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Print Quality: Out of the Box

NOTE: The pictures on this page are digital captures of prints made with the Pixma Pro-1. Although every effort is made to match the physical print, there will be a slight amount of variation in colors. The prints were photographed with a DSLR under studio lighting using a color checker target for white balance.

With its sturdy build quality, 12-ink system and premium price, the Pixma Pro-1 is clearly aimed at the enthusiast market. And no feature will be more crucial to this audience than print quality. Here we take a look at what you can expect upon setting up the printer. For these tests we are using Canon's own Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss media and the canned profile that comes installed with the printer driver.

The print target below is courtesy of Vincent Oliver at photo-i. The image file was sized at 8.2 x 11.6 inches (20.8 x 29.4 cm) at a resolution of 300ppi and printed with Photoshop CS5 set to 'Photoshop Manages Color'. All printer driver color management options were disabled.

Canon Pro-1 output, printed on Canon Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss with default ICC profile.

Canon offers two separate ICC profiles for its Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss media. According to the user manual, one is optimized for speed, the other for higher print quality. Although we found little practical difference between the two for a majority of our images, we used the 'high quality' profile to generate the test print you see above. Below you can examine crops from this print.

Caucasian skin tones are rendered in a generally pleasing manner, yet appear slightly more red in the print than in the digital file. Monochrome scenes appear neutral in prints viewed under daylight-balanced light sources. Detail is blocked in heavy shadow areas when compared to the digital file.
Finely patterned detail is rendered exceptionally well. Note that the region of clipped highlights along the spool of white thread exists in the digital file as well. Color transitions are reproduced with a high degree of accuracy. The wedges shown above display no banding or abrupt color breaks that are not present in the digital file.
Prints appear slightly darker than calibrated monitor output, and show a noticeable boost in contrast as well. Output of 12-point type is crisp with rich black text that is only slightly less sharp than laser printer output.

Overall quality

The Pro-1, by any measure offers extremely good print quality right out of the box. We've run dozens of challenging real world images through the printer. Using Canon paper with a canned (factory-supplied) ICC profile, we consistently get pleasing - if not absolutely accurate - colors and smooth tonal transitions with no banding. For prints on glossy media we typically set the chroma optimizer to cover the entire image area. This provided a visually uniform surface reflectance and at the 'high' quality print setting reduced any signs of bronzing to all but the most extreme print viewing angles.

With the Pro-1 Canon has reformulated its LUCIA pigment inkset and introduces a new FINE print head with 1,024 nozzles per channel that can expel ink droplets as small as 4 picoliters. These changes, in combination with a new OIG color engine, allow for an increased color gamut when compared to previous Pixma Pro models. Below we've made gamut comparisons using ColorThink Pro profile analysis software based on the canned printer profiles for both the Pro-1 and the Pro9500 Mark II.

Here we are comparing the gamut volume of the Pixma Pro-1 (green outline) with the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II (red outline), each using its Canon-supplied ICC profile for the company's Photo Paper Plus Semi-gloss.

This graph represents the outer edges of the each device's gamut, independent of luminance values. As the illustration suggests, the Pro-1 is capable of producing a larger color gamut on the same media.

The gamut comparison above only tells part of the story with regard to advances in the Pro-1's color gamut. Knowing that one printer can produces more discrete colors than another is helpful. It's even more crucial, however, to understand the luminance levels at which one printer outperforms another. Below we take a look at luminance-specific gamut comparisons generated by the ColorThink Pro 3D graphing tool.

In these gamut comparisons we are looking at printer performance at a luminance value of L 50. As you can see from the overlap between the Pixma Pro-1 (green outline) and the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II (red outline), gamut differences are minimal. Comparing output at a low luminance, in this case L 21, paints a different picture. The Pro-1 (green outline) exceeds the gamut of the Pro9500 Mark II (red outline) throughout the majority of the chroma range.

The Pixma Pro-1, like all other pigment-ink based inkjet printers must contend with metameric shifts, in which identical colors can display differently under various types of light sources. You can see this in color prints when moving a print from daylight-balanced lights to office fluorescent lighting for instance. Yet, the color shifts are kept to a reasonable minimum, with prints from the Pro-1 maintaining their relative color balance, instead of certain colors shifting much more prominently than others. Black and white prints do show metameric shifts more noticeably, presumably because even with single channel grayscale files, the Pro-1 still mixes color inks alongside its black and gray pigments. Again, while the shifts are noticeable, the print shifts in a consistent manner throughout the tonal range.

Overall, we are impressed with print performance out of the box. Colors are pleasing, prints display good contrast and for those using calibrated and profiled monitors, the screen to print match is certainly acceptable, if not completely accurate. We suspect that this level of performance will satisfy the needs of all but the most demanding of users.

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