Mon, 12 Jun 2000

Six-color BJC-8200 prints excellent photos

By Zatni Arbi

JAKARTA (JP): So finally you purchased a versatile digital camera. And for a week now you've been taking and deleting pictures over and over again, and you've connected the new camera to your TV set to preview on the screen all the images that you've decided to keep? Now it's time to check the truth about that expensive camera. Did it really capture those wonderful moments from the recent family reunion? Or did it simply turn human faces into gray stones?

A decent color printer may not be up to the challenge when it comes to reproducing natural colors. To get the proof, you'll need a photo printer. The good news is that all the big names in the printer industry -- Canon, Epson and Hewlett-Packard -- have been touting their serious photo printers for some time.

An ordinary color printer usually uses four different ink colors: Black, cyan, magenta and yellow. These four colors are mixed to produce enough colors for great invitation cards, newsletters, leaflets and brochures. They are also adequate for producing hard copies of the Web pages that you download from the Internet. To produce great photos, however, you'll usually need two additional ink colors: Light cyan and light magenta.


Courtesy of PT Datascrip, Canon's distributor for Indonesia, I was able to test one of Canon's premier photo printers, the BJC- 8200. Unfortunately, I didn't do a thorough test, though, as I didn't get the chance to buy and use any of its expensive special photo paper.

The Rp 3.25 million printer does have several unique and sophisticated features. Unlike most other inkjet printers that I've seen, this one has a separate print head and ink tanks. The print head can be replaced when it wears out. It's time to get a new print head when the print quality drops and calibration does not help.

The printer comes with a set of sophisticated software tools, including the head cleaning and deep cleaning utilities. If you suspect that the ink nozzle is clogged, for example, you should clean it using the utility that Canon has included in the software. At no time are you allowed to touch the print head with your fingers or any other object because of its sensitivity.

The tanks for the six colors -- yellow, magenta, cyan, black, photocyan and photomagenta -- are transparent. When the ink in any of these tanks becomes depleted, the printer informs the user by flashing an alert on its Status Monitor in a Windows PC or Print Monitor in a Mac. If any two tanks are inadvertently installed in incorrect positions, the printer will produce images with strange colors.

Each ink tank costs about Rp 90,000 and will cover a space of about 120 x 10 inch with color, making lower printing costs compared to other photo printers. Other reviewers have already applauded the feature called Think Tank, which allows replacement of only one ink tank when it gets empty. It is more economical than having to replace the entire cartridge because one of the inks has run dry.

The technology used is also pretty advanced. Canon's Advanced MicroFine Droplet technology puts a very tiny drop -- four picoliter -- of ink on the paper using a lot of star-shaped nozzles. The result is a stunning 1200x1200 DPI image resolution. The printer is also capable of printing 33 levels of gradation, making the photos look realistic.

The body of the printer itself is nicely sculptured, and operation is controlled by only two buttons -- one for power, and the other for resuming the printing process. You can buy an optional scanner head that will turn this printer into a scanner. However, with the prices of scanners so low nowadays, I don't really believe you should seriously consider this option. It would be too much of a hassle to replace the print head with the scanner head and calibrate the printer again and again. Unless, of course, you really don't have any more space for a scanner in your cubicle.

The software driver is versatile and offers numerous print quality levels -- a standard text document, a document containing text and color graphics, an enhanced image, or a photo taken with a digital camera. There is also a draft mode to run sample prints. If you want, you can also specify your own settings and save them for later use.

The user also can increase the printing speed -- and sacrifice print quality slightly, of course. Conversely, fine quality prints will take longer. The intensity of individual colors can be set manually and there are special effects that can be applied before the image is printed.

In addition to paper, BJC-8200 can also print on transparencies. If you want to place your own photo on your T- shirt, you can use the printer to print on the TR-201 T-shirt transfer sheet. BJC-8200 also accommodates envelopes.

Quality paper

For quality photos, you will definitely need quality paper. That's the key requirement of any serious photo printer. Canon offers a few different types of paper to get the most from this printer. You can use Photo Paper Pro, which is a thick paper with a glossy coating. Or you can use the Glossy Photo Paper, Glossy Photo Cards (if you don't want the white margins), or High Resolution Paper. The Users Guide provides printout samples that demonstrate the stark difference between using plain paper and High Resolution Paper, and the more expensive (about US$ 1 each) Glossy Photo Paper should yield an even better result.

Indeed, the test I conducted using plain print paper did not really reveal the strength of this printer. The colors were rather pale and skin tone lacking. If all you need is a printer to print ordinary color documents on plain paper, this high-end printer is not for you because it is not designed for that purpose. However, if you want a printer to print a lot of great photos, this one should certainly be on top of your list. In fact, the comments I've read on the Internet for this printer are very positive. One thing to remember, though: Because it prints 1200x1200 dots per inch, this printer cannot be rushed. (