About a year ago Canon announced new pigment ink professional wide format printers
for the US market. Initially, the smallest of these Canon printers available
in Japan, the 17" wide, was not slated for the US market. Not long after,
Canon announced the PIXMA Pro9500 printer, a new 13" pigment ink printer.
I responded immediately to this announcement, requesting a unit for test and
evaluation as soon as available. Months went by and I again contacted Canon
about the PIXMA Pro9500 and found out its release had been moved back to 2007.
Canon suggested I might like to test and review the imagePROGRAF iPF5000 17"
wide format inkjet instead, which used the same inks and similar technology.
My curiosity got the best of me, and I wanted to see how Canon has dealt with
pigment ink printing.
The new Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5000 17" desktop printer.
At first glance the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5000 printer appears to share the
basic configuration of other large format printers, with controlled paper feed
and a print head that shuttles across the print media as it travels through
the printer. Upon closer inspection I saw that the Canon iPF5000 is quite distinguished
from other inkjet printers. Although piezo print head technology has not been
associated with Canon, apparently they did significant research on the matter,
patenting their approach to that technology in the 1970s, prior to their concentration
on their BubbleJet technology for dye ink printing.
The iPF5000, along with its larger brethren, utilizes Canon Lucia pigment inks.
These are ground fine and encapsulated with a polymer compound, an approach
that is said to enhance durability and image quality. The Canon Lucia inkset
is comprised of 12 distinct colors, with two densities of cyan and magenta,
black and matte black plus two levels of gray, in addition to yellow, red, green,
and blue. This number of different inks reduces the amount of color mixing needed
to achieve many specific colors, and is said to produce cleaner, purer reproduced
print image values. And, with both black and matte black loaded in the printer,
switching is achieved for printing on fiber- or resin-coated media automatically
when each particular media type is selected in the printer driver. In addition,
monochrome black and white prints can be made with black, gray, and photo gray
and just a minimum of color inks applied. This achieves just the desired gray
tinting, controlled by the printer's driver monochrome settings dialog.
While neutral values are accurately preserved and reproduced, naturally
complex earth tones are rendered with a depth of color and distinction
I've not seen in inkjet prints before.
All Photos © 2006, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved
The two print heads are user installed, making replacement costs moderate,
if ever required. I am told there are 30,720 nozzles, with each head handling
six colors using 2560 nozzles for each color, laying down 4 picoliter ink droplets.
The Canon print system has a self-diagnostic capability. This senses a nonfunctioning
nozzle and automatically transfers printing to other nozzles. In addition, a
self-diagnostic routine also runs a cleaning cycle automatically when needed.
A large variety of media can be used with the Canon iPF5000, including film,
plastics, and papers of many types. There is a wide selection specifically under
the Canon label, including a full range of Hahnemühle papers for fine art
reproduction and photography. The printer can accommodate both cut sheets and
rolls with a dedicated printer-controlled roll adapter (an extra cost option).
Paper can also be fed automatically from a cassette under the printer or manually,
for single sheets.
For some images the depth of the black or D-max is a significant
factor, and I have found the perception of black in prints made
with the Canon iPF5000 is exceptional.
The software driver support for the Canon iPF5000 includes the usual operating
system 8-bit driver for both Windows and Apple Mac computers that also includes
a monochrome capability, supporting grayscale black and white printing with
color tone control. In addition, Canon provides a plug-in which is essentially
a 16-bit software RIP that runs in either Photoshop or Canon's Digital
Photo Professional application, the latter is supplied with all Canon EOS D-SLR
cameras. This is for printing HDR 16-bit or raw digital camera files that are
directly processed (rasterized) and sent to the iPF5000. This approach reproduces
a fuller gamut content of the file while providing smoother tonal gradations
and superior color/tonal separations. The Canon iPF5000 comes with interface
support for both USB 2.0 and network printing; a FireWire interface connection
may be added as an extra cost option.
Using The Printer
The Canon iPF5000 printer arrived at my door just as I was testing a new genre
of luster-finish fiber-based papers, PremierArt's Platinum, Crane's
Silver Rag, and Hahnemühle's Pearl. In addition, a paper source new
to me, Ink Press Paper (www.inkpresspaper.com)
made samples of two of their fine art papers, Picture Rag (cool) and Picture
Rag (warm) available for testing. All this new media combined with a new printer
provided a rich and intriguing set of photo printing possibilities, so my enthusiasm
could not have been greater.
A key advantage offered is a plug-in driver (for Photoshop and Canon's
Digital Photo Professional) that supports 16-bit printing in addition
to the standard 8-bit operating system printer driver. Although
this plug-in driver supports printing 16-bit or high-bit raw files
directly, the advantages it provides in superior print output print
quality are achieved using it to process and output standard 8-bit
I was impatient to get the printer set up and the drivers installed, which
went smoothly and without a hitch, mostly because I forced myself to follow
the documented instructions to the letter. I often just charge ahead, assuming
I know what I am doing, and then find out the hard way that I might have to
go back to square one. I was glad to have everything running correctly and confirmed
by an initial test print, because there was much more "fiddly" stuff
to do before I could get serious about test printing. Because I had media that
was not made by Canon I had to profile each paper, which is a bit tedious and
even boring when you've done it many, many times before. But it was really
not that long before I could make some test prints with the profiles I'd