Canon Pixma Pro-1 £799
11th May 2012 | 10:15
Canon's big, fat, high-end A3+ printer is the best yet
The Canon Pixma Pro-1 A3+ printer stands at the top of Canon's Pixma Pro inkjet printer range. Priced at £799 in the UK and $999.99 in the US and aimed squarely at 'serious' professional photographers, the Pro-1 is pitched as the world's first 12-ink system.
Strictly speaking, it houses 11 coloured inks (five of which are dedicated monochrome ones) plus Canon's new 'Chroma Optimizer' that's designed to cover the bumps between ink droplets, levelling the print surface and boosting its glossiness.
Similar to Canon's previous range-topping A3+ printer, the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II, the Pixma Pro-1 uses Lucia pigment inks for improved fade resistance. Light fastness for Canon semi-gloss Photo Paper Plus is rated at 80 years, with prints on the same paper stock stored in an album said to last over 200 years.
With a capacity of 36ml, each of the Canon Pixma Pro-1's 12 ink tanks holds 2.5 times the ink of those in the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II's 10 tanks. It might prove to be as thirsty as its stablemate, but at least it should mean less frequent cartridge changes.
Frankly, you'll want to put off buying new ink for as long as you can. With a full tank of Canon Pixma Pro-1 pigment coming in at £29.99 or $35.99, it means the full dozen will set you back approximately £360, or $425.
However, when you factor in the large capacity of each tank, this works out at around 83p or $1 per ml. That doesn't look too bad when compared to the Epson R3000's 92.5p or $1.22 per ml (based on the current list price of £23.98 or £31.49 for a 25.9ml ink cartridge).
However, handing over £360 or $425 for a full set of Canon Pixma Pro-1 inks still doesn't feel like such a bargain.
Like the Canon Pixma Pro95000 Mark II, the Canon Pixma Pro-1 offers a print resolution of up to 4800 x 2400 dpi.
The FINE print head is significantly upgraded though, offering 12,288 nozzles (with a minimum 4pl droplet size), compared to the Pro9500's 7,680 (minimum 3pl).
Connectivity has been updated too. Although Canon continues to offer USB 2.0, rather than USB 3.0, the Canon Pixma Pro-1 also supports Ethernet, making it easier to integrate into a network.
The Canon Pixma Pro-1's prodigious high-end specification is matched by an equally immense footprint. Measuring 69.5 x 46.2 x 23.9cm, it swallows a considerable amount of desktop space.
It's a heavyweight printer in every sense of the word. Weighing in at approximately 27.7kg (almost twice as heavy as the A3+ Epson R3000), the Canon Pixma Pro-1 is the largest, heaviest A3+ printer we've ever tested. The 'two-man lift' warning stickers our test unit's packaging certainly caused raised eyebrows
Although it might be the size of an air-conditioning unit, thankfully the Canon Pixma Pro-1 isn't styled that way. In fact, it makes earlier printers in Canon's Pixma Pro line look, well, a little cheap.
Taking design cues from Canon's high-end EOS camera bodies, the Canon Pixma Pro-1 has a distinctive, curved and minimalist style. From the two large silver buttons on the front, to the reassuringly heavyweight trays and lids, there's a premium feel to the Canon Pixma Pro-1.
The 12 separate ink tanks are accessed via the two front panels. Pressing the release button on the top of the printer opens these, and replacing the cartridges is a straightforward process.
Out test unit arrived with the print head and half-full ink tanks already in place. We had to replace a number of the tanks, but their large capacity meant that none of them ran dry during the considerable load of our tests.
Under Canon's standard A3+ testing, ink tank life is put from 90 photos (Chroma Optimizer) to 505 photos (Matte Black) and we have no reason to doubt these figures (with only one full set of inks supplied with our printer, we couldn't measure this under test conditions).
According to Canon, the Pixma Pro-1 is also said to produce 'photo lab quality speed', with a standard A3+ print delivered in approximately 2m 55s.
Naturally, print speed depends on many factors, including picture content, print medium, border size and whether default settings are used or not, but we recorded a standard A3+ print speed of approximately 4m 03s.
Switching to high quality output more than doubled the print time to around 9m 40s, while a typical high quality A4 print came in at around 3m 40s.
At least the Canon Pixma Pro-1 is hushed in operation. Aside from the mechanics of resetting, mixing and flushing typical of a pigment inkjet, during printing it proved surprisingly quiet and unobtrusive.
Unlike the less expensive Canon Pixma Pro printers, the Canon Pixma Pro-1 doesn't come bundled with a copy of Photoshop Elements, but it does include Canon's Easy-PhotoPrint Pro plug-in.
This enables you to sidestep the regular printing menus in favour of this all-in-one interface for colour management, layout style, and print order.
If you choose to use your software to control printing directly instead (we used Photoshop CS5 on a MacBook Pro 2.4GHz running OS 10.7), you can of course opt for the software to manage the colours rather than the printer.
This automatically disables the Colour Matching in the printer driver, avoiding the inaccurate colours and casts caused by double profiling in both the software and printer driver.
No doubt about it, the Canon Pixma Pro-1 is capable of staggeringly refined print quality. Using the Canon Pixma Pro-1's supplied ICC profiles, prints look dynamic and punchy, thanks to a strong grip on contrast.
Sometimes this comes at the expense of shadow detail and indeed, in our printer test chart it's very hard to distinguish between the two darkest sections of the greyscale wedge when viewed directly.
This greyscale performance is similar to that revealed in our Epson R3000 review and, again, is something that should be resolved through accurate profiling (in the Canon Pixma Pro-1's case, using Canon's Colour Management Tool Pro software, provided with the printer, and X-Rite calibration hardware).
Checking the resolution patterns with a loupe, it's clear that the Canon Pixma Pro-1 is capable of resolving an impressive degree of fine detail. There's no discernible stepping in the concentric circles and diagonal lines - it shows an advantage over the Epson R3000 here - and the spacing between the one and two pixel lines appears crisp and even.
In terms of colour reproduction, the transitions on our test chart are smooth, although the gradation from yellow to orange in the rainbow test chart is more fluid on the Epson R3000. With the printer driver controlling colour, cyan, magenta, yellow and black appear particularly strong.
Real world images prove equally as vivid, even with the printer driver doing the colour management. Blue skies are vibrant, red autumn leaves look rich without becoming cartoon-like, and skin tones are natural and accurate.
The Canon Pixma Pro-1 makes it simple to get high quality monochrome prints, too. For black and white reproduction, there are five monochrome inks: Photo Black (used on glossy media only), Matte Black, Dark Grey, Grey and Light Grey. The result is a cast-free, neutral print with strong contrast levels on glossy paper.
The Canon Pixma Pro-1's contrast gives black and white prints bite, although as with colour prints, shadows can sometimes lack insight with the printer in 'out of the box' uncalibrated mode.
We tested the Canon Pixma Pro-1 with a wide range of printing papers, including Canon's high gloss and semi-gloss stock, which showed off the sometimes subtle but effective Chroma Optimizer (there are three options, but we left it on auto).
We also trialled a range of fine art matt papers - the Canon Pixma Pro-1 puts in an excellent performance here, too, although it's a shame that you can't print borderless on heavyweight fine art paper (although you can obviously select a different paper type in the Media Type menu as a workaround).
Despite the Canon Pixma Pro-1 being designed with the needs of professional photographers in mind, it's a printer to be coveted by enthusiast photographers who want the ultimate in image quality.
The Pixma Pro-1 is Canon's best desktop inkjet so far, and is sure to influence further printer releases from the company. Prints produced by this A3+ inkjet don't come much better, and it's a stylish and efficient piece of hardware to live with.
If you're upgrading from a quality desktop photo printer such as the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II, you're unlikely to see a step-change in performance. There's no denying that the Canon Pixma Pro-1 is a bit of a beast, too, both in terms of initial outlay and the amount of desktop space it occupies. This is a BIG, heavy printer.
There's lots to like here, from the confidence-inspiring build quality and performance to the commercially sound ink price and print longevity.
Although it doesn't redefine our expectations of desktop printing - the Epson Stylus Pro R3000 and Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II are very capable machines that produce impressive A3 prints - the Canon Pixma Pro-1 sets the new benchmark.
If you're in the market for a new A3+ printer, you can afford it and you've got the space to house it, then the Canon Pixma Pro-1 represents an excellent investment.