Automatic duplexing (printing on both sides), dual paper trays with a combined 300-sheet capacity, tiny droplets and decent speed make the Canon Pixma iP5000 a versatile inkjet option for home users who need both text and graphics output. As a four-colour model, it lacks the cred and the quality to compete with real photo printers -- despite Canon's Pixma marketing strategy -- but its photo-printing quality surpasses that of most SOHO competitors, making it a great general-purpose choice. Sadly, it lacks built-in networking.
Setting up this printer mostly entails installing the printer drivers and the optional image-editing, organising, and Web-page-printing software -- a 10-minute chore at most. Physical setup involves little more than connecting the power cord, linking the printer to your computer through a USB 2.0 cable, and installing the printhead and the five ink tanks.
A sleek 419 by 170 by 287mm and 6.8kg, the Canon Pixma iP5000 unfolds for use, with a flip-up 150-sheet autofeeder tray that needs no extra clearance behind the printer and a flip-down 50-sheet output tray that extends 150mm in front. A second paper source, a 150-sheet cassette (20 sheets if using 100x150mm paper), expands to accommodate A4 sheets. There's also a cover on the back of the printer that opens to allow unsnarling of paper jams. However, we didn't experience any jams during our tests, even when duplexing.
Like that of other Pixmas, this printer's operation is driver-centric. There's a large power switch in the upper-right corner, a PictBridge port, a paper-feed button, and a paper-input-source switch. The power LED flashes in cycles of two to nine bursts to indicate status and error conditions, but it's generally easier to monitor the software status monitor for updates.
Front-panel LEDs illuminate to show which paper tray has been selected, but the printer switches automatically from one source to the other, and the switch setting can be overridden from the printer driver.
The printer doesn't automatically know which size paper is loaded into each tray. As a result, we'd initially choose the wrong source when using two different sizes of stock, repeatedly printing 215x280mm output onto 100x150mm paper in the cassette or wasting a full-size sheet with snapshot-size prints. That's when we discovered the valuable Paper Allocation feature, which allows you to specify the type of paper loaded into the cassette. When the absentminded choose the wrong input source, the printer switches automatically from the cassette to the automatic sheet feeder. Used correctly, this feature simplifies working with multiple-size sheets simultaneously.
The Canon Pixma iP5000 uses a 1,856-nozzle version of Canon's Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) printhead, spitting 1-picolitre droplets of ink. Up to 32 droplets form a pixel, for an effective colour resolution of 9,600x2,400dpi. Canon's ContrastPlus ink system uses four dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks for photos and a pigment-based black for text. It uses the same BCI-6 colour tanks as several other Pixmas; refills cost about £9 per colour. A BCI-3e black tank, which will set you back around £8.50, handles text. An optical monitoring system tracks usage and offers a warning before each tank is completely depleted.
Compatible papers include Canon Photo Paper Pro, Photo Paper Plus, and other stocks in glossy, semigloss and matte surfaces, plus transparencies, plain paper, envelopes and other business-oriented papers. Retail prices range from £6.95 for 50 sheets of the matte photo paper to £9.99 for 25 sheets of a semigloss double-sided paper that lets you use the duplexing feature to print on both sides of sheets to bind into albums or presentations.
As with other Pixmas, Canon's printer driver divides key functions among six easy-to-navigate tabs. The main tab supplies drop-down lists for choosing paper type and input source. You can tell the printer to use the default source specified by the its feed switch, override the switch to use the top tray or the lower cassette, or choose continuous autofeed to switch automatically from one source to the other when the selected tray runs out. The Paper Allocation feature can be used to specify both the size and the surface type of paper loaded into the cassette.
The main tab's Print Quality settings include High, Standard and Draft quality. A Custom setting lets you trade off between Fast/Coarse and Slow/Fine print quality and specify the type of halftoning applied to photo images. Automatic colour adjustment can be tweaked manually with cyan, magenta, yellow and black sliders. You can also use Windows' Image Color Management (ICM) for software-based colour management or the sRGB colour space for automatic colour matching. There's a check box to select greyscale printing and a wizard-based print adviser to provide help for inexperienced users.
The Page Setup tab sets orientation, duplexing and number of copies. It also allocates a margin for stapling along any edge. The Stamp/Background tab lets you mark each page with a notice, such as 'draft', or overprint a page with a background image or a watermark. Other tabs add colour toning such as sepia or pink hues to pages, boost saturation of greens and blues to accentuate the foliage and the sky without affecting skin tones, and apply Canon's Image Optimizer settings to reduce artefacts in low-resolution images. Although noise reduction is better done in a digital camera or an image editor, Canon offers that feature, too, as a quick fix. Any of these settings can be saved as a profile for reuse.
The Maintenance tab has the customary nozzle-cleaning and printhead alignment functions, along with a useful bottom-plate-cleaning step that uses a piece of A4 paper that's been folded and straightened out to wipe the printer clean prior to two-sided printing.
The Canon Pixma iP5000 printed our 10-page plain-paper text-speed test quickly, averaging 7.1 pages per minute (ppm). It performed a little quicker than its slightly less expensive sibling, the iP4000, which scored 6.7ppm on the same test. The iP5000 printed our 200x250mm colour test photo on Canon's Photo Pro paper in 1.9 minutes -- a good, fast time but a mite slower than the iP4000's 1.8 minutes on the same test. This is likely a consequence of the smaller droplets, which we imagine require a slower movement of the printhead to achieve the correct placement and density.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The gamut produced by the Pixma iP5000's four-colour ink set can't match those of real photo printers. However, its minuscule droplets produced excellent text -- some of the best we've seen -- and allowed the printer to render photos with far more detail and accuracy in the midtones than comparable four-colour models do. Skin tones looked very good, colour gradients showed no colour banding, and small text -- Roman down to 2 points and italic down to 2.5 points -- was surprisingly well formed. We saw a full range of colours with good saturation, particularly in images that had been colour-boosted in Photoshop.
Edited by Lori Grunin
Additional editing by Nick Hide