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Review: Canon imageProGraf W8400 Printer



Canon rolled out its 44-in. imagePROGRAF
W8400 pigment inkjet printer on a
global basis in the spring of this year. It
and a 24-in. counterpart (the W6400)
join two older, dye-based inkjet models”?
the 36-in. W7200 and the 44-in.
W8200″?to comprise Canon's current
wide-format lineup. (although the W8200
is available only while supplies last).

The W8400, which I'll review here, is
a 6-color inkjet printer (CMYK, plus
photo cyan and photo magenta), with an
optional matte black cartridge available
for a greater black density on matte and
fine-art papers. Its maximum resolution
is 2400 x 1200 dpi, and Canon reports a
maximum speed of 307 sq ft/hr at 1200
x 1200 dpi (52 sq ft/hr at 2400 x 1200
dpi). The printer sells for $5995.

The new printer is compatible with
Windows 2000, XP, and Macs through
system 10.3. If you are a 10.4xx/Tiger
user, as I am, you will have to install the
printer via TCP/IP as a workaround”?
although by the time you read this
review, the new Mac drivers from Canon
should be forthcoming. Most testing for
this review was done on my Compaq
TC1100 tablet PC with 2 GB of RAM and a
300-GB Maxtor SATA external drive for
additional scratch-disk space.

From crate to printhead
Even though the W8400 has quite a few
plastic parts, shipping weight is still
about 300 lbs, and the printer comes via
freight in a very large box/palette assembly.
Be sure to have at least one person at
the ready to assist you with assembly”?
and, if possible, another. Setup is straightforward.
Canon provides very concise
instructions, although a few close-up photos
would be helpful. Because of the
aforementioned plastic par ts, use
extreme care when assembling.

The printer has indents where it
attaches to the stand, so you'll know
when it's properly seated (this is where
that third person really comes in handy).
Included with the printer is an Allen
wrench and screwdriver to help with the
assembly, which is a nice touch. The
stand is fairly rigid, with the correct left
and right sides marked in the stand”?a
helpful addition for the crowd that doesn't
like reading directions. Oddly enough, no
USB cable is included with the printer, a
trend that I find alarming these days (after
shelling out the money for a printer, I don't
believe I should have to go to Radio Shack
to buy a $40 cable).

Once the printer is on the stand and
all the packing tape removed, the printhead
and the ink cartridges need to be
installed. Initial fill of the lines takes
only a few minutes. The ink cartridges
are a huge 330 ml (by comparison, the
Epson Stylus Pro 7600/9600 printers
use 220-ml cartridges, as do the Roland
Hi-Fi JET printers).


Offering up flexibility
The ProGraf W8400 can be used in quite
a few different printing environments,
and Canon has supplied software that
will allow different levels of users to take
advantage of different levels of tools:

  • Its PosterArtist is very similar to a light
    version of Onyx's PosterShop, allowing the
    user to perform basic page-creation operations
    and then print right from within the
    application. It's bundled with 175 ready-to
    use-templates and 2000 clip-art images to
    aid in the creative process.
  • The Digital Photo Print Pro software is
    the next step up, for more-seasoned
    users as well as novices. It simplifies
    advanced functions like red-eye correction,
    dust-removal, etc. It's also capable of
    two-way communication with Photoshop,
    enabling the quick exchange of image
    files between the two programs.
  • PhotoPrint Select, however, is my
    favorite. Made by Scanvec Amiable, it's a
    PostScript 3 software RIP that has a similar
    look and feel to the ColorChoice 2 Pro
    software (also a Scanvec product), which
    I use with my Roland Hi-Fi Jet printers. It
    allowed me complete control over image
    size, orientation, paper type, and final resolution;
    I could even print multiple copies
    with ease. It also includes a Pantone color
    library. If you have used other Scanvec
    Amiable products, you will feel right at
    home with this. Of course you can also do
    without the RIP and easily print with the
    standard driver right out of Photoshop,
    but you'll have less control.
  • With the software installed, I could get
    down to printing. The generous folks at
    Canon provided me with a number of different
    media samples to put the W8400
    through its paces. I made test prints on
    matte and glossy photo papers, in addition
    to canvas and a fine-art rag paper
    that was supplied by Hahnemuhle.

    Print times were very zippy, even at the
    highest resolution. A 30 x 40-in. print, for
    instance, only took about 10 minutes to
    produce at the highest quality setting. The
    W8400 will also print borderless, which is a
    very nice feature, although doing so will
    slow down print times by about 15%.
    As I indicated earlier, the W8400 features
    a 6-color inkset in the basic CMYK+
    light cyan/light magenta mode (what
    Canon refers to as “photo cyan” and
    “photo magenta”). It also comes with an
    extra black ink cartridge. Depending on
    what media you spend more time printing,
    you can switch out the standard black,
    (which will do an acceptable job with any
    media) with a matte black ink. The matte
    black will print a richer black on matte
    paper, fine-art paper, and surprisingly
    enough, inexpensive bond paper. If you
    choose the matte black option, however,
    you cannot print on glossy media (the ink
    will just streak and smear off the page).

    Canon also reports that its ink has a
    new formulation, offering bright colors,
    including a new, high-intensity yellow. I
    found this to be true, with bright vivid
    prints produced under all conditions. I
    was able to get very accurate color just
    using the default settings with the RIP. The
    PosterArtist software produced pleasing
    color as did simply going straight out of
    Photoshop, but I was able to get the most
    accurate and consistent color with the RIP
    in moving from one type of media to
    another. This can really come in handy if
    you have to print a comp on one type of
    media, but the final must be printed on a
    higher-quality media.

    Because of the W8400's limited 6-
    color inkset, I could not make black-andwhite
    prints that were as neutral as, say,
    the new offerings from Epson. Nor could I
    hit some of the brightest colors produced
    by the CMYKOG (orange, green)
    inkset from the Roland Hi-Fi Jet. But for
    most everyday print jobs, the W8400 did
    quite well”?especially with flesh tones”?
    and went about its business with no difficulty.
    I should also point out that prints
    produced through Photoshop, using the
    standard print driver, are limited to 59 ft
    in length, which should be enough for
    most users; you can print beyond 100 ft
    by using the PhotoPrint Select RIP.

    Minor concerns
    I only have a few concerns about this

    • Unlike some printers, the W8400
      loads paper from underneath its housing.
      While this makes for a bit more attractive
      machine and a somewhat smaller footprint,
      it does not necessarily provide for
      the straightest paper path. Although I didn't
      have any problems with this in my test, if
      you plan on using heavyweight (i.e.: thick)
      watercolor or other fine-art media, I would
      suggest a test at your Canon dealer before
      you plunk down the corporate MasterCard.
      According to Canon's specifications, the
      W8400 will print on media up to 0.8-mm
      thick, which will be just fine for most photo
    • While the ProGraf W8400 is a very
      stylish printer, it's not terribly quiet. The
      culprit here is not so much the printing
      engine itself, but the fans inside the
      machine that are almost always on. This
      could be a factor if noise is a concern.
    • The print longevity is rated at 70 years
      with Canon Heavy Weight Coated Paper. For
      most projects, this is probably fine, but if
      you're looking at a fine-art project, the
      trend is toward longer print life and 70
      years is somewhat at the back of the pack.
    • Finally, as I indicated earlier, I'm a bit
      nervous about the liberal use of plastic,
      but that seems to be the trend these days.
    • A Solid Value
      Judged on its own merits, Canon's new
      imageProGraf W8400 is a very good
      printer and a solid value. If it fits your
      shop space, budget, and workflow
      requirements, the W8400 may be your
      cup of tea. And, if you don't need a 44-in.
      printer, you may want to take a look at the
      smaller, 24-in. imageProGraf W6400.

      The Canon imageProGraf W8400 has a
      street price of $5995, including the
      stand, media catcher tray, RIP, and software.
      It will connect to a Mac, PC, or network
      via the built-in 10/100bt Ethernet
      card and a USB 2.0 port; a FireWire card is
      optional. Price on the 24-in. W6400 is


      Photographer and freelance writer Jeff
      Dorgay lives in Washington and operates
      WallWerks (, a digital
      fine-art studio.



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