Canon iPF6300 review
Canon iPF6300 review
Using the imagePROGRAF iPF6300 24 inch large format printer
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Canon UK recently lent us an iPF6300 large format printer. This is their newest 24″ wide printer and supersedes the iPF6100 that we reviewed last year.
Keith has been putting the 6300 through its paces, looking at how it’s different from the previous model and how it fares for someone looking to move up from an A3+ desktop printer. As a photographer and fine art printer, Keith is concentrating more on these aspects of its use rather than production or proofing uses.
This review covers this 24″ width printer.
The iPF6350 is a 6300 printer with an 80 GB internal hard disk.
For a larger 44″ print width version you would have to look at the iPF8300.
The review was carried out driving the printer from OSX Apple Macs.
However, the functionality and software is very similar if you happen to be using a Windows PC.
In the UK, our Canon Large Format supplies come from www.ipfstore.co.uk
You do need a bit more than a desktop to put it on.
The photo shows me holding a black and white print, produced on 240g Canon Satin paper.
Canon list some of the key features of this printer as:
- LUCIA EX Ink Set
- Media Configuration Tool
- High-Precision Print Modes
- Built-in Calibration
- Print Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop
- Redesigned Control Panel
I’ll look at these in more detail during the review.
The set of coloured inks (LUCIA EX pigment ink) is aimed at giving a wider gamut of colours on a range of papers, compared with previous versions. I’ll look at some aspects of this when discussing some of the prints I produced.
The inks are:
- PFI-105MBK Matte black
- PFI-105BK Photo black
- PFI-105PC Pale cyan
- PFI-105C Cyan
- PFI-105PM Pale magenta
- PFI-105M Magenta
- PFI-105Y Yellow
- PFI-105R Red
- PFI-105G Green
- PFI-105B Blue
- PFI-105GY Grey
- PFI-105PGY Pale grey
There are two black inks for ‘Photo’ and ‘Matte’ media – these are permanently loaded, and there is no need to swap or change black ink settings, this is set by the media choice when printing.
Our printer arrived on the back seat of a VW Golf and was fully set up in less than 15 minutes…
The legs and stand bolt together, along with the fold out print catcher you can see by my feet in the photo above.
Since the printer arrived fully working, I’m unable to comment on the shipping configuration, suffice to say that you will need two people to set things up.
- Note – we now have an iPF8300 here at Northlight, so I’ve written up a more detailed look at installation on our iPF8300 info page.
There is a choice of USB2 or Ethernet to link your printer up to a computer.
I plugged the printer into our Gigabit Ethernet network and the printer found itself an IP address from our DHCP server, with no additional input.
The printer also identifies itself via the Bonjour protocols, so it appeared automatically on all our networked computers.
The printer has a built in web server which I found the address for, via the front panel display.
The iPF6300 that I’m looking at, does not have the internal hard disk of the iPF6350 and wider iPF8300.
This means that you can’t reprint jobs from disk and adds some limits to job reporting. I’ll cover this in more detail when looking at the printer’s associated software, in part 2.
Move your mouse over the image to see the sheet load supports.
Roll media is positioned behind this (mouse over image to see).
I misaligned one of the end plates by a few mm and the printer stopped half way through loading and requested I re-align the paper and try again.
Smaller rolls, such as the 17″ canvas below, are loaded just fine, with the printer showing the detected width.
Paper type is set via the printer front panel.
The menu system is very clear, and I had no difficulty finding what was there – it has been tidied up somewhat from the iPF6100. This is good, since there are dozens of paper types and varieties to choose from.
Fortunately you can use the media configuration tool software to strip out all the stuff you are never going to use – this software has a number of functions and I’ll look at it further when covering custom media settings.
The three most recently used paper types are remembered as ‘quick select’ options, which is definitely handy.
For extra thick media, there is a front feed path, but all other sheets are fed in the top.
If you are feeding thick media via the front, you should ensure that there is enough space at the rear of the printer.
I still have marks on the wall from a previous printer test where I forgot this.
The sheet loader was considerably more accurate than when I used the iPF6100 last year, with no obvious ‘snatch’ marks along the edge of paper and not one misfed sheet.
- Note that this was a pretty new machine and the one I looked at last year most definitely a well used demo model, but the differences were noticeable.
The picture below shows a sheet fed in and ready to print.
The two prints are of my black and white test print and show how you need to be careful when setting margins for sheet media.
Both are the same image, but if you look carefully you can see that the left hand print has been clipped at either end.
The paper is a Canon cotton rag paper and I wouldn’t want to mess up too many sheets like this.
Borderless printing is supported at particular media sizes. The rolled up picture below was printed borderless on 17″ canvas.
Automatic cutting is (by default) disabled for some media types, so my big scissors are needed.
The print below was printed with large borders on the same medium.
- I’ve been doing some experiments with the JetMaster canvas mounting system. This is covered in its own JetMaster review.
The standard margin width is 3mm (prints to the right), but as I found out several times, it pays to double check if you are trying out a new media size.
A lot of my printing does not really push the extremes of gamut, so partly to go with some of my tests of the canvas mounting system, I took some close up photos of various flowers from the garden and conservatory.
The reds of the cactus flowers were largely beyond the range of the sRGB colour space and in parts went beyond the range of Adobe98.
Most of the shots were taken in our product photography area, and used the TS-E 90mm tilt/shift lens with various extension tubes on a Canon 1Ds Mk3 camera.
The prints below were nested together with the ImageNest layout software, but printed via the normal Canon printer driver.
If, like me, you produce a lot of your printed work in Photoshop, then there are two ways to print from it.
One is to use the standard Photoshop print dialogue, the other is to print via Canon’s Photoshop print plugin.
First up, the normal PS print mechanism.
- The screen shots here are all from our Apple Macs, but functionality is essentially the same on Windows PCs
In this first example, I’m printing a profiling target on A3 paper, so that it can be measured to create an ICC profile for the paper. I’ve set the Photoshop (CS3) print dialogue to ‘no color management’ and the driver to ‘vendor matching’.
‘Vendor Matching’ effectively means ‘leave it to the driver’, so I can then set the driver to ‘no color management’ and know that the target will be printed as-is.
- Note that I’m printing from CS3 here, since CS5 currently has no way to turn off colour management (Adobe article)
I can print this to roll paper rather than an A3 sheet.
The printer dialogue is pretty clear about how the A3 print area will be arranged on the paper, however there are quite a few options, so be prepared for a few surprises.
With any large format printer I always like to try a few print layouts first on cheaper paper, rather than dive in with my best quality papers.
Those check boxes interact too, so I really would suggest taking a short while to read through the manual that you can install at the same time as the printer driver software.
The ‘free layout’ box pops up another window that shows your print, as it would be positioned on the paper. You can then ‘print’ another image with this box checked and it is added to the layout box.
In the example below, I’ve printed one image from Photoshop and another from Preview – the general image viewer on the Mac.
To the applications, the print has been done, but the print data is being held to allow you to arrange output, before actual printing takes place.
This is great if you need to print from different applications. There are some some nice layout options, but the need to go through the print dialogue for every image added (say from Photoshop) means I prefer to use a specialist layout tool like ImageNest.
The printer dialogue presents a lot of different printing options – I’m using the more advanced version here, since it shows some more of the print quality options.
I’ll come back to quality differences later, but for most print uses, going for ‘high’ settings rather than ‘highest’ will print quicker, use less ink and probably be indistinguishable in most prints to most people.
When you load paper in the printer, you are setting its type and size. This information will affect some printer dialogue options, so you can get the driver to interrogate the printer and update its display.
In the example below, the media type is actually a custom media type (see Pt.2) that I’ve defined for a new paper.
I’m printing the black and white test image using the monochrome (B/W) print mode.
The driver options above are available to any application printing to the iPF6300.
If you are using Photoshop, then there is a direct printing plugin that can be used to directly address the printer (avoiding Photoshop’s print dialogue)
There are some welcome changes in the operation of the plugin, with the new iPF6300.
Unfortunately (as with many other plugins I like to use) it’s not yet functional in CS5 64 bit mode on Macs.
Colour management aspects have been greatly improved, and black point compensation (BPC) is now available.
You need to download a bit of software from Adobe, but this is easy to do if you follow the guidelines on first use of the plugin.
A full range of printing and colour management options are available in the plugin.
In the example below, I’m using it to print a profiling target.
Once again, I’m placing an A3 ‘page’ on to the roll paper size that I’ve got loaded.
- Note – when creating targets for profiles, do write down the settings you used – I usually include it on the sheet itself, and then include a reference in the full profile name. You won’t remember the settings in six months time…
One of the most irritating feature of the old plugin has been fixed.
Every time you finished using it and quit, it would ask if you were sure.
However I have discovered a new minor irritation to take its place :-)
Every time you load a single sheet of paper into the printer, it reminds you to set the paper guides and press the OK button before progressing to load the paper.
Not much it may seem, but it’s one of those things that needlessly annoys and complicates a basic task (loading a single sheet of paper)
As I’ve noted, the options in the printer settings can be a little complex – for example, it took me a while to find out what was causing the error message shown below.
It would be helpful if the size loaded and size selected were displayed, so that I could see what I’ve got wrong.
During this particular print, I was using a laptop in the same room as the printer, so I could quickly check.
At other times I was on a different floor, so a bit more exercise (and thanks to the Macs built in screen sharing)
During printing, the printer display gives some basic job information and an estimate of how long there is to go before it’s finished.
Note the length of the second print.
One of the uses I have for big printers and roll paper, is to print large panoramic prints.
The first is this one of the Californian coast, just north of the Russian river.
It’s stitched from a sequence of hand held images, and has enough detail that you can see the splayed wingtip feathers of whatever large bird it was, heading my way (small dot in the sky above).
Depending on how they are to be mounted, I may choose a margin for such prints, or want them borderless.
Custom paper sizes for such prints are easy to set.
I may measure in millimetres, but the names are all in inches, since that’s how I visualise print sizes.
Note how you can specify print lengths up to 18 metres (just under 60 feet)
Once again, you need to be careful with margins and paper sizes.
The upper-left setting would put the printed area in the wrong part of the paper.
There are several preview options available – all very clear once you’ve taken the trouble to understand what it is they are actually showing.
If you’re printing an image in the middle of a custom paper size to get a suitable border, then do check that the ‘no space at top or bottom’ checkbox is not ticked, since it will cut the paper when the image finishes printing, not the end of the paper size specified.
I also printed this image on 17″ glossy canvas – borderless.
With the smaller print, I’ve used the auto-expand option to fit the roll width, rather than resize in Photoshop.
Printing on to canvas, I’d just reduced the size of the very large image by increasing the resolution. For some prints I’m happy to let the driver take care of resizing.
I’ve printed these images from the Photoshop plugin – I do actually prefer it now to the Photoshop print dialogue.
Once you print, the data is spooled and printing takes place in the background.
Here’s the print coming out of the printer.
I’m printing on to the ‘economy’ satin photo paper that was first supplied with the printer.
There’s nothing wrong with it, but I’d not like to guarantee I could get another roll the same in a few months, so it’s not something I’d want to rely on for my better work.
Paper choices are an integral part of my printing.
I’ll cover the improved custom media support in part two of the review, but this printer and its software give me a lot of the flexibility I want for both experimenting and consistent high quality printing.
Northlight Images does not provide a third party printing service as a regular service.
However, I may decide to carry out specialist Photoshop work and printing for individuals, but it has to be someone who’s pictures I like, and someone who trusts my skill and judgement in getting to the prints they want (no, I wouldn’t make a good ‘assistant’ at all ;-).
In the past, I’ve worked a few times with photographer Paul Joyce, including some previously unseen B/W prints of Jane Fonda in Barbarella (more info)
This had been taken with a Seitz scanning back 6×17 panoramic camera in the Orkney islands (northern Scotland)
I started from the 320MB RAW camera file, and was able to produce quite a large panoramic print of Sir Peter and his dog…
Paul wanted a photographic feel to the print, so we settled on 240g Canon Satin Photo paper from the Canon range of papers.
A copy of the print was to be sent to the Royal Picture collection.
After creating custom ICC profiles, I printed the image at 16 bit, and with all the settings at the best quality.
If you were using the normal driver rather than the plugin, you could select the ‘High precision photographs’ tick box for getting the most out of very detailed images.
The print area was 22″x64″ – with the un-resized camera file giving a 340dpi resolution.
This print took nearly an hour to print, so I double checked all the various settings before hitting the print button.
Here’s the print emerging from the printer (noticeably slower with everything set to highest quality)
Anyway, the print has gone off to Windsor Castle, and I’m informed that it was well received ;-)
If you’re moving to a large format, up from a desktop printer, then one of the things you’ll notice (apart from the bulk of the printer) is the size of the ink cartridges.
12 of them, each larger than the full set for a desktop printer. With each cartridge holding 130ml of ink, the printer has one and a half litres of ink sitting in it.
I should perhaps say that it’s the replacement cartridges that have 130ml.
The printer ships with ‘starter cartridges’ at 90ml. This caught me out when the first cartridge needed changing alarmingly quickly – some ink is used in priming the system, so expect to be ordering replacement carts before too long.
The printer display at the right shows all inks at the 60% level, with two at 40% and one at 100%
I’ll come back to this, but suffice to say, these values are ‘indicative’ levels…
You get a series of warnings about ink levels when a cartridge gets low.
Initial ones can be dismissed, but eventually the printer stops printing and you are prompted to change inks.
At this point there are still a few ml of ink in the cartridge, so taking it out and replacing it will enable printing to continue – think of this as a last warning to get more ink, you are running on a very small reserve.
Replacing cartridges is a simple job – it takes longer to remove the packaging round a new cartridge than to change it.
The printer display shows a basic guide to the process.
- Open the cover
- Take out cartridge where light is flashing
- Put in new cartridge
Move your mouse over the two images below to see.
Last time I looked at the iPF6100, I pulled apart an empty cartridge to establish the tiny amount of in left.
The similarity in physical design meant I was happy to trust a shake of the old cart to confirm it was properly empty – less mess than taking one apart…
Waste ink is collected in a maintenance tank (MC-16) which is the same one used in the 6100 we looked at last year (6100 shown below).
I’ll discuss ink usage and monitoring later, but in general, the iPF6300 seems to be pretty thrifty in using ink for cleaning and the like.
Having got through over half a litre of ink during testing, the maintenance tank level indicator didn’t move (another issue I’ll discuss later).
There are two print heads, with six colour inks per head.
Canon ink jet printers work by momentarily heating tiny amounts of ink in each jet, expelling a drop of ink towards the paper. This process also changes the ink slightly, making what you get on the paper not quite the same as what’s in the cart.
Such features are always welcome to marketing departments, but the upshot is that the ink holds to the paper well, and in some rough and ready testing, did seem more resistant to abrasion and rough handling than the previous version in the iPF6100
The print heads are rated as a ‘consumables’ with each rated for several litres of ink running through them.
There is a display option (right) to show how much use the head has had.
It seems that in this case, some 34 billion dots have been printed and the head has been in place since the start of the century – hmm… I’m minded to question the accuracy of this particular display ;-)
We didn’t have a printer long enough to require a head change, but it looks to be a pretty straightforward process.
The printers run regular cleaning cycles, dependent on both usage (including time switched off) and ongoing self testing. This will use small amounts of ink, so expect levels to gradually drop over time.
The printer comes with a collection of software in addition to the drivers and Photoshop plugin mentioned earlier.
I’ll start with what I feel is an important improvement from the previous version – the media configuration tool (MCT).
As I mentioned earlier, the printer comes with a vast collection of media types pre-installed. So many, that if I had a roll of each one, I’d have no room in our printer room for anything else.
Fortunately you can prune this list to just those you use with the MCT.
You can also add new media types – all the usual Canon ones and third party ones too.
I’ll show some of the options for adding a new paper to the ones available in the printer.
This new configuration is downloaded to the printer, and is then available to anyone using the printer.
Note that this is not the same as an ICC printer profile – think of this as customising your media settings, before you get anywhere near profiling.
I’m using an A4 box of thick cotton rag paper I’ve had sitting round the print room for ages (I just don’t print A4 very often).
You start with choosing a paper type to base your new settings upon.
If you’re not sure, then you can enter the weight or thickness of the paper.
The box says it’s 300gsm.
Given the limited number of paper mills producing such media, I’ve a pretty good idea of who made it and their own version (and Canon’s branded version too)
I’ll ignore that though, and just proceed to see how it goes…
In a welcome change from the previous version of the MCT, you can now name your paper.
You can also specify the paper source.
Note though, that front feeding is only an option for thick (board type) media, so you are limited to roll and manual feed tray for this paper.
You should also make a note to check margin sizes the first time you use the paper, since different types have default limitations on print area.
Many of these setting can be customised and over-ridden, but I wasted a few sheets of paper finding this out…
Print quality is dependant on a lot of different factors for new paper types. One of these is the way the printer feeds the paper.
Fortunately, there is an automated adjustment available, that amongst other things minimises any potential banding.
Next up are a whole load of options that affect how much ink is going to be used when printing.
I’ve written before, just how important it is to use the correct media settings when profiling and subsequently printing.
With many printers, you just get a basic set of paper options, but here you can make test prints to see the effects of different ink limits.
This isn’t the full range of settings that you get in some RIP software, but its a big advance and one less reason for me to choose a full RIP if I was using this printer for my work.
There is useful help available in the software, but this is not described in the installed PDF printer manual. It’s easy to use, but does benefit from actually understanding what it is you are doing (and why).
It’s worth noting that you can use your own test print for these prints.
Here are the ink limit test prints and feed adjustment prints (stripes).
Now the tricky bit – deciding which media setting is best.
You get to set ink levels, head height and vacuum strength.
With this paper, there was not a lot of difference in the test images.
I keep a small pocket microscope in the print room, to check print detail.
With it I could see signs of ink bleeding at high levels.
You might want to print your own target and measure ink densities when setting up an important paper, but for this test, the Canon Standard Paper setting worked just fine (I did say I suspected who made the paper)
The MCT summarises the settings chosen for this paper, for you to confirm before creating the paper type.
Some paper types do have restrictions, so check to see what is suggested.
This paper, for example, does not support borderless printing.
Once uploaded to the printer – it becomes another paper option in the printer and driver menus.
There are also the various ‘special’ settings available – I’ve seen these suggested for printing with various third party media, they were present in the software for the older printers, so may still be required for compatibility purposes.
A useful additional function of the MCT is to save and load media settings, so that once set, a paper supplier could supply both profiles and media settings for one of their papers.
Do remember that I’m mainly looking at this printer from the point of view of a photographer and fine art printer. Thus I’m concentrating on the features I’d actually use as a professional photographer.
Software is supplied for direct printing from Canon’s DPP photo processing application, however I rarely ever use it, and never for printing.
There is also a software tool for measuring lighting sources (with an i1 pro spectrophotometer) and using the resulting measurement file to adjust the printer output. On the Mac, the measurement file is an XML file that includes the colour temperature and brightness of the illumination.
It seems however that this option is not for when using ICC profiles for colour matching – since I only print via profiles, there is nowhere to make use of this info – apart from the fact that I’d normally build special profiles for odd illumination conditions if warranted.
I did use the firmware update tool to update the printer firmware – it worked without any difficulty. If you update firmware, then it is worthwhile recalibrating the printer, since in the past I’ve seen it suggested that firmware changes can alter a printer’s performance.
On Windows PCs there is also some poster printing software and detailed usage and cost accounting software.
The web interface
The printer runs web server software that you can connect to from a web browser.
It shows printer status, settings and recent job information.
Essentially it’s a remote interface to the printer that can be a bit more convenient to use than picking your way through the printer’s own menus.
As with any web interface, be careful if you alter network settings, since you can easily cause the connection to the server from your browser to be broken.
Just for the sake of it, I managed to connect to the printer via a VPN connection to our network, from my iPhone, whilst sitting in the pub. I’m not entirely sure how this would be of use, but it seemed a neat trick at the time.
If you’ve the iPF6350, with built in hard disk, there is quite a lot of historical print job information available, and you can reprint jobs. The iPF6300 retains information on the last dozen jobs, but not the actual print data.
The screen shot below shows a print underway.
Printer driver utilities
This aspect is relatively specific to the Apple Mac driver, however, the functionality is, I believe, present in Windows driver software too. Note that if you use the print plugin, some of these options are included in its settings.
The printer monitor did get confused on occasions, but seemed unaffected by the random characters…
There is quite a lot of functionality in this software, so I’d suggest you explore what’s there on your own system.
The print job shown is the same one in the web view above.
I never needed to perform any cleaning during the month I had the printer.
Printhead adjustment is carried out when installing the print heads – this should not normally be needed, however I carried out the adjustment after the printer had been delivered in the back seat of a car.
The paper feed adjustment (output shown below) is similarly not a regular adjustment.
The printer information shows the same information that you can see via the front panel.
Both showing a 24″ roll of Canon Satin Photo paper.
There are lots of printouts available from this menu – do check that you’ve not still got an expensive art paper loaded before selecting a print.
More information includes details of previous print jobs.
The ink usage per colour is recorded to one thousandth of a ml. This compares rather well to the front panel display that shows ink left in the tanks in 20% increments.
- Presumably someone at Canon thought that potentially seeing lots of cartridges jump from 100% full to 80% full at some point, with perhaps one small print triggering the shift, would be a confidence inspiring feature for new users… Do I want a fuel indicator in my car that goes from 1/5 full to empty in one step? I think not.
The job log can be inspected any time, but with the iPF6300, older information is lost as new jobs are added.
Two example print jobs are shown in the screen grab below.
I noticed that although printouts were both on a glossy paper, a small amount of matte black ink was consumed. On further investigation I was told that this reflects small amounts used in cleaning and general operation, not for actual printing.
All very good. You can print out the information as well.
Now it so happens that the minutiae of ink usage are generally of academic interest only for my work.
It’s print quality that counts, so if a 20% reduction in ink usage costs made a significant impact on my business’s bottom line, it just tells me that I’m not charging nearly enough for my prints.
I do appreciate that this attitude is perhaps not widespread and Canon provide software that allows for much more detailed analysis of your costs.
That is, unless you use a Mac – seemingly someone in Canon thought that if you use a Mac, you’re not interested in such mundane matters as media costs, so the Accounting software is Windows only.
This from Canon…
- The Accounting Manager serves as a powerful feature, used for accurate management of printing costs and other information that is increasingly important in today’s economic environment. With Accounting Manager feature you can track how much ink and paper is being consumed when printing large format output. Costs can be assigned to the ink and paper to determine expenses based on your own “Cost of goods”. Each individual ink tank can have its own cost associated to it, as well as a variety of different paper types. The user can also input a variable cost that will be added to the total of the print cost. The data is exportable to a .csv format for Microsoft Excel so the data can be used for billing purposes. This feature will allow you to determine the cost of each print based on your actual cost.
Note to Canon – Mac users do dull stuff with spreadsheets too! :-)
On costs of use…
The printer provides detailed information on the amounts of ink used, so it should be relatively easy to work out your real print costs.
How you then use this to fit into your business in a profitable way, is an entirely different matter. At Northlight, our printing contributes to the business in many less direct ways than just print sales.
As I’ve mentioned, I usually print all my colour images using ICC profiles for the particular printer/paper that I’m using. Black and white is a bit different so I’ll look at that later.
The new custom media settings are an excellent advance in producing top quality prints without the need for extra RIP software to drive your printer (RIPs are not cheap either)
One other feature of the printer I’ll mention before going on to profiling is the built in calibration option.
Printers vary between individual units and as they wear.
Since the print heads are replaceable, it’s important to be able to get the printer to a known state.
This gives me confidence that a profile I’ve made for one iPF6300 should give good results on a second one.
The calibration is carried out by printing a test pattern (shown below) and measuring the relative densities of the different inks – the print head mechanism has a number of sensors used for positioning and print measurement.
This isn’t an ICC profiling solution, such as is found in some other printers, but is an important step in getting good quality and consistent printing.
It’s important that you calibrate to a known consistent paper type.
Some suppliers will provide a roll of paper specifically for this.
Load the paper, do the calibration and then unload the paper, putting it back into a bag/box for next time.
I used Canon’s Satin Photo 240g paper for the test here, although if it was my own printer, I’d want a known quality proofing paper that won’t change specifications from one roll to the next.
The printer remembers its calibration data.
The picture below shows two profiling targets, printed out and being left to dry overnight.
I’m told that the latest inks dry down very quickly and that even after half an hour, there is little change.
That’s as maybe, but I’ve always taken the approach that overnight won’t hurt things.
I produced a range of profiles for papers using a i1 iSis for measurement, and ProfileMaker Pro V5 for making the profiles.
I often get asked for suggestions about learning more about the nuts and bolts of Colour Management.
My usual suggestion is Bruce Fraser’s Real World Colour Management. My own copy is well thumbed. It’s my first port of call if I’m asked a question and I feel I don’t quite understand an issue well enough to be absolutely sure of an answer.
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See some other books Keith has on the shelf, on our Books Page
I’ll not go into all the numbers here, but I found the printer very easy to profile, with not only a larger gamut than the iPF6100, but smoother gradations in shadow areas.
Bronzing was less pronounced in areas of strong colour, and as you can see in the prints above, gloss differential did not intrude into prints, particularly on the satin paper I used for the PMD panoramic print.
The supplied profiles were all of good quality and would meet the needs of many users, and probably work just as well for exacting users if you didn’t tell them.
As I’ll mention in the conclusions, it’s getting very difficult to see glaring differences between printers – if you’re interested in getting a printer this size, have a look at some example prints and see what you think.
One area where the numbers really do matter is in proofing. Canon tell me that a lot of the improvements in this printer are aimed at the very critical proofing market.
There are a number of different levels of print quality available, and the supplied profiles come with versions for these
A recurring difficulty when writing printer reviews, is that unless you come round to our office and wade through the huge piles of test prints, much of what I say about print quality has to be slightly subjective.
I prefer not go down the road that some reviewers take with vast tables of data and pretty gamut volume pictures – for these are frequently meaningless unless there is a lot of supporting information to allow you to usefully interpret the data for your own uses.
As before, I’ve two test images I’ll always try early on in testing. The more often I print these images, the more often I can get to spot differences and changes.
My initial use of these two test images shows up more obvious faults in printer performance (B/W and colour).
These test images (and many others) are available for free download on this site.
The iPF6300 offers a number of higher precision modes of printing.
During testing of printers I often use the excellent ImageNest page layout software [ImageNest review], since it works with the normal print drivers and allows me to print a collection of images on one sheet at particular settings.
In the screen shot below, I’m printing a collection of test images (in different colour spaces) on roll paper with most controls turned up to maximum quality
The driver is set to ‘save paper’ where it trims the paper after printing the images, so it doesn’t print out the several feet of blank paper in the print preview above.
I repeated the print with ‘high quality’ rather than ‘highest’ settings.
As yet, no visitor to the office has been able to say which is which. With practice, I’m convinced I can see a few differences, but to be sure I need to get the pocket microscope out and look at x40
The ‘problem’ I have, is that I regularly hear people on the net saying how much better one printer looks than another or that they only print at the very best settings. My own experience suggests that in blind tests, many people are worse at judging print quality than they might like to suggest or believe.
Then again I know that people who look at prints with hand lenses very rarely buy prints.
The picture below illustrates the difficulty of showing nuances of print quality in a web article.
The cactus flowers were from my conservatory and in the print, bring out some very subtle variations in the brilliant red. I’ve tried to show this here, but it’s a photo of a print under halogen lighting…
The image file is 16-bit and in the large ProPhoto colour space.
There are large areas of the flower petals that are outside of the gamut of the sRGB colour space I’m using here on the web.
The image at the right shows -some- of the sort of detail that was easily printable.
The lavender flowers below also have some intense dark saturated colours and that pure black background.
The print shows no bronzing and avoids that ‘ink sitting on the paper surface’ look that used to be common with pigment ink based printers.
When you are looking at test prints, try and find ones that reflect some of the sorts of image you want to print.
That’s for colour prints – what about black and white?
You can print black and white images using the same settings as for colour ones, however I was interested to see how well the special B/W print mode worked.
Below, I’m printing a greyscale image via the Photoshop plugin, just using the default B/W print mode, and centring the image on an A3+ sheet of cotton rag paper.
The print (of the Oregon coast) looks excellent and I’d happily supply it to a client.
When selecting paper types, you have the whole range of paper options, and in a welcome enhancement, the B/W print mode is available for custom paper types too.
This particular image is in the grey Gamma 2.2 space and at 16 bit.
If you’ve the (real) resolution in an image, you can benefit from supplying input files at 600 dpi, although my usual caveats apply as to whether anyone will actually notice.
The print dialogue allows you to apply sharpening to an image, but this is generally something I’d prefer to do selectively before printing, as with scaling.
If you prefer cooler/warmer blacks, then you can adjust the print.
Move your mouse over the image to see (change is quite subtle).
I’ve found when looking at printer B/W print modes, there is often slight inaccuracies in the linearisation of greyscale printing.
This is one aspect I like to get right, before printing my images. If I’m happy with the linearisation, then I find I’m less likely to get unexpected results when printing an image for the first time.
The quick test for this is to look at the bull’s-eye target on my B/W test image.
This part of the test image is the best quick indicator of non linearity in a B/W print.
It should be a smooth gradient, right the way to the centre.
It’s a very tough test and will show up unevenness and bumps that might not be obvious in many photographic images.
One way to correct this is to create a QTR linearising profile.
I print the small target and read the densities with an i1 spectrophotometer.
When you’ve created a profile, you need to apply this to your image to correct for non linearities in the printer output.
There is an alternative that I’ve still not been able to test accurately. That’s to use the curves option in the colour settings dialogue.
This allows you to use a standard Photoshop .acv curve file to correct things. I’ve not yet come across an easy way to generate one of these in the way that QTR does with its profiles.
But how far out are the defaults for existing Canon papers?
Not that bad, it would appear from testing a few (satin and fine art).
The graph below shows the output from QTR’s profile generation software from an unbranded 240gsm satin paper that the printer turned up with.
I used this for some quick testing since it’s similar to the Canon version that I was keeping for some other prints.
The curve is pretty linear and apart from slight crushing of very deep shadow detail, gave a very pleasing rendition.
The ‘a’ and ‘b’ lines in the graph show the effects of different inks being used at different levels, and the presence of moderate amounts of brightening agents (OBAs) in the paper.
Alternate printing software
QTR is an excellent shareware application, widely used to get accurate results from Epson printers for black and white, with normal ink sets and specialist black and white ones – it only works on the one make of printer.
I was pleased to find that there is a commercial printing solution aimed at monochrome print makers using Canon printers.
It’s called ‘True Black and White’ and is designed to be used on Canon large format printers.
I’ve been putting it through its paces whilst I had the iPF6300 and it looks to be a useful bit of software. Since this review is just about the iPF6300, I’ll be writing up a review of True Black and White during the next couple of weeks (since I do actually have ‘real’ work that gets in the way sometimes ;-)
Well, writing this review has taken longer than usual – …there’s a lot you can do with a printer like this.
- A quick reminder that I’m reviewing this printer from the point of view of a photographer who produces relatively low volumes of prints. For myself, print quality trumps minor running cost differences, and media costs are a relatively small part of my eventual print prices.
After running an awful lot of paper through the printer I can definitely see how much of its functionality has been tweaked and improved from the iPF6100. We have a lengthy review of the iPF6100that may put some of this review in context.
The new printer may not be different enough that I’d tell someone to junk their iPF6100 and rush to get an iPF6300, but as a new printer, Canon have raised the quality bar to make it a serious consideration for fine art use.
After creating some custom ICC profiles, I considered this printer and the prints I could make from it, up to the standard required for producing a print destined for the Royal Photograph Collection at Windsor Castle (UK).
It might not be one of my own original images, but having worked from the 320MB RAW file, I feel it worth my stamp as print maker.
OK, so I like the the printer. What about some of Canon’s claims for the 6300/6350/8300?
According to Canon, some of the key features of this printer are:
- LUCIA EX Ink Set
- Media Configuration Tool
- High-Precision Print Modes
- Built-in Calibration
- Print Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop
- Redesigned Control Panel
During my profiling of the printer for several types of paper, the gamut seemed larger than from when I looked at the iPF6100.
Not having both printers to compare, I’m relying on old data from when I looked at the previous printer. However I don’t have any evidence that wildly contradicts Canon’s assertion of a 20% gain in gamut.
More immediately noticeable in real world images (i.e. not ones specially created to illustrate some aspect of a printer’s performance) was the reduction in gloss differential and bronzing.
It’s worth noting that only a few years ago (2005) the amount of bronzing you got with pigment inks was very noticeable on glossy papers. It’s much lower in recent printers, so the improvement between iPF6100 and iPF6300 is there, but you do have to look for it.
Where the emphasis in Canon publicity for the iPF6100 was for speed and economy, there has been a subtle shift to address more quality and ease of use issues, both for proofing and fine art use.
The inks are said to be more ‘scuff resistant’ – a quick rub of the fingernail suggests that this is so, but I actually prefer to take good care of prints and handle them carefully…
A much welcomed improvement in flexibility and capabilities of this tool.
At last I can be a lot more confident of getting the very best out of my favourite papers – both for colour and B/W. Customisation and linearisation may not be up to what you get with expensive RIP software, but this is a lot easier and a lot cheaper. One less reason to fork out for an expensive RIP.
The ‘custom’ papers are what a lot of people will use for day to day work – I have several third party papers I regularly use for my fine art printing.
For the panoramic print I produced for the Royal Collection, I happened to chose a Canon satin photographic paper.
- Personal Gripe: As an aside, I wish printer manufacturers (all of them, not just Canon) could accept that we won’t be using their papers for -everything- we print. Terms such as ‘Genuine’ for describing papers are simply marketing FUD, and from my own point of view, just a tad insulting to my intelligence and integrity ;-)
High Precision Print Modes
More attention has been given to offering a range of print modes. There are lots of options that potentially make improvements to what you’ll see on the paper.
The differences between ‘high’ and ‘highest’ may frequently be invisible to most people (apart from taking longer and using a bit more ink), but stuff like this matters to the markets I see this printer aimed at.
The ‘high precision photographs’ checkbox is the one that invokes a different screening algorithm and shows up really fine detail.
Just remember that to really get the benefits from what a printer like this offers, you need to address the whole workflow from taking your photograph onwards. I’ve worked in 16 bit for several years and taken care with choices of working space and RAW conversion software for different images.
The only people who look at my prints with a magnifying glass and then go on to buy them are photographers paying for my time as a print maker. People who buy my own work, who want my photos to go on a wall to look at, stand back and look from a reasonable distance ;-)
Works easily, although perhaps Canon should include a special roll of calibration paper with each printer – it doesn’t need to be a huge roll, just of good consistent quality.
My two previous gripes were with colour management and that annoying ‘are you sure’ dialogue when quitting – both have been addressed, with the availability of BPC and using the Adobe CMM a definite step forward.
Unfortunately, the plugin does not currently work in 64bit mode with CS5 on the Mac – whilst irksome, I should note that all my other favourite plugins don’t currently work in 64 bit mode either…
Given the choice, I now prefer to use the plugin over the Photoshop print dialogue.
Note – late 2011 – many of the improved features of the plugin are now available in the iPF5100/6100 driver software.
Redesigned control panel
I didn’t have a problem with the old control panel, but the new one seems very logical and easy to understand.
The load/feed/cut buttons make it easy to set things up.
I do have two (minor) issues though:
- 20% steps in ink capacity for the cartridges and maintenance tank – as I mentioned earlier, do I want a fuel gauge for my car that goes from 1/5 full to empty in one single step? No
- Why two button presses every time I want to load a sheet of paper? Like a program that asks ‘are you sure’ every time you want to quit, this is just a minor but needless irritation that builds with every sheet you load.
General printer use
Paper loading was accurate and during the period of use I had only a few minor misfeeds of sheet paper when I was first using the printer. The printer is now capable of working out the size of paper inserted, which gets rid of some annoying size mismatches.
This and the fact that the printer did not leave any grab marks on thick papers such as I found with the iPF6100, leads me to think that paper handling has also been refined and tweaked from the earlier model. I tested sheets up to A2 size and they worked just fine.
I only briefly tried front loading, since it only works for certain media types. It worked reliably, but I still found it a bit fiddly to line up sheets.
Printer software all worked reliably on the various Apple Macs I used, ranging from a G4 PowerBook to the latest Mac Pro desktop machine. I noticed one glitch in the display, but this didn’t seem to affect printing.
Accounting software – as I mentioned, Canon seems to think that Mac users don’t do boring stuff with spreadsheets. The software is Windows only. We don’t have a PC in the building, and I’d not get one just to check ink and paper usage on my printer. For serious print use and sales, this is a major omission.
Ink changeover was simple and straightforward – watch out for the 90ml. starter cartridges though. They will empty relatively quickly on a brand new printer.
Overall, a very capable printer that I was somewhat loathe to return ;-)
- In the UK, our Canon Large Format supplies come from www.ipfstore.co.uk
One of the best quality printers we’ve looked at to date, easy to configure and set up.
24″ width, with roll and sheet paper support. Very good custom media configuration options.
Easy to use software, offering consistent high quality printing.
Windows only utility software for usage cost overview and analysis.
Compared to the older iPF6100, the iPF6300 has been improved in almost every area – not enough to make you rush out and dump your 6100, but some useful improvements.
- This review first published July 2013
|Printer Type||12 Colour, 24 inch width Printer|
|Number of Nozzles||Total: 30,720 All colours: 2,560 nozzles for each ink|
|Nozzle Pitch||1,200 dpi – Non-firing nozzle detection and compensation|
|Print Resolution (Up to)||2,400 x 1,200 dpi (Max.)|
|OS Compatibility||Macintosh OS X 10.3.9-10.6 (32 bit), OS X 10.5-10.6 (64-bit)
Windows 2000 (32 bit), XP (32/64 bit), Server 2003 (32/64 bit), Server 2008 (32/64 bit), Windows Vista (32/64 bit), Windows 7 (32/64 bit)
|Standard Interface||USB 2.0 High-speed 10/100/1000 Base-T/TX|
|Ink droplet size||4 picolitre|
|Ink Cart Capacity||130ml per colour, inks are LUCIA EX ink (Pigment-based)|
|Colour Set||Cyan, Photo Cyan, Magenta, Photo Magenta, Yellow, Black, Matte Black, Red, Green. Blue, Grey, Photo Grey|
|Media Width||Cut Sheet and Roll: 8″ to 24″|
|Media Thickness||Top Loading Manual Feed: 0.07 – 0.8mm (3.2 – 31.4mil)
Front Loading Manual Feed: 0.5 – 1.5mm (19.6 – 59.0mil)
Roll: 0.07 – 0.8mm (3.2 – 31.4mil)
|Maximum Roll Print Length||59 Feet (18 metres)|
|Maximum Media Roll Diameter||5.9″ (150mm)|
|Borderless Printing Width (Roll Media Only)||10″ (254 mm), B4 (257 mm), A3+ (329 mm), 14″ (356 mm), 16″ (407 mm), A2 (420 mm), A2+/17″ (432 mm), B2 (515 mm), A1 (594 mm), 24″ (610 mm)|
|Paper-Feed Method||Roll Feed: One Roll, front output
Top Loading Manual Feed: One sheet, front output
Front Loading Manual Feed: One sheet, front output
|Languages||GARO (Canon Proprietary)|
|Noise Level (Approx.)||Operation: 47dB (A) or less
Acoustic Power: 6.4 Bels
|Physical Dimensions||(with stand): 39.1″ (H) x 46.4″ (W) x 34.3″ (D)|
|Weight||Approximately 146lbs. with stand|
|User-replaceable items||Print Head (PF-05)
Maintenance Cartridge (MC-16)
Ink Tanks (PFI-105)
|Software Included||Canon Printer Driver, Print Plug-in for Adobe Photoshop. Print Plug-in for Digital Photo Professional, PosterArtist Lite (PC Only), Digital Photo Front-Access, Printer Driver Extra Kit (Free Layout, Color imageRUNNER Enlargement Copy, Advanced Preview), Print Plug-in for Microsoft Word/Excel/PowerPoint (PC only), Accounting Manager|
Printer is supplied with:
- imagePROGRAF iPF6300 printer with Stand & Basket
- 2″ Roll Holder with 3″ core adapters
- 2 Print Heads
- 1 Maintenance Cartridge (Installed)
- 12, 90ml Starter Ink Tanks (BK, MBK, C, M, Y, PC, PM, GY, PGY, R, G, B)
- Sample Roll Heavyweight Coated Paper
- Ethernet Card (built in)
- USB 2.0 High-Speed Interface
- User Manual CD
- Quick Setup Guide (Poster)
- Printer Reference Guide (Booklet)
- Power Cable
- One Year Warranty Card
- Registration Card
- PosterArtist Lite Application CD
- User Software CD with:
- imagePROGRAF Printer Driver
- Print Plug-in for Photoshop
- Print Plug-in for Digital Photo Professional
- Media Configuration Tool
- Accounting Manager
- Print Plug-in for Microsoft Office
- Printer Driver Extra Kit
- Digital Photo Front-Access
- imagePROGRAF Status Monitor
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- Canon PRO-1000 printer review 8th May 2016Detailed review of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 17" pigment ink printer. 11 inks and a colour optimiser coat. Tested for colour and B&W printing on a range of media types. Paper sixes up to A2, with borderless print options.
- Canon iPF8300 review and notes 18th February 2016Ongoing Canon iPF8300 review and notes about using the imagePROGRAF iPF8300 44 inch large format printer, by Keith Cooper. Notes date back to setting up the printer in November 2010
- Canon Pixma PRO-100 printer review 15th August 2014Detailed review of the Canon Pixma PRO-100 printer. A 13" width (A3+ paper size) dye ink based printer for colour and black and white.
- Canon iPF6450/iPF6400 printer reviews 22nd July 2013Overview of Keith Cooper's reviews of the Canon iPF 6450 printer, along with tests of specific paper types. Also includes printer setup and the optional spectrophotometer unit
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- Canon iPF6450 SU-21 spectrophotometer use 15th July 2013Canon iPF6450 SU-21 spectrophotometer use, including basic testing of printing and measuring patches with the SU-21 using the supplied Canon software.
- Canon iPF6450-6400 setup and assembly 20th May 2013Assembly and setup guide for the Canon imagePROGRAF 6400 and 6450 printer. Unpacking, and installation of PF05 printheads and ink
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- Canon iPF5100 printer review 27th December 2011Detailed review testing the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF5100 17 inch width large format printer. Sheet and roll paper, looking at colour and black and white pigment ink based printing a range of paper types.
- Canon iPF6300 review 15th July 2010Canon iPF6300 review, testing the imagePROGRAF iPF6300 24 inch large format printer, for colour and black and white fine art printing.
- Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mk II review 1st March 2010Detailed Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mk II review, using the Canon 9500 II A3+ printer for colour and black and white photo printing.
- Canon iPF6100 review 30th July 2009Full review of the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6100 24 inch large format printer. Colour management and profiling for all printing on different media types. Colour and black and white printing.
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