Canon S600 Bubble Jet Printer

Using Canon Photo Paper Pro high gloss paper, the new S600 Bubble Jet makes color prints from slide scans with great brilliance, rich color, and fine detail. And, printing at the S600's highest resolution setting, its printing speed remains reasonably fast.
Photos © 2001, David B. Brooks, All Rights Reserved

Not everyone with a camera needs or wants a dedicated photo printer, but more and more computer users with cameras could use a good letter-size printer that also makes good photographic prints. Canon's newest S600 Bubble Jet printer has the latest advances from Canon, including high 2400x1200dpi resolution, a five picoliter ink-drop size, and 1088 print head nozzles to put down more ink for richer color and finer black text. All this provides both general and photo printing performance with little compromise. The S600 Bubble Jet is available at a moderate $199 street price. This four-color printer has competitive consumable costs, including the unusual advantage of individual color ink cartridges. A redesigned print head also places the ink heater closer to the nozzles, adding to the resolution and increasing the number of jets in the head. This achieves a great depth of color in prints even on plain and inexpensive papers. Canon's Photo Paper Pro, their best glossy photo quality paper, is said to provide a print life of 25 years, according to Canon's tests.

Prints made on the less costly standard photo paper with the S600 Bubble Jet are quite equal in all dimensions of quality providing a result rivaling traditional photo lab color prints. Not being particularly fond of the glass-like premium glossy print, even though the paper stock is lighter, I found the standard photo paper prints made with this four-color Canon printer most pleasing.

Using The Canon S600 Bubble Jet Printer
Unlike my usual test procedure for "photo" printers, I installed the Canon S600 Bubble Jet on my business PC, the Sony Vaio Slimtop Pen Tablet computer I was testing at the time, and on one of my Macs used for digital darkroom work. It was used as much to print out web pages, letters, Microsoft Word documents, thumbnail pages, and other mundane tasks, as it was to reproduce quality photographic im-age files. For reproducing photographic images I printed images scanned from slides, transparencies, color negatives as well as scans of silver-based black and white film. In addition, I made prints on plain paper, inexpensive coated ink jet paper, photo paper, as well as the premium glossy Canon Photo Paper Pro.

For me, general printer performance for day-to-day use exclusive of photo printing involves two criteria: printing speed and sharp, strong contrast in text for easy readability. These measures of performance are very strongly met by the Canon S600. In addition, I do a lot of printing of thumbnail pages on inexpensive coated paper at medium resolution. These pages go into plastic page protectors, and then into large three-ring binders. I use them to identify and locate images I've digitized and archived in a collection that now fills almost 500 CDs. The S600 Bubble Jet prints these pages most quickly with the richest color and clearest contrast for easy visual recognition of any of at least seven or eight printers I've used for this purpose over the last few years.

One of the big surprises printing with the Canon S600 Bubble Jet was reproducing black and white photographs using all four colors of ink. This resulted in images with a very full range of tones, sharply rendered detail, and a very neutral warm black ink tone. I made a number of sample prints using Hahnemuhle Photo Matte paper which has a very neutral, bright white coated paper base, and the results were exceptional in every aspect of image quality.

Like any printer, the S600 Bubble Jet slows down when photo paper is used and the printer's highest quality/resolution is selected in the printer driver. In fairness, this is true of many color photo printers. Regardless of whether the more economical photo paper is used or the super glossy Canon Photo Paper Pro, the values in the image file reproduced are rich in color over a full range of tones.

I found this to be very good performance, particularly for a four-color printer. This performance was consistent with all of the computers used, whether it was my high-end Mac workstation, my PC, or the new Sony Vaio. In other words, the profiles provided to the operating system when the Canon printer driver is installed are quite effective and accurate. This assures that in a calibrated system what you see on-screen will be reproduced with consistent fidelity in the prints. The Canon S600 Bubble Jet printer will satisfy the expectations of many photographers. But, if you want all of the variations and subtleties in an image reproduced most accurately and sharply, you'll understand why there are six-color photo ink jet prints, like Canon's own, new S800 model Bubble Jet.

Evaluation And Recommendation
Although targeted at the mid range in price and performance, Canon's S600 Bubble Jet has reduced the compromise between general and photo printing to a negligible level. Little is sacrificed in either general printing speed or quality. Photo printing is only differentiated by fine distinctions between its output and that of a six-color printer. Personally I would find it both a reasonable investment and one that would ideally suit much of my day-to-day printing requirements. It is, however, difficult to say for others exactly where the line should be drawn between a need for a six-color full-fledged photo printer and the S600. For many, the Canon S600 will fully satisfy their photo printing expectations and needs.

Even using the least expensive coated ink jet paper stock like Canon's High Resolution paper, with the printer set for this paper, very rich color results were achieved at a very fast printing speed.

Individual Color Cartridges
Although my experience with this printer was limited, I've done a lot of ink jet photo printing. From that I would say that the separate cartridges for each ink color provide a dubious advantage if a typical variety of photo images are printed. In other words, photographic printing generally uses all of the colors of ink pretty evenly. Most of the ink cartridges I throw away and replace seldom have any amount of any one or two colors remaining. This, of course, would be different if a large print run of images that predominated in any one part of the spectrum, like red, were printed. But I don't think that is typical.

From my shopping experience, I found that the local discount outlets with the best prices only sold the full set of cartridges as a package, not the cartridges separately. On the paper side of my printing experience with the S600, I found that standard photo paper produced just as good looking prints, and is less costly. Of course, some may like the glass-like super glossy Canon Photo Paper Pro, and it is the one recommended for use to obtain the longest print life. The choice then must be an individual one, at least until these new Canon Bubble Jet printers are independently tested for print life by Wilhelm-Research.

The bottom line is that Canon has provided a new level of four-color photo performance at a $199 mid-price level that also performs exceptionally well as a general purpose printer. For more information visit the Canon web sites:, or, or call (800) 652-2666.

Technical Specifications
Ink System: Four color
Resolution: 2400x1200dpi
Nozzles: Black, 320; color 256x3
Print Speed: (Approx.) 15 ppm black, 10 ppm color; 8x10€� photo: approx. 90 sec on plain paper
Special Printing Technology: Advanced MicroFine Droplet
Individual Ink Tanks: Yes
Light-Fastness: Approx. 25 years
Ink Compatibility: Semi-permanent print head3; BCI-3eBk Black Tank; BCI-3eC Cyan Tank; BCI-3eM Magenta Tank; BCI-3eY Yellow Tank
Platforms: Mac/PC
Interface: USB and Parallel
Included Software: Printer driver, user guide, PhotoRecord, ZoomBrowser/Image Browser, PhotoStitch
Street Price: $199