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Canon Pixma Pro-1 Printer Review Part 1 – Choosing a Printer
When I picked up my Pro-1 from The Camera Store it was almost a ceremony. I welcomed some help to slide the big box into the back of my SUV. While I managed to get the sixty pound printer into the house and installed by myself, I’m reasonably big and strong. Moving and placing the printer is chancy for one person but is a snap for two, so I recommend having someone along to lend a hand.
When you purchase the printer you will need to buy a cable to hook it to the computer. I chose to use the USB connection and I bought a ten foot cable so I could place the printer where I wanted in my studio. If I were to place the printer farther away from the computer, I’d use the Ethernet connection, which will reach distances a USB connection won’t.
When I unpacked the printer, I appreciated Canon’s clever packaging that makes it easy to safely and securely remove the printer from the box. The plastic wrapper has handles so you can just lift the printer out of the box and set it in place wrapper and all.
The Canon Pro-1 needs adequate space and a solid table. At first I just set it on a desk, but this was awkward. I went looking for a piece of furniture to hold the printer, with some storage for paper below, and found a six-drawer unit on casters at IKEA, model ALEX, product # 502.649.27. This unit is just the right size and it looks like it is made for the printer. The drawers hold 13×19 inch paper boxes and portfolios with room to spare. The casters make it easy to move the printer to use the rear-bottom tray for feeding thick, flat stock when needed. Having the printer set up where it is comfortably accessible, with supplies stored neatly in drawers below, makes working with it a lot more enjoyable.
Once the printer is in place, about an hour is needed to remove all the inevitable tape and plastic wrap, hook up the printer, install the software and the inks and run various check prints. Canon’s instructions are clear and the software will walk you through all the necessary steps. The only puzzle I ran into was how to arrange the various plastic doors and guides to hold the paper in the rear tray – and deciding which rear tray they meant me to use. The printer won’t print until you get it right so I tried a couple of different things and then got it.
One thing I really like about the Pro-1 is the changeable print head. Installing the print head is literally a snap. Lift it out of its packaging by the blue handle, taking care not to touch the nozzle side. Slide it in into its slot in the middle of the printer, flip the catches to hold it and – done. In the event a head clogs or is damaged, I’d rather just have to order a new print-head unit – NOT a new printer. I’ve had to change a print-head in my HP z3200. The Camera Store got me the head in a couple of days and I was most grateful for a printer with heads I could change when needed.
The inks are also very easy to install, just gently shake each ink container and slide it into the slot marked to take that ink. I inadvertently tried to put the gray ink in the magenta slot and it wouldn’t go so you can’t make a mistake in loading the inks. When an ink needs changing, you get a notice on the computer that walks you through the change procedure.
Like everything digital these days the Pro-1 comes with all sorts of software and a dizzying array of features from the ability to print directly on DVD’s to a feature that will print calendar pages. I’m not likely to ever use the software or features, except for the print driver that I operate either from Photoshop or Lightroom or from some custom printing software that I like called Qimage (www.ddisoftware.com). The Pro-1 works just fine if you ignore all the extras, however they are there if you ever need or want them.
If you are just getting into printing the “Canon My Image Garden” Software that comes with the printer provides a good place to start. My Image Garden allows you to view, select, adjust, enhance and print images. The adjustments include, brightness, contrast, sharpness and colour balance and the enhancements red-eye correction, face brightening, sharpening and smoothing and blemish removal. My Image Garden dramatically reduces the learning curve needed to make prints. As you gain more experience, if you find that My Image Garden doesn’t do all that you want, then you can add additional image processing and printing software when you feel you need it.
When you have the printer all set up, you will find the ink levels are down somewhat. The Pro-1 uses quite a bit of ink to load the ink-feed tubes and charge the print head. While this is normal, it is disconcerting to be changing out some of ink cartridges fairly soon after you start printing regularly. However remember that the new cartridges you put in will not be drawn down by start-up procedures and will last a lot longer.
I’ve found you can be aggressive about waiting to change cartridges. When the printer dialogue gives you a first warning with a little exclamation mark – that is really just an indication to buy another cartridge. When the warning changes to an X in a red circle, you can still squeeze out a few prints before the printer insists on a change.
When you have really run out of ink the Pro-1 gives you this final warning:
For use from Photoshop, Lightroom or another image management program, it is necessary to ensure various settings are correct in the print driver menu. The most critical setting is to tell the print driver that the application (i.e. Photoshop) will manage colour. Unfortunately the place where you make this setting is buried three clicks deep in the menus and the choice is described in obscure language.
First select the Color/Intensity Manual Adjustment tick box. This will open another menu. Select the “Matching” tab at the top and then click the “None” choice.
Fortunately the Canon driver will allow you to save settings and recall those setting when you need them later. This is very handy because it saves the trouble of remembering obscure driver settings and protects you from errors. I really appreciate this because too frequently I lose a sheet of paper because I have forgotten some setting or the software changed it on me when I expected it would stay set.
After many months of use, I found the Pro-1 has been perfectly reliable. When I turn it on it works and I don’t have to worry about leaving it turned off. I had to leave it turned off for a three month period and it switched on perfectly with no problems and to my great relief no head clogs. The Epson printers I’ve used have required a lot of head cleaning cycles and testing to get them going again after a similar down period. The Canon Pro series seem to be very resistant to head clogs and I’m very grateful to not have to worry about this problem.
However, if you do run into problems, Canon provides a set of maintenance tools:
In summary, the Canon Pixma Pro-1 is simply a fun printer to use, one that is easy to set up and just works with none of the issues, artifacts or glitches that have previously dogged digital print makers. As image after image came out of the Pro-1, I quickly come to realize that the Pro-1’s prints are as free of printer artifacts as any I’ve experienced. Printer artifacts are things like surface scuffs due to printer heads striking the paper, paper transport tracks, banding, blotchy blacks, stray drops of ink, loss of gloss in the highlights, disturbing colour shifts when the prints are viewed under different kinds of light – the list goes on – but with the Canon there is just a clean, pure image.
I wonder if the artifact-free images relate to another quality I like about the printer – its heft. It weighs a solid 60 pounds. In this world of light-weight plastic stuff that falls apart, I take the Pro-1’s weight as being an indicator of robust build quality, a sign it will hold its alignment and maintain its ability to faultlessly handle delicate fine art papers for a long time.
The artifact-free prints mean I save on ink and paper – rejecting prints only because I know I can make them better and not because the printer is not up to the task. Well – there is a catch. The catch is the printer is so much fun and so easy to print with that I find myself printing more!
In the next and final installment, Part 3, we’ll look at printing with the Pro-1.
Part 3 – Canon Pixma Pro-1 Printing & Print Quality
(Disclaimer: I co-teach digital printing workshops for The Camera Store. After I decided I wanted the Canon Pro-1, I asked and Canon agreed to sell one to me at a discount. )