I recently received the wonderful opportunity to display my work in a gallery at the new showroom and museum at Canon’s headquarters in Shimomaruko here in Tokyo, and today I’m going to share details including the creation of my prints, how they were treated in preparation for the show, and offer you a chance to visit the Canon campus to view the exhibit and the showroom and museum yourself.
While I was in the middle of my Japan winter tours, I received an email from a friend in Canon asking if I would be interested in working with Canon to prepare and display a selection of my fine art prints in an exhibition space in a new building with a number of floors showcasing Canon’s products. Specifically, the gallery space is on the floor where there is a camera and lens showroom, alongside a museum of Canon’s cameras and other products over the decades, including their very first camera from 1934. Yesterday I was able to take some photos which I’ll share with you shortly.
Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to share my work in such a prestigious location and presented a few options. I initially considered a somewhat subdued selection of winter landscapes, but that idea didn’t fly very well, so I proposed a more colorful selection of images that showed off the potential of both Canon’s camera equipment and their large format printer capabilities. Although I’d been given a blank canvas, it’s not really surprising that Canon went for the more colorful proposal.
Select Media: Breathing Color Signa Smooth 270
The idea was to not only showcase my work as a photographer but also as a fine art printer, as Canon value my ability to make high-quality prints. I was also given a free rein with regards to which print media I would use for the project, so it was not a difficult decision to go with Breathing Color’s incredible Signa Smooth 270 inkjet media. The prints were to be finished by making them into Alpolic panels, so the fact that Signa is not an incredibly heavy paper was not a problem. In fact, it probably helped, as there would be less push-back from the natural curl of heavier papers.
As we negotiated the terms of the job, I had a business decision to make. I didn’t have the go-ahead to start making the prints yet, but we were running on a tight schedule, and I didn’t have enough stock of any single media to make 10 very large format prints, which is what I was proposing. Feeling pretty confident that we could close the deal, I went ahead and contacted my friend’s at Breathing Color, and they kindly rushed my order through, and literally just three days later FedEx delivered three 44-inch rolls of Signa Smooth, one 36-inch roll, and one 24-inch roll. All the way from the US to my door in Japan, in just three days.
I was going to need two rolls of 44-inch, but I ordered an extra roll in case I had to do more than a few reprints. My proposal also included two 36-inch roll prints, and I was running short of 24-inch anyway, as Signa Smooth has become my go-to media when I just feel like printing something out for fun. Now that it’s archival certified, I’m actually leaning towards Signa for print orders as well. You may recall from my review of Signa that it has an incredibly wide color gamut, as well as performing beautifully with black and white prints.
The Printing Process
Having received the go-ahead from Canon, I started working on my prints in March and basically had five days to complete my 10 prints. As far as the actual time to make the prints is concerned, I could make that many in one long day if I had enough room to lay them all out to dry, but although I live in a relatively large apartment by Tokyo standards, using both my office space and living space, there isn’t enough room to lay out more than two 44 x 66-inch prints and give them enough time to degas before stacking them on top of earlier prints.
When I print this size for customers, so far all of my orders have been for single prints, so I extend the table in my studio to create a surface wide enough for them to sit and fully degas for a day before I roll and ship them. As you can see in this photo (below) that is pretty much all of the space that I can use for drying prints used up.
The second place that I can potentially leave prints to dry is literally in front of the printer, with half of the print still resting on the cloth basket that can be used for catching prints, but I configured it to simply feed the print away from the printer by forming a gentle slope down to the floor, as you can see in this photograph (right).
Ideally, prints should be left to degas for 24 hours being stacking or rolling them, but if necessary, especially when humidity is relatively low as it’s been for the last few weeks here, we can reduce this a little without causing problems.
I formulated a drying schedule which basically allowed me to make three prints each day. I would end the previous day with one print drying in my studio, and one drying in front of the printer. By the following morning, the print in front of the printer would have been degassed for at least 12 hours, so I took that upstairs and laid it on top of the last print in the stack.
That allowed me to then make the first print of the day. which I’d leave in front of the printer until after lunch, giving it a few hours to dry. Then, after lunch, I took that first print of the day up to the studio and laid it on top of the last print from the previous day, so that print had about 18 or 19 hours to degas.
Then after taking that first print of the day upstairs, I made the second print of the day and left that in front of the printer until around 6 pm. When I took the second print up to the studio the first print had been degassing for around 8 hours which is just about the shortest amount of time I want to give a print. I then created the third print before finishing my main working day at 7 pm. This third print then sat in front of the printer overnight, as the second print dried on top of the first print for the day until the following morning and the process started again.
Of course, if I’d done three prints per day for five days, that would give me 15 prints, but I always calculate in the time to do reprints. Although prints of this size cost quite a lot just in materials to make, there are almost always times when you have to do a reprint.
One of my biggest concerns is getting little spots on the print where there is dust on the surface of the print that falls away after it dries taking the ink with it, leaving a white spot. To help avoid this I keep the printer covered when not in use and I literally dust it off completely before printing. Also, the new design of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO series printers means the media is fed into the paper upside-down, so any loose dust on the surface of the paper has a chance to fall away before it gets printed on. All of these things contributed to me having just one dust spot in over 200 square feet of print.
This led to me having to do one reprint, and the second was my fault. As I printed one of my Iceland photos I noticed something that I couldn’t quite figure out. There were a few areas of the image that looked as though it had been oversharpened, but the rest of the image looked fine. I checked all of the settings that I usually tweak and couldn’t find any reason for this, so I gave myself a pat on the back for shooting such an amazingly sharp image and sent the image to the printer anyway.
Sure enough, though, having poured over the print, I still couldn’t help thinking that something was wrong, so I went back and inspected all of the modifications that I’d made, and found that I’d cranked up the Structure slider. I had just started using Capture One when I visited Iceland in 2016 and made that photograph, and I still didn’t quite understand what the Structure slider was doing. Basically, it had made certain areas of the photograph a little too sharp and crunchy. I actually learned pretty much straight after that trip that doing this is generally not a good idea, and I’d stopped applying Structure to my images, so this one had slipped past me.
Although the print looked great, knowing that it could be better I couldn’t resist reprinting that photo. The third reprint was of the Dovercourt Lighthouse photo, as despite going over the image with a fine-toothed comb before making the first print, I found a very faint dust spot on the image that I could only see when printed at 3 x 4.5 feet. This is one reason why I love printing so much. It really helps to find imperfections in our work, and I believe that printing large like this even helps to make us better photographers. Large prints are totally unforgiving and will soon let us know about any technical imperfections in our images.
When I’m ready to print, I do go through and check each image at 100% for dust spots and any other imperfections that I ideally don’t want to find after making the print, then when making such large prints, I upsize them as a final step.
All of the images I printed were shot with my Canon EOS 5Ds R cameras, so although I could probably get away with printing the 50-megapixel images without enlarging them, to ensure that they remained as tack sharp as the originals, I use ON1 Perfect Resize to upsize each image the exact size of my prints at 300 PPI.
Here’s a screenshot of Perfect Resize to show my settings (below). The prints actually needed a 3 mm border around the edges so I set my print size for the 44-inch wide prints to 1111.6 mm wide and 1667.4 mm long, which is just the width multiplied by 1.5, as my images are all 3:2 aspect ratio. Of course, once you have your size and settings dials in, it’s a good idea to save a preset so that you can get to the same settings for the rest of the prints.
This is why I rarely use an arbitrary crop in my images too. If you don’t know the aspect ratio of your photos it takes more time to calculate print sizes and makes it difficult to create a uniform selection of images like the ones I’m presenting for this exhibition. You can see the other settings I used in ON1 Perfect Resize in the screenshot.
Once I have the image enlarged to the exact size that I want to print at, at 300 PPI I’m ready to print. I printed the first few images from Capture One Pro, but then I started to get some funky remnants appearing on the print preview, so I tried printing from Photoshop and got the same results. To avoid this, I printed that rest of the images using Canon’s Print Studio Pro from within Photoshop.
To make this process fluid, I created a Process Recipe in Capture One Pro to create a 16bit TIFF with the ProPhoto RGB color space and then just open it in Photoshop, then I launched ON1 Perfect Resize from Photoshop, and changed the settings so that Perfect Resize just modified the original layer, and not create a new one. If you create a new layer at this size it makes the file too big to save without flattening, so this helps to avoid an extra step.
As you can see from this screenshot of Print Studio Pro I also had to leave a 10 cm border on each end of the print to make handling easier facilitate the creation of the Alpolic panels. With prints this large, if you don’t leave yourself something to hold onto as you move the print around, you’ll almost certainly damage the face of the print.
Again, if you are interested in the settings, check out the screenshot of Print Studio Pro (below). One thing to note here is that although I resized to 300 PPI, I still print with the Print Quality set to Highest, which is purported to be 2400 x 1200 dpi, although it’s hard to say what actual print resolution is used.
I do like to print directly from Capture One Pro when possible, and I generally dislike printing from Photoshop, but Canon’s Print Studio Pro that comes with the PRO series printers is actually very nice, so especially as I needed to roundtrip to Photoshop to do the enlarging, this made for a very slick workflow. At the highest print quality, these 44 x 66-inch prints took 34 minutes each, which is amazingly fast for prints of such size and quality.
As I mentioned, Canon had arranged to have the prints treated to create what’s called an Alpolic panel out of them. This was to be carried out by a company here in Tokyo called Frameman. From what I can gather, Alpolic is an Aluminum Composite Material, abbreviated as ACM and Frameman are one of the few companies that can make photographic panels as large as the prints I’d made.
I had requested permission to watch the process of creating the Alpolic panels but was told that it’s performed under very strict conditions to prevent any dust getting into the system. I did arrange to go and take my dusty self to have a look at the panels after the creation, but I got stuck in Tokyo traffic and although I allowed more than double the time necessary to get there, I was still at least 30 minutes out when my arranged time arrived, and the head of the company had to leave for another appointment before I’d get there, so I lost that opportunity.
Setting Up the Exhibition Space
I was able to take some photographs as the people from Frameman hung the prints yesterday, so let’s take a look at a few of those photos. The prints were carefully packaged in individual boxes, which was nice to see (below).
There is a wooden frame attached to the back of the Alpolic Panels, as you can see in this image (below). We can also see the aluminum color here, and the print is basically fused to the front of this panel, so it retains its beautiful matte finish. I was really happy to have chosen Signa Smooth for this because it really suited the space and looked great on those panels.
It was great watching these professionals do their job hanging the panels. After I’d told them the position that each print would be hung, they conferred with me on the height of the prints and then proceeded to measure and affix a red line to the wall to mark the height of the top of each of the landscape orientation prints. I thought it was quite fitting to see a red line running across the black walls. Canon users will understand that.
The crew then screwed wooden plates to the wall at the height of the line, and each panel was hung on these plates. The Frameman people are true professionals, taking great care in the creation of the panels and the hanging, and they also adjusted the lighting in the exhibition space to ensure that each photo was evenly lit, and they hoovered the floor before they left leaving it spotless, and all this in one hour flat.
I’d decided to show off the capabilities of Canon’s large format printers and camera equipment by doing these huge prints, but the downside was that it left me with room to only display ten images. Because of this, I made my selection based on two loosely related concepts. The first is the actual title of the exhibit, which is “Silence & Life”. We created a large panel to place in the entrance to the exhibition space which explains my concept in both Japanese and English, but I’ll leave that to people that actually visit the space to read.
In short, though, I talk about how I feel alive when I’m photographing and being in the zone in the field often places me in a Silence from which I recall the work, but I also get a sense of Silence from much of this work. I also gain a heightened sense of Life through the various people and places that I’ve been fortunate enough to experience as a result of my work as a photographer, and I truly feel that much of what I’ve been able to do is to a certain degree, made possible because of the excellent equipment that Canon creates.
The other concept which is kind of responsible for the order and flow of the exhibit is that we start with my roots, in England. Here are the first two prints, shot during my December 2016 visit. The first print is Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station. This power station plays a part in pretty much every memory I have from when I played outside as a kid, because it’s visible from just about everywhere in the town where I grew up.
I proceed with a photo of the Dovercourt Low Lighthouse, which is something that I learned about from Phil Newberry, a wonderfully talented photographer, who I believe still has the best photo of this lighthouse that I’ve seen. Another loose part of my concept here is that I am kind of looping back from my roots to present day Martin doing the sort of work in England that I’d love to be doing if I’d stayed.
The second wall is three photos from Namibia. I feel so fortunate to be able to visit places like this as part of my work, and I’m eternally grateful to my friend Jeremy Woodhouse for giving me the opportunity to take make my first couple of visits there with him.
Namibia now holds a very special place in my heart as I revisit each year with my own tours and workshops, and the photographs that I make there are incredibly important to me.
The same goes for my Iceland work, and again, I owe a debt of gratitude to my friend Tim Vollmer for similarly giving me the chance to work with him there for a total of four years from 2013 to 2016. The price increases in Iceland have kept me away for a while, although I’ve just started talking with a new company about setting something up again for next year. Tim has also since branched out and is doing amazing tours around the world, as does Jeremy, so do check out their websites.
The third and largest wall of the Exhibit is dedicated to Iceland work, as again Iceland is a very special place to me. I had originally wanted to do all black and white images, but this wasn’t colorful enough. My final selection for Iceland though really sums up how I feel about this beautiful country. Much of my Iceland work ends up being quite high contrast black and white, and the rest seems to be very vibrant color work. I have very little that is in-between.
If I had another two or three walls, I’d have loved to share some of my Antarctica, Greenland and Morocco work as well, but with space left for just one photo, I brought it all full circle with this last image from my new home, Japan. Having lived here for 27 years now, Japan is more home to me than England, so I wanted to finish with a Japan shot, and because I love the winter landscape so much, this was kind of my obvious choice.
The final wall next to the door has a panel with my profile on it, and two QR codes which are my digital business cards, so if you get a chance to visit while the exhibition is on, scan the codes and drop me a line to let me know what you think.
Canon Showroom and Museum
Because the exhibition is on Canon’s campus in Shimomaruko, it’s not open to the general public, but I am going to arrange a few visits over the next couple of months to enable anyone that is in Tokyo a chance to not only see the prints but also take a look at the incredible showroom and museum that Canon has put together, which are on the same floor.
Their current line-up of camera bodies are all placed around the center island that you can see in this photo (above) and all of their lenses, right up to the 1200 mm super-telephoto are on display over to the right there.
There is also a circular cabinet with pretty much every camera that Canon has made over the decades (below). It was great to find my old cameras in this cabinet, especially the ones that I’ve had to part company with to fund upgrades etc.
They also have their very first camera with the original name spelled “KWANON” from I believe 1934, and the Hansa Canon from 1936 (below).
Visit on April 16?
Because the exhibition, showroom, and museum are all at Canon’s headquarters, and because a Canon employee has to accompany us, we can only visit on a weekday. I’ve provisionally booked a slot on Monday, April 16 from 2 pm, if you are in or can get to Tokyo and of course, if you are interested in taking a look.
For security reasons, I will need your full name, your company name if you work, and the department name that you work for within your company. If you are not comfortable giving me this information to report to Canon ahead of time, you can’t come. 🙂
If you are happy to share that information though, and you can get to Shimomaruko in Tokyo by say 1:45 pm on April 16, then please drop me a line using our contact form. Just select the General Message category but clearly state that you are interested in joining us for this first visit.
The exhibit will be open until the end of June 2018, so if you will be in Tokyo after April 16 and would like to visit, let me know and I’ll see if we can get a small group together again. We can’t go too many times, maybe once or twice more, so I can’t promise to take lots of people over many days. I’ll certainly see what I can do though.
In finishing, I’d like to thank Breathing Color for making such amazing inkjet media and for rushing my order through so that I could complete this job on time. And of course a huge thank you to Canon for the opportunity to display my work in this beautiful space, and for enabling me to create that work with your camera gear and printers.
A week after this post, I released a video including footage of the setting up process and a walk around the showroom and camera museum.
Craft & Vision eBooks Now Available on MBP!
Before we wrap-up, I’d like to also announce that with Craft & Vision closing their shop doors last year, I am now able to sell my three ebooks directly. If you’d like to read my best selling printing ebook Making the Print, or my other two books Sharp Shooter and Striking Landscapes, you can now get them all here. We also have a three book bundle available with a $5 discount over the individual prices.
My new Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6350 large format printer was delivered on August 13, 2010. The first thing to note with this printer is it’s big! Not huge as far as really large format printers, like the 44″ or 60″ models, but still, with the ability to print 24″ or 610mm wide sheet or roll paper, it’s a hefty bit of hardware. It weighs 51KG without and 66KG with the stand.
Canon ImagePROGRAF iPF6350
I’m not sure how it is in other countries, but in Japan, some distributors provide the stand as an option, and some include it, with an increased price of course. Take my advice, and get the stand. Trying to work with this printer on a table or workbench could be a pain, unless you have something about the same size as the Canon stand, on wheels, and that you can leave the printer on all the time. If you don’t have that, just get the stand. On the stand the dimensions of the printer are 39.1″ high, 46.4″ wide and 34.3″ deep. You also need space around the printer for airflow and to operate it.
The company I bought from here in Japan offered free delivery to drop the printer off in my car park. They wanted an extra $100 just to bring it up to my third floor studio, or I could pay $500 to bring the printer up to the third floor, unpack it, set it all up on the stand, and then install the drivers to my computer and check connectivity. They would also take away all of the packaging materials.
With me being pretty technical, I didn’t like the idea of paying someone to install drivers and stuff, so I didn’t take this service, and I wasn’t too impressed with the $100 just to carry it up two flights of stairs, so I refused, and just went with free delivery. The more I thought about this decision though, the more concerned I became. I had kind of thought that my wife and I could carry it up the stairs, but then I read in the Canon Manual that it requires three people to lift the printer onto the stand. I started to get really worried, and called the distributors to see if I could add the setup fees, and they said that if I did, they’d need another two weeks for delivery, so I gave up on that idea.
You’ll Need Help Setting it Up
On the day of the delivery, when I got out to the truck, I was pretty shocked to see the size of the box that the printer was in. I wished I’d been able to take a photograph of it, because it really was huge. It wasn’t even really a box. The printer was laid on a polystyrene frame on top of a huge wooden palette, and some double thickness super strength card board over the top and sides. My plan was to plead for help if my fears came true, and they’d come true.
I asked the guys that delivered the printer to help me carry it up to the third floor, and one of them helped me to do so. It was the middle of August, so as we carried the printer, my hands started sweating and the plastic was slipping in my hands. We had to turn the printer sideways to get it up the stairs, and only just managed to get it around the corner and through the door into the studio. I was so relieved when we put it down on the floor, but already knew it was going to be difficult to lift it again later with my wife, after I’d put the stand together.
I gave the delivery men $10 each for their trouble, and figured it was still cheaper than the $100 that the distributor had asked for, but I was still wishing I’d paid the $500 for the full treatment. After I’d set the stand up, I asked my wife to help, and she initially couldn’t lift it. After trying a few different ways, she was finally able to lift the printer up and straighten her legs. It was a tense minute or so until we got it in position and I was able to bolt the printer to the stand. Ultimately I was able to get the printer set up, but the moral of this story is, unless you have a couple of strapping mates to help you, pay for the white glove treatment, and have the printer installed by professionals. It’s really not worth the hassle if you don’t have the help.
You can connect to the printer with a USB cable or a network cable. With the printer having a Gigabit network adapter installed, I figured I’d use network, as opposed to USB, so that I could print from multiple computers more easily.
Dual Print Heads
After connecting the power and network cables, I followed the instructions to fit the two print heads that come with the printer, but not fitted. It’s not a difficult job, but there are parts that you aren’t allowed to touch, which is always a bit nerve-wracking for the uninitiated.
Dual Print Heads
12 Color Lucia EX Pigment Inks
Then you have to insert the 12 Lucia EX ink cartridges. The printer comes with only 90ml of ink in the cartridges, despite them being 130ml cartridges. A little bit stingy on Canon’s part I thought, but then it does cost over $900 to buy a full set of inks, so I can kind of understand too.
Having given each cartridge a bit of a shake, and dropped them all in, you check that everything is alright with the little red light in front of each ink cartridge cover. The labels in front of each cartridge slot are color coded, and have the code for each cartridge, so there’s little room for error here.
12 Color Lucia EX Ink
As the printer takes about 20 minutes to initiate and draw the new ink through the pipes etc. the manual suggests quite considerately that you use this 20 minutes to install the printer drivers and software, which I did. In my network router settings I made sure that the printer would always be assigned the same IP address, so that the printer driver port, which is basically an IP port, would not lose contact with the printer if the IP address was changed in the future, due to the timing of other devices coming on to the network.
Automatic Print Head Adjustment/Calibration
After I confirmed that I could connect to the printer from my PC, I loaded the half roll of paper that Canon includes, and proceeded to tell the printer what sort of paper it was. I’ll go into this in more detail later, but basically, you have to specify the type of paper and the length of the roll when you insert the paper. The printer then continues to print a series of patches, and then from time to time pulls the paper back inside the printer, and scans the results. Then, using these results it calibrates itself, to ensure that the dual printer heads are aligned. This is basically the same as when you print out the pages of lines on consumer printers, and then have to tell the printer which number is most in line. The iPF6350 does this automatically, which I thought was pretty cool.
Head Alignment Calibration
This might also be a good time to mention that the iPF6350 has a total of 30,720 nozzles, with 2,560 per ink at a pitch of 1,200dpi. Using the optical scanning mechanism that I just mentioned, the printer automatically detects non-firing nozzles, and compensate for that using other nozzles. I have never had problems with nozzle blockage with my Canon Pro9500 printer, but I can imagine it would be a real pain when printing a 24×36″ print, if you had lines on the print caused by a block nozzle, so this functionality is very welcome.
The printer comes with drivers for Windows, both 32bit and 64bit, and Mac OS too. It also comes with a whole load of application software. There are plugins for Digital Photo Professional, but as that software is the son of satin, I won’t be using that plugin, so we’ll just touch on the drivers and software that I’m using today.
iPF6350 Media Configuration Tool
Media Configuration Tool
Before you use a new paper, you have to configure it, either on the small LCD panel on the printer, or via the iPF6350 Media Configuration Tool. When you install the tool with the drivers, you add a batch of preset Genuine Papers based on your location. You are asked to make a selection. I believe this is based on what Canon has available in the various locations around the globe. You can also specify some generic papers and also cloths, and fabric, as well as synthetic paper and film, among other things.
You have to select Add Genuine Paper from the Media Configuration Tool, and tell the printer what it is, and input the size of the paper on the printer LCD as you load it. Once you’ve added a paper it will be available on the LCD for the future, and you can also select it from the printer drivers now too.
This batch of presets also includes 10 “Special” settings, which is what you have to select when adding some third party papers, such as the Hahnemühle papers that I use. When you add a new paper, the Media Configuration Tool sends a subset of data to the printer, and you then have to load the paper, be it sheet paper or roll paper. After you load the paper, you select the paper with the name that you specified, and then the printer asks the length of the paper. It gets the width automatically when you load it. After loading the paper, the printer will again print some sample patches, but this time it’s detecting the best settings to correctly feed the paper through the printer.
Paper Feed Adjustment Sample Patches
It’s probably a good time to mention too that if you want to use the Accounting Manager that I’ll talk about later, you’ll need to add the same paper multiple times if you use more than one width of paper, and you probably should for various sized sheet paper too. This will probably also lead to better paper advancement through the printer.
The printer uses a vacuum to suck the paper against the Platen, which is the plate below the paper. When you add new paper you can adjust the feed and vacuum strength, as well as a few other paper specific settings, but so far I’ve been fine with Auto for these settings. I did notice some black marking on the underside of some of the sheet paper that I did some initial test prints too, but that cleared up after I wiped what looked like a bit of oil off the paper guide rollers.
No Native 16bit Printing in Windows
The one thing that I find annoying when working with this printer is that despite it being able to print in 16bit mode, only the Photoshop plugin has this ability on Windows. The Windows OS does not natively support 16bit printing yet, so this means the only way that Lightroom will be able to print in 16bit mode, is if Windows supports it. Canon could probably develop a plugin for Lightroom, but if it’s like the one they have in Photoshop, you’d probably have to export the image to a standalone print module, and lose many of the benefits of the Lightroom Print Module, which is one of my favorite modules. I’ve done all of my printing from Lightroom until now, because it’s easy to use, and you can save everything as a preset. If a Canon plugin just made me export to a separate module and do all the same stuff that you have to do in Photoshop, there wouldn’t be much point.
The Mac OS though does natively support 16bit printing, so Lightroom on the Mac does have 16bit printing for this printer. I would just really like to see Windows include 16bit printing support, as I don’t want to have to crank up my Mac just for printing, and I have too much investment in Windows software to switch.
Although I’ve not tested to see if there really is any improvement when printing in 16bit compared to 8bit, what this means is that I am at the moment pretty much stuck with printing from Photoshop CS5, with the Canon plugin. This means that I don’t get the benefit of the Lightroom’s automatic resizing and output sharpening, so before I send my print job to the printer, I have been resizing to the size that I want to print the image at. You can use the Canon resizing and scaling in the printer, but I haven’t really gotten used to it, to the point that I can get the right border sizes etc. It’s pretty fiddly, and makes me miss Lightroom a lot.
Nik Software Sharpener Pro 3.0
I’ve also been using Nik Software’s Sharpener Pro 3.0 to sharpen the images specifically for the output size. It’s easy enough to use, but it means that even if I didn’t have to do any soft-proofing on my images, I pretty much have to create and save a PSD file for everything that I print. That’s not a bad thing I suppose, but it’s just not necessary when working with Lightroom alone.
Nik Sharpener Pro 3.0
Printing with the Photoshop Plugin
Once I’ve done my sharpening, or applied a boilerplate, I’m ready to send the image to the printer, which you do by selecting File > Export > iPF6350 Print Plugin… This invokes the printer plugin, and you can start to layout the image for your print. You need to select the paper that you already added via the Media Configuration Tool, and the resolution of the image, and whether to use 8bit or 16bit printing, which is linked in the plugin to the quality of the Gradations to be printed. I’ve created my own printer/paper profiles, so I select them under the Output Profile, but you can use the profiles from the paper manufacturer or Canon if you are using Canon paper.
iPF6350 Photoshop Plugin Main Screen
I’ve got a little bit of hat eating to do here, in that I have said in the past that I always use the Perceptual rendering mode when printing, but when soft-proofing images for this printer, I’ve found that Relative Colorimetric often gives better results, so I’ve been using that more often recently.
Once you’ve completed the settings on the Main screen of the plugin, you’ll want to go to the Page Setup screen, and get your image laid out how you want it. You can see below that I’ve not used the Enlarging in the printer driver as I mentioned earlier, but I probably will give that a try as I get more used to the plugin. You specify the paper size here, as well as whether you want to print the image in the middle of the paper, or specify your own size for the top and left margins, giving you more control over where the image sits on the paper. That’s what I’ve done here, as I wanted that fine art spacing, with a larger border below the image than above. You’ll select your paper source here too, either Roll Paper or Sheet, and you also have to tell the plugin the width of the roll of paper that you will print to.
iPF6350 Photoshop Plugin Page Setup Screen
That’s pretty much it though, and then you just let it rip, and watch your print come out of the printer. I should note here that this printer is fast. I haven’t timed it, but even when printing to 24″ wide roll paper, the print seems to come out in no time. As a guess I’d say it’s about 3 minutes for a sheet of Super A1, at high quality. For reference, I’d say it’s even faster than my Pro9500 from Canon can print a sheet of Super A3, which is a quarter of the size.
Incredible Color Gamut!
Before we move on, I did just want to mention that so far, I’ve been incredibly impressed with the color gamut of this printer. It is able to reproduce far more colors and subtle tonal values than my Canon Pro9500. Even when I’m soft-proofing before printing, there is often just no need to change the image, and on images with very bright reds and greens, that often take a little more work in soft-proofing, they take much less time to get right than with my old printer. The new Lucia EX pigment ink system, plus the additional 2 colors that this printer has over the 9500, really seem to have improved the quality and accuracy of image reproduction.
2″ Core Roll Paper Holder
A few weeks ago I showed you How to Create a Gallery Wrap, and for that, I was using the Hahnemühle Daguerre Canvas, on a 17″ roll. As I said earlier, when you load a new roll of paper, you tell the printer the length. The full rolls of Hahnemühle paper that I’ve been buying are 39′ long. One problem is though, that when you print, using a few feet of paper, and then remove the roll, the next time you load the roll, you’re not likely to know exactly how much paper has been used already, and so you can’t tell the printer how much paper is left. If you are near the end of the roll, this could result in you running out of paper before the end of your print.
Automatic Roll Paper Recognition
To overcome this, you can select an option to have the printer print a bar code on the end of the roll when you eject the paper. Because the printer has that scanner built in, when you reload the paper at a later date, it reads the bar code, and can automatically tell what paper it is, and how much paper is left on the roll. This of course does waste about 5cm of paper each time you reload the paper, but I think it’s worth it to easily keep track of the paper I’m using.
Bar Code to Track Paper Type and Remaining Length
Yesterday, I printed my first 24×36″ print which will be a gift for the colleagues that I’m leaving behind in my day-job that I just resigned from to pursue photography full time, and I used different paper to that which I had loaded, so I needed to switch them out. The iPF6350 takes both 2″ and 3″ core roll paper. The Daguerre Canvas comes on a 2″ core, which is the native size that the Roll Holder takes, as we can see above.
3″ Core Roll Holder Adapter
The Hahnemuhle Museum Etching paper though, is a much stiffer paper, and I assume to help to prevent it from curling, it comes on a 3″ core. To fit roll paper with a 3″ core, you have to fit an adapter to the right side of the roll holder, like this, and use a different left side Roll Holder Stopper. These come with the printer as standard of course.
I should also note that when handling the rolls of paper, or any large sheet paper too, I always use white cotton gloves, to prevent the oils from my skin touching the paper, and discoloring it, either now, or in the future.
One of my best selling prints, and the one that my colleagues liked the most on my old office wall, was the one from the misty morning in Hokkaido, in 2008, with the Red-Crowned Cranes in the river, and the couple dancing in the distance. Although the printed image didn’t fill the paper, it was so cool to watch one of my favorite images comes out of the printer on 24″ wide paper.
Distant Dance Emerging from the Printer
Here is the finished print in a frame that I picked up yesterday. I shot just the picture, but it’s difficult to see the size of the print without a reference point, so I stuck my fat head as well, to give you some scale. I applied my signature with a water based pigment ink, fade proof pen from Sakura Color Product Corporation in Japan. I created a simple boilerplate in Illustrator for the middle, and added a simple message on the left, to my buddies from the day-job, in Photoshop before printing.
The Print, with My Fat Head for Scale
There are a few other bits of software that come with the printer that I wanted to mention before we finished.
First, the printer comes with an Accounting module, built into the drivers. If you register the cost of your ink cartridges and the paper that you use, you can use the Account Manager to calculate the exact cost of the prints you make. This is not only a lot of fun, but it’s essential if you are going to print for other people. I already have a few people that are asking if they can come round to do some large prints, which I don’t mind doing, but when it comes to asking for money for the prints, it’s really useful to be able to show them exactly how much each one cost.
iPF6350 Accounting Manager
Of course, this cost doesn’t include my time, or wear and tear on the printer, or the time spent learning to use it, or the skill involved in soft-proofing and laying the print out, etc. etc. So this would not be the amount that I charge a total stranger for a print. Also, it goes without saying that if I’m printing a fine art print of my own work, or prints for a client from a portrait shoot for example, I will be charging much more than this. As you can see though, the print that I did for my colleagues cost ¥1,790, which is about $20 at the current exchange rate. Not cheap by any means, so you don’t want to be making too many mistakes with these large prints. Test prints on smaller paper stock is certainly the order of the day.
As I say, the printer comes with a lot of software, but let’s look at one last thing that I’m finding useful, before we finish. If you enter the IP address of the printer into a Web browser, the printer dishes up a nice Remote UI admin console to any computer on your network. I can even check the ink levels on my printer from my iPhone if I needed to. You don’t need to install the drivers or anything to check that things are OK with the printer, or modify settings, check logs etc.
Remote UI via Web Browser
Although the printer has a very low level sleep mode, basically turning it off, but keeping an eye out for jobs coming in over the network, I’m not leaving mine on all the time at the moment. It just gets too hot in my studio when I’m not around. I’ll be in there much more often now that this is my full time job of course, and I’m looking forward to cooler days coming soon with the Autumn, so I might start to leave it on, but for the moment, I’m turning it off when not in use. And when I do that, I’m covering it with a large piece of plastic sheet from the hardware store. This is just to keep dust out, as dust in a printer can cause problems if it drops on the face of the paper as you are printing. Basically you print on the dust, not the paper, and then if the does falls away later you end up with a white spot, which I like to avoid.
iPF6350 with Plastic Cover (Home Made)
One other thing that I didn’t mention is that the printer also requires a Maintenance Cartridge, which is used to dump waste ink during cleaning cycles. These are about $70 to replace, but I don’t know yet how long they last. I’ll find out as I start to print more in the coming months, and if it seems excessive, I’ll let you know.
I haven’t really done any comparison tests, and at $20 a chuck, I’m not about to start doing multiple copies of the same print with different settings, just to see if there are any minute differences in quality, but my initial impression of this printer is that it delivers incredibly high quality prints.
I’ve output large prints on Hahnemuhle Daguerre Canvas and Museum Etching now, and for smaller prints, I’ve also used Hahneumhle Photo Rag and Fine Art Baryta, all of which are showing excellent results. The printer reproduces a huge color gamut, amazing tonal range, easily achieved vivid and highly saturated colors, as well as breathtaking black and white prints.
At $3,995 on B&H and another $900 just to replace a full set of ink cartridges, this certainly isn’t a printer for the hobbyist. There are over a thousand pages in the multiple User Manuals, and it takes a fair bit of reading and studying just to figure out how to set up the paper and start printing. But if you have a need for large prints, and are somewhat technical and enjoy getting your hands dirty, like I do, then you’ll love this printer.
Just make sure you have enough space to put it, and a few friends to help you get it set up, or buy the white glove delivery service when you buy the printer, and you won’t regret a thing.