Strong Econ­omy

Is an A3+ for­mat photo printer you can buy for less than $300 re­ally ca­pa­ble of de­liv­er­ing the sort of qual­ity you want? Trevern Dawes puts the amaz­ingly af­ford­able Canon PIXMA iP8760 through its paces to find out.

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It is said of­ten enough that you re­ally haven’t got a pho­to­graph un­til a print has been made. With this in mind, photo en­thu­si­asts may be keen to fol­low through, but are of­ten rightly de­terred by a num­ber of con­cerns. Is an A3+ for­mat printer go­ing to be big enough? What will it cost? Are the inks re­ally so ex­pen­sive? And can the prints last at least a gen­er­a­tion or two? Canon’s PIXMA iP8760 of­fers a so­lu­tion. It’s best de­scribed as pretty ba­sic with no ‘bells and whis­tles’ yet it does a cred­itable job. It’s cur­rently dis­counted to less than $300 (RRP is $329), it’s not too ex­pen­sive to run and it uses dye-based inks that pro­duce prints which should last more than 100 years in dark stor­age. But this A3+ printer is ded­i­cated to the cause of mak­ing prints: It is not a mul­ti­func­tional ma­chine. One dou­ble-size black pig­ment car­tridge is for doc­u­ment print­ing or typ­i­cal text (giv­ing about 500 pages) while the five ‘Chro­ma­l­ife 100+’ dye-based inks are for photo print­ing. They con­sist of black, cyan, ma­genta, yel­low and grey.

Dye-based inks are cheaper than pig­ments, ex­hibit strong colour, are ca­pa­ble of high res­o­lu­tion (in this case 9600x2400 dpi with one-pi­col­itre droplets) and are suit­able for all pa­per sur­faces, es­pe­cially gloss and semi-gloss. Dyes pen­e­trate pa­per sur­faces whereas pig­ments re­side on the top. There is no gloss dif­fer­en­tial or bronz­ing prob­lems on gloss me­dia with dyes, and greater re­sis­tance to scuff­ing and scratch­ing.

The iP8760 comes sup­plied with six stan­dard (or set-up) car­tridges, a power lead, an in­stal­la­tion CD-ROM, a CD/DVD print tray and a sam­ple packet of

three A4 sheets of Canon Photo Pa­per Plus. As is usu­ally the case these days, a USB cable is not in­cluded with the printer.

What You Get

There are lim­its on what can be achieved to de­sign and build a printer to make it look fan­tas­tic, but for a big box with rounded cor­ners Canon’s iP8760 is a rea­son­ably ele­gant piece of of­fice equip­ment. Most of the printer is flat black, com­ple­mented by two lift-up lids with a stip­pled black gloss fin­ish. The front lid al­lows ac­cess to the print head for ink car­tridge changes while the rear lid folds back as the ex­tend­able pa­per sup­port.

The con­trols are min­i­mal and com­prise, on the right side, of the ’On/Off’ and ‘Re­sume/Can­cel’ but­tons. Im­me­di­ately be­low is the blue WiFi sync­ing lamp. Power and USB ca­bles con­nect at the rear. There is no Eth­er­net fa­cil­ity. Wire­less con­nec­tion is pro­vided by WiFi sync­ing, PIXMA Cloud Link, Ap­ple AirPrint and CloudPrint. Cam­eras with Pic­tBridge sup­port may also be con­nected.

The one-and-only pa­per feed at the back has two ad­justable guides to cen­tre pa­per on the pick-up path­way. Pa­per with the coated side fac­ing up is sup­ported on a three-sec­tion pull-out tray while the re­ceiv­ing tray at the front ex­tends in four parts. A roll pa­per holder is not in­cluded. The CD/ DVD print tray slots in on top of the re­ceiv­ing tray and, when not in use, can be housed in a small com­part­ment at the back of the printer. For a ba­sic printer the con­struc­tion is solid.

A fair amount of desk space is re­quired for the printer foot­print plus al­lowances for the back slop­ing of the pa­per sup­port and for the pull-out re­ceiv­ing tray at the front. The top of the printer pro­vides an ideal area to place pa­per ready for print­ing or fin­ished prints. There is no LCD screen to as­sist in mon­i­tor­ing and con­trol­ling the printer. As noted at the start this is a very ba­sic ma­chine where the non-in­clu­sions help to present an af­ford­able pack­age, yet one that suf­fers no lack of qual­ity or speed as a re­sult.

Set­tinG up

When un­pack­ing the printer, the or­ange print clamp should be re­tained to se­cure the print head if the printer is to be trans­ported. Af­ter the power cord is con­nected and the printer switched on, a short wait is re­quired for the white in­di­ca­tor light to stop flash­ing. The front top lid is opened for each car­tridge to be in­serted in its cor­rect po­si­tion and pushed down gen­tly to click into place. A red light will then ap­pear to sig­nify all is cor­rect. When han­dling each car­tridge the chip should not be touched.

The lid is closed to al­low the printer about three min­utes to ini­tialise the inks. When the CDROM is in­serted in the com­puter it’s sim­ply a mat­ter of fol­low­ing the in­struc­tions through the choice of wire­less or USB con­nec­tions and in­stal­la­tion of the printer driver and soft­ware pro­grams. This stage will take about 12 min­utes. Fi­nally, a test page is or­gan­ised to con­firm ev­ery­thing is ready. An icon for the User’s Guide will be in­stalled on the desk­top. From first open­ing the box to be­ing ready to go will take a com­fort­able 40 min­utes.

The full printer driver and soft­ware pack­age for Win­dows or Mac sys­tems may be down­loaded from the Canon Web­site.

The ‘Quick Setup’ panel pro­vides a sim­ple means to es­tab­lish printer set­tings or, for a more de­tailed ap­proach, the ‘Main’ and ‘Page Setup’ pan­els may be used.

The ‘Pa­per Types’ list com­prises Plain, Photo Pa­pers (namely Photo Pa­per Plus Glossy, Photo Pa­per Pro Plat­inum, Photo Pa­per Pro Lus­tre, Photo Pa­per Plus Semi-Gloss, Glossy Photo Pa­per and Matte Photo Pa­per), Fine Art Pa­pers, En­ve­lope, Ha­gaki and Other Pa­pers (in­clud­ing print­able discs). The ‘Print Qual­ity’ is set to ei­ther ‘High’ or ‘Stan­dard’, ‘Colour/In­ten­sity to ei­ther ‘Auto’ or ‘Man­ual’ (with Colour Ad­just­ment, Match­ing or ICM sub-set­tings). All the stan­dard pa­per sizes are listed plus a ‘Cus­tom’ op­tion.

The ‘Auto’ ap­proach – or ‘My Im­age Gar­den’ – are likely to be the eas­i­est paths for most first­timers, but later, via pro­grams like Pho­to­shop, ex­tra pre­ci­sion is avail­able. Most of the test print­ing on the iP8760 was based on im­ages as­signed an RGB colour pro­file so, with Pho­to­shop and the ‘let the printer con­trol colour’ set­ting, it was case of hav­ing ‘Man­ual’, ‘ Colour’ and ‘ICM’ locked into Adobe RGB.

 The six inks com­prise one dou­ble-size black pig­ment car­tridge for doc­u­ment print­ing and five ‘Chro­ma­l­ife 100+’ dye­based inks for photo print­ing. These are in black, cyan, ma­genta, yel­low and grey. “The iP8760 of­fers ex­ceP­Tional value for The ini­Tial ouT­lay and rea­son­able run­ning cosTs us­ing The larger xl car­Tridges.”

The ‘My Im­age Gar­den’ soft­ware pro­vides a broad range of print­ing projects, in­clud­ing photo print, photo lay­out, col­lage, cards and cal­en­dars. With this fa­cil­ity, ba­sic im­age ad­just­ments can be un­der­taken with­out need­ing to have a more so­phis­ti­cated pro­gram such as Pho­to­shop.

Al­though dye inks on a new print dry quickly, it’s still ad­vis­able to let the print dry down fully be­fore mak­ing an as­sess­ment of colour. An ini­tial slight red cast usu­ally oc­curs but will ‘neu­tralise’ when the print is dry.

Pro­files

For those en­thu­si­asts who are ac­cus­tomed to work­ing with pig­ment print­ers and ICC pro­files, there is no cause for con­cern in work­ing with a dye-based printer such as the iP8760. The ‘canned’ pro­files in the printer are per­fectly ad­e­quate for the listed pa­pers and, in­deed, other branded pa­pers of a sim­i­lar type.

If there doesn’t hap­pen to be con­sis­tency be­tween the im­age on a cal­i­brated screen and the prints, a se­lec­tion of man­ual over­rides can be made to bright­ness, con­trast, sat­u­ra­tion and over­all colour.

Any re­vised set­tings can be al­lo­cated a con­ve­nient name and saved in the ‘Quick Setup’ menu for on-go­ing use. In the process of mak­ing any re­fine­ments, it’s best to work with small prints or test strips to min­imise ink and pa­per usage un­til the fi­nal cor­rec­tions have been made.

Top-of-the-range print­ers with mul­ti­ple inks (for ex­am­ple, the 12 in Canon’s ImagePROGRAF Pro1000) have the ca­pac­ity for ex­ten­sive colour gamut and sub­tle ren­di­tion that ex­ceed the ca­pac­ity of a ba­sic four-colour inkset or, in the case of the iP8760, five inks for photo work. How­ever, many pho­tog­ra­phers sac­ri­fice ex­ten­sive tonal scale in their im­ages in or­der to gain im­pact to the point where prints pro­duced with just five colours may not ap­pear to be sig­nif­i­cantly dif­fer­ent from prints pro­duced with mul­ti­ple ink sys­tems. Most peo­ple will be very happy with the out­put of the iP8760 and will be equally happy that it all hap­pens for only a few hun­dred dol­lars.

ink lev­els

The printer will in­di­cate when an ink is run­ning low. Print­ing may con­tinue un­til the printer brings up a “Sup­port Code 1600” mes­sage on screen to in­di­cate which car­tridge is empty and the ‘Re­sume/ Can­cel’ but­ton will flash or­ange.

When this but­ton is then pressed, the print head will move to­wards the cen­tre of the printer and a flash­ing red light will, once again, in­di­cate the car­tridge to be re­placed. Af­ter the lid is closed the printer will re-or­gan­ise it­self.

Canon print­ers rarely have clog­ging prob­lems be­cause they en­force head clean­ing cy­cles on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Ink used in the process is di­rected to non­re­place­able ab­sorp­tion pads. The longer a printer is left idle,

the deeper the head clean­ing be­comes. As a gen­eral guide, if the printer is not used for 60 hours a head clean cy­cle will hap­pen. To avoid this sit­u­a­tion the printer must be used fre­quently, if only for a post­card or a noz­zle check print-out. The ‘jig­ging and gur­gling’ when the printer is run­ning a cy­cle is a pos­i­tive sign. It does mean ink is ex­pended, but it also en­sures ef­fi­cient op­er­a­tion.

The ‘Chro­ma­l­ife 100+’ inks in the IP8760 are rated by Canon at more than 100 years in dark stor­age (Canon USA ac­tu­ally men­tions 300 years). At this stage there are no re­sults from Wilhelm Re­search to con­firm these rat­ings. Of course, there are many fac­tors such as tem­per­a­ture, hu­mid­ity, ozone, and air-borne con­tam­i­nates that will af­fect how long a print will en­dure be­fore it fades to an ex­tent where it is no longer worth keep­ing. A key point to em­pha­sise is that al­ter­na­tive inks are not rec­om­mended. Al­though com­pat­i­ble car­tridges and CIS sys­tems gen­er­ally don’t cre­ate prob­lems, these inks can­not go close to the ‘Chro­ma­l­ife100+’ rat­ings. As a means of com­par­i­son, the dye-based inks in the Ep­son Ex­pres­sion Photo HD XP-15000 are the Claria type, rated by Wilhelm Re­search at 98 years un­der glass and 200 years in dark stor­age.

Big Prints

The max­i­mum pa­per size that the iP8760 can han­dle is 329x676 mil­lime­tres. If a 15 mil­lime­tres mar­gin is es­tab­lished all around, this leaves an im­age area of 299x646 mil­lime­tres. With a gen­er­ous mu­seum mount board, it means a rea­son­ably large framed print can be pro­duced for home, of­fice or gallery pre­sen­ta­tion. Stan­dard 430, 610 or 914 mil­lime­tres wide pa­per rolls can be cut to cre­ate the re­quired size and even be used in an eco­nom­i­cal way for a va­ri­ety of reg­u­lar sizes.

Us­ing the ‘High’ qual­ity set­ting (and en­forced ‘Level Two’) a panoramic print made on In­nova Fi­braprint 285 gsm matte pa­per took 5:33 min­utes to print, pro­vid­ing a great re­sult in rea­son­ably quick time.

The ‘stan­dard’ ink car­tridges sup­plied with the printer each con­tain six millil­itres of ink. Re­plac­ing these with more ‘stan­dard’ types is not an eco­nom­i­cal propo­si­tion as the op­tional XL car­tridges with 11 millil­itres ca­pac­ity are far cheaper per millil­itre.

In or­der to find out what it costs to make a typ­i­cal A4 or A3+ size print, the area of ev­ery print cre­ated by the iP8760 was recorded in ad­di­tion to the amount of ink used. This worked out at 8.7 millil­itres per square me­tre of print­ing. With XL car­tridges priced at $27.95 ($2.54 per millil­itre), this trans­lates to an av­er­age A4 print cost­ing about $1.34 for ink and about $3.63 for an A3+ print.

About half the prints were pro­duced at the ‘Stan­dard’ qual­ity set­ting and half at ‘High’ to pro­vide a fair av­er­age. If ‘Stan­dard’ were to be used most of the time, the ink cost would re­duce from the av­er­age, whereas if ‘High’ was used all the time then the costs would be higher. Of course, over­all print­ing costs will re­duce by chas­ing dis­counted prices less than $20 (plus de­liv­ery) per XL car­tridge. At that price, it works out at $1.82 per millil­itre with an A4 print com­ing down to about 96 cents and an A3+ print com­ing down to around $2.60.

Black and White

Black and white print­ing with a so-called en­try-level printer is not usu­ally a won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence. A minis­cule amount of ink from the colours be­comes in­volved to pro­duce prints with a slight colour cast.

“This is a very ba­sic ma­chine where The non-in­clu­sions help To presenT an af­ford­able pack­age yeT one ThaT suf­fers no lack of qual­iTy or speed.”

The first test print us­ing ‘greyscale’ de­liv­ered a warm tone. Al­though pleas­ant enough look­ing, it was hardly neu­tral. The sec­ond test, still us­ing the same B&W im­age, was printed as ‘Colour’ us­ing a man­ual over-ride cor­rec­tion of mi­nus-nine ma­genta and mi­nus- nine yel­low. This pro­duced a far more ac­cept­able re­sult.

There is an al­ter­na­tive where the black ink only can be used… in this case, the black pig­ment al­lo­cated to doc­u­ment print­ing. The only means of ac­cess is to as­sign ‘Plain Pa­per’ and ‘Busi­ness Doc­u­ment’ and en­force ‘Level Two’ print qual­ity. Of course, inkjet photo pa­per is still used, de­spite the ‘Plain Pa­per’ des­ig­na­tion. The end re­sult is a struc­ture of very fine black dots as per il­lus­tra­tions in books and magazines. Strong im­pact is a key­note. Some im­prove­ments may need to be made to bright­ness and con­trast.

The use of the pig­ment ink on gloss or semi-gloss pa­per can re­sult in gloss dif­fer­en­tial and bronz­ing sit­u­a­tions. This may be re­garded as a dis­ad­van­tage to be off­set by the far greater print life as­so­ci­ated with pig­ments.

When a black ink only method is em­ployed, the stan­dard ink spray down or dither­ing ef­fect is re­placed by a fine dot struc­ture. A good mag­ni­fy­ing glass will re­veal the dif­fer­ence. Black and white print­ing has a graphic na­ture where per­sonal choice is in­volved so it’s up to the in­di­vid­ual to ex­per­i­ment and set­tle on a pre­ferred method for each type of pa­per.

The Ver­dICT

The PIXMA iP8760 is well con­structed, easy to set up and op­er­ate, runs qui­etly and de­liv­ers the goods with a min­i­mum of fuss. One of the most ap­peal­ing fac­tors is that it does not re­quire an in-depth knowl­edge of colour man­age­ment to be able to turn out ex­cel­lent prints. The iP8760 of­fers ex­cep­tional value for the ini­tial out­lay and rea­son­able run­ning costs us­ing the larger XL car­tridges. Al­though the ex­tra fea­tures of more ex­pen­sive print­ers add con­ve­nience, they are not go­ing to lead to bet­ter out­put.

Over­all, the iP8760 rep­re­sents an ideal gate­way into the won­der­ful world of photo print­ing. For many this printer will sat­isfy all re­quire­ments while for oth­ers, it could be the step­ping stone to big­ger and more so­phis­ti­cated print­ers, while still re­tain­ing the en­try-level Canon as a sec­ondary unit, a spe­cial­ist gloss print-maker or a D-I-Y photo book printer.

When the first A3+ inkjet print­ers ap­peared, they came with big price tags of a thou­sand dol­lars or more, 720 dpi print res­o­lu­tions and ex­pen­sive four-colour inksets that pro­duced prints which faded quickly. Printer evo­lu­tion has come a long way since: Mod­els like the iP8760 now of­fer higher res­o­lu­tion, fast print speeds, long-life inks and good-qual­ity print­ing. Such progress means en­thu­si­asts hes­i­tant about get­ting in­volved in print mak­ing can now con­fi­dently make the move.

“The iP8760 of­ferS ex­CeP­TIonAL VALue for The InI­TIAL ouT­LAy And reA­Son­AbLe run­nIng CoSTS uS­Ing The LArger xL CAr­TrIdgeS.”

Canon PIXMa iP8760

 The iP8760 shown with the pa­per sup­port and re­ceiv­ing trays open.

 The ‘My Im­age Gar­den’ soft­ware pro­vides a broad range of print­ing projects, in­clud­ing photo print, photo lay­out, col­lage, cards and cal­en­dars.

 A ‘Print Pre­view’ fa­cil­ity is a vi­tal fi­nal check for any printer.

 The ‘Main’ panel of the printer pro­vides set­tings for pa­per type, print qual­ity and colour.

 The ‘Main­te­nance’ panel at­tends to all man­ner of printer con­trols.

 The low ink warn­ing means it’s time to or­gan­ise re­place­ment car­tridges.

 Graphic rep­re­sen­ta­tions of the ink lev­els.

 Smart print from your de­vice: Con­nect your de­vice via PIXMA Cloud Link, Ap­ple AirPrint or Google Cloud Print from any­where in the world or use Wi-Fi from any com­puter

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