A few months ago, my inkjet printer recently gave up work after ten years, so I had to decide about the future of my printing. Should I just send files to a print lab, or continue to print my own photos? I decided for the latter of course – and bought a Canon Pro-1000 printer.
Producing a high-quality print and framing it in a self-cut passe-partout is rewarding and rounds off making photographs. Choosing the paper for a photograph adds another dimension to the print. On the other hand, even if digital photo printing is easier than traditional darkroom work, the process still has pitfalls. As in the chemical darkroom, there’s frustration and a learning curve using inkjet printers.
With my old printer model, colours were often off, paper jammed, and ink cartridges were always empty too quickly. So I was interested in the last generation of printers. Viewing quality and longevity of inkjet prints have improved a lot. Even photographers famous for their silver gelatine prints show exhibitions printed by inkjet nowadays, e.g. Salgado’s Genesis.
Current A2 Photo Printer Models
The replacement of my 10-year-old Epson R2400 printer had announced itself over the last years, so I already had two candidates: either the Epson SC-800, or the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 printer. There are detailed reviews about these printers.
In short, both are desktop printers using pigment ink and are capable of borderless prints up to A2 (42 x 59.4 cm). Both printers handle a wide range of different papers (photo paper, fine-art rag papers, plain paper, canvas). There are two main differences of the two printer: the printing of panoramic pictures, and the need to switch matte and glossy black ink tanks. The Epson SC-800 is capable of panoramic prints up to several metres in length on roll paper, which is not possible with the Canon Pro-1000 printer. The Epson uses eight different inks, the Canon has 12 twelve 80 ml tanks and doesn’t need to switch the ink tanks for glossy and matte papers.
Canon Pro-1000 Printer
I opted for the Canon Pro-1000. It’s a heavyweight (32 kg!) and much more solidly built than my previous printer. Nominal resolution is 2400 x 1200 dpi. There’s WLAN which is nice if the printer’s location is in a remote corner.
I’m particularly interested in black & white printing, and it can drive you nuts when B&W prints have an unintended colour cast. The printer produces neutral grays and incredibly deep blacks, and there’s a nice detail that helps to close the quality gap towards traditional darkroom prints: The Canon Pro-1000 printer has a clear coat Chroma Optimizer that covers the entire page, giving highlights the same uniform reflection as dark areas. You can easily control the warmth of the prints.
Printing of panoramic pictures isn’t possible with the Canon Pro-1000 – in contrast to the Epson SC-800 that’s capable of printing several metres long on roll paper. This point isn’t particularly relevant to me as I’m not able to frame or mount panoramic prints on dibond anyhow. Maybe there will be a firmware update in the future expanding the print length in the Canon Pro-1000? (Edit October 9, 2019: There is a firmware update for the Canon Pro-1000).
Ink Tanks and Print Capacity
The Canon Pro-1000’s ink tanks are much larger than the tiny ones of my old Epson R2400 printer which always seemed to be clogged or empty – making printing quite costly. The Canon printer uses a vacuum system to position the paper under the print head and auto-detects clogged nozzles. Ink capacity of the Canon Pro-1000 is several hundred A2 prints according to marketing info – positively surprising to me. Ink tanks are costly, but their capacity is high. An A2 print takes between 2 and 3 ml of ink, so Canon’s specification makes sense. There’s an Accounting Manager software by Canon that calculates the costs of a print job by adding up ink and paper expenses.
Clogging of the ink jets was a problem with earlier inkjet printers and occurred if you only printed infrequently. I have not experienced clogged ink jets so far using the Canon Pro-1000 printer. It has a maintenance cartridge for automated regular cleaning processes, and that cartridge gets filled up and has to be replaced.
The Canon Pro-1000 printer comes with printing software, Canon Print Studio Pro, that works as a plugin for Adobe Photoshop (version CS5 in my case, which still works on my OS X High Sierra 10.13.3 system). The plugin is useful to set size and layout of the print (or arrange several photos on a page), as well as print medium with custom papers, and colour profiling, or black and white mode with toning for warmer or cooler tones.
Is the Canon Pro-1000 printer worth the upgrade from a ten year older model? The Canon’s black and white prints show rich detail and deep blacks. Colour prints are brilliant, and colour reproduction is precise. Paper feeding is comfortable and solid. Yes, it’s worth it, both in terms of quality and ease of use. It’s a pleasure to make prints again.
Edit October 9, 2019: There is a firmware update for the Canon Pro-1000.