Great photos deserve to be admired — and not as tiny snapshots. They should be at least 13×19 inches. Pigment printers can be pricey, so check out two dye-based alternatives from Canon and Epson.
Canon PIXMA Pro9000
This new eight-ink model ($420, street), which makes borderless prints up to 13×23 inches, replaces the six-ink PIXMA i9900 and performs better with ChromaLife100 dye inks. It sets a speed record in this category, producing colorful 13×19-inch borderless prints (on Canon’s new Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss) in just 2 minutes, 27 seconds, and borderless 8.5×11-inch prints in a blazing 1 minute 5 seconds. Canon attributes this speed increase to the high-performance, 6144-nozzle FINE print head that’s capable of producing 2-picoliter ink droplets.
|| |—| | Canon Pixma Pro9000 Test Results****Image quality: Excellent for color and b&w prints on Canon Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss. Color accuracy: Excellent (5.6 Avg. Delta E). Color gamut: Large, with some saturated yellows and dark purple-reds outside the Adobe RGB color space (transparent blue area in graph). Max. black density: Extremely High (5.7 L). Print speed: Color: Extremely fast. 13×19-inch borderless, 2 min 27 sec; 8.5×11 borderless, 1 min 16 sec. Black-and-white (using grayscale control): Extremely slow. 8×10 bordered print, 16 min 45 sec.Canon Pixma Pro9000 Gamut| Unlike the i9900, there’s an advanced grayscale control in the print driver that lets you produce very pleasing black-and-white prints, in a variety of tones, directly from color images. Unfortunately, b&w printing takes more than four times as long (over 16 minutes for an 8×10). The Pro9000 can print on thick matte papers, canvas, and fine-art cut sheets (up to 14×17 inches) using a second paper path. The printer has built-in wheels so it can roll forward for the required 15.7-inch clearance. Nice touch.
The printer comes with Canon’s Easy-PhotoPrint Pro software and Digital Photo Professional version 2.1. The supplied color profiles work very well with Easy-PhotoPrint Pro, producing stunning prints with high color saturation, excellent color accuracy, and decent blacks. Pure reds were on the reddish-orange side, but sky blue, dark purples, yellows, and greens were among the most accurate and saturated from any printer that we’ve tested.
Canon also includes a useful manual that details print-driver settings for a variety of papers in programs such as Adobe Photoshop. But the supplied profiles didn’t work well in Photoshop CS3, and we recommend the Easy-PhotoPrint Pro plug-in to get accurate color.
Canon claims that prints on its Photo Paper Pro and Plus will last up to 100 years in an archival photo album and up to 30 years on display. That’s longer than most silver-halide prints, but not as long as those from Canon’s PIXMA Pro9500 or Epson’s Stylus Photo 1400.
Bottom line: If you’re looking for a super-fast printer with a wide color gamut and fine-art paper compatibility, this is a great choice.
This six-color printer ($366, street) is loaded with Epson Claria Hi-Definition dye inks and can make borderless cut-sheet prints up to 13×19 inches, with drop sizes as small as 1.5 picoliters. While the cartridges hold more ink than earlier Epson models, they’re expensive ($20 per color, street).
The Stylus Photo 1400’s color accuracy earns an Excellent rating (5.7 Average Delta E). Despite its six inks, the color gamut is actually larger than that of the eight-ink Canon PIXMA Pro9000. Saturated yellows and reds fall well outside the Adobe RGB space, so we recommend using the Wide Gamut working space in Photoshop. Maximum black density is also Extremely High (3.5 L), yet shadows show plenty of detail.
|Epson Stylus Photo 1400 Test Results****Image quality: Excellent for color prints on Epson’s Premium Luster. High for b&w prints. Color accuracy: Excellent (5.8 Avg. Delta E). Color gamut: Wide, with many saturated yellows and reds outside the Adobe RGB color space (transparent blue area in graph). Max. black density: Extremely High (3.5 L). Print speed: Color or b&w prints: Very fast (with High Speed setting on). 13×19-inch borderless, 4 min 38 sec; 8.5×11 borderless, 2 min 28 sec.Epson Stylus Photo 1400 Gamut|
We found Epson’s supplied paper profiles to be highly accurate as long as we used Photoshop CS3’s driver to manage color. Our custom profile for Premium Luster Photo Paper improved color accuracy only slightly. Color prints on Premium Luster Photo Paper showed more accurate saturated reds and excellent skin tones, but we preferred the Canon Pro9000 prints when it came to producing gold tones, sky blue, and some darker purple-red shades.
This is one of Epson’s fastest 13×19-inch printers to date, producing a 13×19-inch borderless print in 9 minutes 18 seconds at the highest quality setting. Checking the high-speed printing option reduces print time to 4 minutes 38 seconds without noticeable degradation of image quality.
While there’s no special driver control for black-and-white printing, most b&w prints made using the Epson color profiles were impressive, and slightly cooler that those from the Pro9000.
The SP 1400 can print photos and text directly on coated CDs and DVDs, but not on thicker fine-art papers, unlike the Canon Pro9000 or Epson’s own eight-color Stylus Photo R1800.
Want a 13×19-inch printer that’s fast, produces wide-color-gamut prints that should last more than a lifetime (up to 98 years on display, based on Wilhelm Imaging Research tests)? Like to decorate your music and photo CDs and DVDs? Then this one’s a deal.
The benefits of pigment printers? For a few hundred dollars more than the Canon PIXMA Pro9000, the PIXMA Pro9500 ($800, street) makes up for two of its shortcomings — it can produce longer-lasting color prints and faster b&w prints.
Thanks to its 10 Lucia pigment inks, the Pro9500 produces prints on Canon’s Photo Paper Plus that should last more than 100 years on display (according to preliminary tests by Wilhelm Imaging Research). But it takes forever to churn out a 13×19-inch color print (more than 18 minutes on Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss).
|Canon Pixma Pro9500 Test Results****Image quality: Excellent for color and b&w prints on Canon Photo Paper Plus Semi-Gloss. Color accuracy: Excellent (7.4 Avg. Delta E). Color gamut: Large, with some saturated yellows and dark purple-reds outside the Adobe RGB color space (transparent blue area in graph). Max. black density: Extremely High (5.4 L). Print speed: Color: Extremely slow. 13×19-inch borderless, 18 min 27 sec; 8.5×11 borderless, 8 min 30 sec. Black-and-white (using grayscale controls): Slow. 8×10 bordered print, 5 min 5 sec. Canon Pixma Pro9500 Gamut|
As with the Pro9000, its color profiles work well with Canon’s Easy-PhotoPrint Pro plug-in, but not so hot with Photoshop CS3’s driver. Print quality is excellent, with a color gamut similar in size to the Pro9000’s, although prints show very slight bronzing in some light. And it has a second path for thicker papers, a PictBridge USB connector in the front, and a Hi-Speed USB connector in back.
The Pro9500 competes with the Epson Stylus Photo R2400 and Hewlett-Packard B8190, both of which make long-life prints with excellent image quality. But these others print color much, much faster.