but for critical professional work he insists that the best results are only possible with a professional spectrometer like the X-Rite i1iSis XL Color Calibration System (B&H) combined with profile adjustments made using Profile Maker Pro (currently only available i1iSis bundles). The software more than the hardware is the critical element to creating a top notch profile. Ironically, Eddie reiterated a comment I heard made by another famous print master in this series in that the X-Rite i1iO Automated Scan Table also produce fantastic printer profiles as well (bargain hunters take note).

Printing Tips for the imagePROGRAF Print Plug-In (for Photoshop & DPP)

imagePROGRAF Print Plug-In Color Settings Tab

Eddie strongly recommends that when using the Canon Export Plug-In that the Color Settings tab is zeroed out (as shown) when using a good paper profile. He also finds that for most images that the best prints are achieved using the Perceptual matching method found on the Main tab (shown below). It should be noted that this is also called Rendering Intent by Adobe.

Auto (Color) Output Profile

Another great tip I got from Eddie is to use the Auto (Color) Output Profile option (shown above) when using Canon papers for the Media Type. When you do, the correct output profile for the given paper and settings will automatically be selected. I was very skeptical about this at first, but since I hated trying to hunt through that huge confusing list I thought I’d give it a try. Sure enough, Eddie was right and it worked like a charm – WOOHOO! Eddie also claims that if you use the Canon Media Configuration Tool to create a Media Type for a third party paper, then Auto (Color) will also automatically choose the correct profile for it too, but my Canon Field Analyst seemed unsure if that technique would work or not. I haven’t had a chance to try this yet, but I certainly will report back my findings in this article at a later date.

If you run into trouble or are unsure about how to get the best results from your imagePROGRAF printer, he pointed out that Canon’s customer service is  excellent. They are very knowledgeable and will walk you through any situation. On a separate note, I’ve also been told by Canon printing division field analysts that there are no overseas call centers, so you’ll get highly trained professionals actually based here in the US.

GOTCHA: Don’t forget to tell the printer AND the driver your media type

One issue Eddie warns new users about is to keep in mind is that when doing sheet fed paper, you MUST setup your paper on the printer itself (via its control panel). Only AFTER you do this should you also make the same media type selection on the printer plug-in or driver. This is a common mistake that people new to printing make, so he warned to be sure to look out for this problem. He also said to make sure to visit the web site for the latest software and firmware updates (example for the iPF6300) for your operating system.

Things to look for when making a great print

Sweet Light by Eddie Tapp
Copyright © Eddie Tapp –All Rights Reserved

  1. Make sure there are no lines, streaking, or bleeding colors.
  2. Color Matching – do the colors match your artistic intent?
  3. Tonal Gradation – ensure that there is a dynamic printable range from highlight to shadow especially in the transitional areas
  4. Sharpness (Ron recommends Sharpener Pro for its printer output sharpening feature)

A signature Eddie Tapp print is when where the color matching, shadow & highlight detail are all spot on.

Eddie Tapp’s Printing Motto - If you make it easy for me, I'm adapting it

“There is an area of absolute targeting (color, tonal, detail/sharpness) and then there is an area of forgiveness that one learns through printing experience with various papers. My objective is to obtain superb and predictable results. When that doesn't happen, a closer look at the file quality will usually define the reason.” – Eddie Tapp

Printers & Papers

Eddie Tapp owns and uses the following Canon printers:

iPF6350 (Amazon & Adorama), iPF5100 (Amazon & Adorama), iPF6200, PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II (Amazon & Adorama) & PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II (Amazon & Adorama)

Eddie uses and recommend the following Canon fine art papers:

Parting Words

It was an honor to have Eddie contribute his thoughts on his printing workflow on my blog. He is a super friendly guy who clearly cares about the people he works with. If you enjoyed this article, you should consider following Eddie on his blog at http://eddietapp.com/blog/.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Canon imagePROGRAF® 6300/6350 Overview Review: Part II

This is part 2 of my review. For the first part please click below:

The Joy of Printing on the 6350/6300

 
Speed Shop Design’s The Beezerker – Photo by Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

In addition to my own iPF6300 I had access to a iPF6350 at JVH Tech, so I got to experience both firsthand. I can assure you that the hard drive on the 6350 is great, but beyond that they are identical printers in every way. There is no difference in output, so the decision to get one over the other should strictly be financial. If you can afford the extra cost or the need to take advantage of the features offered by the hard drive then get the iPF6350. Here’s what Canon’s web site says about the drive:

A built-in 80GB hard drive within the printer increases productivity by relieving workload from the host PC, while providing a large capacity for print job data storage and retrieval. This 80GB hard drive enables job data to be stored in protected mailboxes for easy access via web browser or at the printer for job re-printing. The embedded hard disk is ideal for medium to large workgroups to share a printer efficiently with multiple users, offering sample job storage space. To ensure security of your files, there are is a quick erase mode, high-speed mode, and a secure erase mode which meets to U.S. Department of Defense requirements (DoD5220-22M) for erasure of disk media.

I’m a gadget geek, so I would have loved to have had the hard drive but I know that it is easy to live without it.

Make no mistake, this is a FUN printer to use! As of the time of this writing I have done over 65 large prints (mostly 16x24” or larger) including a 24x51”+ prints of Seattle (just the image – not the logo) as shown below. During my testing only one of the 205+ square feet of printed images turned out poorly, which if you ask around you’ll find that’s pretty good!

Loading the paper

When I began this series I had never used a large format printer before, so it can be a little intimidating to load that first roll or two of paper. Handling a 24” wide roll with a 2 or 3” core and up to 100 feet of paper (typically) on it means that you have a big heavy roll that you need to thread onto the poll while making sure you don’t transfer your skin oils (tip: use white “parade gloves”) or damage the edge of the roll which would have an impact on many prints. It’s a little tricky at first, but you get used to it.

Here’s a helpful guide from Canon on how to load the roll on a 6100 that still applies to the current line up of large format printers. It also covers loading the ink and performing a calibration. Be sure to see the 2nd page for more detailed loading instructions.

TIP: When using the 2 inch core black end cap, you’ll notice that it has a gray ring screwed on it as shown below. Well Arthur VanDover of Canon USA gave me the best tip in the world when he said to take that stupid thing off because it will cause your paper to skew. I didn’t do it right away, but had problems with skewing. I removed it (as shown below when you hover over the image) and it worked flawlessly after that. Arthur was dead on with this tip, so I HIGHLY recommend you remove the gray ring before using this part:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after
Do your self a favor and remove the gray ring (hover over or click the image to see it off)

When loading you have to select your media type, and sadly this isn’t as straightforward as you might think because some papers are called something different in the control panel (for space limitation reasons) than they are on the box, so you need to know what to select. Canon has created a media selection video, and has a Media Instruction Sheets (new location from what’s printed on the paper boxes) to help make sure you make the right choices. Those Media Instruction Sheets are critical so make sure you always consult them before loading your paper!

WARNING: You’ll see lots of stuff on Canon’s website and Digital Learning Center about the paper profiles. DO NOT download them as they are are for older printers and DO NOT apply to the new models. The only place you should go for profile updates is here, and visit your appropriate printer’s web page and then click the Drivers & Software link.

During my testing I printed prints as large as 24x52” and as small as letter size. I never had a need or desire to use the front loader, but I did try the manual rear feeder which worked very well. I liked how the printer would catch sheets up to 17x22” without letting them fall when the catch was setup properly. When prints would fall into the catch I didn’t have any problems with them scratching as the Lucia EX inks dry quickly and resist scratching very well.

Printing Small Prints


Portrait orientation strip of six 4x6 images

Landscape orientation strip of four 4x6 images

Unlike some of the smaller printers, you can’t print 4x6 sheets with this printer. If small prints are important to you then you’ll need to come up with a strategy that works for your needs. Personally, I print either a 4x24” strip of landscape orientation photos (4) or a 6x24” strip of portrait orientation photos (6) with the borderless settings using a roll (as shown above) so that all I have to do is make one cut per photo and I’m done.

I actually preferred this on the 24” printer to the technique I used on the smaller 17” wide printer because that required me to use 4x6 sheets or do lots of cuts on bigger pages. This layout was easily accomplished and populated using a template in Lightroom, but it could be done easily in Photoshop as well.

Canvas Media

One of my big complaints in my Epson Stylus® Pro 3880 review was about how bad the whole canvas print story was for that printer. As I stated in that article, canvas print is left for printers that support rolls (from Canon, Epson, HP, etc…) because the nature of canvas medias flimsy shape means that manual loading will never be fun. I didn’t bother with manual loading on this printer because I had a roll of canvas.

I’m pleased to report that canvas printing was no different than printing on paper and that the built-in profiles were good (not fantastic, but acceptable). Everything worked well and my first canvas print turned out very good without any hassles. Loading the canvas roll was no difficult than what I experienced with paper, so overall it was a great experience. I’d expect this type of experience with any brand of printer that supports roll media, but I know now for a fact that the iPF6300 handles canvas very well.

Printer Settings


Mac or PC – The Main Page of the Plug-In is basically the same


The real-time preview is great for showing you exactly how your image will consume the paper

My future paper articles will discuss more specific printer settings, but here’s a quick rundown on how to get great prints right away with this excellent printer:

  1. From Photoshop, do a File->Export->iPF6300 Print Plug-In… which will bring up the dialog shown above. On this first page make sure that you have the correct printer connection selected and then match the media type with what you have loaded in the printer. Your selection may have an impact on the other options available in this dialog, so make that decision first.
  2. I always chose High Accuracy 600ppi and Highest Gradation 16-bit printing which takes a bit longer, but I’m in no rush. While some will argue that the lesser settings will produce equally good results in less time, no one will argue that these settings will produce inferior results (whereas the others can in some cases).
  3. For Print Mode you can choose Highest or Highest (Max No. of Passes). Once again, Highest is probably sufficient but I wanted to get the best possible results so I chose Highest (Max No. of Passes).
  4. For Output Profile you can either chose the exact ICC profile for the paper loaded in the printer (and usually there will be multiple depending on other settings) or you can just set this to Auto (Color) and it will do the right thing. I’m skeptical of this feature for non-Canon built-in papers, so or I’ll choose the correct profile if it isn’t a Canon paper. This is a big time saver and reduces the chance of human error, so once again Canon sets the standards for usability here. One wonders, why hasn’t the competition done this?
  5. For Matching Method, I choose the setting that produces the best result during soft proofing in Photoshop or within the dialog itself (when Perform Proof in Preview is checked). When Perceptual (People, Dark Areas) was available, I I typically found myself pleased with the results. When it wasn’t, I usually chose Relative Colormetric over Perceptual (about 35% of the time).
  6. For Page Setup you need to set the values according to your preference and media that is loaded, but you can see what I typically do in the various dialogs in this article.

Canon also has a video on how to use the Export Plug-in, as well as some basics on Soft Proofing in Photoshop.

Color Settings


Color Settings in the Print Plug-in allows for print only fine tuning

No matter how much soft proofing you do and how accurate your monitor and light box are, there will be times where your print image needs some adjustments that are different from how your file renders on-screen to get the best print results. To accomplish this, you can use the Color Settings page. I consider this the option of last resort as I prefer to make those changes in layers or a new PSD in Photoshop or using a Virtual copy in Lightroom so that I can recall these changes when I print in the future. However, I love having this feature here and if I’m in a hurry I can just make a quick adjustment here (as shown above) to get the result I need.

64-bit Printing and Lightroom


The Standard Canon Print Driver on Windows


The Standard Canon Printer Driver on Mac OS X

The regular print driver you get from File Print has a wonderful looking user-interface, but lacks the real-time soft proofing features which are very important. In addition, Canon reps have told me that the best results are only possible with the Print Plug-in which works both in Photoshop and Canon DPP. As a result if you find yourself in Aperture Lightroom, or sadly in 64-bit Photoshop you won’t currently be able to print using the Export module. Instead, you have to use the standard printer driver shown above. With some effort I was able to get reasonably good, but not outstanding, results with this printer driver via Lightroom. However, I call it the Forrest Gump driver because you never know what you’re gonna get!

One really cool feature of this driver is the Get Information… button which will query the printer for the paper loaded and populate the Media Type list with that value. This is sweet, but sadly missing from Print Plug-in. This dialog is a little more confusing and there’s a lot more knobs to dial to get things right. I’ll cover this dialog in more detail down the road in one of my Canon paper articles if there isn’t a Export Module support for Lightroom by then.

The morale of the story here is that if you can avoid it and print from Photoshop or DPP, do it – it’ll make your life so much more simple!

The Export Plug-in Module is 32-bit only – for now

It’s a real bummer, but for now you have to be running in 32-bit Photoshop to use the Canon Export Plug-in Module. On the PC this is pretty straightforward, but on the Mac it’s not super intuitive. The way you do it is you find Photoshop in the Finder and do a Get Info on it. When you do, you’ll see the dialog below where you can check the Open in 32-bit mode checkbox as shown below:

Once you do this you can start Photoshop again and everything will work fine. This is necessary for any 32-bit only plug-ins you may already own, so you may find yourself running in this mode full-time anyway.

The good news is that Canon is aware of these issues and will be addressing them in the near future. We should see a 64-bit driver not too far down the road, so that’s a great thing!

Auto Monochrome Photo Mode (Black & White)

I printed a B&W image on the Canon Glossy Photographic paper using the Color settings and it looked great. When using the Canon Polished Rag 300 paper with the Auto (Monochrome) setting with the Cool Black color balance color setting then I got even better results! However, when I tried the Auto (Monochrome) feature using both Premium RC Photo Luster and Fine Art Watercolor the results were disappointing, so I attribute that to poor paper profiles for those papers. For the latter, I found the images to be too dark and all three to be so similar it was hard to tell the difference. Of the three the Cool Back was probably my favorite, but Pure Neutral Black and Warm Black felt identical to me.

Great black and white images are possible with this printer, but you’ll have to use the papers that have already been fine tuned to do it well, build your own paper profiles, or do a little more work to your image and/or the driver settings to dial in the best results. This is something that can be corrected via software updates, so I’m hoping Canon will revisit these configurations and paper profiles so getting excellent B&W results are as easy as they are to accomplish with color.

Paper Handling and Media Configuration Files

Unlike with the other manufacturer’s printer I tested, I never had any issues with the paper getting scuffed from head strikes during my testing. The factory media type settings are pretty good – with one exception. The Fine Art Watercolor produced horrible results as the media type settings seemed to be seriously off, and I was right. Canon’s response to this was:

The Fine Art Water Color Paper in sold in Japan Is completely different than the one sold in the USA. The one here is made by Crane and is a very expensive paper and a rather nice one, but the icc profile built into the media config tool is for the Japanese paper. So you have to build a custom profile for it. It is the only paper that Canon has done this on.

Fortunately this was an anomaly for just this one paper as I found the rest of the media configurations and paper profiles to be very good out of the box. Color profile creation is an art for some, so there’s better results to be had in the creation of the ultimate profile by a seasoned expert, but I was very happy with the stock results.

Ink Usage

After 205+ square feet of printing, I’m still going strong on ink.


Ink remaining after 205+ sqft of printing over nearly 3 months

The graphics above break down to roughly the following values:

MC: 80%   PC:60%  C:60%  MBK:40%  Y:40%  M:60%  PM:60% 
             R:60%  G:60%  B:60%  PGY:60%  GY:20%  BK:40% 

The net result here is that after A LOT of printing, including some huge prints, I’ve still got a decent ink load remaining. The only ink I need to start worrying about is the gray ink, but I suspect I can print another 300+ sqft more than what I’ve done on the rest of the current set.

The moral of the story here is don’t freak about ink – just print. This thing consumes ink slowly and you have plenty in the tanks!

Stepping Down from the iPF6300 to the iPF5100

 imagePROGRAF iPF5100
Image courtesy of Canon USA

This is actually a great step down, or even second printer since it does support 17” rolls. This printer also has an advantage in that it is better at handling small paper than the larger wide-format printers. Some of the top photographers I’ll be interviewing in upcoming articles actually keep the 5100 on hand in addition to their larger format printers so they have a smaller printer to handle single sheets.

Feature wise the iPF5100 is a 17” wide pro printer featuring roll paper support and technology from the last generation of Canon printers so it offers Lucia inks (instead of Lucia EX) and previous generation control panel and processor technologies. This is a fine solution for those who don’t wish to go up to a 24” wide printer and who find the print quality and archival needs of this printer sufficient for the work they are doing. It’s designed for heavy duty and larger volume printing than the Pro9500, so it’s an ideal choice for the wedding or studio photographer.

If you are comparing Epson and Canon printers when shopping, then it would be appropriate to compare the ipf5100 with the Epson 4880

Learn more here or buy one today at B&H or Adorama.

Stepping Up from the iPF6350 to the iPF8300

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after 
Image courtesy of Canon USA

Like its competitor, the Epson 9900, this 44” wide printer is a beast designed for a high end print masters and print shops, but not your typical photographer. Sure, it’s just as easy to use as the other printers, but the size is closer to a smart fortwo! It’s effectively just a larger version of the fantastic iPF6350, so if you need the extra width then this is a great choice. Just remember this thing is huge so you need to plan for its final location and delivery!

Learn more here or buy one today at B&H or Adorama.

Conclusion

I could write a book on this printer as there’s so much that it offers. I’ve found large format printing to be great fun and very rewarding, so if you are considering a large format printer then I highly recommend the Canon iPF6300, iPF6350 and iPF8300 large format printers. I have found the print quality to be outstanding, and I have numerous testimonials (both on and off-record) from printing experts using all platforms acknowledge that Canon is “finally in the game” with these new printers.

There’s always room for improvement in every product, and this printer is no different. If you are the anal retentive type who gets a loupe and compares prints from the new Canon printers with the best Epson printers you might notice some areas where Epson still has an advantage. However, if you put that image in  your client’s hand or on a wall, they aren’t going to see the difference. In short, they are “too close to call”, so your purchase decision needs to be based on something besides print quality.

I have printed some images, but I have not properly tested the Epson or HP large format printers, so I can’t comment on them being better or worse than these new Canon printers. I can tell you that customer-oriented printer sales locations like JVH Technical in Bellevue, WA will run comparison prints of your favorite image on the paper of your choice so you can see side by side how similar these products are now. I’ve taken them up on this offer and I can say that these are great times because the results I’ve seen from all the printers I’ve tested are outstanding. My days of telling people to outsource their printing is over and I’m revisiting my entire collection so I can truly appreciate my work in ways I’ve never enjoyed before – by holding a large print!

Should you choose the new Canon printers I can tell you that you are going to have a lot of fun and that they are very easy to use. Printing does have a little bit of a learning curve, but I hope to help you with that in my upcoming Printing 101 article as well as what you’ll read here. I can’t imagine not having one of these printers as part of my end-to-end Photography workflow, so I strongly encourage you to try it out!

Get a FREE Print Sample

Click here to get a using LUCIA EX inks and Canon papers. In the past you’ve been able to submit your own image and choose to do prints from each of the printers provided, but I haven’t tested this offer so you’ll have to check it out for yourself.

Areas of Improvement

Things I’d like to see improved with these printers are:

  1. The Fine Art Watercolor media configuration file and paper profile are flat out wrong, and an immediate update to correct them is in order. I hope to see an update on Canon’s website for this – yesterday as it is very unfair for people who’ve invested in these new printers and that fine paper to waste their paper on bad results. Customers shouldn’t have to generate their own media configurations and paper profiles either, so this was my biggest disappointment.
       
  2. 64-bit support needs to happen soon, but it’s coming so hopefully this is a short term gripe.
         
  3. Get rid of the useless printer driver and Export module concepts, and just have a good printer driver that has the features of the export module. The differences are confusing and I suspect that proper support in Lightroom, Aperture, etc… can only happen once the OS driver works like the Export module. The Free Layout app shown below is a wonderful feature with great promise, but it produces poor print results so it is effectively useless right now. However, all the pieces and technology seems to be in place for Canon to have a wonderful unified solution, so I’d love to see that happen – yesterday.


         
  4. Canon’s re-branded Fine Art German Etching by Hahnemühle, 310gsm is a wonderful paper, but to get proper results you need to use Hahnemühle's ICC paper profile (alternate non-zip file link). The profile included with the printer produces mediocre results.
         
  5. The Canon USA & DLC web site, Canon paper packaging, etc… are all very disorganized and don’t have the polish and professional feel of Epson’s. Epson’s Professional Imaging web site with its great Focal Points and Inside Epson series, and great pro photographer endorsements (from sadly, many Canon Explorers of Light) should be a road map for where Canon needs to go moving forward. I think that these are fantastic printers and papers that are in bad need of a better first impression, so I’m looking forward to seeing Canon catch up in to the point in marketing where their printers have caught up technically.
            
  6. The Media Configuration Tool is good compared to the competition, but it is still in need of improvement. It fails to define concepts like vacuum strength and is very unclear  about what to do during several phases – making it easy for it to fail. Lots of paper is wasted when it seems that the built-in calibrator of the printer could be used to do more to make the process more streamlined. At the very least all the print samples could be printed on one page so that less expensive paper is wasted (and leave it up to the engineers to do the mechanical adjustments during that print test for this scenario).

Canon Print Series Next Steps

I’ve got some really cool interviews from Eddie Tapp, Randy Hufford, Tyler Stableford, and Michel Tcherevkoff as well as some wonderful paper reviews and much more. Please come back for more!

Where to Buy

You can buy the iPF6300 or iPF6350 printer online at B&H or Adorama, but Northwest Shoppers – JVH Technical have a great place to buy local in JVH Tech in Bellevue, WA.

image

Talk to anyone in the Northwest who is serious about printing, and odds are they’ve come across the path of John Harrington (no, not this one) and his company JVH Technical, LLC. When you do, the first words out of their mouth are always “John is a great guy”, and after meeting him myself I have to agree. John and his son Ryan are a big volume printer sales and supplies company with home grown service – literally – they run the business out of their really cool classic Northwest home!

Now, I know to some this “home run” business might be a turn off, but the reality is that when John talks about printing people listen. Industry greats like Canon Explorer of Light Greg Gorman (featured on my Top Photographers list) and Bambi Cantrell have been in attendance to his past open houses (sponsored by Epson and Canon) and his printer sales blow away even local big shots like Glazers and Kenmore Camera.

This is no small mom and pop shop either, as John carries an inventory of over $400,000 in fine art papers and a huge selection of the latest printers from Epson and Canon that are available for immediate delivery. Not only that, they’ll deliver and install them for you at no charge! In fact, even if you didn’t buy your printer from John, if you have questions or are having problems odds are they’ll come out to your house and help make things right again – usually at no charge! In addition, John’s always happy to provide free samples of the papers you’ve wanted to try, but are wondering if they are worth the expense! This is the kind of customer service that simply doesn’t exist very much in the world today, but it is also why everyone loves JVH! I can’t recommend them enough as a great local resource for printers and supplies, and if you do go visit John or Ryan as a result of this article (or series) please be sure to tell them that I sent you. They may just have something special for you for doing so - <wink/> <wink/>

Here’s more in John’s own words as to why you should buy from JVH.

Disclosure

Canon has provided me with a iPF6300, paper and extra ink so that I may bring you this series on printing. I do not get any monetary compensation from Canon, but I do get a commission if you use my links to Adorama, B&H, or Amazon so thanks for supporting the blog! I have no specific arrangements with JVH for a commission, but please mention this blog as a token of my appreciation to John & Ryan for their assistance in this series.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Canon imagePROGRAF® 6300/6350 Overview Review: Part I


 
Canon iPF6300 hard at work on its first print

Last week I introduced you to a nice selection of Canon printers in my Choosing the right Canon printer article. Despite my idea of reviewing a iPF5100 to go against the Epson Stylus® Pro 3880,  Canon felt that the new state of the art technology in the iPF6300/iPF6350 made the most sense for me to review. In my discussion with Canon representatives, it became clear that Canon is really trying to match or beat Epson on the 24” (7900) and 44” (9900) printers, so this is why they  have introduced all of their exciting new features on the iPF6300 and iPF8300 series printers.

Thanks Canon and Rich Reamer


Canon was gracious enough to send me a Canon imagePROGRAF 6300  (only because the iPF6350’s were backordered), extra ink and a ton of papers so I could bring this series to you. This allowed me to do experiments I wouldn’t even attempt to try if this were all on my own nickel, but now I could print whatever I wanted and however I wanted without concern for the cost of the ink and paper or the wear and tear on the printer. This was a liberating experience that really allowed me to put this printer through its paces and discover just how fantastic it really is!

None of this would have been possible without the generous support of Rich Reamer, Canon’s Director of Product Marketing for the Imaging Division. He along with his team of Jim Walters (my connection to Rich), Patrick Owen MacElroy, and the great technical support of Arthur VanDover allowed me to have the products, contacts and information I needed to be as successful evaluating this product as I was with the Epson 3880.

I hope you’ve been enjoying the printing series thus far, and I know you’ll enjoy what I have coming up for the Canon wave of articles. Great stuff ahead so keep coming back for more – especially if you are in the market for a new printer!

Overview of the Features of the imagePROGRAF iPF6350/6300


I won’t repeat everything you’ll find in the brochure or online features list, but I will list some of my favorite features here:

  • 12-Color LUCIA EX ink set, reformulated for a wider color gamut, improved scratch resistance, expressive dark tones, and reduced bronzing - I can say is that this stuff lives up to the hype in that it is very, very good and scratch resistant making it a WONDERFUL product to work with! 
      
  • New High Precision Printing Mode for superb proofing print quality – What this means to you is that in the Max Passes mode you’ll get amazing output with less graininess, enhanced glossiness, sharper blacks and deeper dark tones. In the proofing mode (not useful for photographers usually) you get fine lines, thin text and more accurate color.
      
  • Enhanced image processing for smoother color gradations, even in dark areas – Quite simply, Canon has caught up with industry leader Epson to produce amazing color and black and white images that are visually indistinguishable even when examined inches away from the paper. In short, image quality should no longer be a decision point as both platforms do a superb job.
     
  • Support for Adobe® Color Management Module (CMM) with Canon’s included Print Plug-in for Photoshop®/Digital Photo Professional (DPP) – I LOVE the Print Plug-in and find it SO much easier to use than the built-in driver for both the PC and Mac platforms. More importantly it’s the same experience on both platforms as well as when printing from Photoshop or DPP!
      
  • New Media Configuration Tool allows users to input custom profiles, including those for third-party media – I didn’t know how good this was until I tried to do this same task on the Epson 3880 and realized how poorly it performed  - it failed and ultimately generated a file that I couldn’t use with the printer driver on the PC! During my review I used the LexJet Sunset Metallic paper and LexJet had already used this tool to create a Media Configuration File (AM1 extension). I simply imported the AM1 file in this tool, and the printer updated its control panel and treated this paper like all the built-in papers. I also repeated the process manually myself to create a media profile for Epson Exhibition Fiber, and it worked well but I must warn that it uses lots of paper (it took me 7 sheets to complete). It’s also important to note that you still need to create your paper profile separately as all this does is calibrate the printer so that you don’t get head strikes and the correct amount of ink is applied. Put another way, it is created a media handling file.
      
  • Standard support for Gigabit Ethernet and Hi-Speed USB allows for fast transfers of large data volumes – This thing is smoking fast, and if you are one of the lucky SOB’s with the 6350/8300 which has a built-in hard drive then you won’t be waiting on your printer ever again. Even the 6300 was printing after 25% of the job was sent (within seconds) and it was always under a minute – using slow USB 2.0 connections. USB 3.0 and network were smoking fast!
       
  • Redesigned control panel for outstanding ease of operation – This is how control panels should be done! This thing is so easy to use and easy to understand that I never got a bad print – not once, and I never even bothered to read the manual as it simply wasn’t necessary! Canon has a great user experience here that exceeds anything I’ve seen on other platforms, and it’s all remotely available via a nice web page when you are connected via the network connection or via software installed on your system – NICE!
      
  • Built-in Calibration – Don’t let the competition fool you – this is a WONDERFUL feature as you can very easily ensure that your printer is perfectly calibrated and working exactly as Canon intended all at the press of a button. No input is required on your part and it just works! Of course, my printer arrived perfectly calibrated so this extra step was just for piece of mind and will be useful down the road.
  • Accounting Manager – I’ll discuss this phenomenally good feature in more detail later, but this easy to use feature will tell you exactly how much ink and paper you used for a given job along with exactly how much it costs (after you enter in your cost for paper and ink). Yes, you can know EXACTLY how much every print costs you in ink and paper so you know how much profit you cleared on a given job – BRILLIANT! I could only wish that every printer had this fantastic feature!
  • Print Time Remaining – WOOHOO!!!! I LOVE this feature!!! You can actually know how long your print is going to take right from the time the job hits the printer, so you don’t have to babysit the printer if you want to catch the print when it is done. Instead just watch the counter on your computer and get there when it is at the last minute and be ready to catch (or let it fall – I’ve never had any problems). EVERY printer should have this feature!!!

Installation


I think Canon should rename this from the iPF6300 to the iJW6300 where iJW stands for “it Just Works”! I say this because I didn’t have any headaches or hassles when getting this printer up and running – despite it’s large size. Yes, it did take two men (actually done at no charge by JVH Tech) to get this big printer up in my studio, but I was up in running in about 45 minutes (extra time required to assemble this printer). Here’s a quick rundown of what I did:

  1. This beast doesn’t ship via standard shipping, so FedEx delivered it on a truck with a lift gate (extra shipping charge) to my garage via hand forklift (too big for a dolly).
  2. I opened the box and assembled the stand in my studio (about 10 minutes). You can watch a video here that shows exactly what to do.
  3. Despite getting this printer from Canon, Ryan and John from JVH Tech came to my house and carried this 146 pound printer to my studio – at no charge! Wow!
  4. I removed all of the tape and loaded the ink cartridges and then let the printer self calibrate and prepare for its first prints on the included Heavyweight Coated sample roll of paper. I didn’t like the paper much, but it was useful to get things started. This took me about 10 minutes but the printer needed longer to do its thing, so I moved on to the next step.
  5. I didn’t bother with the disk and just went here to get all the latest drivers and software. There was a lot to download and install, so that took about 15 minutes.
  6. After the printer was done and I had my drivers loaded, I started Photoshop where the driver reminded me to do a File –> Export instead of File –> Print to get the best results. This is Canon’s special print module and it rocks – it’s WAY better than anything I’ve used for WYSIWIG printing results! It also reminded me to install the Adobe Color Management Module (Windows | Mac), which only took a couple minutes.
  7. I was now ready and quickly printed out six 24x30” test prints of my printing series test image of Haruka (shown below) using different printer settings and emptied the sample roll that came with the printer. I was able to quickly determine my preferred settings for the printer and all of the prints turned out great – not a single bad print in the bunch!


Haruka – My printing series real-world test image
Photo by Ron Martinsen – All Rights Reserved

USB Connection

For the first half of my testing I used a USB connection to my Dell XPS 420 running Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit) computer. Since I had already installed the software (step 5 above) BEFORE connecting my printer (important) the process completed without any problems. The same was true on my MacBook Pro where everything just worked.

On the Mac you may get the printer setup dialog as shown here:


If you do, you can use this to setup your printer, but personally I didn’t find it necessary.

Networked Printing


After having success printing through the USB cable, I decided to get brave and print through the network cable. Fortunately all went smoothly on both platforms. When I added a printer through Windows I was presented with the dialog above and just chose the connection on the network. The same was true on the MacBook Pro where I just click the + in the printers dialog and chose the Bonjour connection. I’ve also noticed that if you get the TCP/IP connection then that works equally well – both assuming you have the driver already installed on your system.


If you run into any trouble on the PC side, go visit the imagePROGRAF Device Setup Utility and double-click the line for your printer and use the IP address during setup. If it doesn’t have one then you can assign it a IP Address. Just pick the address of your router and increment the last number of the IP Address. In my case I chose 102,  but you be safe and choose something like 150.



Printer Remote UI


One really cool feature of the Canon is that you can connect to it in your browser by its IP address and remote control it. Here’s a view of some of the web pages you’ll see:




If you get to test or own one of these printers then be sure to check this out!

Accounting Manager


One of my absolute favorite features of the Canon imagePROGRAF printers is the Accounting Manager. This awesome tool allows you to enter the cost of your ink and paper so that the Accounting Manager can tell you exactly how much each of your prints cost (materials only – not printer cost). Here are some snapshots I did early on in my testing which give you an idea of how this feature works:


Main Accounting Manager Window


Double-click a print to see more details


Add Ink and Paper Costs to get accurate cost per print results


Keep track of all usage data as well

Using this data and the cost of your printer, your time, and the likelihood that you’ll have to do reprints from time to time, you can get a good idea of how much to charge your customer for a print. Do everyone a favor and charge a reasonable rate (at least 3x this figure to account for printer and labor costs), or use FotoQuote if you need additional assistance in determining a fair price.

More to Come


There’s so much to digest here, I decided to break this article up into several articles. Click here to read the rest of this review.

Disclosure


Canon has provided me with a iPF6300, paper and extra ink so that I may bring you this series on printing. I do not get any monetary compensation from Canon, but I do get a commission if you use my links to Adorama, B&H, or Amazon so thanks for supporting the blog! I have no specific arrangements with JVH for a commission, but please mention this blog as a token of my appreciation to John & Ryan for their assistance in this series.

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