Canon is famous for offering series updates to its high-end imaging products rather than completely refreshing them. The latest example of this behavior? The Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II. A wide-format photo inkjet designed for working photographers, graphics pros, and serious hobbyists, the latest iteration of the Pro9500 builds on the original's success, with a ten-tank pigment ink system, borderless printing up to 13x19, and Canon's Ambient Light Correction system.
It all adds up to a serious printer with serious capabilities that should appeal to serious photographers ? or at least, to those who can spring for its serious price.
BUILD AND DESIGN
On a desk, the Mark II version of the Pro9500 doesn't look much different from the original unit that Canon rolled out a few years ago: it's a hulking, gray and black two-tone box. For the uninitiated, the Pro9500 (like most 13x19 photo printers) may look like a standard inkjet, but the scale is fundamentally different. By our measurements, with all trays folded up, the Pro9500 measures 30 by 14 by 7.5 inches; compare that to a standard 8.5x11 photo-inkjet (Canon's ip4600, for instance), which comes in at roughly half that size.
Hence, you'll need some dedicated desk space ? or an entire desk ? to make use of the Pro9500 Mark II. With all trays deployed, plan on setting aside about 30 by 40 inches for the device. Presumably, if you're shopping for a printer in this class, you have a dedicated photo work space and won't be taken aback by the machine's bulk.
As noted, the device utilizes two trays: a multi-sheet feeder in the back, and a single-sheet feed integrated into the output tray on the front of the device. Both trays can accommodate paper up to 13x19 (A3+), allowing you to make photo and other fine-art prints on a variety of media. In terms of thickness, the auto feeder is speced to support media up to around 100 gsm, and handle "Canon-approved" stock as thick as 300 gsm.
In testing the Pro9500 with several photo stocks, we had no trouble utilizing any of Canon's heavyweight fine-art papers in the machine's auto feeder, and with the appropriate settings, the Mark II handled 280 gsm (100 lb) art stock from other manufacturers with no difficulty as well.
Heavier papers require use of the front single-sheet feeder, with the Pixma supporting stock up to a stout 1.2 mm thick when loading from the front. The sheet feeder, which requires that you select the front tray when printing your file, then follow on-screen prompts to manually feed the sheet into the output tray for pickup, can be a little finnicky to adapt to if you're not familiar with Canon's feed procedure. One of our testers had trouble with improper sheet alignment and feed jamming early on, but everyone who used the Mark II quickly got the hang of the single-sheet feed procedure.
Once the sheet is loaded, the printer in essences "backs" the sheet through the output tray and then feeds it forward while printing. This arrangement means that the stock is never even slightly bent during the feed process ? an important consideration for heavy or coated papers ? but also requires that you leave enough clearance behind the machine to prevent the loaded sheet (which hangs out the back of the printer on a separate drop-down tray) from hitting a wall or other obstruction and getting bent or folded. Ultimately, while it's nice to be able to feed single sheets from the front side of the machine, the process doesn't really save much space compared to rear-load sheet feeders.
For serious photographers, graphic designers, and other visual artists, the ability to print at 13x19 is, of course, the primary appeal of a printer like the Pro9500, but it's also worth noting that the Pro9500 can print bordered or borderless prints at sizes all the way down to 4x6. Sure, you could even use the Pro9500 to print home/home office documents if you wanted to ? it certainly has the flexibility. But given the cost of ink (and of the device itself!) we're not sure why you would. At its core, the Pro9500 is a photo/art printer designed for serious amateur and professional photo and graphics use, and its focused features set ? you won't find many of the traditional "frills" seen in home/home office inkjets these days ? reflects this fact.
Under the hood, the Pro9500 Mark II, like the original version, uses Canon's ten-tank Lucia pigment ink system. Compared to dye-based inks used in most consumer and even many prosumer photo printers, pigment inks promise true commercial-quality contrast and color depth, as well as distinctive archival advantages over most dye-based inks. Canon has also been touting the capabilities of this ink set, which uses a pair of black inks (photo and matte blacks) plus gray, for black and white prints.
The tanks install into Canon's user-replaceable printhead with FINE nozzle technology. The printhead, which appears to be identical to the one used in the original Pro9500 based on its specs, produces ultra-fine 3 picoliter droplets.
Buttons and controls on the printer itself are minimal at most: you'll find power, feed, and sheet load buttons on the printer's front deck, as well as a PictBridge port, but the majority of the Pro9500's functions are handled via Canon's supplied software ? which controls options like the much talked-about Ambient Light Correction feature. Likewise, connection to your Mac or PC is via USB only ? there's no networking option. While those who use multiple graphics machines on a home network, or work in a small creative-services office, might have appreciated some built-in network connectivity this time around, the Pro9500's spare, simple, and easy-to-connect approach is standard for this class of machines, and it's unlike that serious graphics users will mind much one way or the other.
For a quick tour of everything the Pro9500 offers, have a look at our video review:
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