Canon announced several new printers at the beginning of January this year. The two most impressive sounding additions were the S900 and the S9000, both boasting fast print speeds and high quality output. We're looking here at the S900, smaller brother to the S9000. Both printers share a similar design, and even have the same print head and cartridge system. The S900 is limited to prints of up to A4 whilst the S9000 produces substantially larger A3. Neither of these printers are particularly cheap, but this doesn't necessarily mean they aren't good value for money. Let's start by looking at the main features this printer offers.
- 2400x1200dpi resolution
- 6 colour ink cartridge system
- ICM v2.0, ColorSync 2.5 Colour matching
- Borderless printing capability
- Up to 25 years lightfastness
- USB interface
- Approx. 37 dB
- 1 year on-site warranty
- 5.8kg weight, 443x318x185mm dimensions
Canon can be commended for providing a 1 year on-site warranty as standard, many manufacturers don't even provide this as an optional extra. Along with the high resolution many people will appreciate the six colour ink cartridge system which means you can say good-bye to wasted ink. Also welcome is the 25 years lightfastness claim, though this is subject to certain conditions.
Design, interfaces and installation
Typical of many printers today the S900 only comes with a USB connection. This is not a bad thing as USB provides superior printing speeds to the old parallel interface many printers still use. Installation is simply a matter of plugging a USB cable (not provided) into the printer and computer and then inserting the correct CD when requested.
Once the software is installed you have to unwrap and insert the print head and ink cartridges and perform the print head alignment. This quite straightforward process ensures the best possible quality from the printer. The animated image below shows some of the main options available in the printer software. The Print Advisor option makes it easy for those new to printing to get good results.
The S900 not only beats the competition in terms of print quality, it also embarrasses them with high speed. The times below give an indication of what you can expect, improving quite substantially on the S800 that went before it.
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||A4 High resolution
||A4 Photo Paper Pro
A common criticism of some inkjet printers is their reluctance to function correctly with paper not recommended by the manufacturer. We therefore tried the S900 with some other paper, ICI Gloss 260gsm, Sigel 210gsm gloss, and ICI 180gsm matt. Results ranged from excellent on the ICI Gloss, to good on the Sigel and poor on the ICI matt. Resolution was at the same level on the ICI gloss compared to Canon's Photo Paper Pro, the only slight change was colour variation. This subtle change was hardly noticeable however and the cost saving to be gained from using paper like ICI's is excellent. 20 buys you around 50 sheets of ICI glossy paper, and only around 30 of Canon's glossy Photo Paper Pro.
One odd disadvantage of Canon's glossy Photo Paper Pro is its susceptibility to scratches. After doing some test prints, I stacked them in a pile, and shuffled them around a little, examining each one. Then I realised there were lots of minute scratch marks, these are not present on the ICI paper. However please note most people would not notice these scratches, especially when the print is being viewed from a sensible distance.
I've gone over prints from the S800 and S900 in great detail and they appear almost identical in terms of resolution. Colour rendition appears to have improved with the S900 as of course has the speed of printing. It's nice that recent S800 owners haven't had their purchases devalued too much, something that is all too common in the digital imaging market.
This is a challenging print for most printers, but the S900 handled it with the same ease the S800 did. Blacks appear convincingly dark, and detail on the wooden framework and signs is excellent.
|Fine facial features showed up with pin-sharp accuracy, and the tonal range across the print is excellent. We are getting to that exciting point of digital imaging where the quality of output for the enthusiast approaches professional standards.
|As hinted at earlier, the most immediately striking improvement of the S900 over the S800 is colour.
The bottom of these two flowers was the original image, shot on a Fuji S1. The top image is the same image printed on the S900 then scanned in on the Epson 2450 photo flatbed scanner. This shows how capable the S900 is, with very little difference between the original and the print.
I had a suspicion that the S900 was going to be impressive even before we had one into the office to test. Canon's S800 was good and I knew that if Canon were releasing an improved model it had to be something special. Not so special is the price of around 330 which is high for an A4 inkjet. Especially when you consider the cost of a spare set of cartridges, paper and a USB cable will add at least another 50-70 to the price.
This quite substantial financial outlay will of course give you great satisfaction from seeing your photos printed superbly. If you aren't limiting yourself to a budget, and want the best possible quality printing on your home computer without spending a fortune the Canon S900 or S9000 are for now, the way to go.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask in our forums.
Test by Will Smith