Review based on a production Canon Pixma Pro-1

The Pixma Pro-1 is Canon's latest addition to its A3+ (13-inch) pigment ink printer lineup. Intended to sit a category above, rather than replace either the Pixma Pro9000 Mark II or Pro9500 Mark II models, the Pro-1 sets its sights on a more discriminating and demanding user. As Canon described to us in an interview at the printer's launch, 'This is a top-of-the-line product...geared towards a 5D or 7D customer'.

With the relative maturity of today's fine art inkjet printer market, Canon seems to realize that its success in going up against market leader Epson is likely to be depend on issues that extend beyond out-of-the-box image quality. Make no mistake, as the most expensive A3+ printer currently on the market (US$999/£799/€749), the Pro-1 will have to deliver great-looking prints. Yet that alone may not be enough. In an effort to distinguish the Pro-1 from its competiton, Canon has also focused on changes that revolve around usability, convenience and most notably, cooperation with third party paper manufacturers.

While Epson has taken pains to emphasize its own fine art paper offerings, Canon provides easy access to ICC paper profiles for the Pro-1 from paper manufacturers such as Canson, Hahnemühle, Ilford and Moab, among others. For those who prefer to take matters into their own hands, Canon has released as a free download, Color Management Tool Pro. This software allows users to both calibrate the printer and/or create high quality ICC profiles, provided they have access to an X-Rite spectrophotometer. In addition, the Pro-1 comfortably handles thick heavy papers such as Hahnemühle's Photorag Baryta, even in its standard rear feed tray, with a separate manual feed slot designed for even thicker media.

For all of these features, however, the most immediately noticeable trait upon unpacking the Pro-1 is its sheer size and heft. Weighing in at just over 27 kg (60 pounds), its footprint nearly matches that of the 17-inch Epson Stylus Pro 3880. Aimed squarely at the enthusiast who prints regularly, the Pixma Pro-1 uses large capacity ink cartridges, with each one holding 36ml of ink. This is a significantly higher capacity than previous Pixma Pro models and even trumps the Epson Stylus Photo R3000. Larger ink cartridges of course offer the convenience of extended periods of printing. And they typically represent a better value, costing US$1 or less per ml. By comparison, you can pay as much as US$1.30 per ml for many A3+ pigment ink printers.

Canon's 12-ink LUCIA inkset - reformulated for the Pixma Pro-1 - includes three gray ink dilutions for smooth tonal transitions in monochrome output and a chroma (gloss) optimizer for use on glossy media.
The Pro-1's large capacity ink cartridges (36ml) are made possible by the fact that the cartridges themselves are housed separately from the print head. They are divided between two covered compartments at the front of the printer. A tube-delivery feed is used to send ink to the print head. This is a common design in large format printers, but one we've only recently begun to see in 13-inch desktop models.

The Pixma Pro-1 comes with a full set of ink cartridges. Each ink slot is clearly labeled and a button resting above each slot is used to release the cartridge when replacement becomes necessary. When the printer detects a cartridge ready for replacement, a red light at the top edge of the cartridge will begin flashing, making it easy to determine which one to replace.

Upon initial installation, a significant amount of ink is pulled through the ink lines, in order to provide a continuous flow of ink to the print head. While a check of the ink levels at this point will show noticeably depleted levels, the good news is that only a fraction of the loss you see has been actually discharged through the print head. The rest is simply occupying the ink tubing. Subsequent replacements of individual cartridges will maintain their 'full' ink level status much longer.

Pixma Pro-1 specification highlights

  • 12 color LUCIA pigment inkset includes 5 monocrhome inks and a chroma optimizer
  • Large capacity 36ml ink cartridges
  • 4800 x 2400dpi print head resolution
  • Manual paper feed for thick media
  • Built-in Ethernet port

What's in the box?

  • Pixma Pro-1 printer
  • CD/DVD printing tray
  • PGI-29 ink cartridges (12)
  • Power cable
  • Print head
  • Installation CD
  • Warranty card