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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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