Printer Review: Canon PIXMA Pro-10

November 21, 2012

By Dan Havlik

Canon seems to have had a thing about 13-inch photo printers this year. In the June issue of PDN, I looked at the PIXMA Pro-1, Canon’s 13-inch printing top dog, which uses 12 pigment inks and weighs about 60 pounds. While I liked the output quality from the Pro-1, I was amazed that a printer as large as the Pro-1 only printed photos 13 inches wide (not the increasingly popular 17-inch size) and had no roll feed option.

Canon followed up the Pro-1 with the Pro-10 and the Pro-100, both of which were unveiled around the photokina show in September. These are also 13-inch printers and while they aren’t quite as big as the Pro-1, they’re still rather hefty.

The two newer models use fewer inks than the Pro-1 (the Pro-10 employs ten pigment inks and the Pro-100 has eight dye-based inks) but they add some features not available in the Pro-1 including a wireless printing option, a new Pro Mode, and the Print Studio Pro plug-in to help with layouts and print options in Photoshop and Lightroom.

After photokina, I got my hands on a PIXMA Pro-10 and tested it out. Here’s what I thought.

Plugged In
The Pro-10 may not be a behemoth like the Pro-1 but it’s still sizeable, with dimensions of 27.2 x 8.5 x 15.2 inches (w x h x d) and weighing in at nearly 44 pounds. Despite its, ahem, robust size, it’s a good-looking printer—as was the Pro-1—and once you find a suitable place for it (I suggest a very sturdy table), you’ll be happy it’s part of your workflow.

At about $1,000, the Pro-1 was rather pricey and aimed at professional photographers. As the step-down model, the Pro-10 retails for $699, making it a more affordable choice for prosumers and photo enthusiasts. But just as the prosumer-friendly, full-frame Nikon D600, also reviewed in this issue, was of high-enough quality to attract pros, I could see the very capable Pro-10 drawing interest from professionals as well.

The Pro-10 uses ten of Canon’s pigment LUCIA inks with three monochrome inks, including a Matte Black for fine-art paper. Like the Pro-1, it also has a Chroma Optimizer to create a smoother and more even gloss to reflect light uniformly on glossy and semi-gloss papers. As with all these printers, the Canon PGI-72 LUCIA inks for the Pro-10 are not cheap, retailing for approximately $13.99 per ink.

Once I got the heavy printer out of the box and found a spot for it, set up was a breeze. It helped that I had tested the Pro-1 earlier this year but even newbies should have no problem getting the Pro-10 up and running.

During installation of the printer drivers, you have the option of installing the new Print Studio Pro plug-in. I’m pretty comfortable printing out of Photoshop’s interface—and I like its flexibility—but I installed the Canon plug-in for testing purposes.

If you can find the plug-in once it’s installed (it’s in Photoshop under File > Automate > Canon Print Studio Pro), it does simplify printing. Specifically, you’re given a few different layout options and choices for bordered or borderless printing, along with easy ways to select the media type, paper size, paper source and print quality. Photoshop itself has cleaned up its print interface over the years but it still can be confusing. Beginning printers will probably find the Canon plug-in helpful.

Another new feature on the Pro-10 is Pro Mode, which took me a while to realize isn’t a “mode” at all but a default printer color setting. According to Canon, the setting “maps color gamut for optimum balance of brightness and saturation [and] … also helps adjust colors by taking into consideration the characteristics of human perception.”

In other words: It does a lot of the color management for you without you having to use calibration tools, such as those dangly colorimeters on your monitor, to create accurate profiles. I’ll get to my output results later but would like to note that, as with the Print Studio Pro plug-in, I appreciate any attempt by manufacturers to make printing quality photos an easier and more enjoyable experience. (Pro Mode is slated to be added to the Pro-1 via a firmware upgrade.)

The only way to actually turn off Pro Mode is if you select “Printer Manages Colors” in Photoshop. Color management experts who are comfortable using ICC profiles to get their photos exactly the way they want them, should probably go this route.

Like its big brother, the Pro-10 is a fast and quiet printer. Unlike the Pro-1, the Pro-10 doesn’t use Canon’s innovative tubular ink delivery system, which lets the print head move independently from the inks for faster print speeds.

So where the Pro-1 was a speed demon, cranking out 13 x 19-inch color and black-and-white photo prints in Standard mode at about five minutes and High mode in about six minutes, the Pro-10 was slightly slower. In our testing using Canon Photo Paper Pro Luster, 13 x 19-inch color prints from the Pro-10 in Standard mode took 5.5 minutes and eight minutes in High mode. For black-and-white printing, Standard images took 7.5 minutes and High photos took ten minutes. That’s not a huge difference really and in either case, you’d be hard pressed to find a fast, high-quality 13-inch photo printer on the market.

Speaking of quality, I’d place the Pro-10 a notch below the Pro-1, which makes sense considering the number of inks it uses versus the top dog, and where it’s placed in Canon’s line-up. It was still damn good though.

Maximum resolution from the Pro-10 is 4800 x 2400 dpi, and the printer did a fabulous job handling color. Several shots I printed of models in elaborate costumes were rendered spot on, with the Pro-10 producing excellent blues, purples and reds of the dresses. Skin tones were also terrific, and I was able to see so much detail in the models’ faces you could tell where the makeup needed, perhaps, some extra work.

On the downside, the Pro-10 printed slightly darker than the Pro-1, without the same level of dynamic range. This was most obvious in the shadow areas in my color prints of street photography shots, where some of the traces of light I saw in the image on my monitor were missing in the print. The same was true in the black-and-white shots I printed out which were, largely, excellent but trailed the Pro-1 in detail in the shadow areas.

The main reason for this is, likely, that the 12-ink Pro-1 has two extra levels of gray ink compared to the Pro-10, causing the Pro-10 to produce slightly less dynamic range in its output. Most folks probably wouldn’t notice the difference, but discerning pros would and for them I’d recommend splurging on the bigger and better Pro-1.

Along with the built-in wireless option, the Pro-10 has Ethernet if you want to network the printer, and USB 2.0 and PictBridge. If you like editing photos on your iPad or iPhone—don’t laugh, there are many people who do—the Pro-10 is compatible with Apple’s AirPrint, letting you wirelessly print from these mobile devices without installing a driver.

For those folks who print onto CDs or DVDs—don’t laugh, there are still some people who do—the Pro-10 can handle that with the help of the included printing tray.

The Bottom Line
With its ten pigment inks, the Canon Pro-10 is the step-down model from the bigger and, it should be said, better 12-ink Canon Pro-1. The Pro-10 is still a high-quality, 13-inch printer that might attract pros looking to save a few bucks. (It’s $300 less than the Pro-1.) Print quality output between these two models isn’t drastically different: The Pro-10’s prints are good while the Pro-1’s are excellent—though print speeds and features are comparable. Real sticklers, however, will notice there’s more detail in the shadows from the Pro-1’s prints, thanks to its two additional gray inks. If this is important to you—and it is to me—than splurge and go with the Pro-1. Otherwise, the less expensive Pro-10 is a fine alternative.

Pros: Very good print quality with great color and realistic skin tones; good black-and-white print results; fast and quiet; built-in Wi-Fi option; easy set up

Cons: Fewer gray inks than the step-up model mean there’s less detail in the shadow areas; a large printer for just 13-inch output; no roll feed option

Price: $699;

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Printer Review: PIXMA Pro-1