Wednesday, October 10, 2012

REVIEW: Canon PIXMA PRO-1–Part I

PIXMA PRO-1
Canon PIXMA PRO-1 Photo Printer (Adorama, Amazon, and B&H)

I love my Canon iPF6450 printer! It’s just so darn easy to use and headache free that it makes me wonder why all printers can’t be like it.

Well the folks at Canon have decided to up the game on their non-large format printers by offering the new PRO series printers which offer pro level quality prints at consumer prices and ease of use. The flagship of this series is the PRO-1 but beginning in early 2013 there will be two more models (both featuring AirPrint):

I first saw the PRO-1 last year at the PhotoPlus Expo and was impressed at its stats which clearly made it a competitor to the hot Epson R3000 and the legendary Epson Stylus Pro 3880. The prints I saw at the show were amazing, and others agreed so it instantly became a hot seller. In fact, this printer was so hot that I just recently got my review unit – nearly a year after it was promised!

In the first part of my review I give a high-level summary of my early observations while using this printer.

Setup

Unlike some products where I don’t recommend using the CD and just jumping ahead to the web to get the latest drivers, this is a product where you MUST install the CD first. There’s configurations available if you don’t want all of the bundled software, but I highly recommend you install from the disc first and then get the updates from the web. The Canon software will help you with getting updates as well.

I did notice that Canon doesn’t like you to have more than one version of Photoshop installed, so if you do it will typically only install its software to be visible in the oldest version of Photoshop.

Beyond that everything worked seamlessly. One odd quirk though was that despite wanting to use the network cable for my connection, this printer still requires you to use a USB cable during setup. It does this to send commands to configure the printer on the network so there’s a benefit from it, but it’s a problem if you don’t have a long enough USB cable. You MUST connect via USB during setup for the port setup feature, so keep this in mind (or have a laptop handy).

The port setup feature worked seamlessly so that when I went to my Mac (running 10.8.2), I was easily able to add this printer without having any USB cables connected to it. I was pretty pleased about that!

Printing from Mac and PC is identical and using the XPS driver on the PC you can allegedly get 16-bit printing, but I never noticed any visible advantage of 16-bit printing on OS X or Windows.

Gorgeous Color Prints

CS6 Easy PhotoPrint Pro

From the first print that rolled out of the printer until now, every print that has come out of my PRO-1 has been excellent. I was a bit skeptical of the consumer looking Easy-PhotoPrint Pro app, but if you use it properly it works very well. The preview image doesn’t scale high resolution images very well so it may look bad, and it only uses the sRGB color space which means images with a bigger color space will look too read/orange on wide gamut displays like the NEC PA Series.

Printing has been reasonably quiet and fast for the quality of the images it makes. Now if you aren’t used to printing with a high quality ink jet then it might feel a bit slow. However, anytime you see paper moving while printing from an ink then it’s a fast printer!

Brilliant Grayscale Mode

My favorite feature of the Canon Easy-PhotoPrint Pro driver is the grayscale mode’s color adjustment dialog. The reason why it is so cool is because of its pattern print feature whereby you can print out a page full of test patterns (as big or as small as you like) that show the variations of the color or brightness & contrast so that you can get the perfect print on your final job. Here’s an example of this feature in action:

Pattern Print Mode
Pattern Print let’s you choose how to you want a sheet of test patterns printed

Pattern Print Preview
Print Preview shows the results before you print,
which sometimes is all you need

Canon Pattern Print Sample Output
Your test sheet shows you all of the variations, so using smaller test patterns or
bigger thumbnails on larger paper is more effective than a letter sheet
of full-size images as shown here

The net result is that using the Warm Tone and the Brightness at +10 and Contrast at 0, I had an image that matched my best Epson 3880 and R3000 Advanced Black & White (ABW) print using Dark Tone and Warm Color Toning. The Epson ABW had a more satisfying warm tone that was about 20% more brown/sepia, but the two were identical in tonal contrast.

Color Adjustment Dialog's Correction Tab

Sadly when you go to Tone Custom there’s no way to apply the values from the Warm Tone (or other tone options). This means there’s no easy way to tweak the warm tone to make it warmer like Epson offers. You could potentially do a Pattern Print with Color variations to try to figure it out, but that’s much harder and would require a few big sheets of paper and a lot of patience.

NOTE: If any of my readers have mapped the tones to color balance values, please let me know.

Small Print Handling

I printed several 4x6 sheets borderless and it just worked perfectly. I had no issues with scuffing, unwanted white borders, ink on the edges, etc… – it just worked.

It’s clear that Canon has added a little saturation to its profiles so if color accuracy is your goal you might need to desaturate a little before printing. However, most of my images – even those straight out of the camera – looked delicious straight out of the printer.

Ink Consumption

Intial Ink Consumption
Ink levels after four 13x9, three 4x6, and seven Letter size prints

The ink from the initial cartridges (which are always small and go fast) seemed to be disappearing at an alarmingly fast rate – especially the matte black ink since I had only printed photo black images. I know that Canon will use Matte Black in their photo black prints, but I was shocked to see this much gone already. Hopefully this is just initial ink cartridge issues as this rate of ink consumption could get expensive quick!

Bundled Software

Canon Bundled Software
Lots of consumer oriented bundled software is included

Canon seemed to pull a lot of the software from their consumer printers and included them here in this PRO-1 which seems to be targeted to what I call prosumers – consumers who purchase pro photography gear. The advantage to this approach is that you’ll find some things that will make your life easier (and keep the significant other happy), yet you can still print pro worthy prints to give to clients.

Facial Recognition Asset Management

Facial Recognition
Faster and Easier than iPhoto/Aperture Facial Recognition

I was very pleased and surprised to discover that facial recognition software was included and even more shocked at how well it worked. It seemed to be more usable and faster than Windows Live Gallery and iPhoto, so if you haven’t had a chance to explore facial recognition in your images you are in for a real treat!

Helpful Troubleshooting and Maintenance Features

image
Troubleshoot is in clear English and is actually helpful

SNAGHTML29d41012
Quite a bit can be done from the comfort of your chair
thanks to its remote maintenance control panel

It’s clear with this product that Canon has made a great effort to make this printer easy to use and maintain for the average consumer. I was very pleased with some additional features not even found on my iPF6300.

Papers Performance & Profiles

So far I have tried out two of Canon’s papers:

  • Photo Paper Plus Glossy II – This is nice traditional glossy paper with a good default profile that gives nice warm and saturated prints that people will typically find pleasing. Your images from your Canon camera can be printed directly to this paper from the in-camera JPEG with surprisingly good results – even with no post-processing.
  • Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss – This is a fantastic paper that looks better than a luster without all of the texture in luster that reflects the light making it hard to view at certain angles. This paper is viewable from many angles and looks great. It’s a thin consumer paper so it doesn’t have a fine art feel, but it works great just like the Glossy II with unprocessed in-camera JPEG images straight from your Canon camera.

I’ve also tried one third party paper - lford Galerie Prestige Smooth Pearl Photo Paper. ilford is one of the many third party paper OEM’s that treat the PRO-1 as an important printer on their site – featuring photos and PRO-1 specific info. This paper is a real fine art paper that has a substantial feel and creates wonderful prints.

Canon has even made it easy to find information about compatible third party papers and included links to get paper profiles from third parties here. It’s not perfect since some of the third parties don’t direct link to where you need to be, but it’s a good start – especially for the novice printer user.

Auto Profiles

Color Adjustment 9-27-2012 11-47-51 PM

Like my iPF6300, if you have media type configurations that pair with a specific paper profile then choosing the Auto printer profile will automatically select the correct profile for the print job (including the correct print quality version). For the PRO-1 I would only do this for Canon papers included with the printer, but if you stick with just Canon papers this make the paper profile headache much less of an issue.

What’s Missing

My other Canon printer is an iPF6450 which features the Accounting Manager component within Status Monitor so I can get my exact costs of my prints taking into account the amount of ink and paper used for each print. This is super helpful when billing clients or giving a quote to a customer. Sadly, the PRO-1 – despite being the only “pro” printer that Canon Professional Services recognizes in its points system – doesn’t offer this feature.

Another painful omission is its brilliant Photoshop Export module which I’ve come to know and love more than that the included Easy-PhotoPrint Pro application because of its great soft proofing support and consistency across operating systems.

The lack of a front LCD panel really bugs the crap out of me. When something goes wrong you usually get an indication in a window on your computer, but honestly I wish they had the LCD too. It’s just one of those things like the transmission shifter for your car that really doesn’t need to exist on most modern day cars with electronic transmissions. However, it feels awkward when it’s not there and that’s how I feel about the missing LCD panel. It’s especially handy during setup and paper jams.

Conclusion

Click here to read part II of my review.

Where to Buy

Please support this blog by buying your Canon PRO-1 Photo Printer at Adorama, Amazon, or B&H using links from this blog. NOTE: Your cart must be empty before clicking the links for me to get credit. Thanks for your support!

You can also now purchase the PIXMA PRO-1 direct from Canon.

Other Articles You Might Enjoy

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I also encourage you to explore the right column of this blog for a wealth of information on a wide variety of articles.

Ron’s Printing 101 eBook


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  • Just getting started in printing?
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If you answered yes to any of these questions then you might find my Printing 101 eBook helpful. While it doesn’t feature anything about the Canon PRO-1 printer, it does have a wealth of information about what’s involved with printing (sadly it’s not as easy as file print).

Disclosure

Canon has provided me with this printer and papers for the purpose this review.

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13 comments:

ReidWolf said...

Ron, Looking forward to print results of review. Canon says the supplied ink cartridges are used to prime the printer and thus, less prints made first time.

Unknown said...

I've had the Canon PRO-1 for about a year now and have had excellent results for every print. The only thing I don't like is that ink consumption appears to be pretty high.

I print on the Ilford Pearl Luster paper and the combination generates exceptional results.

I'll be looking forward to further reviews of the printer.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ron, first of all many tanks for the blog, may I ask, so is it a waste of time processing images in argb,  and then sending or soft proofing to this printer, does it only use the srgb profile colour space?   Would one really just need to be processing in srgb if using this printer? 

Regards,
Paul in Ireland 

Ron Martinsen said...

so is it a waste of time processing images in argb, and then sending or soft proofing to this printer, does it only use the srgb profile colour space?

The color space of the printer is wider than sRGB and it's determined by the printer profile.

Personally I don't see much value in Adobe RGB, but ProPhoto RGB (which is wider and what Lightroom uses internally) is an excellent color space to work in because you will get the maximum color space supported by your printer and you are making your editing future proof. Technology will improve, so I wouldn't say that you should stick with sRGB. However, I will say that if you send your sRGB image to the printer right now that you'd have a hard time seeing much difference over bigger color spaces. There's no visible difference currently between 8 and 16-bit, but it makes people feel better to be able to have the 16-bit option.

Ron

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for your reply Ron...
Paul

Unknown said...

I read a review of the Pro-1 that said the matte black gets absorbed in the matte paper - (but not with glossy). Has anyone had this problem?

Unknown said...

I read another review that tested Moab matte paper for a black and white print on the PRO-1. The reviewer said the matte black seemed absorb into the paper when he compared a print made by Epson R3000. Have you noticed any problems in the quality of the PRO-1 prints - B&W on Matte paper?

Ron Martinsen said...

Unknown - I haven't tried that paper, but that type of issue is a clear case of a bad media type selection with the paper and has nothing to do with the printer. That type of issue can be reproduced with any ink jet printer by not having the correct media type used with the paper (note: media types are different from ICC profiles. media types tell the printer how much ink is required for the printer and how thick the paper is, how fast it absorbs ink, and how the paper should be handled).

Jan Brouckaert said...

Hi Ron. I very nice review. Can't wait to see more ...
I would be very happy that this printer could be a good/ better alternative to the Epsons, just had enough of their Matte/Photo Black swapping that causes a hassle and a waist of money every time.

Br

Jan

Ron Martinsen said...

Hi Jan,

I'll do a long-term report down the road. Right now my only complaints with this printer beyond what I say in the article is that it's physically pretty huge and heavy AND it goes through ink extremely fast. It needs cartridges that are about 5x bigger.

It creates great prints with little hassle though. I still prefer the Export module for the iPF printers too.

Ron

Unknown said...

Having used it for over a year and a half, and had excellent results with it, I'm looking forward to your comments about it, long term. So part II is anticipated.

I print on Ilford Pearl Luster and on Canon Matte, and with either I still see high ink consumption. More information about where that might be coming from would also be useful.

Barra said...

I can't believe the inks are half used after only four A3 prints and a few 6x4s - that's ridiculous! Could not be practical re cost for any purposes.

Ron Martinsen said...

Bara,

While the starter inks do go insanely fast, I think I got more than that out of mine. Are you doing borderless B&W only?

The subsequent inks don't go as fast as the starter inks, but yes this isn't what I'm seeing. I haven't done a page count though - I just know its much more than 3.

Ron