Canon’s PIXMA Pro9000; A Speedy Color Inkjet Printer

Priced at about $499, the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 is a 13x19" printer that produces beautiful color prints on a wide variety of media. And it's one of the fastest color printers I've worked with, especially for working with fine art papers via its front-feed system. It can also work with thinner papers via its top-feed system, but those who will spend that amount on a 13x19" model will probably do so to work with some of the luxurious papers offered by Canon, as well as other third-party vendors. While black and white fans might not get all they want from this dye-based ink printer, it certainly produces quality color prints that are claimed to last over 100 years.

The Canon PIXMA Pro9000.

Setup and software installation is quite easy following the Canon-supplied quick-start guide. First off, the printer is quite manageable at about 30 lbs and 26" wide. Styling, as seen in the illustration, is quite functional, which is fine. What might be new for some printmakers is the need to install the print heads, but this is quite a bit less intimidating than it might first sound. All you need do is remove them from the foil pack and slot them in as instructed. Next come the eight inks (photo black, cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red, and green) which slot in easily enough. Inks are $14.25 each on the Canon website, making a full reload at $114. The first run is a calibration chart, which you do with lightweight bond paper via the top feeder, and then you're ready to print. Software installation is standard, so there's not much to say on that, except it's essential to get the proper profiles for Canon's fine art media. And, as always, check the Canon website for any updates, as with all printers and media.

The print dialog box is fairly straightforward, here from a MacBook Pro. This is where you set up the print profile and other attributes. Note the "Let Photoshop Determine Colors" menu is on.

Given that we will focus on so-called "art" papers here, it's worth going over their setup and prep. Like some smaller footprint, desktop "fine art" printers, you have to load the thicker sheets via the front-load system, one at a time. This clearly eliminates any hope of doing an edition run and then walking away from the printer, but the procedure is fairly straightforward.

The PIXMA Pro9000 sometimes feels like it is straddling the fence between its Pro name and a more broad-based inkjet printer. To be fair, most printers in this range have this sort of hands-off effects panel, as do some in the $1000 plus range. Here, if you want, you can choose sepia and other such effects, but I think you're always better off taking things a bit more into your own hands. Nevertheless, the suggested effects worked just fine.

There are three buttons on the face of the printer--topmost is the larger power button; at the bottom is the single sheet feed button. Press the bottom button and it begins to flash--this tells you that the "gate" for sheet feeding is getting set. Once it stops churning a bit you slot the paper through, printing surface up, until you align the front edge with a mark on the tray. You then press the button again and the sheet feeds through and gets properly placed in the printer, ready to print.

The PIXMA Pro9000 support is extensive and actually puts up meaningful dialog boxes should you misstep. This applies to ink swaps as well as workflow, or process foul-ups. Here are two boxes. In one I did not feed the front tray paper properly to get the print on its way. The dialog box gave me straightforward instructions. Once I implemented them I did not have to re-feed the paper or reset my printer dialog box--it just started to make the print. The other is the ink change notice. All you need do then is open the top lid and the inks present themselves to you, and the one that needs changing simply flashes. That's an "A" for dialog boxes on this printer.

This assumes you have the image ready to print, sized and all, on your monitor. I use a MacBook Pro so all the screen shots you see are from that laptop; PC interfaces are different, but perform the same tasks. For this test I used CS2, and I also tried it with CS3 beta, which worked just fine.

Here's the final print dialog box. Always check the Quality & Media drop-down menu here to ascertain that all is well and ready to go. Note the Print Quality slider from "Fast" to "Fine," denoting different dpi settings. Canon did not share what they were, but the printer specs say 4800 (horizontal) to 2400 (vertical). Just test them out for your prints; I just placed the arrow at a point midway between the center and the Fine and all came out, well, just fine. But then again I rarely print at 2880dpi on other printers.

The first stage of making a print is to open Print with Preview. There you choose the paper size (in my case 13x19) and the paper profile. Note that there may be more than one profile for your paper, so read the instruction book, or check Canon's website for the right one, as the printer will simply not print if it senses the wrong choice has been made. This is not dissimilar to other printers I've worked with recently, and now every printer review I do has the same advice: RTIB! (Read The Instruction Book.) Doing so before you print the first few times will save you frustration and having to reload the paper and deal with that foolish bouncing print status box at the bottom of the screen.

If you want to tweak your settings without going back and doing so in your image-editing program you have this printer control on offer. But this would override the "Let Photoshop Determine Color" choice and create a mismatch, so only use this if you want to let the Canon driver do its thing.

The fine art papers I worked with for this test were Canon brand "Museum Etching," "Photo Rag," "Premium Matte," and a semigloss "Photo Paper Plus." Each had its own profile when the Page Setup screen is evoked. You can save each profile to eliminate having to do a setup each time you print.