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How to Fail Miserably

I wanted to love Canon's professional imagePROGRAF line of printers. I really did.

What's not to love, on paper? They claim a larger gamut due to their twelve colors. They claim a stable of papers that puts even Epson, de facto inkjet paper powerhouse, to shame. And, perhaps best of all, they make the fastest wide-format inkjet printers on the market. Faster than Epson. Way faster than HP.

Unfortunately some of us forced to work with them have discovered it ain't no honeymoon.

Over at ASU, we've got two Canon iPF8000 printers. They print on media up to 44" wide, which sounds like a total boon until you've actually tried to use them.

Canon #1 will gladly print away all day, but everything comes out very yellow, a tad magenta, and distressingly oversaturated. This is not good for a $6000 printer marketed to photographers as producing accurate color.

Canon #2 refused to print at all until yesterday, occasionally even playing "hide and seek" on the network, able to be found on some computers but not others. Once the non-printing issue was solved, we were all terribly pleased to discover that it kind of prints: the blue printhead is entirely non-functional. This is something so terribly obvious that it shouldn't have left the factory, much less passed inspection when they were set up. The print heads on these suckers have 2,560 nozzles per color. The printer also knows how to work around clogged nozzles. In other words, there's no way this is something as mundane as a clog: it's faulty hardware.

Canon's batting zero on the functionality of these two printers alone in my book.

But it just gets compounded by more facts of the situation.

Little niggling design choices by Canon, like the printer flashing "PAPER TYPE MISMATCH" every time you print, regardless of whether the papers actually match. The warnings from a supposedly-full-bleed, professional printer that it's going to cut off part of the image if you print past its margins. The braindead paper loading, which sees you with the catchtray bar in your chest as you blindly fish around hoping the paper loads, and the printer doesn't decide your perfectly-straight paper is skewed and make you do it all over again.

Then there's the issue of Canon papers.

In their "Printers for Professionals" brochure, Canon occupies the entire back page with a list of their available papers. I defy you to actually find someone who can sell you one. I tried. I finally gave up and switched my order to Epson paper after two weeks; one distributor had not been able to get any of Canon's papers, and the other claimed they could get the one I wanted but never actually did. Further, if you go over to Epson's site, they have full technical specifications for every paper they sell: brightness, weight, lightfastness ratings, surface... At Canon's site, you can't even find information about their professional papers. And even if you can find their media site through the back door, the most you get is the name and maybe the weight of a paper. Further, Canon's a little obsessive about adding brighteners to their papers, leaving many of them looking decidedly blue instead of white. The more you brighten a paper, the more you have no clue what the image is going to look like as the brighteners fade (nevermind the fact blue paper looks ridiculous).

For a company that's trying to steal Epson's thunder, they're sure as hell doing a miserable job of it. Two broken printers, annoying "features," and unavailable paper? I know that's the sort of certainty I want for making my prints!

Meanwhile, my consumer-level Epson printer is churning out prints on all sorts of papers that match perfectly to my monitor, and every paper Epson makes is available with a day's notice.

How Canon can screw up this badly on low-quantity, expensive printers when they make high-quantity, inexpensive consumer printers so well is far beyond my comprehension. They've got the money and the time to get it right, but they just... didn't.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 14, 2007 10:25 AM.

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