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Canon Pixma Pro-10 printer review

Kenneth J Smith | Product Reviews & Previews | Published Apr 23, 2013

The Pixma Pro-10 pigment inkjet printer falls squarely in the middle of Canon’s professional printer offering, strengthening what appears to be a sustained challenge to Epson's dominance in the fine art desktop printer market. Sitting below the top of the line Pixma Pro-1 and above the dye-based Pro-100, the Pro-10 is well positioned as an attractive option for any photographer looking to produce high quality A3+ (13”x19”) prints. Like its larger and more expensive sibling, the Pro-10 uses Canon's LUCIA pigment ink set, which provides greater print longevity than dye-based inks like the ones found in the more affordable Pro-100.

In our earlier in-depth review of the Pixma Pro-1 we found Canon's flagship desktop model to be very  impressive performer that stands up quite well against the rival Epson 3880, although at a list price of $999, it is also the most expensive desktop A3+ inkjet printer on the market.

By contrast, while the Pro-10 features its bigger sibling's resolution and printhead technology, its much lower list price of $699 nestles it between Epson's R2880 ($599 list price) and the R3000 ($799 list price) printers. The question then is whether the Pro-10 can deliver results on the order of what we saw with the Pro-1. And that's exactly what we aim to answer with this hands-on review.

Pixma Pro-10 specification highlights

The Pro-10 prints to a maximum paper width of 13 inches and uses pigment inks. Pigment inks are capable of greater print longevity than dye inks and are therefore now commonplace in the fine art professional printer arena. Technological advancements in the past decade such as smaller droplet sizes and a greater number of ink channels have allowed for both fine image detail and a wide color gamut. The Pro-10 is certainly up to par in these areas, delivering 10 colors in droplets as small as four picoliters from individually replaceable cartridges.

Key differences compared to the Pixma Pro-1

Looking at the specifications the Pro-10 has a smaller footprint than the Pro-1, one inch less in height, three inches less in depth and virtually the same width. Though substantially lighter by 17 pounds, at 43.9 pounds, it has the same solid feel of the Pro-1.

What's in the box?


Click here to go to page 2 of our review of the Canon Pixma Pro-10

Specifications

General
Printer type Professional
Printer
Color technology Inkjet
Max color resolution 4800 x 2400 dpi
Max B/W resolution 4800 x 2400 dpi
Droplet size 4 picoliters
Photo print speed 5min 20 sec (13"x 19")
Inks 10 (Photo Black, Matte Black, Grey, Cyan, Photo Cyan, Magenta, Photo Magenta, Yellow, Red, Chroma Optimizer)
Ink type Pigment-based
Paper handling
Max document size 13" x 19"
Fixed paper size No
Supported media 13"x 19", A3, Letter, legal, 4 x 6 in, 5 x 7 in, 8 x 10 in, Standard No.10 envelopes
Feeder capacity 150
Number of trays 2
Auto duplex / double sided printing No
Borderless printing Yes
Color management No
Connectivity
Direct printing Yes (PictBridge and Apple AirPrint)
Voice enabled No
Ethernet Yes (10/100)
Wi-Fi Yes
Bluetooth No
USB USB 2.0 (480Mbit/sec)
Memory card support No
Operating system
  • Windows XP (32-bit)
  • Windows XP (64-bit)
  • Windows Vista (32-bit)
  • Windows Vista (64-bit)
  • Windows 7 (32-bit)
  • Windows 7 (64-bit)
  • Max OS X - 10.4 (and above)
  • Max OS X - 10.5 (and above)
  • Max OS X - 10.6 (and above)
Physical
Display - touchscreen No
Batteries No
Weight 43.9 lb
Dimensions 27.2 x 8.5 x 15.2in (691 x 216 x 386 mm)
 

Click here to go to page 3 of our review of the Canon Pixma Pro-10

Design & Features

Like the Pro-1, the Pro-10 has a sleek look with rounded corners and a three-button control panel. The Pro-10 has a slightly smaller footprint and at roughly 44 pounds is noticeably lighter than the 61 pound Pro-1. In addition to USB 2.0 and Ethernet ports, the Pro-10 also offers wireless (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n) connectivity, with support for Apple's AirPrint protocol, allowing for direct printing from iOS devices.

As is standard with many Canon printers, a PictBridge port is available on the front below the control buttons. While admittedly not widely used by the photo enthusiast, PictBridge is convenient for sending images for printing directly from a compatible Canon camera. 

The Pro-10 shares the minimalist design of its 1-series siblings, with external controls limited to three front panel buttons. Here you see (from top to bottom) the buttons for power, paper feed/ink change and Wi-Fi control.

The Pro-10's flat-top design allows for an uncluttered look when all of the doors are closed (though it does offer a tempting 'landing space' for items in the office). Despite its lighter weight, the printer's construction feels every bit as solid as that of the Pro-1. As on most A3+ printers (the Pro-1 being the exception) the ink tanks sit atop the printhead. The Pro-10 is reasonably quiet when printing. The only noises you're likely to notice with the printer in an office environment occur during the automated head cleanings or priming of ink when first installing the cartridges.

Media handling

Two paper paths are available. The rear tray allows for sizes from 3”x5” up to 12.95”x26.61” with Canon recommending a maximum paper weight of 53 lb (200 g /m2). There's a manual paper feed (found behind the rear tray) that can accommodate sheets from 8”x10” up to 14”x23”. The straighter paper path of the manual feeds allow you to use papers with a thickness of up to .6mm.

In the user manual you'll find a list of papers types incompatible with the Pro-10, with Canon cautioning that their use could damage the printer. This list is worth looking through, as it includes some of Canon's own media, like the Glossy Photo Paper 'Everyday Use' (GP-501), Photo Paper Glossy (GP-502), and High Resolution Paper (HR-101N). Out of curiosity, I did print on some sheets of the Photo Paper Glossy (GP-502) for some of my tests. Fortunately, with no apparent damage to the printer, though I'd certainly recommended adhering to Canon's guidelines.

Located behind the rear paper feed is the manual feed slot. The lower positioning allows for a less curved paper path. Thick papers (up to .6mm) and up to 14" wide are fed through this path.

As we noted in our Pro-1 review, Canon is openly promoting the fact that its printers work very well with third party fine art papers, providing ICC profiles for many of the papers from Canson, Ilford, Hahnemule, Moab and other popular fine art paper vendors.

In addition to its two paper paths, the Pro-10 has a front-entry CD/DVD printing option with the included holder. This feature is quite convenient and alignment is a breeze with the separate slot for the CD/DVD tray.

Included in the box is a inkjet compatible CD/DVD printing tray with a dedicated slot for error-free disc labeling.

Connectivity

Connection to a computer can be made either by the Ethernet or USB ports on the back, via the PictBridge connection on the front or wirelessly.

With Ethernet and USB ports located side-facing, the rear manual feed slot functions without cable interference. A convenient front panel PictBridge port makes printing for a compatible camera quick and easy. 

Configuring the wireless feature was easily completed after reading the instruction manual and following the step-by-step procedures (be sure to have your USB cord connected to the printer before you start). One thing to note about printing wirelessly; your print times will increase substantially over the USB or Ethernet, especially if you’re sending large files to the printer.


Click here to go to page 4 of our review of the Canon Pixma Pro-10

Printing

For anyone who has printed from Photoshop in the past, printing to the Pro-10 is no different when using the print function in the program. Canon also provides an optional plug-in for its Print Studio Pro program. Selecting the plug-in is done through the Automate menu (found under the File menu). This opens another interface for printing which might be simpler and more easily understood to the novice Photoshop user.

For a seasoned Photoshop users who has his or her workflow streamlined, Print Studio Pro will probably never get installed. An important note when using Print Studio Pro; selecting the paper size automatically sets the print size based on the layout selected. The only workaround is to set the margins manually, which is possible as Print Studio Pro offers virtually the same options as the Canon printer dialog.

Plug-in Print Studio Pro has many of the same functions as the Photoshop print dialog but requires additional input to print non-standard sizes.

For those of you who have never used, or don’t want to use Photoshop, Canon offers a third way to print, with Easy-PhotoPrint EX. This stand-alone program is so easy to install and use that the novice computer user can be up and printing great images in a few minutes. As with the Print Studio Pro plug-in, Easy-PhotoPrint EX automatically sizes the image based on the paper size and layout selected. Unlike Print Studio Pro, you aren’t able to set custom margin so you can’t print a 4x6 on an 8x10 sheet of paper. Better to spend the time learning Photoshop, in our opinion.

Stand alone program Easy-PhotoPrint EX offers even less variability that Print Studio Pro. Once you select the paper size, this menu shows you (limited) layout options.

When printing via the Photoshop print dialog, one option might not be apparent: Clear Coating using the chroma optimizer. There are three options; the default is Auto, the program decides where to place the chrome optimizer, you can choose to coat the entire image or load a custom form file created in a graphics application. The intent of the chroma optimizer is to level the ink height throughout the image. This allows for a uniform glossiness and a higher Dmax (a number that represents the tonal range; from the darkest black with detail to the brightest white with detail). The chroma optimizer also reduces bronzing and metamerism. All of our testing was done with the Clear Coating set to default.

Print speed and longevity

Simulating the speed test in our Pro-1 review, we printed an 8"x10" image centered on 8 1/2"x11" paper. We began timing when the rear slot feed mechanism engaged the paper and stopped when the paper was ejected. We averaged the times of three separate prints. For glossy photos, printed in High quality mode our print time was almost identical to Canon's claim of 3 minutes and 35 seconds. Printing a glossy 8"x10" in the standard quality mode proved to be almost exactly one minute faster. Interestingly, when printing on matte paper, we saw a significantly slower time of 4 minutes and 35 seconds. Be aware that when selecting Fine Art Matte as a media type, you can only print in High quality mode.

 Print Quality Time to complete an 8x 10 inch print
 High quality (Glossy) 3 minutes, 30 seconds
 Standard quality (Glossy)  2 minutes, 35 seconds

For the Pro-10, Canon claims 70 years light fastness; under glass when printed on Canon’s semi-gloss paper using the LUCIA inks. More information can be found at Wilhelm Imaging Research.

Black & White printing

One of the main differences between the Pro-10 and the Pro-1 is the number of black/gray inks. The Pro-1 with twelve inks includes five blacks; Photo Black, Matte Black, Dark Gray, Gray and Light Gray. Canon has chosen to reduce the ink set for the Pro-10 to ten. This reduction is accomplished by reducing the number of black/gray inks to three. The Dark Gray and Light Gray are missing from the Pro-10, resulting in a smaller footprint, lower weight and possible inferior black & white printing.

With only the one gray ink, we expected to see more colors being used when printing our B&W test image. As you can see from the two images below, the Pro-10 produces a very acceptable black and white print, with a minimal amount of color inks.

This gray scale image was printed on the Pro-10. We expected to see substantial color in the enlarged section to the left. Image courtesy of Larry Danque at film2file.com. Though color drops can be seen in this enlargement, they are much fewer that one would expect.

While the differences between the black and white prints from the Pro-1 and Pro-10 was negligible in our test, it stands to reason that the five black/gray inks in the Pro-1 should give a more smooth tonal gradation in all B&W prints than the three black/gray inks in the Pro-10.

Ink Cost and Usage

Currently, the US retail price for the Pro-10 individual inks is $14.99. You can get a slight discount if you buy the 10-pack ink set at $134.99 but eventually you’ll want to replace only the inks that are used up in printing and for comparison purposes we’ll use the cost of buy each ink individually. With the ink tank capacity of 14ml the cost per ml is $1.07. This is only slightly more than the Pro-1’s $1.00 per ml cost. The benefit of using the Pro-1 with its 36ml inks is you’ll run out less frequently, resulting in a more efficient work flow.

Before we began our usage test we installed a new set of inks and used the same three images that were used in the Pro-1 review, rotating between both the images and alternating between glossy and matte papers. Our goal was to utilize both the matte and photo black inks. We did, however, deviate from the Pro-1 usage test in setting the quality to high for all of the printing (in the Pro-1 test we used the default Standard setting). Our reasoning here was that most photographers will use  the highest quality settings for the majority of their printing. Canon has published data on what you can expect to get from each color. You can find the information here.

Ink usage test image 1 Ink usage test 2
Ink usage test image 3 

We ran through the usage test twice (Canon sent us two extra complete sets of inks which proved very useful). Both tests were done alternating between glossy and matte as well as between the three test images shown above. We printed each image as an 8"x10" on an 8 1/2"x11" sheet of paper. In the first test, we selected matte paper from the drop down menu under Quality and Media. Upon completion of the usage test we found that the photo black ink had run out and the matte black ink was still at 100%. After a phone call to Canon Tech Support and a few emails we learned that if one wants to utilize the matte black ink a Fine Art paper must be selected.

To utilize the matte ink in the Pro-10, you must select a fine art paper in the printer dialog.

The second usage test we as planned with a somewhat equal depletion of the photo and matte black inks. Note that the gray was the first ink to run out. We replaced the gray ink and continued printing until another ink was fully depleted (Yellow). We ended up using approximately 1.3 tanks of gray and a full yellow with a total of 34 glossy and 61 matte prints. As we printed the matte and glossy in groups of 30 we were on our second glossy group when the yellow and gray ran out. Had we alternated in smaller numbers, we would have had a more equal result. In all we printed 95 total prints with the following ink remaining.

Gray ran out first, then yellow with comparable amounts of Photo Black and Matte Black inks remaining (we ended up printing more matte prints than glossy, hence the lower level of matte ink above).

Fine art paper margin

When you select a fine art paper as we did in the previous test you loose the ability to print borderless. Worse yet, you must select a different paper size, which substantially increases the margins (see the images below). The bottom line – you cannot print a full 8"x10" print on a sheet of 8 1/2"x11" fine art paper. In our tests, printing an 8x10 image on fine art paper results in an 8" x 8 5/8" print.

Glossy print, a full 8" x 10" Fine art matte print, substantially cropped on the sides. Only 8" x 8 5/8". The black borders indicate the amount of image area cropped from the sides  compared with the glossy print at left.

While this is one of the few complaints we have with the Pro-10 (and the Pro-1 as well) it is a significant one. Until Canon addresses this issue the Pro-10 is a far less attractive option for users who want to print even semi-regularly on fine art matte papers.


Click here to go to page 5 of our review of the Canon Pixma Pro-10

Print Quality

NOTE: The pictures on this page are digital scans of prints made with the Pixma Pro-10. Although every effort is made to match the physical print, there will be a slight amount of variation in colors. The prints were scanned and then white balanced in Photoshop.

Similar in design and quality to the Pro-1, we would expect the Pro-10 to produce excellent quality prints. With two fewer gray inks we would also expect to see lower quality B&W prints when compared to the Pro-10. We were pleased to see excellent quality in both color and B&W.  For this part of our testing we used Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II.

The test print target below is courtesy of Vincent Oliver at photo-i. It was printed with an image size of 8.3x11.7 at 300ppi on 13x19 paper with Photoshop CS5 set to have “Photoshop manage colors”. All other color management options were disabled or set to default.

Master test image

Though Canon doesn’t provide ICC profiles for their Photo Plus Glossy II paper and the Pro-10 I was told by my source at Canon that the Canon PRO-10 1/2 Photo Paper Plus Glossy & Gold ICC profile is the correct one for the paper I was using. This also shows Canon’s commitment to third party papers as they have a comprehensive set of ICC profiles (as noted in the Design & Features section of this review), but no ICC profiles for their own papers. Following are magnified sections of the master test print from both the Pro-10 andthe Pro-1.

Skin tones look natural and have good tonal gradation. Again, there is wide dynamic range with detail in both the darkest and lightest areas. Color seem slightly under-saturated compare to original file.
Good texture detail though slightly under-saturated. Text prints well with good definition and no color aliasing showing.

Overall quality

Similar to the Pro-1, we were quite pleased with the results of our test prints. The glossy prints all exhibited great tonal range, minimal bronzing and metamerism (thanks primarily to the chroma optimizer). The LUCIA pigment inks and a new FINE print head (introduced in the Pro-1) capable of producing ink droplets as small as 4 picoliters. Combined with a new OIG color engine, these features produce and increased color gamut when compared to the previous Pixma Pro printers, the 9000 and 9500.

Another pleasant surprise was the in the B&W test print(insert B&W print). It presented minimal metamerism and bronzing and had excellent tonal range, showing detail even in the shadow areas. And this was all done with two fewer gray inks than the Pro-1!

While Canon supplies an excellent tool for color calibration; Color Management Tool Pro, we chose not to make a custom profile as we were quite pleased with the out-of-the-box profiles from Canon. If you would like to learn more about the software program, please read the detailed section in our previous review of the Pro-1.


Click here to go to page 6 of our review of the Canon Pixma Pro-10

Conclusion – Pros

Conclusion – Cons

Overall Conclusion

The Canon Pro-10 printer produces extremely high quality images, both in B&W and color. With a list price of $699 the Pro-10 competes with the R3000 (currently and a reduced price of $649). However, the larger 26ml R3000 ink tanks provide a slight edge in ink cost per ml. Add the chroma optimizer to the Pro-10 (a feature not found on the R3000) and you have the potential for better Dmax with less bronzing and metamerism.

The major downside to the Pro-10 is if your preference leans toward fine art paper, as these limitations will probably keep you from buying the printer. Hopefully, Canon is already working on these issues we’ll see a firmware update in the near future. Back to one of our initial questions with the introduction of the Pro-10 – how does it compare to the Pro-1? Why should you pay $300 more? The increased depth (front to back) of the Pro-1 allows for a slightly less curved paper path with using the manual paper feed for thick paper stock. The inks are less expensive in the Pro-1; $1.00 per ml versus $1.07 per ml for the Pro-10. At 36ml per ink tank, the Pro-1 also allows for less down time changing inks.

Finally, while there should be advantages to the Pro1's two extra gray inks, in the course of our BW testing we couldn't find much to fault the Pro10 for compared to its more expensive sibling. As is expected, the Pro-10 delivers excellent print quality. As that is how most photographers judge a printer, $300 extra for the Pro-1 is a big difference for a printer with only marginally better print quality when all things are taken into account. Given the choice of buying a Pro-1 or Pro-10, we'd probably gravitate towards the latter. 

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