Pros: Best output quality on the market; 16-bit output; innovative Ambient Light Correction feature.
Cons: Messy software with one tool missing from the box; Ambient Light Correction is Windows-only; pricier than main rival.
All has been quiet for a while in the world of professional-grade printers for photographers and artists who want to create saleable prints – and designers after accurate proofs. Canon’s new Pixma Pro9500 Mark II is the first new model since its predecessor went head-to-head with HP’s Photosmart Pro B9180 in the summer of 2007 – and lost.
Even so, the Pro9500’s picture quality had the edge over the B9180’s – and the new model’s can be even better. The new Pro9500 uses the same ten-ink system of ‘Lucia’ pigment-based inks as the first version. This supplements the standard cyan, magenta, and yellow inks with ‘photo’ versions of cyan and magenta – lighter versions for a wider range of shades.
The ink list is topped up with red and green inks (for more accurate representations of skin tones and plant life respectively) and finished with three blacks.
The Pro9500 Mark II doesn’t change the Mark 1’s colour system, so most of our test images came out looking exactly the same as the ones we’ve carefully stored since reviewing the first model, in our October 2007 issue. Where we saw improvements are in the printer's speed -- the Mark II is noticeably faster than the original model -- and when working with 16-bit images in Photoshop: the Pro9500 Mark ships with new XPS drivers for Windows Vista and CUPS drivers for Mac OS X, enabling such images to be printed without down-conversion to 8-bit – which photographers working with Raw images shot with digital SLRs will appreciate.
To print using these drivers you need to first install them from the ‘Custom Install’ function on the drivers disc. The ‘Easy Install’ option appears to show that it installs all possible software, but it leaves these out. The ‘Getting Started’ manual doesn’t mention them at all – information on the new drivers is buried inside the electronic manual. This is indicative of the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II’s software overall, which is a mess and poorly documented – though in fairness, so is the B9180’s.
Printing 16-bit images requires using Canon’s Easy-PhotoPrint Pro software for Mac and Windows. This can be used from Photoshop through the Automate menu. While it can be fiddly and slow to use, due to it offering every image you have open in Photoshop up for printing, selecting the right output driver and paper properties is simple.