Pro Review: Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II
Canon’s penchant for refining existing models rather than develop replacements from the ground up goes not only for their cameras, but also for their printers. The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II is one of the latest examples. This wide-format printer builds on the original Pro9500’s success, with a 10 cartridge LUCIA pigment ink set, and the ability to print borderless 13 x 19 prints on a variety of media. The Mark II utilizes the Canon Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) technology along with a sophisticated 7,680-nozzle print-head structure to output extraordinary detail and quality. New with the Mark II are features like the ability to print 16-bit files, and Ambient Light Correction featuring Kyuanos technology, which allows the user to specify the lighting situation a particular print will be subjected to prompting the printer to adjust colors accordingly to compensate.
The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II is designed to fulfill photographers’ demands and uses a multiplicity of ink colors to achieve wide-gamut color printing as well as smooth tonal gradations on black-and-white printing on both matte and glossy papers. Impressively, there is no need to swap ink tanks as required with some competitive printers aimed at the same market segment. The superiority of this arrangement is obvious, but as a practical matter, it saves both time and ink, especially if you frequently alternate between printing on matte and photo papers.
This is a serious desktop printer, and it requires a significant space commitment (7.5" H 26" W 14" D with trays up; 14" H 26" W 36" D with trays extended). In addition to the size of the printer itself, consideration must be given to the space requirements both in front of and behind the printer to accommodate art papers, which are fed in through the front and pulled through the back of the printer before printing starts. The benefit of feeding the paper through this way is that it does not get bent at all, which preserves the coating, but a 13x19-inch Super B sheet extends significantly out the back of the printer to accomplish this, requiring some careful consideration about printer placement.
Setting up the printer is relatively straightforward, requiring little more than placing the printhead in its cradle, inserting the ink cartridges and installing the supplied software. Connectivity to the computer is via USB 2.0, which is common for this type of printer, but it would really be nice if manufacturers would start including Ethernet connectivity at this level, as it makes locating the printer and sharing it between multiple computers considerably more convenient. Given that Ethernet connection is available on All-In-Ones costing a fraction of the price of this printer, it remains a mystery why it’s not included on a Pro9500 Mark II.
The printer comes with bundled software that can be used to print images directly, as well as a Photoshop plug-in, which facilitates printing multiple copies of an image on a sheet, printing color images as black and white, adjusting the color tone of images, etc. Users may have to hunt for the plug-in, as it is tucked away under file > automate > Canon Easy Photo Print Pro.
The Pro9500 Mark II printing process is very flexible, allowing both neophytes and more experienced users to obtain stunning prints with little difficulty. Advanced users will like the degree of control afforded by the printer driver and the Adobe Photoshop plug-in. The less tech-savvy will appreciate the straightforward approach to printing that the included software allows. The user can select grayscale printing in the printer driver itself, and even adjust the warmth or coolness of the tone. This driver-controlled black-and-white conversion does a reasonably good job, but for superior control over the results, convert to black and white in Photoshop or Lightroom.
One minor quibble I have with the print driver is that the control to disable color correction, as is necessary when using ICC profiles to print, is a separate window and tab away from the main interface. It would be nice to have a checkbox on the main screen rather than having to dig for it. Since using ICC profiles is the preferred method for color accuracy, it should be easier to disable color adjustments and confirm at a glance that it is, indeed, off, since the consequence of failing to do so is an unacceptable print and wasted consumables.
The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II produces brilliant prints, especially on fine art paper. Canon supplies ICC profiles for a number of popular papers, which facilitates producing superior prints without the need for user created custom profiles. The variety of supported media means the user can select just the right paper for each print, an important consideration for fine art printing, where the subtle interactions between image and paper can make the difference between a nice print and a stunning piece of art.
Monochrome printing is exceptional, with very smooth tonal transitions and the ability to easily choose between dead-on neutral, cool or warm toned prints, courtesy of the black and gray inks. Color printing is also extremely fine, with the LUCIA ink set providing a wide color gamut in which to express one’s artistic vision. The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II is a good choice for professional photographers or advanced amateurs who wish to make fine art prints at modest volumes at widths up to 14 inches.