Advances in inkjet printing may be becoming more incremental than monumental but there’s still a need to remain competitive hence Canon’s upgrade of its pro-level A3+ model. Report by Trevern Dawes.

The ink and print head assembly.

Canon’s pro-level PIXMA Pro9500 was introduced in 2007 and greatly helped the company compete more effectively with Epson’s A3+ format offerings. But inkjet printing continues to advance and so Canon has launched an upgraded version, presumably with the Stylus Photo R2880 in its sights. The changes aren’t signifi cant enough to warrant a completely new model number so Canon has adopted its ‘Mark’ version naming.

The black and grey PIXMA Pro9550 Mark II is attractive looking in design, solid in construction and presents well with a fold-out paper tray at the top, a paper receptor at front and a paper support at rear. Two wheels at the back allow the 15-kilogram printer to be moved about with minimal effort. With a foot print of 354x660 mm, the Pro9500 Mark II demands a reasonable amount of desk space and still requires adequate room at the rear to accommodate papers that are pulled through from the front-loading position. If this printer is deemed rather large for the A3+ format, it can at least boast that the top of printer is an ideal place to park a fresh A3+ print for initial inspection. Essentially the external appearance remains unchanged with only the “Mark II” insignia to denote the difference.

The original PIXMA Pro9500 was the first A3+ pigmented-ink printer to offer ten colours which, of course, is continued with the Mark II. The Lucia cartridges are 14 millilitres in capacity and consist of two blacks (photo and matte), photo magenta, photo cyan, grey, magenta, yellow, cyan, green and red. The two blacks interchange depending on the media selected so the end result is nine colours with a potentially wide colour gamut for smooth transitions and rendition of those subtle tonal values.

Canon’s ‘Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering’ (FINE) delivers three picolitre droplets via 768 micro nozzles per cartridge. The inks are rated at 100 years display life under glass and up to 200 years in book form.

Loading Up

The front operational panel contains the power button at the top, the resume/cancel button underneath and the front feed button at the base. The PictBridge port is located under these three keys

The receiving tray at the front requires only a light touch at the top to open and to cause it to slowly lower down into position. This is one of the many nicely designed features of the Canon printer that gives it more than a touch of class.

The multi-sheet feeder at the rear grabs the paper with a clang, but thereafter printing is extremely quiet. The single sheet front load method is level, precise, gentle and must rate as the best type of paper transport.

Ink replacement is simple enough. Lift the cover and the print head carriage will move to the centre. Replace the required cartridges (flashing red light) and close the cover. The print head returns to the start position, but it will then take about three minutes for the printer to get itself organised and at the ready. If an ink cartridge is inserted in the wrong place, the printer will not operate and will advise a fault exists.

Paper sizes from 100x150 mm to 329x676 mm can be accommodated with borderless prints up to A3+, plus the well-kept secret 355x584 mm “special” via the front tray and certain settings in the printer dialogue box.

The Changes

The changes are all internal and relate to faster print times, new colour management, direct printing from Photoshop using Canon’s latest ICC profiles, the capacity to handle 16-bit per channel print files and ambient light correction technology.

The test sample printer wasn’t brand new so there was no opportunity to evaluate the initial set-up process. Taking a guide from the previous model, it can be assumed it will take about an hour to strip off the protective tape, load the inks, run the ‘Automatic Print Head’ alignment sequence and install the software.

Connection is via a USB cable (which isn’t supplied). There is no network capacity. The 38-page “Getting Started” manual takes you through all the stages of the set-up routine. There is no hard copy manual and all queries must be accessed via the CD-loaded ‘Help’ files.

As far as operation is concerned, first of all the receiving tray must be elevated to create a level path. The bottom blue button is pressed and, after the on/off light stops flashing, the passageway is clear for the paper (printing side up) to be pushed through to a registration mark. For printing the button is pressed again and the paper will be drawn through and out the back of the printer.

An on-screen prompt then asks for the ‘OK’ key to be clicked. It’s altogether quite a long process for the benefit of a direct and flat paper feed facility. The front feed is intended to handle heavyweight media and here is where the direct flat method has its benefits, despite the time involved.