When Canon initially launched their new Chromalife 100 long life inkset it paid to read their printer specs very carefully, as many of their Pixma inkjet photo printers actually still used the old Canon BCI-6 inks. Only a few, including the Pixma iP4200 and iP5200 used the new CLI-8 inks. Canon’s Chromalife inks aim to address the main weakness of their printers based on the older inks, while retaining the speed and glossy photo abilities that were their greatest assets.
Chromalife 100 inks are claimed to be lightfast for up to 100 years with Canon’s own photo papers. Canon claim a 100 year life for prints stored in photo albums, 30 years for framed behind glass and 10 years for “unprotected” prints. Interestingly Canon claims that most fading is due to gases in the air rather than exposure to light.
Although I’m a professional photographer and this isn’t really a professional printer, I’ve made a lot of photo prints with the Canon Pixma iP5200. Even though it only uses 5 inks and 2 of them are blacks, this is one of the best photo printers I’ve ever used. OK the tonal range may be slightly less smooth than an 8 ink Epson or Canon but the difference is small enough to be almost irrelevant in real world terms. Considering the far lower running costs compared to a 6 or 8 ink photo printer, Canon 5 ink printers are a bargain.
This only applies to Canon 5 ink printers.
Canon photo printers which only use 4 inks are a different story. >>> Canon Pixma iX4000 Review
All Canon 5 or 6 ink photo printers are reasonably fast and produce great glossy photos. The system’s main weaknesses are in colour management - the drivers allows very little real control, only allowing you to use Windows own ICM or some sliders that don’t include a lighten/darken, saturation or contrast control. Instead you have “intensity” and “black” controls. Considering the printer’s tendency to produce oversaturated colours - even with “Vivid” turned off - these are major omissions. Fortunately most of the time the slightly more colourful than reality look is exactly what is wanted, so it’s only when colours really are bright that it becomes a problem. Many of my pictures are seascapes and if the sea really is that ideal bright blue, prints from the Canon are way too intense and resist all tweaks on the controls, or the image saturation to fix it.
Still printers that give you exactly what you want 99% of the time while set to Glossy Photo Paper and Auto with my favourite Ilford Smooth Glossy or Fuji Premium Glossy papers are hard to resist. If Canon’s drivers included a saturation control I’d be hard pressed to criticise them at all. That, along with single ink tanks that really are empty when the driver tells you so make Canon photo printers great buys.
Unfortunately over the last couple of years, Canon have realised what great buys they are, and have made some changes to the ink cartridges used, introducing the BCI 521 etc to replace the CLI-8 series in most of their printers. As these new cartridges contain almost exactly half the ink that the CLI-8’s hold, it’s not a positive change. However, the new cartridges are slightly cheaper than the CLI-8’s and even with this fairly cunical change, I still think Canon 5, 6 or 8 ink photo printers are great buys - Just stay away from the 4 ink printers. Canon Pixma iX4000 Review