The Pro 9000 Mark II is a rather simple looking printer; there are no screens, only a handful of buttons and a single flashing light that warns of an error. There are three seperate paper input trays; the main one on the top of the printer, a front paper tray for loading large paper, and a flat paper tray on the back that can be used with thick card or fabric that can't be curved.
The back of the Pro 9000 Mark II is as button and blinky light free as the front. The only interesting features are the USB port, the power socket, the wheels (which make moving the printer forward and back easier) and the rear paper path, which allows thick media to be printed without any bending. In the photo below, the main paper tray on the top of the printer is in its folded down position.
At the time of writing, Canon sells a complete set of 8 cartridges for $104.99, and the individual cartridges are available for $15. You can pick up the complete set from Amazon for around $80, though, and the ink cartridges are the same ones used in the Pro 9000.
The ink cartridges sit inside the printer in a tray above the print head. When you open the front of the printer, this try amoves out to the middle of the revealed space to provide easy access. Each of the ink cartridges can be removed individually, and a small LED light on each one identifies the one that needs changing when the ink runs low. There are 8 cartridges: green, red, photo magenta, black, photo cyan, cyan, magenta and yellow.
** In the Box **
The Pro 9000 Mark II does not come with a huge number of extra bells and whistles in the box:
• Getting Started manual
• Drivers CD
• Photoshop Elements CD
• Set of ink cartridges
One thing that is noticeably absent is the USB cable; you'll need to bring your own to print, as the USB ports on the front and back are the only way to send prints to the printer.
**Setup & Manuals ***(7.5) *
The Pro 9000 Mark II was not a difficult printer to set up, and the process is well described in the included getting started manual. We were able to go from cracking the box open to making our first print in about 35 minutes, which is pretty decent for a complex printer like this. The setup process involves unboxing the printer, taking off the myriad bits of sticky tape that hold the bits in place during shipping, installing the print head, then installing the ink cartridges and waiting for a few minutes while the printer initializes. Once that's all done you can install the drivers and software and start printing. Once the software is installed, the software automatically runs a print head alignment test to make sure that the printer is working correctly.
There are two manuals for the Pro 9000: the printed quick start manual that comes in the box and the full manual that is on the CD. Both of these are well put together and cover most of the things that you will need to know, with the quick start guide covering the setup process in some detail. The full manual is divided into two sections, one for basic operations and one for advanced operations. Both manuals can be downloaded here.
**Drivers ***(7.0) *
In a move that will please many users, Canon includes drivers and software for both Mac and PC users on the same CD that is included with the printer. The drivers are the programs that deal with the communication between the image editing program and the printer itself, and on both platforms they were straightforward and easy to use. We had no major problems performing common tasks such as changing the type of print or setting the media to use.
Windows users get 5 different screens on their version of the printer driver: Quick Setup. Main, Page Setup, Effects and Maintenance.
Mac users are presented with 4 different screens for controlling the printer, with screens for Quality and Media, Color Options, Borderless Printing and Margin.
**Software ***(7.5) *
The software selection that comes with the Pro 9000 Mark II is a little sparse, but adequate; both PC and Mac users get a copy of Canon's own Easy-PhotoPrint EX software and a copy of Photoshop Elements 6, a very capable photo catalogging and editing application. It isn't as powerful as the full version of Photoshop, but it is more than capable of handling most iamge editing tasks.
**Other Software ***(0.0) *
The Pro 9000 Mark II does not come with any other software, such as network scanning, printing, etc.
**Photo Print Speed ***(2.54) *
High-end photo printers tend to sacrifice speed for quality, and the Pro 9000 Mark II is no exception to this; it was a rather slow printer, taking about 43 seconds to produce a 4 by 6 print in its highest quality print mode on glossy photo paper. Larger prints also took a significant amount of time; the largest 13 by 19 inch prints that the printer can produce took an average of 4 minutes 37 seconds to produce. However, it is quicker than the Epson R1900, which we measured at laggardly 6 minutes and 5 secodns for a 13 by 19 print. But we should note that this was with the Epson printing in the Photo RPM mode, which slows it down somewhat.
**Document Print Speed ***(0.92) *
Although the Pro 9000 Mark II is not designed for printing documents, you may need to occasionally print out something on standard paper. Again, the Pro 9000 Mark II was rather slow here; printing out a standard business document in the highest print quality mode onto US letter paper, we found that it managed a very slow 0.88 pages per minute. This is a little slower than the Epson R1900 (which managed just over 2 pages a minute). If quality is less important than speed, you can use the Pro 9000 Mark II's fast mode, which cranks this up to a much more acceptable 7.52 pages per minute, although the quality does suffer somewhat; colors get rather muted and there was some slight banding on the page. It would be fine for printing out a quick note, but you should stick with the highest quality mode for printing out anything important.
The bottom line here is that the Pro 9000 Mark II is okay for occasional plain paper document printing, but it would be frustratingly slow for anything other than this. If you want to print anything other than a few pages on plain paper, invest in a cheap document printer as well as this printer, or go for a printer that can do photos as well as documents at a higher speed.
Print Initialization* (6.00) *
Again, the Pro 9000 Mark II was rather slow here; we found that there was often a significant gap between pressing print and the printer grabbing the paper to begin printing, often up to 30 seconds. This seemed to be caused by the printer cleaning the print heads, and it seemed to happen every time we did a print more than a few minutes after the previous one. While this no doubt helps to avoid bad prints caused by dried ink blocking the print head, it is a little irritating to have to waith while the printer clunks and grinds its way through the cleaning process, especially as the software does not give any indication that is going on - the printer driver just shows the print as being in progress while it is clunking away.
**Color Accuracy ***(5.91) *
The primary aim of any photo printer should be to print colors accurately, so that you get the same colors in your printout that you have in your photos, and we found that the Pro 9000 Mark II did a decent job here; when calibrated, it could produce mostly accurate color, although the default profile was a little inaccurate. We test this by printing out a color chart that contains 24 known colors that are often found in photos, including skin tones and greys and then measuring the colors in the print using a professional photospectrometer to determine the difference between the original color and the printed version, which gives us the color error. We repeat this test three times, using the default profile shipped with the printer printing onto the manufacturer's preferred photo paper, using a custom profile created using a printer calibration package on the same preferred paper and with another custom profile printing onto Ilford Galerie Semi Gloss paper. On the chart below, you see the results for all of these tests, plus comparison results from other printers. The number is the CIEDE 2000 Delta E color error; the larger the number, the larger the color error.
NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above may not match the results used for evaluating color accuracy. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the exact printed colors.
As you can see from the results above, the Canon did a decent job on most of the colors, but there were a few areas where it has problems. Printing onto Canon's own Photo Paper Pro II with their default profile for this paper, the blues and the greens were significantly oversaturated, which could lead to overly blue skies and somewhat florescent looking plants. Some might argue that this is a good thing; if you are looking for the blue remembered hills or the green, green grass of home, you might find this to be an attractive look. But we look for accuracy in this test, and with the default profile an already blue sky could come out luridly blue.
Our custom profile (which you can download here) dealt with this to some degree: the colors we saw from prints with this were much closer to the origionals, and this underlines the benefit of producing a custom color profile for a high-end printer like this; you can get much more accurate results after this calibration. We also test printing onto Ilford Galerie Smooth Glossy paper with another custom profile, but this didn't turn out that well; even with the custom profile, the colors were more inaccurate than the default profile on Canon's own paper. It is also worth remembering that the results you may get from this printer are very dependent on the paper that you print on; different papers will have very different results. Epson themselves sells 5 different types of glossy photo paper, and there are many other manufacturers out there. So, it makes sense to do your research and find a paper type that you like if you are serious about getting the best results.
The color gamut of a printer is the range of colors it can display; the bigger this gamut, the more colors it can accurately represent. We found that the Pro 9000 Mark II had slightly dissapointing results here; it managed to cover just under 40% of the Adobe RGB gamut. The graph below shows the Adobe RGB color gamut (the grid pattern) and the gamut that the printer achieved (the solid body). We don't expect any printer to cover the entire gamut, but we do hope that they get close, as the closer the printer gets to the Adobe RGB color gamut, the wider the range of colors it can show and the better it performs.
As you can see from this, the Pro 9000 Mark II doesn't reach into some of the wider parts of the gamut range; the Adobe RGB space (the grid) is much wider than what the printer could accurately reproduce (the solid in the middle) particularly in the green and red extremes of the gamut. By comparison, the Epson R1900 covers a significantly wider portion of the gamut, managing just over 47%, which means it can reproduce a wider set of colors. We test color gamut by printing out a specially calibrated image containing a spectrum of colors in the most accurate color mode, scanning the print and using a program called GamutVision to analyze the range of colors in the print. For more on how we test, see this page.
Depth of Blacks*(6.21)*
The deeper the blacks that a printer can produce, the more realistic prints from it will look. We found that the Pro 9000 Mark II had very good blacks; we measured the DMax (the maximum density of black that it can produce) at a very decent 2.18. The bigger this number, the denser and deeper the blacks are. Although that is a very respectable score, it is not quite as high as the Epson R1900, which had a DMax of 2.31. However, the DMax of the Pro 9000 is nothing to be ashamed of, and our test prints had very rich, deep blacks when printed on glossy paper.
Having great color accuracy is no good if the printer can't reproduce fine details, but we found that this was not a big issue on the Pro 9000 Mark II; in our tests, we found that it was very capable of rendering small, fine details. To test this, we print out a number of test photos and analyze the results, looking at how well the printer reproduced the fine details of things like color gradients, subtle black lines and detail in a number of photos of real things.
As you can see from the examples, the Canon Pro 9000 Mark II had no problems reproducing color gradients; there is no evidence of banding or stepping in them. There is, however, a slight dark patch in the middle of the magenta where the printer seems to be trying to darken the magenta slightly. But that's a very minor issue. The color gradeints we use in this test go from 0 to 100% in the cyan, magenta, yellow and black colors.
Our tests with a number of real photos show that the Pro 9000 Mark II did an excellent job of reproducing fine details, although there were some minor issues. On the etching of Alice (from the origional edition, with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel) you can see that the fine lines on Alice's hair and hands are slightly lost; the strands of hair blur together. Likewise, on the photo of the dog, the white hairs on his muzzle and the highlights in his eyes are a little lost. You can get a closer look at how the Pro 9000 Mark II creates edges with out tilted ege test, which shows a highly magnified scan of a slanted line. Here, you can see how the printer uses different sized ink dots to create a smooth edge, and how the blacks on the prints are not actually completely solid; some of the white paper still shows through between the dots. As the scans above also show, the Epson R1900 was slightly better when it came to detail; the fine details on the Alice scan are slightly more defined (such as the cross lines on her cheek), and the slanted edge is slightly sharper.
The Pro 9000 uses 8 seperate ink cartridges: red, green, cyan, magenta, yellow and black, plus special photo inks that improve the magenta and cyan in photo prints. Each of these cartridges can be changed seperately, and a blinking red LED on the front of the cartridge shows which one is due to be changed when it runs low.
At the time of writing, Canon sells a complete set of 8 cartridges for $104.99, and the individual cartridges are available for $15. You can pick up the complete set from Amazon for around $80, though, and the ink cartridges are the same ones used in the Pro 9000. This means that this is not a cheap printer to use, but it's comparable with others of this type; a full set of inks for the Epson R1900 costs about the same. Canon claims that their ChromaLife 100 inks will last up to 100 years in an album, or up to 30 years in a display case. We weren't able to test this, but more details of their claims are available here.
The Pro 9000 Mark II does a decent job of keeping you posted on how much ink there is left in the driver; the included utility program shows the estimated level in all of the tanks. It also didn't seem to be overly pessimistic in its estimates; we only got low ink warnings when the ink cartridge was almost completely empty. There is no way to print with one empty cartridge, though; if your un out of one of the color inks and need a print urgently, you'll have to wait for the replacement to turn up. You can, however, produce a print on plain paper if one of the photo cartridges is exhausted.
The Pro 9000 Mark II can handle a lot of different types of media, including paper sizes from 4 by 6 all the way up to 13 by 19 inches. It can also handle thick paper and card that doesn't like to be bent, as it has a straight-through paper path. This means that you could use the Pro 9000 to produce prints onto stiff card, which is useful for producing things like models or prototypes. There are some things missing here, though; there is no support for DVD printing, T-Shirt printing, both of which can be produced by the similarly priced Epson R1900. There is also no support for banner printing, while again the R1900 comes with support for banner printing from a roll of paper. The Pro 9000 Mark II supports borderless printing on all of the paper sizes up to 13 by 19, although this slows down the printer quite considerably.
**Paper Storage ***(6.0)*
The single paper tray on the Pro 9000 is the main input tray on the back, which can hold up to 150 sheets of plain paper. However, this is not a printer that is likely to be used this way much, as this will be more likely to be used to hold photo paper. The other paper paths (such as the front paper tray or the flat paper path at the back of the printer can hold only a handful of sheets.
Ambient Light Correction - Canon makes much of their Ambient Light Correction feature, a new feature on the driver that applies color correction for different light sources, shifting the colors to the blue if you are displaying it under incandescent lighting, for instance. We found the effect to be interesting, but we doubt that many people will actually use it; most serious photographers will want to try and control the light rather than fiddling with the colors in their prints. And the software only works with Windows Vista: XP or Mac users don't get access to it.
There are only a handful of controls on the Pro 9000 itself; most of the controls are in the driver software that runs on the computer. But the few buttons on the front of the printer are well placed and are easy to find. From the top, we have controls for power, to resume or feed in paper and to activate the flat paper path. Right below this is the PictBridge USB port.
There is no display on the printer itself, apart from two lights by the control buttons that blink.
Because there is no display, there is also no menus on the printer itself. All of the hot menu action happens in the device driver software.
There are no media slots on the Pro 9000, but there is a solitary USB PictBridge port on the front that allows for direct printing from a compatiable digital camera or other device. And most cameras and camcorders are compatiable with this widely used standard.
The Pro 9000 does not come with any wireless networking capabilities out of the box, but Canon does sell a $100 adapter (the Silex wireless print adapter) that can turn any of their printers into a wireless network device.
There are no ethernet ports on the Pro 9000; the aforementioned Silex wireless adapter is the only way to connect this printer to a network.
The Epson R1900 has the advantage on most of our tests; it had better color accuracy, a wider gamut and deeper blacks. However, the Pro 9000 Mark II was no slouch in any of our tests; it had very creditable results all round when properly calibrated.
Inks & Media
Both printers have excellent support for producing large prints; both support producing borderless prints up to 13 by 19 inches on a variety of different paper types, including art paper. The Pro 9000 Mark II does have a the benefit of a straight paper path (so it can work woth thick card or other media that can't be curved), but the R1900 also supports printing onto DVDs and producing banner prints at sizes up to 13 by 44 inches. The latter can be especially useful for panoramas: that's big enough to produce a print of a nice landscape that would look awesome on the wall. So it's a question of which is more important for the type of printing you want to do: the straight through paper path of the Pro 9000 Mark II or the braoder medai support and banner printing of the R1900.
The R1900 also has the advantage of the gloss enhancer ink, which seems to do a very decent job of adding an extra protective glossy layer to prints. Although the cartridges don't last long, this is a definite advantage if you are producing prints that you want to keep for a long time.
Both printers proved to be very easy to use, with well designed interfaces and decent software packages that add to the flexibility of the printer. However, the Pro 9000 Mark II was the faster printer: we found that it was significantly faster, especially with larger prints.
The Epson was somewhat faster when printing onto plain paper, though: it managed just over 2 pages per minute while the Canon managed less than 1.
Meet the tester
Richard Baguley is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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