First week with Canon Pixma Pro-1

Started Feb 7, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Erik Gordon
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First week with Canon Pixma Pro-1
Feb 7, 2012

After a very favorable experience with the Canon staff at the PDN PhotoExpo in NYC along with some impressive print samples from the Pixma Pro-1 at the show, I decided to become part of the early adopters club and pick one up. Here's my "one week with the new Pixma Pro-1" summary:

First, some background and disclaimers... I've been using "photo printers" for quite some time now - dating all the way back to the Kodak dye-sub days. I've personally owned several models throughout the years and have spent a lot of time learning how to and making prints. Am I a jedi print master? No. Have I been around the block? Yes. Ok, here it goes...

The first thing you need to prepare yourself for is the sheer size (and arguably more important) weight of the unit. Unless you are very strong and have no back problems - you'll want to invite a friend to help you unbox and setup. The ship weight of the box is 80lbs. And the size is something else... What the Epson 4990 is to a 17" printer, the Pro-1 is to a 13" printer. In a word, it's ginormous.

Setup is a breeze, takes a little while, but is a breeze nonetheless. I use the ethernet connectivity personally - and have not tried using the USB interface. The software install walks you through print head alignment and once that is complete, you're pretty much good to go.

First, the bad... This printer ships with software that truly supress its capabilities. Wanting to see a print within the first minute of it up and running, I fired up EZ Photo Print and shot out a 8x10 ProPhoto RGB TIFF. YIKES! Trust me on this one, skip this step. I let my excitement get the best of me and spent 10 minutes staring at a print that my $80 hp inkjet could have done better. Now keep in mind - I did a full auto print in under 1 minute - so I eventually removed this data point from my sample set - and you'll soon see why.

Needing a boost, I fire up Lightroom... I remember at PDN (and also from some YouTube clips) claiming how you can now do the opposite of what we're all used to - and that is, tell Photoshop to let the printer manage the colors. And that's exactly what I did. I ran a print of my 7 month old son eating his lunch, face covered in mashed peas, carrots, etc. This image has become a bit of a standard for me as it's technically perfect (from a lighting perspective) and contains LOTS of subtle colors and skin tones. I clicked on the Print module, let the printer manage the colors, setup the printer driver with just some basic settings (paper type, size, etc), hit the Print button an waited. What I was holding in my hands, not much later, was the most accurate print I've ever made of this picture. I was ecstatic.

I have a calibrated Dell U2711 - which is a wide gamut monitor. And until you start using a wide gamut monitor, you have no idea how far your prints and monitor can differ. The U2711 displays a lot of subtelty and nuance that I've had a terrible time trying to reproduce in a print. I can say, with no exageration, my print matched what I was looking at on the screen 100% (or least there were no decernable differences). I was completely blown away. At that moment, which was only my second print, I realized this was a special printer.

From then on, I continued to print a series of images that I use every time I get a new printer. Print after print, the Pro-1 was nailing them. Finally I moved on to B&W images and this is where the Pro-1 really shines. I haven't held a B&W print like that since I had a lab darkroom develop some 6x7 Tri-X. The prints were so neutral and perfect that it made me realize how bad my previous printers are.

So far I'm about 50 prints in - all of various size, paper (Canon and Moab), color and b&w. And I have to say, I've never felt this way about a printer before. It truly is worth the (arguably too high) asking price if you are serious about making prints.

Now, let me qualify all of the above... Printers have been VERY good for quite some time now. And as I've progressed through the new models over the past years, I've seen the as-expected forward march of progress. What I don't want people to think is that the Pro-1 is going to blow you away. Unless you know what you're looking at - it simply wont. In fact, my wife couldn't tell some of the Pro-1 prints apart from the same image printed on my Pixma 9500 Mark II or Epson 3880. Or more correctly, she couldn't pick the "best" of the three.

However, there are two things that really make this printer go above and beyond just another step forward in progress. First, is how easy it is to make a good print. If you're using a well caibrated display (i.e. calibrated for brightness, not just color accuracy), then you should have no trouble at all making a print match your screen. The ability to let the printer manage the colors is a game changer. And in my 50 some odd prints, I've yet to see it do a bad job. Sure, my previous printers all made good prints - but it took a lot more work to get there. The second standout of the Pro-1 is b&w quality. You'll be looking at b&w print quality equal to that of dedicated b&w printers - it's really that good. And all those "neutral" b&w prints you made in the past, will all start to have funny color casts when you look back at them.

Do I recommend the Pro-1 for everyone? ABSOLUTELY not. It is a LOT of money, and if you're not serious about printing, or make prints for profit, you really have no need for a machine like this. But if you are serious about printing, and are a student of the game, I can confidently state that it gets no better than the Pro-1 at this point in time.

One last thing, I'm completely ignoring the specs... As this is beaten to death on other threads. If the printer has what you need, then great - add it to the list of potential candidates to buy. If it doesn't, then don't!

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