Average user rating
- Relatively fast;
- very sharp output.
- Could use more advanced functions in the driver;
- skimpy documentation.
As successor to the popular but discontinued Canon S900 photo printer, the Canon i950 doubles the S900's resolution and halves its dot size. The result: this photo printer is quick, compact and attractively priced. Most importantly, however, it delivers high-quality pictures for photographers on a budget.
The i950's design mimics that of its little brother, the i850, but in charcoal, putty, and silver plastic instead of silver and blue. At 41.8cm by 27.4cm by 16cm, the i950 is nicely compact too, with curved paper trays that tuck snugly into the body. When they're extended, though, those paper trays feel a bit flimsy for our comfort. The rest of the printer appears almost featureless: two buttons for power and paper feed and a green power light sit on the top, and a lone USB port and power connector occupy the back panel. A clearly illustrated setup sheet makes it easy to get started with the i950. As with most printers, the entire process involves merely plugging in the printer, inserting six ink tanks, connecting to your system via a USB cable (sold separately, unfortunately) and then letting your PC's OS and the i950's driver CD do the installation automatically. Windows XP should have the appropriate driver already, thus saving XP users the trouble of installing it themselves. The process also includes the option of copying the online manual and bundled software -- a handful of Windows and Mac programs for printing and managing your images and creating panoramas.
As a whole, the i950's feature set ranks about average. The printer outputs to envelopes and paper up to 8.5in. by 30in. and as small as 3.5in. by 4.7in. at a maximum thickness of 105gsm -- unless it's heavyweight, Canon-branded paper. It can even print borderless 8.5in. by 11in. photos, which is rare for its class, though the paper feed makes these sheets a bit crooked at times, leaving some white edges. Unfortunately, the i950 lacks a straight-through paper path and the option for a roll-paper feeder. Other printers, such as the Epson Stylus 960, have attachable roll-paper feeders. Its 1.8m power cord is on the short side, which means that the printer can't sit too far from an outlet. The printer driver lets you select any of the standard layout options, including n-up (multiple images printed on a single page), poster, manual duplex and scale-to-page printing. The i950 allows you to print using its automatic settings -- High, Standard, and Draft print quality, with automatic colour adjustment -- or make your own combinations of resolution and half-toning preset choices from the Custom Print Quality menu. If you opt for custom colour adjustment, you can alter the percentages of each individual CYMK colour in the ink mix and increase or decrease a picture's overall colour intensity and brightness. But you don't have any colour controls to speak of, aside from disabling the automatic adjustments that the printer makes for specific document types or enabling Image Colour Matching (ICM), the colour-matching algorithms used by Windows. Advanced users should be aware that there's no way to pick the gamma, adjust the contrast or override the driver entirely. Even in this price range, photo printers should offer this level of control. The driver does offer several settings that can automatically correct, enhance or add effects to your pictures. Effects include simulating an illustration; creating duotones (reformatting the picture in various shades of a single colour) in any of 120 colours, with presets for sepia and, oddly, pink, green and blue; and pumping up the colours while maintaining natural skin tones. We find the sepia too yellow, though, and the slider for choosing among the duotone tints is too imprecise. The i950's driver also gives you several ways to correct photos. Image Optimizer blurs low-resolution pictures to reduce aliasing (a pixelation effect). Photo Optimizer Pro fixes incorrect exposures and colour casts. Noise Reduction decreases the visibility of typical digital-camera noise. You can set the driver to individually apply Photo Optimizer to separate images on a single page -- a nice touch for producing thumbnail index sheets. These all work well, but under only certain circumstances. For instance, you can spot the effect of Noise Reduction on large areas, such as skies or shadows. And the Image Optimizer works solely for really low-resolution images, such as Web graphics. Still, they're nice options to have.
Like many Canon models, the i950 zips through its print jobs. At almost two minutes per page for an 8x10 colour print, it's no speed demon, but it's significantly faster than competing photo printers such as the Epson Stylus Photo 925 and HP's Photosmart 7550. However, more mundane work is less speedy: it prints text at a stately 2 pages per minute (ppm). In the same vein, text and graphics prints look good but not great. Text displays visible aliasing, while diagonal lines and curves are somewhat jagged, making it a less-than-ideal choice for desktop publishing and detailed graphics work such as CAD (Computer-Aided Design) tasks. Its photos, on the other hand, come out exceptionally sharp and smooth, with no banding -- thanks to the tiny 2-picolitre droplets. The colours are pleasing, although the colour matching requires some tweaking, either in your retouching software or the printer driver. Overall, the colours err slightly on the yellow side. You'll get the best results with files that originate in the sRGB colourspace. It does a pretty good job of matching the colours across various paper types, however. Finally, the printer does a very good job of holding grey balance on matte paper. It also delivers extremely good composite black-and-white prints; at worst, if you stare really hard, you might start to see magenta in the midtones. On glossy paper, though, there is an overall cyan cast.