Canon Pixma iP9950 review
Despite being Canon’s premium A3 photo printer, the iP9950 doesn’t look all that special. It shies away from the boxy design of the A4 Pixma printers, but only has two buttons on the front – power and sheet feed. There’s a PictBridge port beneath those, although we can’t see many people printing snaps directly from a digital camera on such a high-end printer.
You’ll need a big desk for the iP9950; with the paper trays fully open it measures 575 x 845 x 345mm (WDH). While the output tray is flat, the input tray curves backwards, making paper curl if you leave it there too long. Of course, paper isn’t protected from dust – only the HP offers a dust-free input tray.
The only other point of interest from the front is the large lever on the left. Pull it, and the output tray rises upwards. You can then feed in the CD/DVD tray for directing disc printing. At the rear, you’ll find two USB ports, just like the iP8500, plus a FireWire connector. You can also add an optional WP-20 wireless print server, although at around £125 you’re almost certainly better off buying a third-party USB print server.
Although basic to look at from the outside, under the Pixma iP9950’s hood is some serious printer technology. It’s essentially the same ChromaPLUS engine as the iP8500, so there are eight dye-based inks with a minimum drop size of 2pl and a resolution of 4,800 x 2,400dpi. But what’s particularly notable is that the iP9950 can print borderless images up to A3+ in size.
Having seen the iP8500 produce over-saturated colours, it was no surprise to find the iP9950 commiting the same crime. The default settings (even without ‘Vivid photo’ selected) make colours so punchy that images lost shadow detail, and there was no separation between the dark cotton reels in our photomontage – they simply merged together. Skin tones also looked unnatural, but we still give this printer a six-star rating for quality, as once you’ve tweaked the driver its results are phenomenal. For instance, all the images on the A4 photomontage looked sharp and had no visible grain.
One of the Canon’s strengths is printing mono photos. In fact, our judges rated it as the best in the group for our mono test photo. Not only were greys completely neutral, but contrast was great and transitions smooth. Text quality was excellent, even if iP9950 owners are likely to rarely use it for printing letters or documents.
If speed is a priority, the iP9950 won’t disappoint. Printing our photomontage at A3 took two minutes, 11 seconds. Plus, the page came out dry, unlike the HP’s sticky output, which has to be left for around 48 hours. A4 prints take 79 seconds, while 6 x 4in prints are cranked out in just 37 seconds. Text speed, although less important, is average. 3.3ppm in normal mode and 8.3ppm in draft mode put the iP9950 in the bottom half of the group.
There are problems, though. Aside from the fact that running costs can’t match the HP 8750, prints fade much more quickly – 25 years doesn’t compare well to the 100+ years of the HP and Epson. But if speed is more important than fade resistance, the iP9950 is a great choice, especially when you consider its A3+ printing and instantly dry results.
It’s a safe assumption that to enjoy professional-quality photos, you’ll need to spend more per print than you would on one of the lower end printers. But with a complete ink refresh costing just £44, the Canon iP9500, at first glance at least, seems like a good deal.
But the HP 8750, which is significantly cheaper than the iP9500, produced slightly better-quality prints for just 30p per 6 x 4in print. This is thanks largely to the differing print technologies – HP’s printer uses integrated print heads, which means that the most precise and accident-prone parts of the printer are replaced with each supply change. The iP9500, like most of Canon’s printers, uses a permanent print head and replaceable ink tanks, which leads to a huge amount of ink being wasted if the printer isn’t being used constantly. Add in the costs of eight supply changes, and the 61 per cent efficiency we achieved over the course of our testing is hardly surprising. Also, Canon’s largest pack of best-quality 6 x 4in photo paper works out at a pricey 25p per sheet, which is more than half the total cost of printing a photo.