Having just reviewed Canon's latest pigment-ink professional printing wonder, the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II, I was intrigued by the fact that Canon also recently updated the step-down model in this series ? the Canon Pixma Pro9000 Mark II.
Building on the success of the original i9900 and the more recent version-one Pro9000, the Pixma Pro9000 Mark II is a 13x19 wide-format photo inkjet designed for photography and graphic arts enthusiasts. Using a more cost-effective eight-tank dye ink system (compared to the ten pigment inks found in the Pro9500), the Pro9000 claims to offer Pro9500 quality with reduced costs of ownership and operation.
Is this "more for less" marketing too good to possibly be true? Keep reading...
BUILD AND DESIGN
Physically, the Pro9000 shares a lot in common with its more expensive sibling, the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II. They're almost identical in terms of size and styling, though our Pro9000 review unit uses more of the faux brushed metal common to Canon's consumer inkjets.
Styling aside, the Pro9000 is a hulking mass of printer that will demand somewhere in the neighborhood of three feet by four feet of work space if you want to be able to access all of its trays and feeder functions at once. For the space-deprived, Canon has thoughtfully included a set of rollers on the underside of this model as well ? which make it easy to tilt the device forward and roll it out from the wall should you need to use the straight-pass feeder.
On that note, just like the Pro9500, the Pro9000 uses two paper trays: a multi-sheet feeder that folds up from the back of the unit, 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. And as with the 9500, the auto feeder on this model is speced to support media up to around 100 gsm, and handle "Canon-approved" stock as thick as 300 gsm.
We tested the Pro9000 with the same selection of Canon and third-party substrates used for our other high-end graphics printer reviews. As with the Pro9500, the new Pro9000's auto feeder had no trouble with even the thickest media in our collection (which maxes out at 280 gsm textured fine art paper).
If you want to go heavier, or use anything media requiring a flat paper path, you'll have to convert the Pro9000's front-side output tray to loading mode. Select the single-sheet feeder as your source when preparing to print and on-screen prompts in Canon's driver status window walk you through the process ? which requires swinging the output tray up and manually aligning a sheet with the marks on the feeder.
Having recently experimented with the Pro9500, I was familiar with this process already and had no trouble getting sheets up to nearly 1.5mm to feed without jamming. As noted, you will have to move the printer a considerable distance (depending on the size of the sheet you're printing on) out from whatever's behind it in order to use the flat path. As on the Pro9500, a drop-down sheet holder and a pair of deployable "wings" support long media and keep them from bending during feeding.
Print sizes run the gamut, from the aforementioned 13x19 gallery-size prints at the top end, all the way down to borderless 4x6 prints at the other extreme. Like Canon's Pro9500 and the Epson R1900, the wide-format Pro9000 is designed as a complete digital printmaking solution for photographers and graphic artists. As with other devices in this class, most home office and consumer-focused features (external card readers and built-in scanners/copiers, for instance) have been excised from the Pro9000: PictBridge direct-from-camera printing aside, this model is built with output from editing tools like Photoshop in mind.
The primary distinguishing feature between the Pro9000 and the more costly Pro9500 is the step-down model's use of dye-based inks (rather than the pigment-based technology used in the Pro9500). Common to most inkjet printers at the consumer and prosumer level, dye-based inks interact differently with substrates than do pigment inks, and while they're cheaper to produce, they have also traditionally lacked some of pigment inks' archival advantages. In short, if you need commercial quality and longevity, a pigment-ink device is generally accepted as the way to go. For serious hobbyists and even pros looking for a wide-format proofing printer, though, the comparatively low cost of the Pro9000's dye inks (a full set will cost you about half what it costs to replace all ten inks in the pigment-based Pro9500) is a boon.
The Pro9000 Mark II uses the same ChromaLife100 eight-ink setup found in the original Pro9000, but carries over its 4800x2400 dpi FINE user-replaceable printhead system found in the Pro9500.
Users who print a lot of black-and-whites will likely notice that, unlike Canon's Lucia ten-ink pigment system, there's no extra provision for "Photo Black" in this ink set. Again, if commercial-grade prints ? and especially commercial-grade monochrome prints ? are vital to you, this should be a sign to consider the Pro9500 instead.
As has become standard for Canon's Pixma Pros, you won't find a lot of buttons or external features ? screens, card readers, and the like ? on the Pro9000 Mark II. There's a power button, a feed switch, a control for loading the flat-path feed, and a PictBridge port. That's it.
Finally, the Pro9000 connects via USB only, and I still can't help but feel that the inclusion of some kind of built-in networking option would have been an appreciated touch for commercial as well as home office/studio users.
As always, our video review has a thorough walk-around tour of the Pro9000:
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