Make an Impression with Moo Business Cards (Podcast 436)

Make an Impression with Moo Business Cards (Podcast 436)

You can tell when the oppressive Tokyo summer heat sets in, because I reverse hibernate and stay in doors doing back office jobs like Web site maintenance and ordering business cards etc. and that’s exactly what we’re going to talk about today. I recently ordered my second batch of business cards from UK based printers Moo and I’m happy enough with the results to tell you about them.

Moo are a great company. They have a somewhat Apple-esque quality about their products and their marketing, and they do it well. I first started to receive business cards created by Moo probably around 6 or 7 years ago. Apparently they were founded eight years ago, in 2006, which means people pretty quickly picked up on their quality proposal.

I’ve tried a number of printing companies over the years for my business cards, and have found some that I liked and some that I could never recommend. To be honest, Moo kind of fell into the latter category for a while, because I feel the print quality of their Luxe cards is sub-standard, and we’ll look at that later, but I knew that they were capable of creating quality products, so I decided to give them another try recently.

Classic Matte Laminated Cards

This time around I decided to go for the Moo Classic Matte Laminated cards. I’ve been handed these a number of times and I’m always impressed with the quality.

Moo Classic Business Cards Packaging

Moo Classic Business Cards Packaging

These cards are heavy and stiff, yet still have just the right amount of flexibility. The lamination process gives the matte paper stock a very soft feel, that is hard to describe. You really have to touch these cards to understand this.

I ordered 200 cards this time around costing £39.99 (excluding VAT) and paid £36.75 for the DHL Express shipping, which is almost as much as the cards themselves when sending to Japan, but the cards are so reasonably priced that I don’t mind that so much.

With my last order I went for the standard shipping and the cards took nearly a month to arrive, which I found unacceptable. Call me impatient, but even when I’m not in a rush I don’t like waiting that long for something to arrive, especially when the production only takes a couple of days max.

Here (right) you see the packaging that they came in. Nice and basic but functional packaging, and I like the touch of humour that Moo add to their packaging. When you open the box you are greeted with the wording “Designed by MOO & You”, which brought a smile to my face, and that’s special. How many times do you open a simple business product and smile?

The humour continues with the words “Quick, schedule a meeting! Your Business Cards have arrived” printed on the packaging of the box that you use to store your business cards in. You only get one of these boxes holding 50 cards, and the other 150 were bound by a paper belt and dropped into the packaging as you see in the photo (above). This is fine, and helps keep the cost reasonable.

Moo Business Cards Box

Moo Business Cards Box

Although I have a quite special lacquer-wear card holder that I use here in Japan, I don’t like to use this when I’m out and about shooting, roughing it somewhat, so I decided to also pick up the Moo ShowCase Card Holder with this order too. You can open this case in a number of ways, and you are supposed to be able to simply flick out a business card, although you’d need pretty sticky fingers to do this because the lamination makes the cards so smooth that they can’t be just flicked out, but it’s still nice to be able to easily just open the end of the case, and pull a card out.

Showcase Business Card Holder

Showcase Business Card Holder

You can also fan the card case out as you see in this photo (below) to show off your cards, which is probably a nice way to present them. Although I think the Japanese people that I exchange cards with here in Japan would probably think this a bit gimmicky, it’s a good way to make an impression, so I’m looking forward to seeing people’s reaction.

Showcase Business Card Holder

Showcase Business Card Holder

It’s also nice of course to be able to show the various photos that I have had printed on these cards. Each of the three sections holds five Classic cards, so if you have more than three designs, from a photographer’s perspective, this gives you an opportunity to take out more cards and show off your work.

For this order, I actually uploaded 17 photos to be printed on back of my cards, as you see here (below). Moo’s Printfinity technology enables them to print as many different designs as the number of cards you order. Basically, if you order 50 cards, you can upload 50 different images to be printed on them. As I ordered 200 cards, I got 11 of some cards, and 12 of others.

17 Designs

17 Designs

You can only have one design on the front of your cards for each batch, although you could order multiple batches of cards if you needed more. I used to carry both English and Japanese versions of my business cards, but I would invariably find that one would run out before the other, or I ran out of one language before the other when I was out and about, so I designed a single card with both English and Japanese on a few years ago, and I’m finding it works for me.

Preparing Your Artwork

I’m not going to go into details about the order workflow, as it’s pretty straight forward, and as with any Web site, subject to change, but there are a couple of things that I’d like to point out with regards to preparing your images and designs for upload, as you have to dig for this a little on the Moo Web site.

For the contact details side of my cards, I used Adobe Illustrator to create the design, and once you have your design how you want it to look, save a copy, then select all of your text and then from the Type menu, select “Create Outlines”. This changes your type, created with fonts, to vector based shapes, so you remove the risk of problems with fonts not being available etc. Don’t Create Outlines on your final design file, because you cannot edit the text once you’ve done this, so you wouldn’t be able to come back and change your details if necessary for future orders.

Also, according to Moo, when you to save your PDF, you have to ensure that you select the ‘Adobe PDF/X-1a’ preset and because they work with the “Coated FOGRA39” CMYK profile, ensure that you select this in the Output options as you save your design as a PDF ready for for upload.  Even this of course is subject to change, and you can work in other file formats too, so do check the Moo site before you finalize your artwork for upload.

Illustrator Output PDF Options

Illustrator Output PDF Options

Preparing Your Photographs

For the photos that I had printed, I converted the profile for each of them to Coated FOGRA39 before saving the images for upload. Moo says by the way that this information is only for design professionals, but if you can get your head around this, it removes the guesswork if you prepare your images properly. If this doesn’t make much sense, you’ll probably be fine to just use images in sRGB, but I think it’s worth taking the time to convert your images. Just open them in Photoshop, and select Edit > Convert to Profile… then select Coated FOGRA39 from the Destination Space Profile pulldown.

While I was in Photoshop, I also changed the image size to 59mm high at 300 ppi, which gives me a width of 88.56mm for a standard 3:2 aspect ratio image, and that also matches the cards aspect ratio. 300 ppi for the resolution is perfect for printing, and what Moo recommends. These settings give you relatively small files to upload, but will print great at the business card dimensions.

I actually just created a Photoshop Action that changed the size and converted the profile to Coated FOGRA39, then saved a copy in my artwork directory before closing the image. That makes it pretty easy to prepare a large number of images to give your cards some variation.

I Turn Off Photo Enhanced

After I upload my images to the Moo system, I also ensure that the Photo Enhanced checkbox is turned off. I don’t like anything automatic to happen to my images. If you don’t really do a lot to your images and you want them to look nice and punchy though, you might want to leave this turned on. You can preview the effect before you decide, so take a moment to check this and make up your own mind.

Turn Off Photo Enhanced

I Turn Off Photo Enhanced

Luxe Cards are no good for Photographs (IMO)

OK, so before we finish, I wanted to just give you a quick update on what I didn’t like about the Luxe cards that I ordered last year. The Luxe cards are extra thick, and although now comparing these to my Classic Matte laminated cards, I think they are perhaps a little too thick, I did like the quality and feel of the paper stock.

What I did not like though, was the quality of the printing. I did five designs, and apart from the winter tree photo in the batch we looked at earlier, the quality was just sub-standard. Now, I’ve been printing my own fine art images for long enough, and even written a best selling Craft & Vision ebook on printing, so I know what is possible with matte paper, but honestly, I was totally unimpressed with Luxe.

It looked to me as though the cards were printed at very low resolution, maybe 150 ppi or even less, or the coating on the Luxe media is just not appropriate for photographic printing. I basically can’t recommend Luxe for photographs. As you can see in this photograph of my new Classic Matte Laminate (left) compared to the Luxe card (right), the Luxe card has almost no detail in the foreground rocks to the left, despite me submitting exactly the same photograph to be printed on both types of card.

Moo Cards Classic and Luxe Comparison

Classic Matte laminate (left) and Luxe (right)

Although it’s difficult to appreciate how good the Classic Matte cards at this magnification, the detail in general is just so much better than the Luxe. You can probably also see a very subtle color cast in the Classic Matte cards in this comparison too, but that isn’t noticeable unless you compare them side by side like this, so doesn’t really concern me too much.

I do like the box that the Luxe cards come in, as you can see in this photo (below) but that comes at a price of course. The Luxe cards are £76.99 (excluding VAT) for 200, so almost double the Classic Matte cards. Although they’re nice, and probably work well if you get the right design for the back, I won’t be ordering these again.

Moo Luxe Business Cards

Moo Luxe Business Cards

All’s Well That Ends Well!

OK, so sorry to end on a low note there, but in generally, I’m a fan of Moo’s products, and the Classic Matte cards have passed my best critiques approval too, which is of course my wife. She hated my Luxe cards, and was not impressed when I told her that I was ordering with Moo again, but I’m glad I did, and my wife really likes the new cards too. I’ll definitely be going back to Moo for more as my current 200 run out. As they say, All’s Well That Ends Well.


Show Notes

Support the Podcast by ordering with our Moo Referral Link: http://www.moo.com/share/2w68kf

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Podcast 292 : Canon PIXMA MG6120 All-in-One Wireless Printer Review

Podcast 292 : Canon PIXMA MG6120 All-in-One Wireless Printer Review

Today we’re going to take a look at the Canon PIXMA MG6120 Wireless Photo All-in-One Printer. This is basically an A4 or Letter paper size printer, with a scanner built into the top, but despite that, it’s a sleek looking machine, with various feature that make it well worth the price tag of under $100 US, or almost twice that at around ¥15,000 in Japan. I bought mine almost three months ago, for reasons that I’ll get into shortly, but having recently tried it as a photo printer as well, I have to tell you, I was very pleasantly surprised with the results.

If you already follow my blog or Podcast you’ll know that I’m an avid printer, and already have a couple of very good printers that I use for my fine art photography prints, so you might be wondering why I bought a cheap printer like this. Well, as I work at home, with my office/studio on the third floor, but with space also on the second floor of our apartment to work, as well as me now spending a lot of time in our living room, with my MacBook Pro on my lap or dining table, I started to get frustrated with having to go up to my office to plug the USB cable into my computer just so that I could print say a receipt for something that I just bought online, or a bill or receipt for a customer and a second copy for my accounts.

The first thing I looked into was a USB to Wifi adapter. Basically this would allow me to plug my 13×19″ printer, the Pixus or Pixma Pro9500, into the adapter and then I’d be able to print to it from the Wifi network that I have throughout our two floor apartment. I rarely plug my MacBook Pro into the wired network, so this would have worked. The problem was, these adapters, at least here in Japan, cost about the equivalent of US$80.

I Needed a Small Wireless Business Printer

At that price I figured I might as well just take a look at what is available these days in the small business printer world, and I’d already seen some Canon printer commercials for pretty sleek looking printers that were wireless and wouldn’t look too out of place in a living room or study. When I checked the prices, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had some of the latest models on Amazon.co.jp for just over ¥14,000, which is about $180 US. If that sounds expensive to you, these are Japan prices, and I just checked on B&H to see that the same model is available for just $95 at the moment, and I can only see the price dropping over time.

I figured that if I bought a printer like this, I would put it in the room next to our living room, which is like my study, but I also use it as a studio when necessary, or to lay out prints to dry when I get a lot of orders at the same time. There’s a built in book shelf under one of the windows, and I could make space for a small printer in there if I bought one. To avoid having to take the printer out of the bookshelf to feed paper into it when I use it though, there needed to be a front tray, like you see on many small laser printers, so this became another condition of my search, so I narrowed my selection down to a couple of printers from the range I’d seen advertized.

MB6130 in my Bookshelf

MB6130 in my Bookshelf

They both had wireless printing, and both had a front loading tray, and even had a scanner in the top, and offered wireless scanning as well, which would be great for making copies of documents etc. The top of the line version also had Fax functionality built in, but where I was going to put my printer, I wouldn’t have been able to run a phone line, so I figured that was overkill, and so I went for the cheaper model, which here in Japan is called the Canon Pixus MG6130. In the States, from what I can make out, this is the equivalent of the PIXMA MG6120. They’re called something else in the UK though, so I gave up on trying to find the name for this printer in other countries.

Sleek Black Design and User Interface

Sleek Black Design and User Interface

Another thing that I paid attention too was individual ink cartridges. I’ve seen lower end printers that have just one or two ink cartridges that contain multiple colors. This of course means that if one color runs out before the others, as they invariably do, you have to change the cartridge, throwing out the remaining other color inks. Printer inks are expensive enough as it is is, without throwing it away. Anyway, this is a six color printer, with all six in their own individual cartridge, which pretty much fulfilled everything I was looking for.

So, I placed my order from my sofa, wishing that I could already print the receipt via wireless to save me going up to my office to do this, and the following day, a nice shiny black printer turned up on my doorstep. Here (above) you can see the printer in my bookshelf. There is an LCD monitor on the top of the printer (right) that you use to tell the printer what mode you want it in, but by default, when you turn the printer on it’s a printer, and all I have to do is lower the front paper support and I’m ready to print, using the A4 paper that I have loaded in the front tray.

Wifi Connectivity

It takes just a few steps to set up the printer to attach itself to your Wifi network, if you have one of course. Once you have Wifi set up, you can do pretty much anything you want, without having to plug in a USB cable, including of course printing, and also scanning, which I thought was cool. You can use the scanner as though it’s connected to the computer, or you can go to the printer, do the scan using the controls on the printer itself, and then send the resulting scanned image to your computer.

Standard Paper Printing is Lightening Fast!

I haven’t timed it, but I’m very pleased with the speed of printing standard quality Web pages and other documents on plain A4 copy paper. It takes a few seconds to send the data to the printer and then for it to actually start the print, but then when the print actually starts, it literally takes just a few seconds. The paper comes out of the front of the printer in about four or five lunges forward, really feeling more like a laser printer than an inkjet printer, and the clarity of the printers characters are amazing for prints of these speed and just standard quality. Printing is so fast that the page coming out of the printer blurred in this photograph (below) of me printing a Web page. I even went to my Workshops page and printed out that page to get some additional marketing in here, but it’s so blurred you can’t read the title of the page!

Printing While in my Bookshelf

Printing While in my Bookshelf

If I want to print photos or the little certificates of authenticity that I put in with each of my fine art prints, I do have to take the printer out of the book shelf, so that I can feed the paper into the back tray of the printer. I could change the paper in the bottom tray, but if I start getting into that, I becomes easier to just go upstairs to print on the different paper, so I generally only use this printer for plain paper A4 prints, and I can also open the lid to slide in a document to copy while in the bookshelf as well.

Buttons Appear from Nowhere!!

To be able to show you all of this more easily, I took the printer up to my studio and sat it on a sheet of seamless to shoot some photos for this Podcast, also because I intended to print some photos to check the quality, and we’ll look at those shortly.

Perhaps a little gimmicky, but I’m a sucker for gimmicks — I really like the way the top of the printer really has no buttons other than the power button and a round selector dial, until you turn it on. As you can see here (below) the buttons that appear change depending on what you are doing with the printer. Here I put the printer into Copier mode, as this lights it up like a Christmas tree!

Buttons Appear out of Nowhere!

Buttons Appear out of Nowhere!

You can see here too (below) what the printer looks like with the scanner top open, ready for the document to copy. Of course, once you put your document in and set the process going, the document is automatically scanned and printed without any further user intervention. If you want to just scan a document, you can do this from your computer, wirelessly, and the document can be saved in a number of formats, depending on your requirements, or the type of document or photo you are scanning. There’s also an OCR, or Optical Character Recognition application that comes with the printer, so that you can convert scanned documents into editable text, but I haven’t tried this so I can’t say how accurate it the OCR is.

Scanner/Copier As Well!

Scanner/Copier As Well!

Print from Memory Cards

On the right corner of the printer, there is a little cover to hide some memory card slots. Here’s (below) a photo of the slots. It supports MS Duo cards, SDMS cards or Compact Flash cards. You can select photos to print on the LCD display on the printer, and as long as you don’t need to play around with the image, you can print them right there without transferring the images to your computer. I personally wouldn’t usually use this feature, but if you have kids with a digital camera, or family members that aren’t as concerned about the end product as we are, it would be great for them to be able to just load up the printer with 4×6″ or 5×7″ photo paper and sit and select your favorites and just print them out right there. This will probably be enough for many people.

Print photos direct from Memory Cards

Print photos direct from Memory Cards

One word of warning on printing directly from memory cards, is that RAW photos are not supported. You can only print JPEG or TIFF images, which again supports the idea that this is really an option for the less serious photographer.

iPhone/iPad Printing

Even Does Excellent Photo Printing

Even Does Excellent Photo Printing

Another cool feature is the ability to print directly from your iPhone or iPad. If you already have Wifi set up on your printer, all you need to do is search for Canon iEPP in the iTunes store, download it for free, and you’re away. You can print images that are in your photo albums on your iPhone or iPad, or you can view scanned documents left on the printer to select them to print as well. Again, being able to do this sort of printing is very handy for the family members that aren’t quite as serious about their photographs as us photographers are.

Amazing Photograph Printing Quality

Having said that a few times though, I should tell you that I did some print tests in preparation for this Podcast, and I was very, very pleased with the results.

Usually, before I do any photograph prints from a printer, I get out my X-Rite i1XTreme Calibration Tools and print out my printer profiling targets, then create ICC profiles for each of my printer/paper combinations.  If you end up listening to this or reading my blog as a general user, rather than a photographer, then I doubt very much that you are going to be spending $1,000 on a calibration solution, or even $160 for an X-Rite ColorMunki Display, when you consider that even this is way more than you will pay for the printer.

Lightroom Printer Settings for MG6130

Lightroom Printer Settings for MG6130

Print Settings

So I decided to do my tests without any calibration, to simulate what the majority of people buying this printer will get from it. Even with all this in mind though, I was still very happy with the results.

Here’s a few screen shots to show you how I set up my MG6130 (MG6120 in the US) to print, using only the drivers and profiles that come with the printer. I did four test prints all on Hahnemuhle Fine Art Baryta Photo paper, but you’ll get very similar results with Canon’s Gloss photo papers, or their Pro Platinum papers, if you want to push the boat out a little. If you do want to try other papers though, there are a lot of options out there, and as I just said, I generally use Hahnemuhle papers for my own printing.

If you print using Canon’s Easy Photo Print or other tools on your system you won’t have the same settings as this, but I just can’t help myself, and printed from Adobe Lightroom. I selected Standard Print Sharpening for Glossy media, and left 16 Bit Output turned on. I haven’t been able to find that this printer supports 16 bit printing in the specification, but the software didn’t complain at any point, so I assume it does. I also allowed the printer to do the color management, which is something I never do usually, as I always use my own ICC profiles.

In the printer settings dialog, I selected the Color Matching pull-down, and told the printer to use the systems ColorSync, instead of Canon’s Color Matching.

MG6130 Color Matching Settings

MG6130 Color Matching Settings

Then having selected the Quality & Media pull-down, I selected the Photo Paper Pro Platinum as the Media Type, as I know that this is a similar Baryta coated paper from Canon. Basically I was telling Canon to get out of the way in the Color Matching settings, but now using their profile to ensure that the right amount of ink is set down on the paper, and I chose High quality for the prints.

MG6130 Quality and Media Settings

MG6130 Quality and Media Settings

As the four test prints made their way out of the front of the printer, I really couldn’t believe what I was seeing at first, the results were so good.

Test Prints in Progress

Test Prints in Progress

After I’d completed my four prints, I went on to print out the same for images using my Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6350 Large Format Printer. This might have been overkill size-wise, as this is a 24″ wide printer, being used for 8.5″ wide US Letter prints, but the iPF6350 has 12 colors, double the MG6130, and has for the last year that I’ve been using it proved to be simply the best printer I’ve ever used, requiring very little soft-proofing even for the most difficult images to print on my old Pro9500 printer.

Print Test Results

Bright greens were always very difficult to reproduce on the Pro9500 for example, but with my custom built ICC profile on the iPF6350, they come out pretty much perfect every time, without any soft-proofing. Here though (below), you can see that a photograph of Choushi Otaki, some falls from the Oirase area of Japan printed out almost exactly the same on the MG6130 as they did from the iPF6350, and remember that this is without using a custom profile, so I’m really quite amazed at the results.

Choushi Ootaki Examples

Choushi Ootaki Examples

The main difference with the iPF6350 photo on the left, and the MG6130 image on the right, is that the 6350 held more detail in the shadows, but the greens were very well reproduced by both printers. This was the biggest surprise for me. I did not expect the MG6130 to print these greens this well. I prefer the detail in the iPF6350 version, but if you like a punchy image, you may well prefer the MG6130 image here. It’s really that good.

In the next example, I printed one of my favorite Red Crowned Crane photographs from this year, and the objective here was to see how well the MG6130 reproduced the fine gradient between the white of the bird and the pure white snow background, and also to see how well the reds were printed.

Red Crowned Crane Examples

Red Crowned Crane Examples

Once again, the MG6130 print was simply beautiful. The red in the MG6130 print to the right again here, was a little more punchy than the iPF6350 print, and the latter seems more natural and is closer to the original photograph. Also, the detail in the grey flicks on the side of the crane’s face and neck are held much better in the iPF6350 print, as are the fine details and texture in the birds white body. As you can see though, the right photo here from the MG6130 is still very, very good.

Next I printed a shot of a young elephant seal from the Falkland Islands in April this year.

Elephant Seal Examples

Elephant Seal Examples

Again, the MG6130 produced a more than acceptable print. Deeper shadows and dark areas than the iPF6350, but still a very nice looking print, that might appeal more to someone that likes a punchy print than would the iPF6350 version.

Finally, I decided to try a black and white print, of an image from Gentoo Point in Antarctica from March this year.

Antarctica - Gentoo Point Examples

Antarctica – Gentoo Point Examples

Here it’s easy to see the almost overly darkened areas of the sky in the MG6130 print, and some of the subtle tonalities have been lost to the punchiness, as well as some of the very fine texture in the clouds, but again, the right version will probably appeal to some people more than the iPF6350 version on the left.

I didn’t try any matte paper prints, but I can already tell from the results above that they would be very good. It’s almost not worth continuing tests because the results are now so predictable. Also, I doubt that people that buy this printer will be doing matte prints.

Conclusion

If you are after a budget office printer/scanner, for less than US$100, I personally don’t think you can go wrong with the Canon PIXMA MG6120 Wireless Photo All-in-One Printer. Again, if you are buying outside of the US, you’ll need to have a look and find this printer with a different name.

Wireless printing; wireless scanning; printing from mobile devices; front loading paper, sleek design; easy to use user interface; I could go on and on. I haven’t touched on everything that this printer can do today, but in my opinion, it’s a real winner, especially for this price.

If you are on a budget, and don’t have another photo printer, as you can see from the above results, this could be your only printer, if you don’t need to print any larger than A4 or US Letter. Until you get up into the A3+ or 13×19″ range, you’re probably not going to notice any difference between this and the more expensive printers available.

Now granted, I’m comparing prints with a slightly older printer, and recalling problems with my old Pro9500 printer, and it might well be that all new printers on the market now are this good, so do shop around yourself too. But if you like the look of this printer and the price for what it can do, then you can buy in confidence.

End Notes

So before we finish, I’d just like to let you know that I’m still doing well after my recent surgery. I’m a bit late with the Podcast this week, partly because I put quite a bit of time into the preparation, but also because I’m now well enough to have done two full days of accounting work, catching up on the last three months that I was behind. I’m letting you know this in case you were thinking that I was late with this episode because I was under the weather. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m really doing great, and still intend to stick with my weekly schedule, even though we are barely still in this week, on this Saturday afternoon. 🙂


Show Notes

MG6120 at B&H: https://mbp.ac/mg6120

iPF6350 at B&H: https://mbp.ac/ipf6350

Music by UniqueTracks


Audio

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Podcast 259 : Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6350 Printer Review

Podcast 259 : Canon imagePROGRAF iPF6350 Printer Review

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

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

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.

Ink Cartridges

Ink Cartridges

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

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

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

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.

Custom Papers

Custom Papers

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 Adjustement Sample Patches

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

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

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

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!

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Accounting Manager

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

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.

Remote UI

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

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)

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.

Conclusion

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.


Podcast show-notes:

Details of iPF6350: http://bit.ly/MBPiPF6350

Buy from B&H: http://bit.ly/BHiPF6350

Music from Music Alley: http://www.musicalley.com/


Audio

Download the Enhanced Podcast M4A files directly.


Almost Too Easy!

Almost Too Easy!

Things are getting so easy! This is a good thing of course, most of the time…

When I first bought my Canon Pixus Pro 9500 printer, the first time I had to change an ink cartridge I was lost. I’d been used to having to press buttons for a number of seconds etc. to get the print head into a position that allowed me to change the ink cartridge. Once done, I had to press a button to get the head back to the home position and ready to go again. This of course is easy enough, but when I first got my old printer, I had to read the manual to find out how to do this.

With the Pixus Pro 9500 I opened the digital manual and started looking and it still wasn’t obvious. Being a tad on the impatient side, I stood up and lifted the top cover of the printer to see if there were any instructions in there. As I did so, the print head moved into the cartridge changing position and the cartridge that was empty was flashing at me!

A little cautious, because it really did seem too easy, I flicked the little plastic latch to pop the cartridge out, and dropped in the new one. The light in front of the new cartridge started flashing, and as I lowered the lid, the heads started to move and I could hear the mechanical sound of the heads doing their stuff to intake the ink from the new cartridge. (Probably wasting a load from the other good ones too!)

The point is, it was so easy, it was almost difficult!

Conversely, I actually like to open the top of the printer and look inside as my print develops. Of course, I can no longer do this, because I get shouted out by the printer for opening the top cover while printing! I guess a youngster could stick their hand in there as well, so it’s probably for the best. Ho hum.

Anyway, I was just reminded of this when this evening I printed a CD label, and started wondering again how I do it with the 9500. I don’t do this often, and had momentarily forgotten. I recalled that you have to pull a flap down on the front of the printer to reveal the CD tray slot. The tray itself is stowed neatly underneath the printer in special grooves.

As I pulled the flap down, again the printer started jiggling around readying itself for the CD. I cranked up the Canon CD printing software, attached the artwork from the new Paul Potts CD from iTunes, and arranged a makeshift label, pressed print, and got a message telling me not to put the CD tray into the slot yet. I whipped it back out quickly, because of course I’d already impatiently crammed it in, as you do. Then a few minutes later the message changed showing me where to stick my CD tray. In it went, and a minute or so later I had a beautiful new printed CD.

Easy as anything, and definitely much better than a few years ago, but really, sometimes things are so easy that until I get used to things, I sometimes find myself floundering.

Printing on a CD with my Canon Pixus (Pixma) Pro 9500.

Printing on a CD with my Canon Pixus (Pixma) Pro 9500.