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Canon iPF6300 review
Using the imagePROGRAF iPF6300 24 inch large format printer
Part 1 of a two part review (Pt.2)
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 it 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.
Notes & Updates
Note - This is a long article, lots of images - it may take a while to load [Conclusions in pt.2]
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
The spindle has adapters for 2" and 3" core rolls.
Mouse over image below to see loading.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 6x17 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 ;-)
In the next part of the review I'll look at inks, profiling, custom paper settings, other software and colour and B/W printing.
I'll round it off with some of my conclusions and a summary of what I thought of this printer.
>>> Continued in Part 2 of the iPF6300 review
Printer is supplied with:
>>> Continued in Part 2 of the iPF6300 review
The views in this article represent those of Keith Cooper.
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