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Home Systems: Great Deals from
Canon i9100 Photo Printer 
13x19 inch Prints Couldn't be Better or Easier 
by Jack Neubart

I removed the print from the folder and presented it to the toddler's parents. All they could say was, Wow! It was a 6-color, borderless print on Canon Photo Paper Pro. It wasn't even the largest-size print that comes out of this printer. In fact, it was letter-size. Still, the mom, a graphic designer with an appreciation for high-quality printing, was so impressed that she immediately asked which printer I used to produce this print.

Now I can't wait for her to see the 13x19 print that comes out of this Canon i9100. And I hesitate to tell her how inexpensive the printer is, because she'd be strongly tempted to go out and buy it, despite another 13x19-inch printer sitting alongside her computer at home. At only $499, the i9100 is practically a steal.

A Few Facts to Digest
The i9100 is a 4800-dpi six-color printer. That means that it employs one set of photo inks and one set of color/black inks to drop a high concentration of droplets onto paper. Standard inks are black, magenta, cyan, and yellow, with the photo inks contributing light (photo) cyan and light (photo) magenta. The result on this printer is an excellent tonal range and rich colors.

The 6-tank system may be a little more time-consuming to install, but replacing individual tanks is a breeze and very economical.

Another fact is that the i9100 derives its six colors not from two ink cartridges (color + photo)--which is the more conventional route, but from six individual tanks. 

Now, you would think this makes the i9100 more costly to maintain, but that notion couldn't be further from the truth. You see, the trick of this device is that you replace the tanks as necessary. Remember, they're individual units. 

There are some tanks that get used up more quickly, while others seem to go on and on like that famous battery bunny. Think of it this way: Normally, when just one color in a cartridge runs out, you have to replace the entire cartridge, even if the other colors are near capacity. That's a waste of money. And some of those cartridges can cost $30 or more. The Canon tanks sell for around $12 each (prices may vary). Yes, the total may amount to more than on two-cartridge printers, but you shouldn't look at it that way. 

When it comes time to stock up, buy extras of the ones you use most. If you're printing a lot of people pictures, photo magenta may be the first to go, followed by the other photo colors (light cyan and yellow, judging from experience). So simply stock up on those. Black and the standard magenta and cyan appear to have a long life in the printer. By the way, the tanks are made of clear plastic, so when your computer screen says "empty," you can see it for yourself. 

Dot size and patterns on inkjet output also contribute to the final impression. On the i9100, dot size is very small (4 picoliters) and there is no apparent clumping. Also, the colors don't bleed into one another, which enhances the overall appearance of sharpness. So the net result is a beautiful print you'd be proud to hang or present as a gift. One thing I did notice, though, is that output was indeed optimized on Canon paper--at least based on a few prints on papers from other manufacturers. So, for this printer, at any rate, what they say about matching paper to printer appears to be true.

Beyond that, the i9100 is very quiet and fast. A letter-size borderless full-color print took a mere two minutes! And that's photo quality, on Canon's best photo glossy paper, Photo Paper Pro. You can set the printer up to enter a "quiet mode" (accompanied by slower printing) during certain hours of the day, not that I found it necessary to do that.

Getting Started
Unlike other printers I've worked with, Canon printers such as the i9100 require you to first install the print head before installing the individual tanks. It's really a very simple procedure. Just be careful not to touch the electronic contacts. (Note: as with other inkjet printers, this machine must be plugged in and switched on first, to ready it. Leave it on to install ink tanks. Follow instructions afterwards before connecting to the computer and installing the software.)

You install each ink tank individually. The procedure is a little more time-consuming than with some other printers--after all, we're talking six, not two, cartridges, and you should be watchful: You can get ink on yourself if not careful. But do it once and it's a breeze the next time.

The next thing you have to do is make the USB connections and install the driver software. It's all fairly straightforward. As is the case with many inkjet printers, initial installation, or changing ink tanks, requires a print head alignment procedure, which is a function of the driver software--and painless.

Wake Up, Sleepy-Head
The i9100 is not the first printer I've used that started up automatically. However, it's the first Canon printer to do so in my experience. This function is optional, through the driver software.

This same driver software can be used to program the printer to enter standby mode after a prescribed interval. No, the i9100 doesn't shut down entirely--at least not initially. It goes to sleep. The difference between shutdown and standby mode is that the printer may go through a few additional mechanical procedures when shutting down. It will shut down eventually when left idle, probably by the time you've finished watching ER and Letterman and put your head on the pillow if not sooner. In the meantime, if you need to do any printing, just say the word--or rather, hit the Print command in your software, and you're on your way again.

If you're going away for a few days, you just might want to manually shut down the machine, which means waking it and turning it off via the on/off button or driver software, where there is also an off switch. As with all inkjet printers, never ever shut down by pulling the plug or turning off the surge protector (which I trust you're using for all your computer gear). Improper shutdown may result in the inks drying out. And you don't want to be left high and dry just as you're about to make that gift print for grandma.

The Bundled Software

The driver's main screen is simple and straight forward. If you're not sure where to begin, simply click on 
Print Advisor
. This wizard provides step-by-step guidance.

The Canon driver software CD contains more than just the driver software. It comes with several utility programs that are really useful. They include a viewer, photo-stitch program (to create panoramics from multiple images), and a print utility. After installing the software on my G4 iMac (under OS 10.2), I learned that the utilities aren't as comprehensive nor as fun or as easy to use (when will the world wake up to the fact that Mac aficionados have the same needs as Windows users?).

On my Windows XP machine, I found I could do pretty much anything I needed in ZoomBrowser EX (the Windows viewer). It opens the related utilities and will even launch my favorite image editor, with the image selected in the editing window (you can't select multiple images at once, but they can be selected in sequence, one at a time). I especially like Easy-PhotoPrint. It proved easy to work with, especially when outputting borderless prints, like the one of the toddler. In fact, producing even 13x19-inch prints was as easy as 1-2-3, in three short, quick steps. These big prints do take longer, however--about 10 minutes. And even though the prints are quick-drying I still leave prints overnight just to be on the safe side. I've got a set of 13x19's all packed up in the original box, separated by the protective leaves, ready to present to the toddler's mom and dad.

At a Glance - What I Liked…


Beautifully rich, virtually continuous-tone color output
P 6-color system with individual tanks: more economical to replace individual tanks
P Quiet operation
P Fast
P Prints dry immediately
P Easy setup, easy to use on PC and Mac
P Automatic on and off, so there is no wasted time and no nasty messages when you forget to turn it on or waste of electricity when forgetting to turn it off
P Great Canon software bundle
P Everything from 4x6 to 13x19-inch prints makes this the right printer for home or office
…and Didn't Like
O The down side of a wide printer is a large footprint: it will need more desk space
O Mac users don't get quite all the benefits from the software that Windows users get

Click here for technical specifications

Inkjet Versus Dye-Sub Printers

If you're not familiar with photo printers, one purpose of the "photo" inks they use is to give the prints a continuous-tone appearance, at least for all practical purposes. 

Only dye-sub printers produce true continuous-tone output. Still, what you should expect out of inkjets such as the i9100 is very smooth tonal gradation. Output from a good photo printer should be practically indistinguishable from a conventional photographic print. If you have to use a loupe to see the difference, that tells you something right there. 

The added colors also give you truer skintones and especially help to bring out those subtle tones that were in the original image. From my experience, inkjet prints have more punch and vibrancy than dye-sub output. On the other hand, dye-sub prints may have better wear resistance, owing to a protective coating. Which is more fade-resistant is still being argued, with lots of factors at play.

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All photographs Copyright (c)2003 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

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