Many photographers will tell you inkjet printing is expensive, colors are dull and all the sort of negativity about inkjet printing. We can put that simply to, “print with a print lab” period. Most of the time if we avail of the services of a print lab, we often print the sizes like 4in x 6in (4R) or the bigger 8in x 10in (8R). Thats the normal sizes, little did we know that there are 8in x 12in, 10in x 15in, 12in x 18in and bigger. While these big sized prints are possible with print labs, most mall branches can only print up to 8in x 12in and those bigger prints are to be printed in their major branches.
Since 2003 I’ve been playing around with fine art printing (giclée). I’ve had one of the first affordable A3 printer from Epson, the 1160 (if I recall that right) which I had some really bad experiences. Now I’m maintaining a Canon PIXMA iP4300, MX347, Pro 9500 and an HP multi-function printer for work and personal use. All of these printers have their own special skills.
The PIXMA iX6560 is Canon’s first affordable A3+ printer. This printer is marketed to the amateur and professional photographers. I have a hunch that most photographers is eager to see their photos on large prints on their own but quite hesitant to buy an A3+ printer because in the past, these category of printers costs more than 20,000 pesos.
I extensively tested the PIXMA iX6560 for almost 3 weeks. Allow me to report to you the aesthetics and the abilities of this printer. Lastly lets find out if it can break the common notion of “print with a print lab”.
Lets get physical
The printer has the glossy black finish top while the side going to the bottom is the usual matte surface which is practically better for dust and scratch reasons. This batch of new Canon PIXMA printer resembles the same design and finish. In spite of being picky about the shiny top cover, I like the overall design and the shape of this printer.
Canon PIXMA iX6560 where all trays are extended
The printer is gorgeously transformed to handle A3+ fine art printing when you pull out the rear and front trays. Both trays can be extended from its 3 pull-out extensions. One of the things I really like about PIXMA printers is the cube design when its totally folded down, it minimizes dusts to accumulate inside the printer but more importantly its rollers.
On the front side of the IX6560 is a sleek black finish with the power and resume buttons that indicates their own literal functions. Whats lacking though is the USB ports seen on most PIXMA printers. At the back is the standard power and USB printer ports.
The resume button will blink an amber light to indicate a problem with an ink or paper jam
The ink is what makes this printer unique, Canon were able to combine dye and pigment based inks to mix together. Aside from the normal cyan, magenta, yellow, black they added another ink which is photo black and the only pigment ink from the pool. This is probably the reason why it prints better blacks than of my iP4300. Of course the inks have the Chromalife 100+ technology that if used with all original Canon consumables the prints can last a lifetime.
All inks have the intelligent chips that accurately tells you if its depleted
Form follows function
I didn’t try installing the Canon bundled software and gone straight to my own workflow in Adobe Lightroom. Papers I used are Canon A4 “Everyday Use” (Gp501), Canon A3 Photo Paper Plus Glossy II and one 3rd party paper. I Printed with an iMac with Mac OS 10.6.8 and later with the new OS Lion 10.7. Yes, it is compatible with Apple’s latest OS. I regret to inform you that I didn’t have the chance to try it on Windows OS but I’m pretty sure that it will work.
Adjustment sliders for different size of papers. It can accommodate up to 13″ wide.
Setting up the printer was very easy, I installed the inks and plugged the power and USB cables and the rest is automatic in Mac OS. The OS installed a generic iX6500 series driver that later got an update before Lion OS came out. The most important setting to see in the preferences are the Canon paper profiles and the only profile you won’t see is the Everyday Use (GP501) but you can add the GL2 / SG2 or GL3/SG3 manually (the last number corresponds to the level of quality of printing) GL2 / SG2 should be fine.
Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II (A4) printed with its own Canon paper profile
The iX6560 can print vibrantly with good details
For the first few prints of the Everyday Use paper I chose the glossy photo paper from the printers drop-down selection, but after checking that color output doesn’t go near the monitors color I chose the GL2/SG2 as my ICC profile and made a lot of difference. After being picky about the output I asked JT Photo World if they can lend me the X-rite Colormunki Photo monitor and printer calibrator (reviewhere) so that I can test the printer with more accuracy.
Lets accept the fact that printing can be stressful especially when the output of you printer doesn’t match your display. I can confidently tell you that you can get good results with its standard paper profile selection came with the iX6560 driver.
Consumption is one of the things to consider in inkjet printing. The iX6560 is fairly decent in consuming inks. As mentioned before, this printer have 5 individual inks. The initial cost will be much expensive but in the long run it saves you more because theres no wastage, because you only consume the color you use. With over 40 pcs. of A4 and 20 pcs A3 papers, I can say that it still won’t beat the cost of most print labs. Though with deep analyzation if you consider paying for parking, time wasted traveling and waiting, it will come to a point that it is cheaper.
Color output of the iX6560 is surprisingly very good, in fact better than a photo lab print. It is faithfully near from what you can see from your monitor (calibrated monitor) using the Photo Paper Plus Glossy II. This is because this printer posses 5 individual color inks cyan, magenta, yellow, black dye-based ink and another photo black pigment-based ink.
The following sample photographs below doesn’t do justice with how stunning the prints are, it is simply much better in person.
An ISO 1600 shot that printed nicely on A3 Photo Paper Plus Glossy II
Skin tones are faithfully printed (calibrated with X-rite Colormunki)
Sharpness is another strength of this printer, with a minimum of 1 picoliter droplets coming from the 4,608 nozzles to 9600 x 2440 dpi resolution, it renders fine details very well especially if you have a very good hi-res file to print with. I printed some of my favorite landscape and architectural shots from a 12MP and 21MP camera but the latter truly matches the capability of this printer. Edge to edge sharpness is also very good there are some images that I find soft but this is due to the quality of the digital file.
A 6MP image interpolated to match the print size. Still decently printed.
If you own a Pro 9500 printer then you will find the iX6560 to be like a Ferrari beating an ordinary sedan by a mile. The printer can averagely print a full bleed color A3 photo (11in x 16in) in just 3 minutes and 36 seconds. It leaves my Pro 9500 literally to dust which prints an A3 for 15 minutes. This printer will never bore you speed wise, it is fast!
Decent black and white printed on Everyday Use paper
I don’t like to sound to be too exaggerated of what this printer can do, but lets just put it this way, it is a good complement with the Pro 9500 for printing everything, except fine art papers for simple reason that the iX6560 is not designed to feed papers thicker than 300 gsm.
While this printer is specifically for photo, the iX6560 can print fast draft docs in just about a minute. And the best thing about this is that you can print professionally sharp looking text documents with its high setting.
The PIXMA iX6560 is the first hybrid A3+ printer from Canon, the price is way more affordable than its bigger brothers, the Pro 9500 and 9000. It combines both the abilities and properties of pigment and dye inks.
Elegantly designed and engineered, the enclosed design to minimize dusts is a given in a PIXMA printer. A minor annoyance on the glossy top cover is not a deal breaker of course, but I have a feeling that it will be back to the next batch of design.
For the longest time, most Photographers relied in outsourcing their photo printing with a print lab. The cost of the printer and consumables are their foremost opponent in considering the purchase. I think, the iX6560 is the one serious photographers are looking for affordable, fast, prints professional looking images. It is also very applicable to portrait photographer’s which they can deliver the photo in just 4 minutes. For the fine artistry of still life, landscape and other genres printing their own masterpieces can never be as rewarding as you shoot and finish it by printing it with their own workflow.
Canon PIXMA and the technology of the iX6560 has brought a very compelling product to make inkjet printing more affordable. It might not equally match the outright cost of a print lab but costing all the incidental expenses and saving the time sounds to be cheaper and more productive.
I miss the printer and I’m seeing that I will be adding one to my arsenal of printers. I highly recommend this printer be it for personal and professional use.
The Canon PIXMA iX6560 SRP Php 11,495.
Additional Actual Photos
From top to bottom: PIXMA iP4300, iX6560 and Pro 9500
Foam that sips the excess inks from the nozzle
Intelligent microchip that all PIXMA inks have
One of my favorite photo on Canon Photo Paper Plus Glossy II (A3) It printed the details as sharp as I want it to be