Canon recently announced their latest in their line of, well I’m not quite sure what to call them — semi-pro, or maybe non-production pro level photo printers, the ImagePROGRAF Pro–1000. Slotting in a tier above the Pixma Pro–1, and bringing a 17 inch platen to the market segment. At $1300 it’s not a cheap printer, but then again neither was the $1000 Pixma Pro–1.
I’ve been printing off and on for 4 or 5 years now, and while I’m far from an expert on the matter, I have learned quite a bit. The important thing that I’ve come to realize is that printing for yourself should not necessarily be looked at as an economical way to make prints. It really is hard to compete with a production lab, especially at small — 8×10 or smaller — print sizes.
At the same time, quality, control over the quality, and options, are important to many of us, be us a professionals or just a serious hobbyists. We wouldn’t buy expensive cameras, spend time researching the best lenses we can afford, and ultimately wouldn’t spend the hours and hours practicing and perfecting our crafts if there wasn’t something in that that was important to us.
So the big question in my mind is what does the ImagePROGRAF Pro–1000 offer us and is it a good deal?
Cost per ml
|Pixma Pro–100||8||Dye||14||$17 / $1.21||13×19||14×26||$400|
|Pixma Pro–10||10||Pigment||14||$15 / $1.07||13×19||14×26||$700|
|Pixma Pro–1||12||Pigment||35||$36 / $1.02||13×19||14×26||$1000|
|ImagePROGRAF Pro–1000||12||Pigment||80||$60 / $0.75||17×22||17×24||$1300|
|ImagePROGRAF iPF5100||12||Pigment||135||$75 / $0.56||17×22||17″ roll||$1749|
Capabilities wise, ignoring any changes in the technology, the $300 price bump of the Pro–1000 brings a 4″ increase in paper width and more than double the ink in each tank.
The ink costs are interesting to look at. A lot of inkjet printers are sold cheap, often just above cost, on the premise that the profits will be more than made up on ink purchases. However, these inkjets aren’t the garden verity of $50 printers sold as cheap as possibly. Yet, as the printer becomes more expensive the ink costs still drop. The ImagePROGRAF Pro–1000 sees a 25% reduction in ink costs over the Pro–1. That said, it would take about 1200 prints to make up the $300 price difference.
Canon claims that the Pro–1000 has a number of technological improvements in the print head over previous printers. They claim to have improved on the specifications of the Pixma Pro–1, specifically by increasing the print head size, which should increase print speed. However, the Pro–1000’s print head supports only 2400×1200 DPI while the Pro–1’s print head runs at 4800 x 2400 DPI. Both deposit droplets that are 4 pico-liters though.
Does the drop in resolution matter?
I don’t really think so. Moreover, 2400 x 1200 dpi is the resolution that all of the ImagePROGRAF printers run at, as well as approximately these same resolution as the Epson P6000 and P8000 printers used by most labs and nobody is seriously complaining about the quality of those images.
Perhaps more importantly Canon claims the new print head has improved anti-clogging technologies and better temperature and ink control that result in reduced ink waste.
In any shop that prints in any kind of serious volume, clogging isn’t a problem; inks never really sit in the print head long enough to dry out. However, for a lower production shop or a serious amateur user, clogging can be either a real waste of ink or a real problem.
Ink clogging is one thing that I’ve always been concerned about with my intermittent printing, and is one of the reasons I’ve stuck to a dye based printer. So I’m all for any improvements in head clogging and ink waste reduction.
The final piece of the puzzle with the Pro–1000, is the software package. Canon has elected to bring it into the fold with their Print Studio Pro software, which is now at version 2.
Print Studio Pro is a plugin for Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software and Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop packages. Its primary function, at least as far as I’m concerned, is to enable users to print in 16-bit color under Windows. However, it offers a number of correction, calibration, and print layout options. It’s also available for Mac users, though its need is somewhat lessened there as most software for Mac OS support 16-bit color printing.
So how do I see the Pro–1000 comparing to Canon’s other printers?
Against the Pixma Pro–1 the Pro–1000 appears to stack up very well. Both use the same software and very similar inks, though the Pro–1000’s inks are improved according to Canon. Print speeds for the Pro–1000 are slightly better, it can do a 13×19 in about 2:30 while the Pro–1 takes about 3 min to print an 11×14, and slightly longer to print a 13×19. However, the big selling points to me are the bigger print area — namely for the ability to print 16x20s — and the approximately 25% decrease in ink costs (by volume).
But the real question for me is how the Pro–1000 stacks up against it’s slightly bigger “production” level brother, the ImagePROGRAF iPF5100. For as long as I’ve been looking at big printers, the iPF5100 and its ilk have been strongly attractive on ink costs, print size, and ultimately ancillary costs, namely color profiling.
Both the ImagePROGRAF Pro–1000 and ImagePROGRAF iPF5100 share similar engines, ink, and to some extent paper handling capabilities. However, the iPF5100’s inks are a further 30% cheaper per ml than those of the Pro–1000. Moreover, the iPF5100 can print on roll paper, allowing it to print a 17 inch wide print that’s much longer than the 24″ limit imposed by the Pro–1000.
The real interesting situation comes down to the ancillary aspects., namely color calibration and software support. A big point in favor of the iPF5100 is the built in spectrophotometer for generating printer profiles. The value of a built-in spectrophotometer is rather large, both in terms of time saved — the printer does all the tedious work in reading the color swatches — and cost. See the aside on color profiling printer for a more in-depth discussion on the costs and value of a spectrophotometer.
On the other hand, the iPF5100 isn’t supported by Print Studio Pro, and 16-bit color printing under Windows would require a RIP — which is a rather expensive proposition in it s own right.
So going in the favor of the Pro–1000 you have better software support, while the iPF5100 gives you better paper support and a built in spectrophotometer for calibration. Of course the latter is also $500 more expensive than the Pro–1000.
The other interesting comparison is to Epson’s new P800. I’m not an expert on Epson printers, so I’m not entirely up on all of the differences. That said, there are a couple of interesting points. One big plus for the Epson in my book is the availability go add a roll paper adapter allowing prints up to 129 inches long. On the other hand, the Epson doesn’t have separate heads for matte and photo backs, and the process takes up to 3.5 minutes and up to 4.6 ml of wasted ink to complete (at $0.78/ml, that’s $4.84 in wasted ink just to go from matte paper to gloss/semi-gloss and back).
All told, the Canon ImagePROGRAF Pro–1000 look like a solid printer. Against the Pixma Pro–1 it looks to be a very solid deal, and against the production level iPF5100 it still look quite strong when you factor in the software and hardware differences. It’s certainly an option that I’m going to look at closely when I get around to upgrading my current printer.
- The P6000 and P8000 run at 2880×1440. ↩
- As best as I can tell Print Studio Pro version 2 supports the: Pixma Pro 100, Pixma Pro 10, Pixma Pro 1, and ImagePROGRAF Pro–1000 printers. ↩
- Switching from Photo to Matte black takes 3:30 and 4.6ml of ink, switching from matte to photo black takes 2:30 and 1.6ml of ink. ↩