Canon PIXMA PRO-100: Let the Dye be Cast
K Madhavan Pillai tests the dye based Canon PIXMA PRO-100, which is currently amongst the least expensive professional A3+ printer of its kind.
Professional desk based home user inkjet printing has always been a challenge for manufacturers. Apart from affordability, the biggest questions have been about quality, print longevity, workflow, colour, space consumed by the printer, and service.
First unveiled at photokina 2012, the new PIXMA PRO series is Canon’s answer to these questions. The PRO-100 is the most affordable option in this series. It succeeds the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II, which is still available for a slightly lower price. The Mark II uses ten tanks of pigment based Lucia inks while the PRO-100 uses eight tanks of Canon’s ChromaLife 100+ dye based inks.
The PRO-100 is a 13×19-inch printer that does exhibition level archival printing (with or without borders). It prints at a resolution of 4800 dpi horizontally and 2400 vertically, using 6,144 nozzles to put out ink droplets as small as three picolitres. It supports both Wi-Fi and ethernet connectivity, and iOS devices are supported through AirPrint.
While these features are not unique, the PRO-100 series boasts of a proprietary Optimum Image Generating (OIG) system, an inheritance from the flagship of the PRO series, the PRO-1. The OIG system analyses colour, calculates optimum ink combinations and the precise volume of ink droplets, allowing a significantly improved economy with the inks. Canon also claims that the system produces good tonal gradations and uniform glossiness in each print mode and media type, to produce quality ‘that jumps off the page’.
A bit about the inks… dye inks are generally considered slightly inferior to pigment inks, especially in terms of tonality and longevity. Yet, Canon greatly advocates their newly developed ChromaLife 100+ range. These inks are rated to last 300 years on archival paper and within an archival album, or 30 years without fading, within a frame in indoor lighting conditions. Dye inks have two big advantages… colours have a little bit of extra punch, and it can produce superbly glossy prints.
Of particular interest is that three of the eight ink tanks of the Pro-100 are grayscale. There is a black, gray and light gray. Considering this, I was keen to find out how black and white images reproduced. The PRO-100 can print on a variety of media from 4×6 inches up to A3+ (upto 350g/m2), including printable CDs and labels.
Included software is Canon’s Print Studio Pro, a plug-in for pro users of Photoshop and Lightroom, and Digital Photo Professional (Canon’s image processing software for their SLRs). For the casual user, a Quick Menu provides easy access to a user-friendly, but rather limiting, software suite called My Image Garden.
The printer feels solidly built and is actually quite easy to operate. Before the printer is set up, the ink tanks need to be installed. This is simple enough for a first time user to do. The printer drivers and software needs to be loaded, which is a process of selecting the required options as it appears on the screen. At the end of the installation, the software asks for a print head alignment by loading a few sheets of plain paper. All of this went through without a hitch. Beyond this point, the tough part begins. You need to inform the printer about the type of paper that is being used, select the right colour profiles, and then sift through a variety of printer options and figure out what works best in terms of colours and accuracy.
The first couple of prints that I made were uninspiring, to say the least. Oddly enough, the Canon engineers who were present while the installation was being done, were just as much at a loss. They explained that it was their very first PRO series installation! After wasting several expensive sheets of Hahnemühle Glossy FineArt in trial and error, I decided to experiment on my own with narrow test strips till I got it right.
With printers like the PRO-100, you need to understand the basics of colour management to get the very best results. For instance, if you are working with an older, visually calibrated CRT monitor with a lower gamut, letting the printer manage colours gives the best results. On the other hand, if you want Photoshop or Lightroom to manage colours accurately, it needs to be a professional grade monitor that can be perfectly calibrated to the output. Once I got through with this bit, I was very, very thrilled with the quality of prints.
Everything from extremely fine lines to tonal gradations withstood our tests under a magnifying glass. I personally loved the saturation and the gloss. Despite the added punch that the dye inks delivered, colours were accurate across the range. I liked the results with Canon’s own Pro Luster Photo Paper, which has a fine matte sheen. However, the printer really showed its very best results with Hahnemühle Glossy FineArt Baryta.
I ran several of my high resolution black and white photographs through the printer. The PRO-100 did an outstanding job with it. My highlights, shadows, grain, detail… all reproduced superbly well. In fact, my first images were much better than I expected them to be. With slight adjustments to remove a barely perceptible yellow cast, the prints were perfect.
The Pro-100 costs Rs. 47,995, which is a good price for a printer of its type. However, each individual ink tank of 13ml costs Rs. 1295, or Rs. 10,360 for a set. About 40 to 50 A3+ sized high quality prints are possible with a set of inks. With each sheet of good quality paper averaging Rs. 150, the cost of an A3+ sized print would be Rs. 350.
If you plan to recover the cost of the printer within 500 A3+ prints, the cost per print goes up to about Rs. 450. Professional inkjet printing establishments offer a similar level of quality at Rs. 350 to 400. Thus, printing with the PRO-100 is slightly more expensive.
However, if you need a quality oriented printing solution for use within the home or in a studio, the PIXMA PRO-100 should certainly be at the very top of your personal wishlist.
A3+ size archival prints, 8 dye-based ink tanks, 3 grayscale inks, wifi, ethernet,
Impressive saturation, tonal range and gradation, glossy finish, exemplary B&W
Solidly built, but needs careful handling
Easy to use, needs considerable desk space
|Warranty & Support
Two-year on-site tech support & warranty
|VALUE FOR MONEY||4/5 Stars|
|Who should buy it?||Anyone who wants the convenience of making high quality archival prints at home.|
|Why?||Despite the higher media, ink and overall printing costs, the printer itself is inexpensive. Besides, the quality of printing is simply superb.|