Canon has been quick off the mark in getting the company’s entry into the commercial photo printing market, the DreamLabo 5000 production inkjet printer, into the Australian marketplace.
At an event in Sydney to mark the launch of the DreamLabo 5000 this week, Canon executives noted that the two units currently in operation in Australia are the first and second out of the Canon factory. Top executives from Canon Japan – including the chief executive of Canon inkjet products group – attended the launch event, underscoring its worldwide significance.
Canon Australia managing director, Taz Nakamasu, said that the DreamLabo 5000 was the piece of the jigsaw which linked Canon’s two key businesses – cameras and business machines.
‘Professional photographers for the first time can enjoy a mass produced solution with print quality only previously achievable with high end, one-off printing devices,’ he said.
‘The DreamLabo 5000 will be the key product which will develop a new business domain – namely, production photo printing.
‘For Canon it’s a chance to further develop our position in the photo industry and for our channel partners a new range of premium merchandise will provide a chance to open up new markets. And to our customers, it’s the chance to experience the highest quality images.
The photographic quality achievable from the DreamLabo 5000, judging from the comparison prints and the output from the launch event, and the colour gamut Canon claims is achievable, is superior to silver halide printing, and well in advance of digital offset printing.
In addition, text quality is far crisper than silver halide printing and a (less marked) improvement on digital offset. Canon showed samples of text printed in a minuscule 1pt font which, when viewed under a loupe, was quite legible.
Canon sees the DreamLabo as having applications in both retail photo printing and the high-end print-on-demand (POD) markets.
‘This launch signifies yet another exciting phase in Canon’s 75-year evolution as the world leader in digital imaging and an equally exciting new business opportunity for our customers and retail partners,’ said Mr Nakamasu.
‘The market for photo books in Australia is growing rapidly and Canon can now offer print specialists and their customers a solution to satisfy consumer demand for a higher grade of print than that offered currently in the market.’
Canon estimates that penetration of photo books in the Australian market is relatively low at just 5 percent. Holland has the highest household penetration, at around 20 percent.
The DreamLabo 5000 features a newly developed high-density printhead, enabling the printing of output up to 305mm wide. Incorporating Canon’s FINE (Full-photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) technology, the print head enables the printing of high-quality photos and detailed text to support a variety of quality output, from photo albums, photo calendar, photo collages and other merchandise to high-quality POD items, such as short-run brochures.
The wide print head delivers high-speed One-Pass Printing, requiring only a single pass of the printing paper while the print head remains in a fixed position. When used in combination with the automatic double-sided printing function, the DreamLabo 5000 is capable of printing the contents of a 20-page A4-size photo album in just 80 seconds.
It also makes possible the single-sided printing of 40 photo prints (6×4-inch) in just one minute (2400/hour). The system delivers high productivity by enabling paper and ink tank replacement during printing, supporting the extended operation times required for production printers.
It has a seven-colour dye-based ink system with Photo Cyan, Photo Magenta and Photo grey added to a CMYK ink set. When fully loaded it carries over 24 litres of ink, with 2.5 litres tanks plus 1 litre buffer tanks.
The Dreamlabo has a built-in guillotine and sophisticated sorting functions, but doesn’t include a binding function.
At the launch event, Canon also announced its first DreamLabo 5000 installation, with Melbourne wholesale fulfilment group, Pictureworks.
Pictureworks will launch a new line-up of photo albums available through its retail partner websites (including Officeworks and Target) from this Friday, March 23.
Pictureworks also operates a direct-to-consumer business, Albumworks.com, which will also be offering premium albums produced on the DreamLabo. Pictureworks also runs HP Indigo equipment for photo books and calendars and will continue to do so, with the DreamLabo adding a premium line to the product range.
‘We are excited to be able to offer this new grade of high-definition photo books to our customers and retail partners,’ said Andrew Smith, managing director, Pictureworks. ‘We believe this printer will set a new standard in the market and we are very proud to be the first commercial operation to offer this product range for our customers’.
– We will continue coverage of the launch event next week – with more detail on the technical aspects of the Dreamlabo 5000 and Canon’s positive thinking about the future of photographic output.
COMMENT: Retailers with in-house photo printing operations – particularly if they are producing photo books in house – may see the Canon DreamLabo 5000 simply as interesting new technology. They might also view it more negatively – as the arrival of another competitor in a market which already has excess capacity against consumer demand. But there is a positive for the entire industry in this story.
It would be interesting to know what the consumer awareness levels are for photo books. I suspect they aren’t very high for a product which has been on offer for around five years now. The marketing resources Canon will invest in a product category it says is critical to its future plans will create a rising tide of awareness which should ‘lift all boats’.
With only five percent of households having purchased a photo book, there is potential to grow the market, but the missing ingredient so far has been some serious dollars invested in informing, educating and enthusing consumers on a nationwide basis. The arrival of the photo industry market leader to the game should change that.