- Review Price: £387.00
If you need to print pages bigger than A4, the price of a suitable ink-jet printer climbs sharply. The economies of scale don’t apply in the same way on these machines and this Canon i9950, intended for semi-pro photographers or well-heeled home customers, comes in at well over three times the price of an equivalent A4 printer.
The design of the i9950 is all about curves. The wide carriage is housed in a semi-circular case, with complex paper feed and paper output trays to hold paper on the way in and out. The output tray is a four-element, telescopic assembly, which can be moved vertically upwards to enable a CD carrier to be positioned under the print head. The printer can cope with specially coated CD blanks and paper from 15 x 10cm, through A4 to A3+, which enables a full-bleed A3 page.
There are only two control buttons on the i9950, for power and paper feed, but there’s also a PictBridge socket, so you can use the printer with a compatible camera, without the need for a PC connection. At the back are USB 2.0 and Firewire sockets, though the Firewire connection can only be used with Canon’s Mac drivers, which is a shame.
The unique thing about this range of Canon printers is its eight-colour print technology. As well as photo-cyan and photo-magenta inks, common as add-ons to the basic four-colour CMYK set in photo printers, the i9950 introduces red and green inks, to increase the colour gamut (range of printable colours) in these two colour spaces.
All these inks are dye-based and all are printed in tiny 2pl drops from the permanent print head, which contains 6,144 separate nozzles. Each of the ink cartridges can be fitted and replaced independently, which should give you good economy, and they simply click into place in the head carrier. On typical print subjects, they’ll all be used at different rates, so separate inks are important.
The usual ‘install drivers and support software and plug in printer’ regime gets you up and running and there a good set of support applets supplied by Canon. These cover basic photo editing and label production, but you’re going to need something more expansive, like Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, for serious tweaking prior to printing.
Canon claims the i9950 can print a full-bleed A3 page in 65 seconds; an impressive claim. We tried printing an A3 image on plain paper and at standard print quality, but couldn’t better 1 minute 31 seconds. Photo printing takes longer still, with an A3 print completing in just over 4 minutes.
Using our standard test pieces, we completed the five page text document in 1:37, the text and graphics page in 27 seconds and a 15 x 10cm photo print in 51 seconds. These times are in the middle of the field for modern photo printers.
Print quality is very good. The two extra colours in the ink-set do produce richer greens and reds, so you get more saturated colours for both landscapes and portraits. The very fine drop size means there’s a high degree of detail in photo reproductions, too, and the light tones of the photo-cyan and photo-magenta inks – one sixth of the density of the standard cyan and magenta inks – keep skies light and smoothly gradated.
The cost of running an ink-jet printer will always depend on the prices you can find for the ink cartridges and paper. Printing five per cent of each of the eight colours in this machine results in a 40 per cent cover page so we’ve halved the overall cost. This gives you a direct comparison with other printers we’ve tested, which produce 20 per cent colour from their four-colour systems.
We found the PR-101 A4 glossy paper at just £7.87 for 50 sheets at Amazon.co.uk, which is a very good price. With the cartridges at £6.20 each and under test producing 450 pages or so – a lot more than Canon’s estimate – we get page costs of 1.86p for five per cent black and 13.4p for 20 per cent colour. Both these figures are particularly good, so long may Amazon continue with this paper price.
If you move to A3 or A3+ paper, you’re paying more, proportionally, than for A4, but then you’re probably printing to sell, and you can factor in the costs in your selling price.
The i9950 is a fine printer, with excellent colour rendition for a machine in this price range. This is due to the extra green and red inks in its eight-colour ink set. It prints reasonably quickly, though not as fast as Canon claims, and has the versatility to handle a wide range of paper sizes. At current consumable prices, it’s also cheap to run, so must be well up the short-list of anybody looking for an A3+ photo printer, at the semi-pro level.
Score in detail
Print Speed 8
Print Quality 9