Canon’s imagePROGRAF iPF5000 17” Printer; A New Wide Format Pigment Ink Printer Page 2

My initial test printing sessions with the Canon iPF5000 utilized the standard 8-bit operating system driver. And although the results were quite good, they were not distinguished particularly from what I would expect from any other contemporary high-end inkjet printer. With this basic foundation of experience, it was time to find out what the Canon 16-bit Photoshop
plug-in print driver would produce. This print driver is available once an image is open in Photoshop's work space by clicking on a File/Export selection for the plug-in. This pops up a dialog very similar to the Print Preview window that Adobe provides in Photoshop. It has a thumbnail preview image of the print that is interactive with the settings made in the "preview" dialog, confirming, for instance, whether the printer is set to print a landscape or a portrait image orientation. The plug-in preview dialog also includes a "soft proof" function to give the user a perceptual preview of how the selected printer profile will make the image appear as a print. This soft proof feature is of limited value, however, because the thumbnail image size is too small to obtain an accurate visualization of how the print will appear. Otherwise, the layout and option choices of the plug-in window dialog are logical and using them is an essentially intuitive process.

Until recently, blue sky tones reproduced weakly in inkjet prints in part because to create blue with a CMYK palette requires a mix of inks. But with the 12 colors of ink used by the iPF5000 less ink mixing is required to produce primary and secondary color depth and saturation.

The first few prints made with the Canon iPF5000 16-bit Photoshop plug-in driver produced print images with a definite maximum density advantage and more saturated colors compared to the standard 8-bit driver. However, even though subtle, the color matching with the on-screen image appeared to be less true and accurate. This led me to think that to obtain optimum profile matching the calibration and profile should be made from targets printed using the 16-bit Photoshop plug-in driver. So I went about re-profiling all of the papers using the 16-bit driver. With these new profiles installed I began an extended and more exhaustive print test.

Evaluation & Recommendations
Of course the primary criteria of a printer's worth is print quality. After my initial trials showed me that the 16-bit Photoshop plug-in is the way to run the printer, given you profile for 16 bit, I found I was printing image files out of pure enthusiasm because of the great results I was obtaining. Of course, like any printer, results varied relative to the paper. And, of course, the better grade fine art papers produced the best results, like Ink Press Paper's Picture Rag (warm), PremierArt's Platinum, Crane's Silver Rag, and Hahnemühle's Pearl. However, I was surprised that some modest cost matte photo papers, like Moab's Kayenta, also benefited from the advantages of 12-color 16-bit printing. The luster-finish fiber-based papers recently introduced, like Crane's Silver Rag and Hahnemühle's Pearl, printed with exceptionally deep blacks and intense colors. There is a minor price exacted, however, for these exceptionally brilliant prints. This price was a difference in surface sheen between lightly and heavily inked image areas, a performance artifact that is more evident in prints of images with strongly contrasting areas of sharply defined light and shadow, and barely evident in prints of subjects reproduced with more evenly distributed tones.

The Canon iPF5000 with its 12 ink colors, including four blacks, supports direct black and white printing with image tone color control using the monochrome option in the print driver.

Part of my enthusiastic printing splurge was encouraged by speed of printing. The iPF5000 takes only a few minutes to output even a 16x20" image on 17x22" paper, and it spits out 13x19" prints almost as fast as I would expect to print letter-sized images with most other printers I have used. After using up just about every decent remnant of paper supply I had, at least $300-$400 worth I'm sure, I checked the ink levels in the printer and found all of the colors were still 1/4-1/3 full in the original cartridges, which as installed only held 2¼3 of a full standard ink load. It seems the Canon iPF5000 inks are quite concentrated and the printer applies them efficiently. That actually makes the initial price of the printer a greater value, as it supports making a lot of fine prints before a replacement of the ink supply will be needed.

The one thing that is not economical about this printer--the amount of space that it requires. Although in reality it is a desktop printer it uses up most of the space of a typical desktop, with just enough room at one end to place a stack of finished prints. And it weighs close to 100 lbs. Once up and running the only thing I could complain about is the fact the printer is partly controlled by a set of buttons and LCD display on the printer, and partly through the software driver on the computer that's running it. For many I am sure this is not even worth grumbling about, but sadly I am one of those people who never got the hang of programming a VCR, so it is a sore point that's really my fault, not the printer's. But I would like it better if it were entirely controlled through its computer software drivers.

Having the support to make entirely satisfactory black and white prints with a color inkjet printer has been a common frustration with many inkjet printers. I found the Monochrome (photo) black and white capability provided by the Canon iPF5000 standard 8-bit operating system driver both easy to use and an effective way to make black and white prints with predictable control of the image color tone.

I like to make prints because it is the confirmation and culmination of the effort I have invested in computer time correcting, adjusting, retouching, and refining the images I shoot or scan. And although my preferred print size is 13x19", I plan to keep this bigger printer because it makes prints that are totally satisfying, whether color or black and white. I can also get the results I want from a wide choice of paper styles. And although the initial cost of a wide format printer is greater ($1995 list, but less for "street" price and rebates), it is not so much so when you consider it is delivered with an ink supply that will output a very generous number of big prints, something that cannot be said for 13" wide printers with their rather small ink cartridges.

The determining bottom line is whether a printer provides a more effective and satisfying reproduction of images. The Canon iPF5000 produces prints of consistently superior quality. Canon has definitely extended the photo printing potential and possibilities with their technology. I find these advantages irresistible, and fortunately, reasonably affordable.

For more information, contact Canon U.S.A., Inc., One Canon Plaza, Lake Success, NY 11042; (800) 652-2666, (516) 328-5000; www.canonusa.com.

For a full list of Technical Specifications, visit the Instant Links section of our website at: www.shutterbug.com/currentissuelinks/.

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