By Neil Bennett | on June 14, 2004
Pros: Outputs great-looking photos with fine shading especially apparent with reds and greens. It’s fast, and prints borderless photos.
Cons: Pictures not as striking as those from HP Designjet 30. Only £70 less than that printer.
Canon’s latest, greatest A3 photo inkjet printer is overall the best traditional model that we’ve ever seen. However, if you’re willing to pay a little more, this printer can be topped.
The Bubble Jet i9950 is the sequel to last year’s top-rated i9100 – reviewed and given a Best Buy as part of our group test in Digit 69. The i9950 adds two more inks – red and green – and doubles the vertical output resolution to give an overall spec of 4,800-x-2,400dpi.
Canon has added support for direct printing from compatible digital cameras using PictBridge and Bubble Jet Direct – via a purpose-specific USB port on the front of the printer. Direct printing onto labelled CDs is possible too.
With the addition of red and green inks, Canon has noticably improved the level of gradation for these colours. Red forms the basis of most skin tones, so the i9950 outputs better results with the most photographed subjects of all: people.
For evolutionary reasons – the constant search of the caveman for prey and predators – the human eye is more adept at discerning different shades of green than of red or blue. Photos featuring highly detailed levels of green or brown, such as grass or leaves, look particularly fine from the i9950.
The central area shows how much of the total colour spectrum the Bubble Jet i9950 can print.
Against other A3+ photo printers, the i9950 comes out well. It’s streets ahead of HP’s Photosmart 7960 and is better at traditional colour photography than Epson’s Stylus Photo 2100. The 2100’s light-black cartridge gives it the edge for black-&-white photography, though. The i9950 is much faster at producing full-spec photos than the 7960 or 2100, too.
What takes the edge off the i9950’s dominance over these printers is HP’s Designjet 30 (reviewed here). The 30’s base model is only £70 more than the i9950 and a glance at a top notch print leaves you preferring HP’s printer.
The i9950 wins at reds and greens – hardly suprising as the 30 offers only six colours – and produces top-notch photos more quickly, but the Designjet produces classier and deeper prints.
Part of the 30’s advantage is due to its excellent but expensive Premium Plus Satin paper, which produces eminently more saleable prints. However, the combination of inks and paper makes the 30’s consumable costs over double that of the i9950 – though the higher quality is worth it if you’re producing prints to sell.
Using a software RPI such as EFI’s Designer Edition 4.0, the i9950 makes a worthy proofer – though its paper options are limited.
If you’re producing prints for yourself, for example as proofs before electronic distribution, the i9950 is fast, efficient and produces great prints. If you’re selling commercially, check out the Designjet 30.