Canon's i9900 Photo Printer
Reaching A New Level Of Ink Jet Performance

Photos © 2004, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

In the last year, the quality and performance levels of dye-based photo ink jet printers have made great strides. Now you can add Canon, with their new 13" wide i9900, as a manufacturer that has pushed the performance quality up to a new level. The primary basis for this breakout is the addition of red and green ink to the standard mix of CMYK colors, plus a light magenta and cyan. This makes a total of eight colors, all in separate ink tanks. This is not a new concept--it has been used in high fidelity offset printing for some years. What it brings to desktop printers is a color gamut range, especially in reproduction of reds and oranges, that's particularly significant to people pictures, and greens that reproduce foliage with greater color fidelity.

The print reproduction of this manipulated Recreation was enhanced by providing rich distinctions between subtle transitions in color between yellows, oranges, and face tones, resulting in a delicate image vibrant with color.

Print image quality is also enhanced with a high 4800x2400 printing resolution and an exceptionally small 2 picoliter ink droplet size, with 6144 nozzles for fine, smooth detail and tonality. The Canon i9900 is not just improved in color print performance, but is really an all-new printer. The computer interface now includes three connections--the standard USB, and a second USB 2.0 Hi-speed receptacle, as well as support for FireWire connection, all of which can be used to access the printer from three different computers, if desired. Additionally there is a receptacle on the front of the printer for direct connection of any digital camera model that supports the PictBridge standard. This allows control of the i9900 directly from the camera to make prints without using a computer. Even though the Canon i9900 is capable of making large 13" wide prints, it is quite compact, clean, and has a pleasing design. For example, it allows you to completely close the printer when not in use, sealing it from any dirt or dust that could affect print output quality.

Along with the new printer comes new software, Canon's Version 2.0 Easy-PhotoPrint. Unlike many "easy" photo image software applications, Canon's is color managed. One of the benefits of this is that rather than generating images for saving or printing from the quality-limited sRGB color space, Easy-PhotoPrint supports Adobe RGB (as do many Canon digital cameras). This preserves a wider color gamut of input as well as output to the printer that will then reproduce a wider range of photo-realistic print colors and tones. Canon's i9900 now supports full color management with profiles for Canon brand and generic papers, very helpful in getting your print to match the image you see on the screen. The result: you can now enjoy the convenience of a consumer software solution while preserving professional-level photographic fidelity in your prints.

Portrait subjects can be challenging when it comes to reproducing flesh tones realistically. The Canon i9900's new range of ink colors contribute to greater subject fidelity with every subject, setting, lighting, and environment.

Printing With The Canon i9900 Photo Printer
Because there is a limited selection of Canon brand papers for use with the i9900 printer, and Canon only sent premium glossy Photo Paper Pro paper for me to use with the printer, I cast about for likely suspects to obtain exhibition-quality matte surface prints. Luckily, I had recently received some samples of Calumet's new Brilliant brand paper (www.calumetphoto.com) as well as some ProJet papers from Adorama (www.adorama.com). Additionally, I made some letter-size prints with some of the standard glossy photo papers you would find at Staples and similar office supply and discount stores.

These days, an increasing number of third-party photo ink jet paper suppliers are making downloadable printer profiles for their papers for many popular printers. But, considering I did my print evaluation immediately after the first production i9900 printers were available, profiles for the third-party papers I used were not available, although I suspect they will be in time. Good fortune in the form of ColorVision's new SpectroPRO Suite for professional-level printer profiling had arrived on my doorstep just days before the i9900. This afforded both the opportunity to try this new product (see sidebar) and provided the means to custom profile the i9900 for all of the non-Canon papers I used to do my printer evaluation.

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