Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Canon imagePROGRAF iPF 5000 Printer

I've been using the Canon iPF5000 at work for a few months now, so I thought it was about time I gave it a bit of a plug.

Prior to using the 5000, I used an Epson 4000 wide format printer which, like the Canon, is a 'pigment' based printer for longer-lasting archival quality inkjet printing. Traditional inket printers use a 'dye' based ink which fades quite quickly, especially when exposed to UV light (behind glass when framed for your wall). I have ink-based prints that I have framed and hung on the wall that are now looking quite faded - after only a year or so.

Independent research has shown, however, that even under glass, pigment based prints are extremely archival and should last a lifetime. When you are selling prints to the public, this is a very important consideration. If you are printing out your own images for sale, pigment printers are the only way to go.

Canon's iPF5000 uses twelve inks, which is a step up from the Epson 4000's ten. The Canon has a conventional black, as well as a matt black, which it switches between automatically depending on the paper type selected. In this respect, the Canon is a great choice for photographers who print a lot of black and white, as it handles the switch between colour and b&w much better than the current Epson's do.

The only down-side to the Canon's cartridges is that they are only available in a standard 130ml capacity (and the inks supplied by Canon to get you going are only 90ml, with half that used just to prime the inks to the printhead). Epson allow the use of much larger 250ml cartridges (at twice the price obviously). As a general rule with the Epson I could get about a year's worth of steady printing out of a cartridge - not bad really. So I must assume that the Canon's 130ml cartridges should last approximately 6 months each - again, depending on how much printing you are doing.

The iPF5000 is what's called a 'large format' printer, able to print up to A2+ in width (17" across) and up to a meter long. Sheets are fed either through a cassette at the bottom of the printer, through a single sheet feed at the top, or through the optional roll feed at the back (as seen above). If you are going to be doing a lot of large printing (and hey, why wouldn't you), then the optional roll feeder is a very good investment.

The iPF5000 supports a multitude of papers and sizes, as well as canvas printing, and prints very quickly by using two print heads. More importantly, these print heads are user replaceable and don't require a service technician.

The iPF5000 is very easy to use and I find it much more user-friendly than the Epson 4000. With the Epson I was forever loosing prints due to printhead clogging - the bane of pigment printers. I'm very glad to say that there is none of that with the Canon, thanks to a very clever self-cleaning regime that it undertakes regularly. Every time I send a job to the Canon I know it's going to print all the colours, with no clogging, first time, every time.

So what about print quality? Well, it's nothing short of astounding, with beautiful colours and faithful black & whites. Not worrying about clogging is a huge advantage over the Epson, and it seems to behave itself as it should (unlike the Epson which seemed to have a mind of its own).

It isn't a small printer - no large format A2+ printer is, so you'll want to have a lot of bench space, set it up, and forget it. This isn't a portable printer. But it is a fantastic printer, and I would highly recommend it above the Epson.

If you don't want something quite as big, but still need a pigment based printer, then also check out Canon's Pixma Pro 9500. It's a smaller A3 printer, but has the same fantastic quality and reliability of it's bigger brother the iPF5000.

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