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Canon Photo i9900Product: Photo i9900 printer

Manufacturer: Canon

Relevance: An eight-color ink jet printer suitable for proofing and other publishing tasks.

Review: We were very taken with Canon's new i9900 desktop photo printer, and note its rich and brilliant color gamut. Not inexpensive, the printer is clearly aimed at desktop publishers who need to have clean and accurate proofs very quickly.

The i9900 is one of the few printers available these days to offer eight individual ink tanks. Canon's new ChromaPLUS eight-color ink system adds specialized red and green ink tanks to the traditional cyan, magenta, yellow, black, photo cyan and photo magenta inks that are commonly found on six-color systems.

According to Canon, the special red tank lets the i9900 increase its orange/red gamut over traditional six-color printing by 60 percent. Consequently, the i9900 is able to render far richer reds and oranges than were available previously. The additional green ink increases the printer's green gamut reproduction by approximately 30 percent compared to six-color printing. The result is that the printer is able to extend its green-printing range and produce deeper greens in grass and foliage.

Besides its extended color range, the i9900 is a wide format (13 by 19-inch) device suitable for comping and other tasks requiring a large output space. At its highest color resolution of 4800 by 2400 dpi, Canon's engineers have somehow been able to figure out how to get near-microscopic, two picoliter ink droplets out of the i9900. In general, the smaller the droplet, the better the output. Thus, two picoliter droplets can create quite impressive photos.

For those professionals who feel the need to keep up with the ever changing technology behind the scenes, the i9900 photo printer currently features the world's highest nozzle-density print head in a consumer rated ink jet printer. Its 6,144 tiny ink jet nozzles are capable of forming well over 100 million droplets per second, with each droplet only two picoliters in depth. It's only when one remembers that a picoliter is one-trillionth of a liter that one gets some idea of the technology involved.

The upshot of all of this is that we were very impressed with the resulting finished prints. Not only do the i9900's prints more closely match the color characteristics of positive photographic film, the printer is impressively fast. While the i9900 won't match the quality and finish of high-end professional prints, we certainly found them better than consumer grade mini-labs.

Size-wise, the i9900 can accommodate many tastes and printing requirements. The photo printer is able to support edge-to-edge borderless printing in 4" by 6", 5" by 7", 8.5" by 11" and 13" by 19" format sizes.

We also were impressed with the versatility and speed of the i9900. The printer uses its USB 2.0 technology to connect to PCs and Macs; with MacHeads gaining the additional advantage of a Firewire-400 interface to whiz things along ever faster. A slower USB interface is also included allowing up to three computers to share the printer at any given time.

The i9900's driver software lets anyone running Windows XP, Windows 2000, Windows Millennium Edition and Windows 98 to use the printer. Due to the target market of printing and comping professionals using this printer, Mac OS 8.6 to 9.x as well as Mac OS X (v 10.2.1 to 10.3.x.) are also supported directly.

Additional software including Zoom Browser EX (Windows only), ImageBrowser (Mac only), and PhotoStitch (dual platform) are bundled with the printer. Pros will use Photoshop and likely nothing else -- but the additional software is interesting and fun.

Canon has also seen fit to include PictBridge technology in the i9900. This means that direct photo printing without using a computer is possible by simply plugging in your PictBridge-enabled camera into the appropriate port on the i9900 and selecting "print" from the printer's own control panel.

Although PictBridge is one very cool piece of technology, we were not sure why Canon decided to include it in a high end printer. After all, buyers of this class of device are not likely to use it as a replacement for a snap shot printer, instead likely choosing to modify and otherwise edit pictures using Adobe Photoshop before printing.

This said, we are great fans of PictBridge and it can certainly save the day if all you need to do is quickly print out an image, and no computer is around or otherwise available.

We noted that the i9900 is very quiet and fast, especially in text mode where jobs zoomed through the machine. Although a bit over the top for a text-only printer (clearly there are less expensive printers out in the market for that), buyers should know that you won't need a separate printer if you need to run off a few invoices or story copy.

Despite Canon's near bulletproof driver software, we found it a bit strange there was no CMYK model to use to simulate a four-color press. Considering the intended market, it was surprising to find an RGB only driver option when printing. Perhaps Canon will release an updated driver to support this in future.

The printer drivers did, however, include specialized ICC profiles that help ensure an accurate translation of color data from any other compliant device into the i9900's native color space. This helps professional users who need consistent color reproduction across a wide variety of devices (including scanners, monitors and printers).

One aggravation we had with the i9900 was that the printer didn't seem to hold our settings well, and consistently wanted to print to A4-sized paper (rather than Letter size as we requested). Once we manually changed the settings, however, the printer worked fine. When we forgot to switch to Letter size paper (and consequently print to A4 paper), we found the printed image was shifted over a little and there was some marked banding on the page.

We were very impressed with the Canon i9900 printer and would recommend it to any photographer or photojournalist who needs excellent output from an ink jet printer. While the printer will not rival far more expensive dye-sub devices, it also doesn't come with their hefty price tag, and expensive consumables bill. The i9900 is fast, simple to operate and cheap to run: in short, a great addition to the digital darkroom. Recommended.

End of Review

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Note: this printer comes complete with eight separate ink tanks.
The following is a package of replacement tanks.

Canon BCI-6 Black and Color Ink Tanks (8-Pack for the i9900 Photo Printer).
This package includes the following Canon ink tanks:

* BCI-6Bk Black Ink Tank
* BCI-6C Cyan Ink Tank
* BCI-6G Green Ink Tank
* BCI-6M Magenta Ink Tank
* BCI-6PC Photo Cyan Ink Tank
* BCI-6PM Photo Magenta Ink Tank
* BCI-6R Red Ink Tank
* BCI-6Y Yellow Ink Tank

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