Epson and Canon, the two leaders in the photographic printer market, both updated their printer offerings recently, delivering devices that provide better print quality, faster speeds and higher resolution at prices comparable to the companies’ previous offerings. While the top-end pro market has been on-and-off again largely a one-horse race, the new products from both companies have brought competition back to the output world.
We recently took a look at the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 and Epson SureColor P600 (digitalphotopro.com/gear/printers/high-tech-studio-the-golden-age-of-printing/), both released just over a year ago, and found them to be some of the best professional printer solutions ever offered. The 17-inch-wide PRO-1000 and the Epson P800 (which uses the same print technology as the smaller P600, but at a 17-inch size) were nearly neck-and-neck in the race to create super-detailed and hyper-accurate prints.
The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 took a slight edge over the Epson, thanks to the Canon’s 11-channel (plus chroma optimizer) ink set versus the 8-channel P600/P800. The enhanced range of tonality on the Canon provided a better-looking print in most of our tests than the Epson solution, as you’d expect with its wider color range.
Now Epson has announced the P5000, which is the same 17-inch size as the P800 but features a newly designed 10-color system, hence the extra digit in its name.
After the PRO-1000 shipped, Canon announced the 24-inch PRO-2000 and 44-inch PRO-4000, using the same print head and colors as the PRO-1000, and the PRO-4000S and PRO-6000S, which used an 8-ink setup for a less expensive version of the 11-color setups. (Note: Canon also just introduced the new 60-inch imagePROGRAF PRO-6000, with a 12-channel system that features the LUCIA PRO 11-color plus Chroma Optimizer).
Because of the confusing naming on the Epson and Canon devices, it’s a bit difficult to figure out which printer model offers which feature without a cheat sheet. For the Epson line, the odd-numbered printers feature their 10-color inkset (the P5000 is 17 inches, the P7000 is 24 inches and the P9000 is 44 inches) while the even-numbered printers are 8-channel (the P6000 is 24 inches and the P8000 is 44 inches). The three-digit printers are 8-color and more oriented to the individual user looking for high-end output but not producing a high volume of output.
In the Canon line, all the printers are 11-channel, unless they have an “S” at the end of their name. That makes the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 comparable in size and channels to the Epson SureColor P5000, and the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 comparable to the Epson P7000.
We’ve taken a look at both the PRO-2000 and the P5000 (and have looked at samples from the P7000), and the two printers are more evenly matched than the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 and the Epson P600. In the test of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 and Epson SureColor P600, the Canon printer’s wider color range bested the Epson printer in our blind head-to-head battles where additional detail could be discerned in subtly different areas—like tones in the shadows, highlights on flowers, gradients in the sky, etc. The Epson prints were stunning, but the Canon prints were just slightly more stunning.
Epson even acknowledges this, to some degree, with their marketing materials for the P5000, with the Epson website reading, “This next-generation 10-color extended-gamut ink set includes higher-density Blacks and delivers up to twice the print permanence than the previous generation.” Higher-density blacks help contribute to the overall detail and D-max of a print, so the new ink set helps extend the Epson printer’s capabilities.
The imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 is a wider printer than the PRO-1000 but uses the same underlying technology, albeit with some wide-format tweaks. The PRO-2000 uses a 1.3-inch print head—which the company says is wider than most, allowing the printer to use one print head instead of two print heads for a more compact printer than would be possible otherwise. The system uses 27 individual sensors to check the 18,432 nozzles and prevent clogging. If nozzles do clog, the printer can automatically map around them to ensure print quality.
To prevent waste, the PRO-2000 uses individual channels for photo black and matte black, preventing
the need to purge the print head between different types of prints. The Epson printers have automatic black switching between photo and matte black, but not individual nozzles.
The Epson P5000 comes in Standard and Commercial versions, with the former aimed at photographers and featuring an additional black channel. The commercial iteration of the printer replaces one of the black channels for violet, making it more useful for proofing, packaging and other wide-color projects. (There’s also a Designer Edition, which comes with a RIP for more efficient output in a design studio environment.)
The chassis of the P5000 features a traditional black casing that’s common for Epson printers, without the lighter plastic components on the lower-end models. It looks much more at home next to a high-end camera. Setup of the Epson SureColor P5000 and the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 (the smaller model that we tested previously) are comparable. Desktop printer setup is just a matter of removing components from a box and plugging cartridges into the right spaces. We didn’t get to test the setup of the wider-sized P7000, but we did test the setup of the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-2000 and it’s a bit of a beast. The instructions were in some parts much like an IKEA product, and figuring out how to load the paper the first time was incredibly cumbersome. Once it was set up, we were able to print to it with no problem, even remotely.
With the introduction of the imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, Canon disrupted the printer world by seriously stepping up their output game. Epson’s response has brought the field back to parity, and now photographers have two manufacturers creating top-end printers with top-end output. Competition, of course, is a good thing, and in this case, it has resulted in a flurry of excellent printers that don’t compromise on image quality or performance.