Should I buy a Canon iPF Printer?

Question: Do you recommend that I buy a Canon iPF Printer?

Answer: Yes, these are great printers with many strengths, so we recommend that you buy one if it fits your needs. All of the current large format printers have strengths and weaknesses, but they are different for each printer so it depends which features are most important to you. We recommend that you get enough information to decide if one of these printers is right for you. A recommended source of objective information comparing the printers for Canon, Epson and HP is Scott Martin's review of the new X300 printer generation, which includes comparisons with Epson and HP. You can also check an older newsletter from Scott Martin for comparisons of the iPFX100 generation with Epson/HP printers. Future issues of this newletter can be subscribed from the Onsight front page.

  • Decide if you would be better served by a 24 inch printer. Options here include the Canon iPF6300 or iPF6100, HP Z3200 and the Epson 7880 or Epson 7900. A comparison of the older versions of Canon, Epson and HP printers has been started here.
  • If you want a 17 inch printer, the only real competitors are the Epson 4880 and the Epson 3800, or the Epson 4900 which will be available in November, 2010 and uses the same inks as the 7900. Look at the comparison with the Epson 3800 and 4800, (some might want to also consider the HP Designjet 90, a dye-based printer which is only archival with two HP papers).
  • Check the Known Limitations section to see if the issues mentioned are showstoppers for you. Don't be too concerned about these problems unless they would affect YOUR use of the printer, since printers from all of the manufacturers have limitations.
  • Read the Reviews
  • Ask any unanswered questions on the Discussion Forum

Strong points of the iPF5000/iPF5100 include:

  • Gamut size equal to Epson K3 inks on Epson Premium Luster (but the shape is different, so stronger in some colors, weaker in others)
  • Excellent dmax (L* 3.3 on Epson Premium Luster)
  • Gloss differential and bronzing characteristics of the iPF5000 were identical to the K3 inks in a recent comparison of B&W done by Scott Martin of Onsight. However, the iPFX100 inks were hugely superior. He only tested black and white so there could be differences that one sees with color prints, but probably the results wouldn't be much different. The iPF5100/6100 printers black inks have the least bronzing and gloss differential (without HP's Gloss Enhancer) and that's a real strong point. Scott writes in a Luminous Landscape thread: "I have some wet darkroom fiber base prints along with B&W fiber base inkjet prints from Epson K3 printers, HP Z series printers and Canon iPF x100 printers that I carry around with me and all the photographers that I have shown them to have preferred the x100 prints thus far."
  • No clogs
  • Automated cleanings may waste less ink than Epsons, especially for the iPFX100 printers with firmware 1.35 which have been reported to use 0.35-0.81 ml per day
  • Frugal with ink when making prints
  • Industrial strength build quality
  • No cartridge swap required to print photo or matte black ink
  • Great motorized roll feed which loads very easily
  • Sheets and roll can be loaded at the same time, easy to switch
  • Very neutral B&W prints
  • Can print long panoramas

Weaknesses of the iPF5000/iPF5100 include:

  • Very large size compared to Epson 3800 (bigger than even the Epson 4800)
  • Locked Media Types may cause hassles/problems when printing on third party glossy/luster papers
  • Smallest official paper size 8X10 (but reports of successfully feeding slightly smaller sizes)
  • On selected papers Ultrachrome K3 inks may be more water resistant than Canon according to tests done by some Wiki members
  • Steeper learning curve for those already accustomed to Epson printers