Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100

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Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100

Pros

  • Consistent colour, better images

Cons

  • Profiles don't match the names of the papers that Canon sells

Bottom Line

The imagePROGRAF iPF6100 should put an end to talk that Canon can't compete in the professional photo printer market. With a better ink formulation and an improved printhead, this 12-ink printer produces excellent images on both glossy and fine-art media. Canon needs to clean up its profile management, but overall, the iPF6100 is a very good printer that fits in well in a competitive market.

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Consistent colour, better images

Last year, when we looked at Canon's first professional-level 17in printer, the imagePROGRAF iPF5000, we felt that its prints were not as sharp and true as those printed on the top-level Epson printers, such as the Stylus Pro 4800. This was largely an issue with the profiles that Canon shipped with the printer. You needed to tweak them, or create your own profiles, to get the best possible prints, but there were still some issues, such as bronzing, that caused some people to dismiss the iPF5000.

Since that time, Canon has been hard at work. The company says that it has improved a number of problem areas in the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 print engine, and all of those tweaks have been designed to improve print quality. For example, the black and grey inks have been reformulated to provide better coverage and scratch resistance; the print head has been redesigned, producing a tiny 4-picoliter droplet; and improved screening routines resolve detail much more finely than the iPF5000's printhead.

This all means significantly improved print quality. Last year, iPF5000 prints regularly came in at the bottom in our jury testing, but this year, prints from the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 often tied or beat prints from the top Epson and HP printers. Colour fidelity was excellent, and fine detail, especially in the shadows, was reproduced exceptionally well. Black-and-white images were neutral, and looked good on every paper type we printed them on.

Going beyond the quality of the photos, the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100's print speed is quite good as well. Using the mid-level quality setting, which was more than adequate for most images, the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 printed an 8x10in image in 1 minute, 30 seconds; a 16x20in image took 3 minutes, 36 seconds; and a 24in square photograph took 5 minutes, 36 seconds to print. (In contrast, the 24in square image took 7 minutes, 57 seconds to print with comparable quality on similar paper on our HP Designjet Z3100 Photo.)

Minor annoyances

While the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 makes some significant strides over previous Canon printers, there is still room for improvement. The biggest issue is that many of the iPF6100's ICC profiles don't match the names of the papers that Canon sells, which means that you have to guess which paper goes with which profile. For example, the roll of Heavyweight Satin Photographic Paper sent to us by Canon was listed in the printer's settings when we loaded it, but not in the print driver. Instead, there were three different types of semi-gloss photo papers to choose from, and we had to print sample images with each profile to figure out which one came out closest to our image, and then put a note on our monitor to remember which profile was for which paper.

In addition, the documentation, while much better than that of the iPF5000, could still be better organised and presented. There are also a few places where the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100's plastics feel flimsy and cheap, which is something we hate to see in a printer of this class.

Fitting into the market

In the wide-format market, the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 is up against Epson's Stylus Pro 7800 -- whose replacement, the 7880 is just starting to ship -- and HP's Designjet Z2100 Photo and Z3100 Photo printers. The Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100's print quality and speed are comparable to all of these printers, although Epson says that the 7880 has a wider colour gamut than its competitors (we haven't yet tested this model). With the Epson printers, however, you have to physically swap the photo and matte black inks when you want to change paper types.

HP's Designjets, while more expensive than the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100, produce stunning images and have a much stronger set of features, including integrated profiling, thanks to their built-in X-Rite i1 colorimeters. In this quickly changing market, you can get a printer from Canon, Epson or HP that will produce excellent, long-lasting prints.

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