- Review Date: 08/14/2012
- Bottom line: The Canon Pixma PRO-1 is large, slow, and expensive for an A3+ photo printer, but it delivers where it counts: in producing magnificent, gallery-quality prints.
- Pros: Magnificent photo quality. Especially good for monochrome photos. Above-par graphics and text. Higher-capacity ink tanks than its rivals.
- Cons: Relatively slow. Large and heavy. Pricey for an A3+ printer. Can't print from paper rolls.
The Canon Pixma PRO-1 ($1,000 street) is Canon’s new flagship A3+ photo printer, capable of producing high-quality prints at up to 13 by 19 inches. It is a step up from the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II ($849.99 direct, 4 stars), employing more and larger ink tanks and clocking faster photo-printing speeds. In my testing, this massive printer consistently delivered magnificent, gallery-quality prints, and did particularly well in printing monochrome images and ones with very dark backgrounds.
The Pixma PRO-1 measures 9.5 by 18.2 by 27.4 inches and weighs 61 pounds. Although large and heavy, it's not unattractive, with a matte-black finish and rounded corners. It has only 3 buttons: On, Cancel/Resume, and a button to open the ink compartment. The PRO-1 can print on cut paper sheets up to 13 by 19 inches. It has a rear tray that fits up to 150 sheets, as well as a single-sheet manual feeder, also in back, that supports thicker paper. In addition, it can print on optical discs, using an included tray.
The PRO-1 sports a whopping 12 ink tanks, each with more than twice the volume and a lower cost per milliliter than one of the Mark II's 10 ink tanks. Five of the PRO-1's ink tanks are black or shades of gray; not surprisingly, in my testing the PRO-1 did particularly well in rendering black and near-black shades. The tanks are located in two compartments, one on either side of the output tray. (It's easy to know if the tanks are seated correctly, because each tank has a light on top that will go in when properly installed, and will blink when the tank is drained.)
Colors for the pigment inks include red; yellow; cyan; magenta; photo cyan; photo magenta; matte black; photo black; light gray; gray; dark gray. The twelfth tank is a Chroma Optimizer, a coating that according to Canon covers the bumps between ink droplets to achieve uniform glossiness in dark areas and smooth tonal gradation in colors, increasing the color gamut.
Each of the ink tanks has a 36ml capacity, and Canon sells them for $35.99 each for an even $1 per milliliter. (The Chroma Optimizer tank costs slightly less, $29.99 for the same capacity.) This compares with $1.14 per ml for the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II’s smaller (14ml) tanks, and $1.21 per ml for the Editors' Choice Epson Stylus Photo R3000 ($849 direct, 4.5 stars), whose 8 ink tanks each have a 25.9-ml capacity.
However, cost per ink volume may not translate directly into cost per print, for which neither Canon nor Epson give a figure (and which would be tricky to quantify for printers with so many ink tanks, as it largely depends on what's being printed). Also, Canon doesn't give a rated duty cycle for the PRO-1, so there's no way of knowing how much you can print per month without shortening the life of the printer.
Canon has geared the PRO-1 to professional photographers, but it's also suitable for photo enthusiasts (in which category I number myself) who want to get the best out of their photos—particularly ones who do a lot of black-and-white printing. It's less expensive than most DSLRs, and it's easy to set up and use; the trickiest thing about it may be finding a place to fit its hulking frame.
The Canon Pixma PRO-1 offers USB and Ethernet connectivity, whereas the Pro9500 Mark II is limited to USB connectivity. The Editors' Choice Epson Stylus Photo R3000 can connect via USB, Ethernet, or WiFi.
Printing Speed, Text, and Graphics
Print quality is paramount for this class of photo printer, but photo printing speed is also important, especially to a busy pro. In our testing using QualityLogic's hardware and software for timing, the PRO-1 took an average of 2 minutes 14 seconds to print out a 4-by-6 photo, faster than the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II's 2:35 but much slower than the Epson Stylus Photo R3000's average of 53 seconds per 4-by-6 print. In fact, the R3000's average of 1 minute 41 seconds per 8-by-10 print is actually faster than it took for the PRO-1 to print out a 4-by-6. The PRO-1 averaged 3 minutes 53 seconds per 8-by-10, a step up from the Pro9500's 4:31.
Using a near-dedicated photo printer like the PRO-1 to print text documents is a bit like using a Maserati for grocery runs, but it still prints out excellent text for an inkjet, easily good enough for elegant documents like resumes or for basic marketing materials. Its graphics are also above par, suitable for marketing materials; the worst I could say about them is that some backgrounds could have been darker and some thin, colored lines bolder.
Photos, of course, are this machine's raison d'etre, and in printing them out the PRO-1 excels. Print quality is exquisite, perhaps the best I've seen on an inkjet. Our monochrome test print was tint-less, with great contrast and a smooth, even background. With other prints, colors seemed true, and the printer did well in capturing subtle gradations in skin tones. There were no flaws worth mention.
In addition to our normal test suite, I printed out some ad-hoc 13-by-19-inch images on Canon's semi-gloss paper with the PRO-1. I shoot a lot of night scenes and have a particular interest in astrophotography, and photos of the night sky proved a perfect venue for testing its ability to handle black and near-black shades. I was particularly impressed with its ability to print even, dark shades with uniform ink density. (It seems that the Chroma Optimizer was working as billed, not to mention the five black or gray ink tanks.)
The near-dedicated photo printers from Canon and Epson both produce magnificent prints, though they have slightly different qualities, and those in the market for a professional-grade photo printer will want to compare output from models from each brand to see which they prefer.
The Canon Pixma PRO-1 is a formidable A3+ professional-grade photo printer, capable of consistently printing out exquisite, gallery-quality prints at up to 13-by-19-inch size. It does particularly well in printing out monochrome or nearly black output, as befitting its multiple black and gray ink tanks. Although a good professional-grade printer, it should also appeal to advanced amateurs who want to get the most out of their images. I can strongly recommend it for its superb output.
In our review of the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II, we lauded it for its top-notch black-and-white output, and the PRO-1 does at least as well. The PRO-1 is faster at printing than the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II. It also offers larger and more ink tanks, and a lower cost per milliliter of ink than either the Pro9500 Mark II or the Editors' Choice Epson Stylus Photo R3000, though that doesn't necessarily translate directly into lower cost per page.
The R3000 is smaller, lighter, and faster than the PRO-1, has a lower price tag, and adds the ability to print from paper rolls in sizes up to 13 by 44 inches as well as WiFi connectivity and a color LCD control panel. Both printers produce exquisite, top-tier prints, and the Canon Pixma PRO-1's masterful handling of monochrome printing should make it attractive to professionals and photo enthusiasts alike.
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