Digital Photography Now Printer Reviews

Printer review: Canon S900

11th March - 2002
By Ian Burley

Page 2 - In Use

Living with the Canon S900
 
Setting up

As sophisticated as the the Canon S900 is, it’s a very simple and easy printer to live with. There are only two buttons, one being the power switch and the second, the form feed/resume button. Everything else is software controlled

Only USB connectivity is supported by the S900, so it’s too bad if you are still running a legacy PC and require parallel printer support.

Software installation

S900 software installation is very uneventful and quick. After this has been completed, manual print head alignment is required. Canon has tried auto head alignment systems in previous ink-jet models, but relies on its tried and tested manual system with the S900. We did not have to make any alignment adjustments after the calibration sheet had been printed.

Paper handling

Up to a hundred ordinary plain paper sheets at a time can be accommodated by the S900’s paper feeder. Unlike the S900’s predecessors, there is no longer a need for a removable plastic support for use with Photo Paper Pro media.

One facility we’re sad to find missing in the S900 is the secondary single sheet feed slot at the rear for use with thicker media. This was present in both the BJC-8200 and the S800, allowing a near-straight paper path.

Printing

Below is an illustrated tour of the S900 printer driver and at the bottom of the page you will find some notes S900 noise characteristics (click here) and a summary (click here).

Printer driver:



The Canon S900 printer driver has been simplified and made easier to use for novices. However, this has made some of the more basic settings less accessible.



For the first time Canon offers borderless photo printing with the S900 and S9000.



When borderless mode has been selected, rather politely, the driver will warn you that it has to enlarge the image to make it slightly overlap the paper. This could mean some media will pick up some of the over-sprayed ink at its edges and as the image is enlarged slightly, quality could be slightly affected.



Another nice touch is that driver can warn you if it suspects you have chosen the wrong paper type. As Canon doesn’t sell 6x4 inch standard glossy paper, only its Photo Paper Pro type, it questions that combination of settings. Some might find this irritating, but it successfully saved us from wasting a couple of sheets of paper.



The Canon S900 driver offers a range of special effects, including a Sepia mode, or printing with one colour, which can be black, pink, blue, green or a colour of your choice. Image optimiser mode is an interpolation filter to reduce pixellation in small, low quality images. Photo Optimiser Pro performs a function similar to auto levels or auto enhance in photo editing software, adjusting colour and contrast in an attempt to improve the final result.

Manual colour, brightness and intensity adjustment is provided.
 

You can non longer set the dpi resolution manually. Instead, you are provided a slider control that ranges between lower resolution and faster printing and fine resolution and slower printing. By default, using Photo Paper Pro, the S900 uses a screen-type half tone. An error diffusion mode and other types of dithering, which may be more suitable for different media types, are also available.
 

There is no shortage of mainly useful and detailed context-sensitive help available.
 

If you’re using non-standard paper, you can program the driver to accept its dimensions.
 

Two print progress indicators are provided by the S900 driver. The first (above) is a small pop-up that graphically shows the progress of each page in the queue.
 

The second (above) is a printer status window. It shows an animated view of the printer, though the animation of the paper feeding bears no relation to the actual print progress. The blue progress bar is accompanied by a rolling percentage figure. If there are any errors during printing, they will be highlighted here, along with instructions or suggestions to fix the problem.

A new feature is the bar graph of ink remaining status. Previously, with the S800 and BJC-8200, you had to make do with only a warning when just about 10 percent of the ink remaining had been reached.
 

Continuing the theme of user-friendliness is the Print Advisor.
 

The Print Advisor has appeared in earlier Canon printer drivers and helps you choose the media type and settings according to the type of result you are aiming for.
 

Finally, the maintenance options are fairly usual, apart from the ‘quiet’ mode. This limits the noisier functions of the printer, including periodic head cleaning. The printer itself is very quiet when printing, but head cleaning and fast paper feeding can surprisingly disturb the tranquility.

Noise

In general, the Canon S900 is a very quiet printer. Two operations break the tranguility occasionally; fast form-feeding, when the feed motor whines noticeably and during print head cleaning when some odd clunking and click can be heard - both quite at odds with the rest of the printer’s serene and refined operation. Canon has even provided a ‘quiet’ mode option in the printer driver (see above). Of today’s photo ink-jets, only HP Photosmart models are appreciably more quiet.

Summary

The Canon S900 is a very fast, very quiet and simple to operate photo ink-jet printer. The printer driver is easy to follow and the integrated help resource is detailed and helpful. However, Canon’s decision to drop the second rear paper feed slot is a shame.
 



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