Canon Pixma iP8500 review

Price when reviewed

Although over a year old, the iP8500 is still Canon’s flagship A4 photo printer. On paper, the specifications will excite any photographer who wants instant high-quality borderless prints. Canon’s ChromaPLUS ink system gives a wider colour gamut than previously available, offers a huge resolution of 4,800 x 2,400dpi and minuscule 2pl drop sizes for ultra-fine detail with no visible grain.

Canon Pixma iP8500 review

The iP8500 has eight ink tanks to try to pull away from the field. On top of the standard CMYK, there’s photo magenta, photo cyan, red and green. As tanks will physically fit into any slot, it’s easy to install them incorrectly, especially as the label that tells you where to put each cartridge is hidden when you open the retention mechanism.

But what’s far more important is the quality of colour photos, and fortunately this is where the Pixma excels. Detail, transitions and fades are sublime with no grain visible at all – just as we’d expected. Skin tones are over-saturated at default settings, but you can easily tune the colour balance to your liking through the driver. The driver is also one of the most comprehensive we’ve seen, offering just about every option you’d want.

While colour reproduction approached perfection, the uniform grey in our mono photo’s sky was a slight cause for concern, as it was the only time we saw grain. Results on coated paper were excellent, though, and even our plain paper Streetmap test saw a decent image printed. Normal text was as close to laser quality as an inkjet can get, and you won’t be embarrassed sending out documents printed on the iP8500. Reduced saturation was noticeable in draft mode, but the standard remained high.

Speed was impressive too. 31 and 91 seconds for 6 x 4in and A4 photos respectively was unsurpassed among the A4 printers on test. Only Canon’s A3 iP9950 went faster, managing the A4 montage in just 79 seconds. Draft text shot out at a fair pace of 10.7ppm, although normal quality reduced this to a 2.1ppm crawl.

There’s no TFT or card reader, but the iP8500 isn’t aimed at those wanting to print photos from a memory card with no editing beforehand. On the contrary, this is an enthusiast’s photo printer for people who will edit photos in Photoshop and print from a PC. There’s a PictBridge port simply to tick that particular feature off the list, but the real bonus is a second paper tray underneath the output tray. This allows you to keep plain paper there and feed photo paper into the rear tray, or vice versa. Like the iP5200R, a tray flips down at the front to accept the separate CD/DVD holder for direct printing onto printable discs. At the rear are two USB ports, one USB 1.1 and the other USB 2. It’s an odd setup, but allows two PCs (or Macs) to share the printer.

One niggle is that the Canon can’t match the HP Photosmart 8450’s fade resistance. However, with photos lasting 30 years, most people won’t have cause for complaint. A bigger niggle is the price of the printer itself, especially when the Photosmart 8450 costs £63 less than the iP8500. When you account for the fact that the 8450 offers similarly excellent quality, as well as the benefit of cartridges with integrated print heads, the choice between the two will remain relatively easy until Canon drops the iP8500’s price.

Running costs

The iP8500 is Canon’s top-of-the-range A4 printer and so running costs are less important than overall quality: anyone producing prints for professional use won’t balk at the thought of using an entire set of ink cartridges to get a single perfect print.

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