Whether you shoot with a
digital camera or scan conventional photographs, a high quality photo
printer is an essential accessory. Fortunately, prices are dropping
even though ink jet printers are becoming more and more advanced. The
Canon i950 Photo Printer offers the best of all worlds: sophisticated
new technology for ultrahigh resolution, continuous tone output, high
speed, plus great simplicity that allows for making beautiful photos
with a fully automatic mode.
i950 produced very good to excellent results in the automatic
Print Advisor mode, although in some cases, I would have
preferred slightly darker prints with more "sparkling"
colors. (Photo Paper Pro; Print Advisor mode.)
Photos © 2003, Peter K. Burian, All Rights Reserved
The i950 offers some advantages
over the now replaced Canon S900--a 2400x1200dpi model. While it
employs a similar print head with 3072 nozzles, individual ink tank system,
and the Advanced MicroFine Droplet Technology, the i950 is superior in
two respects. The new model boasts a higher 4800x1200dpi maximum print
resolution and significantly smaller ink droplets: 2 picoliter vs. 4 picoliter
in size, ejected at a rate of 74 million dots per second.
The resolution numbers sound most impressive, but it's actually
the smaller ink droplet size that produces superior results. This becomes
apparent in mid tones that are smoother, more finely detailed prints,
and better color tonality. Because the MicroFine ink dots are virtually
undetectable, the prints appear truly continuous in tone, resembling traditional
photographs. While the S900 already made prints of photographic quality
prints, the i950 can produce even better results, noticeable especially
when closely examining 8.5x11" prints.
Designed for uncomplicated operation, the i950 features
driver software with an automatic Print Advisor mode,
plus many easy to use functions for adjusting output quality,
brightness, color rendition, and more.
Basic Print Making
Thanks to the user-friendly aspects of the i950, I was making my first
print 10 minutes after opening the box. A simplified guide, plus automated
software loading from the Canon CD-ROM, made installing the printer head,
ink cartridges, and driver software easy and quick. After completing the
print head alignment process and loading some 8.5x11" sheets of
Canon Photo Paper Pro, I started by using the automatic Print Advisor
mode, allowing it to make all settings after I specified the paper type,
size, and desired print type: "top quality photo." After 2
minutes and 20 seconds of nearly silent operation, the i950 produced an
8.5x11" photo (with borders) that is suitable for framing.
In Print Advisor mode, print resolution and color adjustment are all set
automatically, optimized for the paper and the type of print selected:
photo, text, tables and charts, or composite document. With Photo Paper
Pro, the system automatically sets print quality to Level 2 (2400dpi),
appropriate for producing outputs of photographic quality. Load Matte
Photo Paper and the system selects quality Level 3 (1200dpi), suitable
for this media. With Photo Paper Plus Glossy, the automatic quality setting
is Level 1 (4800dpi), the most appropriate with this media.
Naturally, the Canon driver software also allows for some personalized
control. Select the "Print Quality>Custom" option and you
can increase resolution or decrease it for even faster printing. In order
to prevent an inappropriate quality setting--and excessive ink output--not
all options are available for all types of media, a logical precaution.
With the Glossy and Pro paper, Level 2 was great for all-purpose photo
printing (at 2400dpi) while Level 1 produced the very highest (4800dpi)
print resolution but used the most ink.
The "Color Adjustment>Manual" option in the i950 Properties
screen offers additional user-control: three print brightness settings,
slider scales for adjusting the "strength" of various colors,
plus an "ICM" option. Checking the "ICM" box produces
"color correction with an sRGB default profile" for richer
hues and tones. This is not a standard feature with Print Advisor but
it was often useful for prints that I made from image files in the Adobe
RGB 1998 color space, for a slightly more vivid color rendition.
The driver software offers some additional features, including borderless
printing (with most paper types), various layout options (banner, poster,
multiple images on a single page, etc.), Vivid Photo mode for more vibrant
colors (especially greens and blues), Monochrome Effects for black and
white prints with sepia or other color tone, plus three tools for automatic
image adjustment. The latter are intended for correcting problems in images
with low resolution, with poor exposure or color balance, or with excessive
Evaluation: The i950 was designed for superb print quality with uncomplicated
operation. That's why Canon does not provide a full instruction
manual for the i950, but merely includes a "Help" feature
that offers a brief explanation of the purpose of each function. While
some owners will wish for a full manual, the various driver software options
are virtually intuitive. Do note that there's no control for full
color management nor any method for selecting the gamma or the contrast
level. Nonetheless, the driver software is adequately versatile for most
applications and for photo enthusiasts who are not digital imaging experts.
high-resolution image file made with a 5-megapixel digital
camera, this 8.5x11" print is excellent in all respects.
It exceeds the level of quality that I expect from a lab
making traditional prints from my 35mm slides or negatives.
(Photo Paper Plus Glossy; Quality Level 1; ICM selected.)
As hinted earlier, the Canon i950 produces color prints that range from
extremely good to superlative. With
high-resolution image files that are optimized for printing in Photoshop,
even prints made with the Photo Advisor mode exhibit high sharpness, snappy
contrast, great definition of fine detail, pleasing saturation, and attractive
skin tones. Although some of the prints are a bit too bright, they're
better than those I would expect from a conventional enlargement made
by a commercial photofinishing lab.
For the best possible prints, I reduced image brightness in Photoshop
as necessary and used some of the options available in the printer driver
software. I frequently selected the highest quality level and occasionally
the ICM feature or Vivid Photo mode as appropriate for a specific image.
My only complaint? As with many printers, the i950 dialog screen does
not show a preview image, so it's impossible to evaluate the effect
of any color adjustments. After making a few prints, I became quite adept
at guessing at the settings that would produce the intended results.
Although the i950 uses more ink at high quality level settings, its printing
time does not change much: it increased by only 10 seconds when I switched
from quality Level 2 to Level 1. The extra time was well spent, because
the i950 now produced 8.5x11" prints that appeared slightly sharper
and exhibited more visible texture in hair and in fabrics. When compared
to 4800x1200dpi printers that take over 5 minutes to make an 8.5x11"
print in the highest resolution mode, the i950 is lightning fast at 2.5
In order to test the low resolution image enhancing features, I printed
some very small (256KB) image files in 4x6" size, first with default
modes and then using the Image Optimizer and Photo Optimizer Pro functions.
In every case, the first print was quite pixilated and a bit dark, while
the "enhanced" print was better in both respects, though still
not "photographic" in quality. These enhancing tools, and
the Noise Reduction option, cannot work miracles. They would be more useful
with larger image files.
Because many photographers appreciate black and white images, I decided
to make some monochrome prints. Few ink jet photo printers generate perfectly
neutral monochrome prints automatically, and the i950 is no exception.
After optimizing the images for printing in Photoshop, I found that those
made on glossy paper exhibited a noticeable cyan color cast. When I switched
to matte paper, the results were closer to neutral with a very slight
magenta cast, easily corrected with the color adjustment control in the
Evaluation: When printing from an image file of high quality, the i950
can make color prints with incredible resolution and sharpness, and rich,
gorgeous colors that assure very high visual impact. The prints should
satisfy demanding photographers, even those who occasionally exhibit or
sell their work. Use Photo Paper Pro, and the prints will resist fading
for up to 25 years, if matted and framed under glass and displayed in
an area without direct sunlight. Develop some expertise in making the
right driver settings and the i950 will also produce very good monochrome
prints, though not of the caliber that we expect from a silver-halide
print made by a custom lab.
it employs six inks, the i950 has no difficulty in reproducing
the slight differences in tone in a single color or the
subtle variations between similar (but not identical)
colors. (Photo Paper Plus Glossy; Quality Level 1; Vivid
One of the fastest high-resolution photo printers on the market, the Canon
i950 is also quieter than most, even without switching to the "Silent"
mode. Like all printers that employ an individual ink tank system, this
one is quite economical to operate because there is no need to replace
an entire cartridge when a single color runs out. I found that Photo Magenta
and Photo Cyan tanks needed to be replaced most often. These are the extra
inks that are not available with the more affordable i850 model, and they
help to produce superior color, with greater tonal differentiation and
more subtle gradations. Long-term testing would be required to determine
the cost of ink per print, but the individual ink tank system should keep
the operating cost moderate. (Shop around and you can find individual
Canon tanks for about $10 each.)
If you can't believe that an ink jet printer can generate prints
that are better than conventional photographs, check out the Canon i950
Photo Printer at a store that makes sample prints. You should be impressed,
because this model offers double the resolution and half the ink dot size
of the highly-rated Canon S900 at a price that's about $50 less.
That's remarkable value for a high-speed machine with exceptional
performance, good versatility, and ease of use. If you need to make larger
prints (up to 13x19")--or want driver software with more advanced
controls--ask for a demo of the Canon i9100 ($499); it features the
same technology but employs 4 picoliter size droplets. While that model
will be preferred by some, the more affordable i950 will be a best seller,
understandable because it is an ideal photo printer for the entire family,
from the novice to the photo enthusiast on a limited budget.
· Remarkable printing speed with very quiet operation, virtually
silent in "Silent" mode
· Simplicity: produces high quality photo prints even in automatic
· Borderless printing option for print sizes from 4x6" to
8.5x11", with certain papers
· Excellent color rendition: pleasing skin tones and rich, fully
saturated hues and tones without loss of color subtleties
· Superb print quality: ultrahigh sharpness and resolution of detail;
extremely smooth, without visible dots; no banding
· Economy, with six individual ink tanks that allow for replacement
of a single depleted tank
· Limited documentation and instructions
· Requires experimentation with color adjustment to produce neutral
b&w prints, particularly with glossy paper
· Few advanced options in driver software for serious print makers
· Not optimized for printing on media such as luster, velvet, watercolor,
Maximum Resolution: Up to 4800x1200dpi in color or black
and white; 4800dpi available only with photo papers
Ink Cartridge: Six cartridges in individual tanks: Black,
Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Photo Cyan, Photo Magenta
Maximum Print Size: 8.5x11"
Borderless Printing: Borderless printing selectable with
certain paper types in 4x6" to 8.5x11" paper
Lightfast Rating: 25 years with Photo Paper Pro
OS Compatibility: Windows XP--Pentium 300MHz Processor/128MB
RAM; Windows Me--Pentium 150MHz Processor/32MB RAM; Windows 98--486
Processor/16MB RAM; Windows 2000--Pentium 133MHz Processor/64MB RAM
(Pro.), Pentium 133MHz Processor/256MB RAM (Server); Mac OS 8.6 to 9.x--20MB
RAM; Mac OS X (v 10.1 or later)--128MB available RAM
Standard Interface: USB, cable not included
Dimensions/Weight: 16.5x10.8x6.3"; 10.6 lbs
Software Included: Setup Software & User's
Guide CD-ROM including: Printer Driver, Electronic User's Guide,
Electronic Photo Application Guide, e-registration, Easy-PhotoPrint (Windows),
Easy-WebPrint (Windows), PhotoRecord (Windows), ZoomBrowser EX (Windows),
ImageBrowser (Mac), PhotoStitch (Windows/Mac)
Street Price: $239
For more information, call Canon at (800) 652-2666, or visit their web
site at www.usa.canon.com.