Canon BCI-6 Inks

Before Chromalife inks arrived, Canon’s photo printers used the BCI-6 inkset. These inks are really what launched Canon as a serious photo printer manufacturer, and although not used by the current printer range, there are lots of these printers still working away all over the world, including in my back office, where a Canon i865, despite having made thousands of prints still works perfectly.

Canon S9000 photo printerIn a historical context the Canon S9000 was the most important printer Canon launched. The Canon S9000 was an A3+ printer using 6 BCI-6 inks. It was aimed squarely at the pro market, and like all revolutionary new products it had two killer features - It was fast, incredibly fast by the standards of the time, and the print quality was superb. For many pro’s wondering if an inkjet printer could ever replace a conventional darkroom, the Canon S9000 was the answer.

When the Canon S9000 was introduced, waiting 20 minutes for a print was common, but the Canon S9000 could deliver an A4 photo quality print in about 90 seconds, and on the new Canon Photo Paper Pro, they looked and felt like a conventional glossy photo.

The Canon S9000, and the i9100 and  i9950 which came after it, all used Canon’s BCI-6 inkset - in the i9950, i990 and iP8500’s case extended from 6 to 8 colours with the addition of red and blue cartridges. these dye based inks have the standard dye ink advantage of bright colours - to some eyes a bit too bright - but also the disadvantage of poor fade resistance. Originally Canon claimed a 25 year life for the BCI-6 inks with Canon’s own Photo Paper Pro, but some tests I’ve read rate prints from the Canon as very poor for stability. In my own experience, although not as good as Epson’s dye inks, the difference isn’t great.

Canon S9000 photo printer
Of more immediate importance is the printer’s relatively poor Dmax - the darkest black it can produce.  Prints from the Canon emerge slightly flat, almost milky looking, and over 15 minutes or so, develop before your eyes. Blacks get darker and highlights clear - with Fuji papers a strong magenta cast also clears. Even after time to fully dry, the Canon’s blacks look weak if you compare them to the same image printed with an Epson or HP photo printer.

All of this makes it sound like there’s not much to recommend the S9000 and it’s successors, but in fact they have been and still are among the best you can buy for two reasons. The first is output quality with glossy papers - if your ideal inkjet photo printer would produce prints impossible to tell apart from conventional, or online lab prints then the Canons get very close. Results look great and feel like real photographs.  The second plus is speed - when the S800 then the S900 and S9000 were released they were in a class of their own. At that time we were all used to waiting 15-20 minutes for Epson or HP photo printer to complete an A4 print - the S9000 could produce a full size A4 print on Canon Photo Paper Pro in about 90 seconds. For professionals producing 50 or so prints a day that’s a saving of over 11 hours - every day.  Canon sold a lot of S9000’s to pro’s, and I for one, was well pleased with the printers performance over thousands of prints.

This is a printer at it’s best with glossy papers - especially Canon PR-101 Photo Paper Pro,  Ilford Galerie Smooth Glossy or Fuji Multijet Premium glossy.

Although the Canon S9000 is now part of the history of digital photography, the Canon iP6000D and iP8500 printers still use the BCI-6 inks and produce much the same results.  If you want fast, glossy prints the S9000 and it’s successors are still among the best there are.

Canon S9000 Recommended Photo Papers

Canon S9000 Photo Paper Fade Tests

© David Gold
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