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Technical

Inside the
PIXMA PRO-1 printer

October 2011

The PIXMA PRO-1 is the latest in a line of Canon professional quality A3+ inkjet printers aimed at discriminating photographers, print shops and studios. With 12 ink tanks, increased print resolution, a greater colour gamut and faster print speeds, it stands as the flagship printer in the range. CPN takes a closer look at its specifications and capabilities.

PIXMA PRO-1 - key specifications

  • New LUCIA pigment inks
  • 12 ink tanks, including five monochrome inks
  • FINE print head
  • Chroma Optimizer
  • Real-time Ink control
  • Up to 35.6cm (14”) wide media
  • Up to 200-year print life
  • Ethernet connection
  • Easy-Photo Print Pro plug-in
  • Ambient Light Correction

FINE print head

Canon is an optical company. It produces products that make use of lenses, be it cameras, medical instruments, telescopes or printers. It even makes the machines that produce the CMOS digital sensors in its cameras. This wide-ranging expertise in optical technology allows Canon to easily take technology from one area of expertise and apply what it has learned to other areas. And so it is with the print heads in the PIXMA range of printers, produced using technology carried over from other areas of the business.

The print head of the PIXMA PRO-1 has been designed for both high-resolution and high-speed printing. Since the resolution of digital cameras is continuing to increase, the PIXMA PRO-1 has been designed to make use of input resolutions of up to 1200ppi — this is double the input capability compared to the previous generation of PIXMA Pro printers. Combined with a print head that is able output a maximum resolution of 4800x2400dpi it results in more detailed images with higher definition and free of jagged edges. It also helps to produce smoother tonal gradation and enhanced glossiness as the positioning of the ink drops is even more tightly controlled.

In this diagram of the ink system of the PIXMA PRO-1 you can see the large-volume ink tanks at the front, the tubular ink supply system, the print head and the sub ink tank.

The number of ink nozzles within the print head has also been increased compared to previous models. The head for each ink colour now features 1024 nozzles, up from 768 (for a total of 12,288 nozzles), that allow more ink to be put onto the paper in a shorter space of time, thereby speeding up the printing process.

Along with the increased nozzle count the ink tanks are no longer mounted on the print head, but instead are inserted in the sides of the printer in a similar way to Canon's LFP range. The ink is then fed to the print head using tubes. This reduces the weight of the print head during motion and allows it to be moved along the carriage at a higher speed.

Because of these two changes, the print time for a gallery-quality A3+ print has reduced from approximately seven minutes 55 seconds with a PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II, down to around two minutes 55 seconds with the PIXMA PRO-1.

During printing the print head can heat up, which can have an effect on the volume of ink ejected from each nozzle. In the past, to counteract this, printers could analyse the ink ejection volume at the end of each print line and then make adjustments to compensate. Instead, the PIXMA PRO-1 features real-time droplet control that works by continuously monitoring print head temperature and making the required adjustments to deliver consistent droplet sizes, regardless of whether you are producing your first print or your 101st.

12-ink LUCIA pigment system

The PIXMA PRO-1 uses 12 different ink tanks to deliver a greatly increased colour gamut across the range, but especially in the red, magenta and yellow areas of the colour spectrum. The colour ink tanks are Yellow, Photo Cyan, Cyan, Photo Magenta, Magenta and Red.

With 12 ink tanks, including five monochrome inks and a Chroma Optimizer cartridge, high quality results are possible on glossy and fine art media, whether you are printing in colour or black and white.

The inks are pigment-based, which allows them to bond with the paper. This provides a much greater life expectancy — up to 200 years under archival storage conditions. It also means the colour of the print will not change after printing because the pigment ink fixes rapidly to the media, producing true colour straight out of the printer.

Five of the ink tanks are designed to provide improved monochrome printing. The Light Gray, Gray, Dark Gray, Matte Black and Photo Black provide reduced grain and increased tonal gradation. The Matte Black ink provides enhanced black density when using Fine Art paper, while the Photo Black in produces increased contrast in glossy images. Highlight areas are where graininess would traditionally be seen in monochrome printing, but the addition of the gray ink reduces this considerably as the tonal gradations can be made smoother by using an improved mix of ink tones.

To satisfy the demands of a professional workflow, where large numbers of images may be printed regularly, the ink tanks in the PIXMA PRO-1 have been increased in size by 2.5x compared to those found in the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II printer. This allows more printing to be completed before ink tanks need replacing, improving the workflow and productivity in high throughput environments.

Located in the sides of the printer rather than on the print head carriage, the PIXMA PRO-1 has larger ink tanks and a faster print speed than previous PIXMA Pro models.

Chroma Optimizer

The final ink tank in the 12 cartridges is called Chroma Optimizer. With conventional ink, the ink drop shape is irregular and the height of each drop isn't uniform. When you view a print, this has the effect of scattering the reflected light, leading to some areas appearing glossier and other less glossy — depending on how much light is reflected. To counteract this the PIXMA PRO-1 employs three methods…

Firstly, the solids within each ink have been reduced; secondly the ink volume is even more tightly controlled to produce a flatter layer with reduced difference in ink droplet height. The third method is the use of Chroma Optimizer. During printing, the Chroma Optimizer ink is laid over the top of the print to fill in the gaps between ink drops and create a uniform surface of ink on top of the media. This has three effects on the final output. The most obvious effect is the uniform glossiness to the image. Because the ink height is even across the print, light is more evenly reflected from the surface, resulting in an even glossiness whatever angle you view the print from.


The combination of LUCIA inks, Chroma Optimizer and the Optimum Image Generating (OIG) system means the colour gamut of the PIXMA PRO-1 is much greater than that on the PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II. Here, the solid graph represents the Pro9500 Mark II while the wire frame shows the range of the PRO-1.

The Chroma Optimizer also increases the colour gamut, especially in the darker tones, and, allied to this, the black density is enhanced because the Chroma Optimizer reflects less light than the black ink does so there is reduced glare from the surface of the print, thereby showing the true depth of the blacks.

Using the PRO-1 printer driver the Chroma Optimizer can be applied to specific areas of prints for decorative effects as well. This can be used to effectively 'clear-coat' specific areas of prints to make them stand out, or to print a watermark across an image, for example.

Chroma Optimizer has another key effect on image quality for both colour and monochrome images — it reduces bronzing effects. Bronzing is where gray tones especially show an iridescent effect — like bronze. It can lead to the printed image looking like it has an iridescent sheen that affects the colours. It is allied to metamerism — where the colours of two materials look the same under one light source, but different under another. This is especially obvious under fluorescent lighting where reflections from the surface of the print can show a pink tint that makes the colours appear as if they have shifted. The combination of coating the prints and the Optimum Image Generating (OIG) system means both of these effects are greatly reduced compared to previous PIXMA Pro models.


Optimum Image Generating (OIG) System

The OIG System is a development of two previous technologies. The first is optimum ink mixing to achieve the required results based on the colour mode being used and the media type being printed onto. The second is ink placement technology. The exact position of ink droplets can have a dramatic effect on the final output, based on how they are perceived by the human eye. The combination of these two technologies ensures the best results in seven key areas: Colour reproduction, Tonal gradation, Black density, Grain structure, Glossiness, Bronzing and Metamerism.

When printing an image, there are various ways the inks can be combined to produce any given colour. Each ink-mixing ratio will provide specific benefits. If we take a yellow colour for example, the best combination for colour gamut and density would be to use Yellow, Cyan, Red, Black and Chroma Optimizer. However, for the optimum glossiness and anti-bronzing, it would be best to be made with Yellow, Gray, Light Gray and Chroma Optimizer. Finally, for the smoothest tonal gradation and minimum graininess Yellow, Photo Cyan, Photo Magenta, Light Gray and Gray would be preferred.

All these options lie on a sliding scale — the OIG system carefully analyses each option and then produces a combined solution that produces the most versatile combination of colours in order to meet all the requirements as efficiently as possible.

Three colour modes

The PIXMA PRO-1 features three distinct colour modes to allow you to tailor the output to suit your preferences. These modes are 'Enable ICC Profile', 'Linear Tone' and 'Photo Colour'. With 'Enable ICC Profile' set, the printer will produce images that accurately match the colours of an image shot with Portrait or Landscape Picture Style on an EOS DSLR camera. It can also be used to accurately print the full gamut of the Adobe RGB 1998 colour space, as was also found on the PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II and PIXMA Pro9500 Mark II printers.

The default setting of the three modes is 'Linear Tone'. This matches the output settings of the previous models and is a good option when you have made edits to an image, as it will provide no in-printer adjustments.

The third mode is Photo Colour. It is designed to automatically improve the look of an image based on important colours to the human eye, like blue sky and green grass. This mode will also produce a more natural tonal gradation from shadows to highlights, revealing details that may otherwise be lost in a print.

Combined with the new inks, that deliver increased dynamic range compared to other systems, the three colour modes allow you to select the one that suits your requirements best.

Easy-PhotoPrint Pro

Provided as free software with the PIXMA PRO-1, Easy-PhotoPrint Pro (EPP) is a plug-in that can be used with Canon's own Digital Photo Professional software as well as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Photoshop CS/CS2/CS3/CS4 and CS5, as well as Photoshop Elements 6, 7, 8 and 9. Using the plug-in makes it simple to adjust the settings used for the print, both in colour and media options as well as layout.

When printing monochrome images, the EPP plug-in can improve the look of your images, for example, by preventing overexposure to produce sharp and clear borders to prints. If areas of a scene are overexposed and if these areas adjoin the edge of the print, then there will be a very vague borderline. However, using the Grayscale Photo option in EPP, the printer can reduce the overexposure and so show a defined border.

EPP also provides an Ambient Light Correction option, which works in conjunction with the Chroma Optimizer to reduce metamerism. This ensures that colours on the print look the same whether you are viewing them in a work environment, or at a client's viewing, or even on the wall in an exhibition. 

 

The Colour Management Tool Pro software provided with the PIXMA PRO-1 allows you to generate your own ICC profiles quickly and easily for any media you may wish to use.

Along with the EPP plug-in, the PIXMA PRO-1 is provided with colour management software called Colour Management Tool Pro. This provides you with the ability to produce your own ICC profiles for different media you may use. While profiles for many paper types are provided, it is possible to use other media and create your own ICC profile for it to ensure colour accurate results every time. The software supports three different colorimeters from X-Rite: The i1Pro without a UV Cut-off filter, the i1 Pro with a UV cut-off filter and the Color Munki Photo or Color Munki Design. In this way you can print a calibration chart on your chosen media, then use one of these colorimeters to generate an accurate ICC profile that the printer can then make use of with that media type.

Versatile media support

In order to cater for a wide range of printing requirements the PIXMA PRO-1 supports a wide range of media sizes and can make use of papers with different textures, including papers from well-known manufactures such as Hahnemuhle, Ilford and Canson among others.

 

The PIXMA PRO-1 is able to print on media from 6x4” up to 14x17” and A3+, making it highly versatile.

The printing sizes range from A3+ all the way down to 15x10cm/6x4” and because the printer can use media up to 35.6cm/14” wide, there is also the option of 14x17” printing as well. For paper texture, you can make use of glossy, art and specially textured paper to achieve exactly the results you want.

To cope with these different sizes and paper types, and to minimise paper waste caused by mis-feeding of paper, the PIXMA PRO-1 features two paper feed methods — the rear input tray, which can hold up to 20 sheets at a time, and a manual feed slot designed for 14x17” paper and media that is thicker than normal.

For print longevity, using Canon papers is the best option. With the Photo Paper Pro Platinum (PT-101) prints will be safe for around 50 years in mixed gas, around 60 years when exposed to light and over 200 years when stored in a photo album, allowing you to pass on your images to future generations without worrying that they will be lost. Equally, when selling images, you can be sure that they will not degrade rapidly over time resulting in the need to re-print or re-supply images.

Ethernet connection

To aid printer sharing across a busy work group, and hence to make the printer even more suitable to busy studios where there may be several photographers wishing to print, the PIXMA PRO-1 features an Ethernet port as well as a USB connection. This allows the printer to be easily shared on a network for use by many different users, as long as they are connected to the network.