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REVIEW: Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300

CANON IMAGEPROGRAF PRO-300: A new entry-level A3+ pigment printer with a compact footprint, elegant styling and performance and output quality improvements over the PIXMA PRO-10S it replaces. It’s a very capable A3+ printer that should meet the needs of most serious enthusiasts who don’t need to make prints larger than 329 x 483 mm. Simple to set up and easy and reliable to operate it produces admirable output quality with both the Standard and Highest quality settings. The low-capacity ink tanks mean it’s not cost-effective for high-volume output.
RRP: $1169
Announced on July 9, the imagePROGRAF PRO-300 represents a ‘little brother’ to the imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, providing a similar workflow and delivering similar output quality thanks to the use of Canon’s Lucia Pro pigment inks. However, the new printer’s inkset features improved photo and matte black inks that produce deeper and more vivid blacks on glossy and fine art media. Separate nozzles are provided for the photo and matte black inks, eliminating the need to swap inks when changing between glossy/lustre and matte papers. The printer automatically chooses the correct ink based on the paper loaded, saving time and reducing ink consumption.

The PRO-300 is only suitable for relatively low-volume printing because of the small capacity of its ink tanks: only 14.4 ml each. The ink tanks ride on top of the print head, sitting in colour-coded slots that make the replacement of depleted tanks straightforward. The 10-colour inkset consists of MBK matte black, PBK photo black, GY grey, C cyan, PC photo cyan, M magenta, PM photo magenta, Y yellow and R red colours plus a CO (Chroma Optimizer) resin to minimise gloss differential and bronzing that can occur when pigment inks are used on glossy media. The printer’s  processor calculates the best ink droplet layout for producing high output quality plus relatively fast printing speeds. Output times range between two and four minutes for A4 prints, 4.5 to 6.25 minutes for A3 or 5-8 minutes for A3+ prints on average, depending on whether standard or highest quality is selected.

The printer’s LCD control panel can be used for stand-alone printing as well as for displaying status messages and accessing controls like the paper profiles, maintenance modes, templates, printer settings and a Quick Guide to key functions. The printer driver is essentially the same as Canon supplies with its Pixma printers but the software includes Canon’s Professional Print & Layout software, which can operate as a plugin through Digital Photo Professional software or Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. The imagePROGRAF PRO-300 can also be connected with PC or Mac operating systems via a Wi-Fi, Ethernet or USB connection to support different workflows.

Purchasing Points:
1. The imagePROGRAF PRO-300 is best suited to low-volume printing but its output is good enough for professional and enthusiast photographers, small studios and photo labs. Its compact size and versatility could suit some camera shops, photography schools and clubs.
2. Two paper feeds are provided: a main top feed and a manual rear feed. Both have pull-out paper supports to help the media feed in correctly. Paper is fed in centrally, not from the right side as in older printers. This reduces potential paper damage caused by skewed feeding.
3. Borderless printing is available for the following output sizes: Letter (22 x 28 cm), 11” x 17” (279.4 x 431.8 mm), A4, A3, A3+, 10 x 15 cm, 13 x 18 cm, 18 x 25 cm, 20 x 25 cm, 210 x 594 mm, L 89 x 127 mm, 2L 127 x 178 mm, Square 13 x 13 cm, Square 30 x 30 cm, Hagaki (100 x 148 mm). Images will be cropped to fit paper sizes with different aspect ratios from the camera.
4. The PRO-300 includes a Custom Printer Paper Size setting that allows users to print on non-standard paper sizes, including panoramas. It’s not available when the Borderless box is checked and paper widths are limited to a range of 89 to 330mm and lengths are restricted to between 127mm and 990.6mm.
5. When the Borderless box is unchecked, the printer defaults to a 15mm margin around the image, particularly with matte and fine art papers. This can be cancelled by checking the Print Options box in the Page Setup section of the printer driver.
6. The ‘canned’ profiles cover all the current Canon media, including canvas. The PRO-300 also includes ICC profile support for third-party media.
7. It can also work seamlessly with Canon’s EOS camera technology and supports functions such as DPRAW Print and HDR Print, which can read the RAW image data from EOS cameras and accurately render sharp areas in an image, as well as recover highlights from single exposures.
8. Prices for the PRO-300’s ink tanks vary widely, ranging from just under $50 to $25 per cartridge, which makes it difficult to calculate precise printing costs. In addition, many retail stores (particularly photo specialists) don’t keep replacement inks for this printer in stock, forcing consumers to shop online, where pricing is highly competitive. (A couple of online re-sellers offer 10 ink packs for between $241 and $253.)
– Margaret Brown

For a more comprehensive review from  Margaret, click here.

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