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The Ultimate Printer: Canon Pro-1000 Field Test

I am not an engineer nor a pixel peeper, so this “field test” is not scientific but rather based on practical, real-world use. I am not interested in specs, but rather in making prints that best represent my RAW files and resonate with viewers. I’m interested in what my eyes see, not what numbers or graphs show me.

I’ve owned Canon large format printers for over a decade, starting with Canon’s first foray into the market, the 17” iPF5000 introduced in 2006. I took a chance and put my money on the new player in a field that had been dominated by Epson.

The ipf5000 had first generation issues, but Canon support bent over backward to make sure I was happy with the printer—I was impressed, to say the least. Their service and support remain the best in the business as far as I’m concerned. And their printers match and in some areas exceed the competition.

Since then I’ve owned the 24” iPF6100, the 44” iPF8100, the 17” Pro-1, and my current workhorse the 44” iPF 8400. I’ve made thousands of prints for myself and others on these printers, and I’ve been thoroughly impressed with Canon’s dedication to the printer market and their push to make each generation better than the last. I’ve seen this in overall print quality and printer design and construction.

I’ve been field-testing the Canon imagePROGRAF Pro-1000 for several weeks and have made hundreds of prints, from small 4×5 notes cards all the way up to A2 prints (17” x 22”). I’ve also used it in several of my printing workshops with great results. In every way, I’m impressed with the quality of the prints and with the way the printer operates.

Yes, great looking prints are what we want most of all, and the Pro-1000 doesn’t disappoint when it comes to print quality. But a well-designed printer that also makes great prints is a combination that makes printing so much more enjoyable. But before I get to that, let’s go over some of the basics.

Basic Features

The Pro-1000 is a 17” wide printer that accepts many different types of media using two separate paper feeds depending on paper thickness. It’s quite hefty for a 17” printer, weighing 71lbs. and having a footprint of about 30” x 15”. You’ll want to have a sturdy table to hold the printer with extra room front and back for the rear feed tray and front tray where new prints exit the printer.

Like all Canon pro printers, it has replaceable print heads, which means service is a much easier proposition should a print head fail. I’ve replaced the print heads on my Canon printers in the past, and while it’s not inexpensive it was easy and eliminated the downtime of having to send a printer out for service.

It comes with 12 starter ink cartridges and a sealed print head which must all be installed on setup. It has multiple connection options, but I use the Ethernet port since I like the flexibility of connecting to the printer from multiple computers.

I don’t recommend wifi for any serious printing since that’s always subject to interference and less than robust. A hard-wire, either USB or ethernet is the most stable connection.

Inks

The Pro-1000 uses eleven Lucia Pro pigment inks that give it a very broad color gamut. Gamut defines how many colors a device can potentially produce, and the bigger that is, the more realistic your prints will look. It’s important to note that all papers also have a maximum gamut that they can produce (which is smaller than the printer’s gamut,) so the better the paper, the more you’ll get out of the Pro-1000’s capabilities.

The twelfth cartridge in the Pro-1000 is a Chroma Optimizer, a clear coat finish that is applied to non-matte papers (gloss, satin, luster, etc.). Essentially it prevents areas of heavy ink coverage from appearing muddy or dull due to the way light bounces off those areas unevenly. Applying this clear coat of Chroma Optimizer to the entire print makes sure it has the same consistent finish throughout, and it works very well.

One great feature of Canon printers in general, and of the Pro-1000 as well, is the ability to switch between matte black and photo black inks without any delay. This not only saves time but makes it much more inviting to try different types of papers when trying to decide between matte and luster for example.

This is one of those features that seems insignificant at first but really helps with workflow and productivity, especially when you’re doing lots of printing.

Print Quality and Resolution

The print quality of the Pro-1000 is simply outstanding. Details are sharp, gradations are smooth, and colors are full and vibrant. I didn’t expect anything less to be honest, as this is the case with my older ipf8400.

Performance in two key areas did surprise me, however. One was shadow depth and separation, which so far is the best I’ve seen from any printer, including my Epson P800, which I like very much. Even in the deepest shadows, there is a really nice smoothness towards black that preserves the subtlest tonal variation. And even more impressive, you can see this on matte or fibre type papers, though more so with the latter.

A high d-max paper like Canson Infinity Baryta Photographique or Baryta Prestige really shows what this printer is capable of when it comes to shadow depth. Blacks are solid, yet hints of tonal separation are visible and smooth in the darkest areas of a print.

The second key area is better color rendition of oranges and reds, which have been a known weakness of Canon printers in the past. One look at the test print and I immediately noticed the improved clarity and vibrancy of the strawberries.

In the real world, this translates to richer images of fall foliage, flowers, sunrise and sunset skies, really any image where reds play an important role. On a wide-gamut paper like Prestige, the colors are amazingly full and rich.

Black and white prints also exhibited smooth shadow tonalities, dense blacks, and great highlight gradations, so important for clouds, moving water, and reflections.

Photos of prints can never replicate the actual prints in hand, but I’ve tried to maintain the same consistent settings of the images below in order to eliminate any adjustment biases.

A test print showing the Pro-1000 on left, and ipf8400 on right – same paper. You can see the richer reds of the strawberries and sunset on the left. It’s more obvious with prints in hand.

 

A test print showing the Pro-1000 on left, and Epson P800 on right – same paper. Much closer, and almost no difference, yet shadows seem more open on the Pro-1000.

 

Colors and blacks are rich and deep on Canson Infinity Edition Etching matte paper.

 

This image, in particular, needs subtle shadow separation, and even on a matte paper like Canson Edition Etching, shadow details are preserved. Colors are also vibrant.

 

Black and white prints look great on Canson Infinity Baryta Prestige with smooth highlights and rich blacks.

 

A closeup of deep shadows showing smooth gradation all the way to black on Baryta Prestige. I’ve printed this image many times, but this is the best version I’ve seen.

 

Deep blacks and smooth highlights on a matte paper, which adds the subtle texture and dimension I want in this print.

 

 

Vibrant color with rich shadows with the texture and dimension of Canson Infinity Printmaking Rag.

Paper Feeds

I recently tweeted that the Pro-1000 had finally given me what I’ve always wanted from a printer, a sheet feeder that actually works. Yes, I was exaggerating a bit, but paper jams are no fun. While I generally make one print at a time, there are instances when the sheet feeder comes in handy. For example, I make lots of fine art notecards, and if I have to print ten or twenty of one card, a functional sheet feeder is very helpful.

I haven’t had the same positive results with my other printers, namely the P800. It prints beautifully, but I have to feed each card individually, otherwise there is the inevitable paper jam. Not so with the Pro-1000. Over one hundred notecards so far, and not a single jam.

Even if you don’t print notecards, being able to load the printer with a dozen sheets of paper and print them all without feeding issues is a productivity and time saver.

Thicker papers, like most fine art matte papers, must be fed from the rear manual feed tray, which only accepts one sheet at a time. Once again, the feed mechanism is much easier than my other printers, speeding up my workflow.

One downside is that you have to confirm the paper settings on the Pro-1000’s LCD panel whenever you make a print. In order to avoid extra trips to the printer, I send a print job from Lightroom first, then walk over, load the paper, and confirm the settings on the LCD panel. In other words, I load the paper after I’ve sent the print job.

Paper Compatibility

The Pro-1000 will let you use paper sizes ranging from a minimum of 3” x 5” to a maximum of 17” x 25.5”. You can use the default paper sizes or create custom paper sizes in the printer driver as long as they don’t exceed these limits. Unfortunately, that means you can not print panoramas wider than 25.5”. (I suspect the limitation has to do with the Pro-1000 not having a roll feed option, which would prevent alignment issues with long single sheets.)

You can also make borderless prints by selecting the “borderless” option when selecting the paper size. This might be useful when you want to maximize the size of your print, or for certain presentations when you want a contemporary borderless look.

While you can use papers from any manufacturer on the Pro-1000, I made all of my test prints with Canson Infinity fine art papers, since they are my favorite. They all printed beautifully on the Pro-1000 using Canson Infinity’s generic profiles available from their website.

Canon recommends cleaning all art papers (matte papers) with a brush to eliminate dust or other particles that are attracted to the surface of matte paper. I agree, and use a horse hair brush to lightly clean every sheet I print on. Feeding the papers was hassle free, regardless of whether it was the sheet or manual feeder, or whether using matte, fibre, or RC papers. I particularly like the ease of feeding fine art matte papers, which can be somewhat frustrating on other printers, like the Epson P series.

A customer ordered a print soon after I got the Pro-1000, and I used Baryta Prestige to make this framed print on 17″ x 22″ cut sheet paper.

Some Useful Custom Settings

The “Paper Detailed Settings” has some useful settings that can come in handy when making prints.

Print Head Height – Sometimes the slightest curl on the edge of a sheet of paper can cause a slight head strike along the edge. Raising the head height, or gap can eliminate this issue. (Canson Infinity Platine Fibre Rag is susceptible to this. The fix is to adjust the head height via this setting.)

Unidirectional Printing – I always recommend selecting this as it prevents any uneven line shifts during printing. The slight loss in speed is worth it when you need the best looking prints.

Clear Coating Area – the clear coat (Chroma Optimizer) can be set to “auto” which applies it where needed, or “overall” which applies it to the entire print. Auto is the default as it may save usage of the clear coat and avoid having to change that cartridge more often.

Cancel Margin Regulation – lets you bypass the safety margins and print borderless on any paper type and size.

Customer Support

A printer like the Pro-1000 is an amazingly complex piece of engineering, with lots of moving parts operating with tight precision. We’ve all also had software issues and been guilty of “user-error.” Access to a helpful human is rather nice these days. In fact, I was confused about one of the front panel settings and called Canon support. I was pleasantly pleased when the support rep asked what I needed help with right away – no request for a serial number, address and tel#, or email address!

For me, it’s important to feel confident about the support I will receive for the gear I buy. I need my printers to be operational with little downtime given all the printing workshops I teach and all the prints I make on a regular basis. In all of these cases, having solid support is critical, and that’s one of the things I really like about Canon from my own personal experiences and those of others I know who rely on Canon.

Conclusion

There are some great choices when it comes to photo printers these days. That’s a good thing for all of us, as competition breeds excellence. I often tell students who ask me which brand I recommend that the quality of your photographs, both technically and aesthetically, will make a greater difference than the printer you use.

Is the Pro-1000 perfect? Of course not, no printer is. Having said that, the Pro-1000 is an amazing printer that makes beautiful prints and encourages you to use it regularly through ease of use and thoughtful engineering. That to me is a winning combination, and I have no hesitation recommending the Pro-1000 as a first printer, or an upgrade – it’s that good.

 

This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for the excellent write up. Any chance of doing a short pros and cons with the epson 800. I’ve been saving to finally get that good printer and was pretty much settled on the epson but now this throws a curve into the mix.
    Hope you get some good fall shots and maybe we’ll see you on the trail.Thanks again for all the great info you share.
    Bill

    1. Thanks for the feedback Bill. I think direct comparisons can be misleading due to the many variables involved in comparing printers. Both make excellent prints, it’s more a matter of how. If you need a roll-feed option, or want to use Epson papers exclusively, then the P800 is a better choice. Otherwise, I think the title of the article says it all.

  2. If you are controlling the printer from within Lightroom, is it necessary to set the paper on the printer’s LCD screen to match the paper information being sent to the printer from Lightroom?

    1. When you use the manual feed, the printer driver within Lightroom has full control, so you do not have to set the media type nor the size on the printers lcd. You do have to confirm that you are ready to print by simply pressing OK.

      When using the rear sheet feeder, then you do have to set the media type.

      I prefer to use the manual feeder when possible as it avoids having to deal with the settings on the printer lcd.

  3. I didn’t realize that you have to set the media type on the LCD for the rear tray but not the manual tray. I thought that if I set the media type in the Page Setup dialogue box in Lightroom’s Print module, Lightroom would transmit the media type information along with the ICC profile information that I selected to the printer and that the printer would use that information regardless of the paper tray used. Can you tell me where in the printer documentation this is discussed?

    1. Hi Arnie – I just got off the phone with Canon support (once again quick and easy) because I wanted to make sure I was understanding the manual correctly. According to the rep I spoke with, the LCD confirmation is a safety feature that they recommend to make sure you have the correct media and paper size, but it is in fact over-ridden by the Printer Driver. The manual is confusing, so I’m glad to clear this up.

      There is also a custom setting in the Printer Utility that lets you deactivate the printer from detecting a mismatch, and therefore never having to bother with the LCD aside from confirming you want to feed the paper. See the screenshots here to locate the setting and disable – it’s in the Printer Utility – click on the drop-down menu to access the Custom Settings. It’s how I have mine setup. Hope that helps, and thanks for the clarification!

      https://d.pr/i/Cuihcb
      https://d.pr/i/uNoDdK

  4. I have one question about settings on the printer LCD. If I set the media type in LR do I also need to change it on the printer LCD or does LR override it? Thanks!

  5. Thanks Robert for this test.
    Do you already have any observations regarding ink usage for printing and for maintenance? Do you keep printer ON all the time or rather switch it ON only when printing?

    1. I haven’t done any formal tests, but my initial observation is that it’s comparable to other printers of this size, including my Epson P800. In fact, I was surprised how long the starter cartridges lasted before I had to replace them, given how many prints I made (both for myself and in printing workshops.)

      Yes I do leave all of my printers on all the time – again I have not done any formal tests, but I haven’t had a head clog in years.

  6. Robert,
    Thanks so much for another fantastic review. The care you take in printing shows through in the review as well.
    Did you compare the printer gamut (as supplied by the manufacturers) of the pro 1000 with the Epson P800? You’ve already touched on a couple of points (the reds and shadow depth), but a picture comparison of the two gamut drawings can be helpful too. Thanks for being so generous with your time.

    1. Hi Brian,

      I have compared test prints from both printers using the same paper, and the differences to my eye are not enough to claim that one is better than the other. This is also extremely subjective because an actual gamut difference may only manifest itself in a small minority of images that push the limits of color. The greater difference, as I mentioned in my test, was in shadow separation, and even that is subtle and dependent on the image as well.

      My goal wasn’t to compare them to each other, but discuss what I experienced from the Pro-1000 after a few weeks of constant use. Hope that’s helpful.

  7. Thanks for your excellent review. Based on universal acclaim I bought the Pro-1000 last week and without any previous experience in fine art printing was able to produce a beautiful print on Canon Pro Platinum paper that matched the image on my monitor after just one hard proof and some printer adjustments. Now I did read Jeff Schewe’s book, The Digital Print, first, so I had excellent guidance. I couldn’t be happier with this printer’s ease of use for a printing neophyte. Highly recommended.

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