Small enough to fit in a home office or studio, but capable of producing professional-quality, long-lasting prints – that’s how Canon is marketing the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II
Small enough to fit in a home office or studio, but capable of producing professional-quality, long-lasting prints – that’s how Canon is marketing the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II.
The printer is a larger format than the dinky desktop pods in Canon’s SELPHY range and it’s pretty titanic in weight, though slimmer in profile than some others in its class. It’s slightly less ugly than its predecessor as well, although it still has the same boxy, brooding bulk on the average desktop and requires a good amount of room for its trays to be unfolded. It has two of these: a single-sheet feed tray below the output slot at the front, and the standard multiple-sheet feed up at the back. Both can handle paper up to A3 in size and up to 300gsm in weight on papers that are ‘Canon approved’. As these include stock by fine art and photo paper makers such as Hahnemühle and Innova, there are a range of weights and textures available for use with this printer, from high-gloss photo stock to canvases for digital art.
It even has built-in ICC profiles for a range of supported media, and you can create your own for other types of paper. This is done through the built-in Color Management Tool Pro 2 software. Retaining the CS2 support of its predecessor, it has moved with the times and added extra compatibility for Photoshop CS3 and CS4 to the original model’s profiles. Also included in the software is the Canon Easy-PhotoPrint Pro plug-in, which enables direct printing from Photoshop using these profiles.
Another thing that the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II has inherited is a reliance on the Single Ink System, which despite its name means that a maximum of ten inks are separated into individual cartridges. This means that inks can be replaced individually, making a smaller slice in the budget of the average small photo-printing or graphics studio than replacing an entire integrated tank and print head. Nonetheless, the complexity of colour that this Canon printer can bring to an image – up to 276 trillion colours, in fact – means that you’ll run low on most colours at a pretty equal rate, which may mean a bit of a hit to the wallet when the time comes to replenish the cartridges.
It’s a thirsty beast, too – our review unit was soon bled dry with relatively little warning, and as it feeds off Canon Lucia inks, they’re not the cheapest to replace. Based on pigment rather than dye, they offer more true colour and added longevity on the right kind of paper stock, but they’ll set you back around £10 or $15 a cartridge. They’re available in Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Red, Green, Matte Black, Photo Black, Photo Cyan, Photo Magenta and Grey. This last one is a reason why Canon is touting this printer to photographers especially, for use in monochrome reproductions. For black-and-white photography or Photoshop work, this is fantastic; for colour paintings, though, it can cause bleaching or dullness in areas of subtly toned shadow.
Although it claims to handle paper weights up to 300gsm on certain approved stock, the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II is happiest with something relatively lightweight. It handled a slimline inkjet canvas of around 250gsm, although performance seemed slightly balky. We used the single input tray at the front of the unit and wouldn’t recommend rushing prints on heavier and more textured papers through the multi-sheet feed at the back of the unit, while we were slightly wary of just how much the printer seemed to sulk and gargle throughout the process, so patience is definitely the best option for ensuring saleable canvas prints. The printer wasn’t tested with any digital ground, a pre-printing paper-varnishing substance used for adding texture to prints of digital paintings, however, on a very lightweight fine art paper, such as Hahnemühle’s Inkjet Canvases, we wouldn’t foresee any major problem with using a light gloss on it to liven up a print of some Photoshop art.
Canon has a tendency to update its products rather than bring out completely new ones, and indeed the Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II does make some improvements on 2007’s previous version. There’s Kyuanos, Canon’s colour management system, which profiles media, lighting conditions and other such factors that allow you to optimise the look of your prints – a sensible option, given just how long you’ve spent tweaking the images in Photoshop.
But some new features, however, seem designed to frustrate the average small studio owner or freelance graphic illustrator. Take the case of the Ambient Light Correction feature. It’s only available in Windows Vista, making it unusable by the legions of Photoshop amateurs and professionals using either a Mac or Windows XP. In this attempt to look completely up to date, Canon has forgotten that Windows Vista will soon be superseded, leaving what could have been an excellent selling point to turn slowly into vapourware.
Summary: The Pixma Pro 9500 Mark II is a good update to an aging older model, but misses a few tricks where software is concerned and requires careful management to produce perfect prints.
Spec: Windows 2000, XP or Vista
Mac OS X 10.3.9-10.5.x
Program-based requirements may vary by application