PRINTING BETTER DIGITAL PHOTOS CANON'S BJC-7000 PRINTER CAN LAY DOWN SHARP ELECTRONIC IMAGES ON PLAIN PAPER. IT'S FINE FOR TEXT TOO.
(FORTUNE Magazine) – Digital photography may be a hot new technology, but unless everyone around you is glued to a computer monitor, you'll have to put those spiffy electronic images on paper sometime. There's the rub.
Making your boss or Aunt Thelma look good in print depends not only on your printer but also on the paper you use--an expense repeated with each copy you make. Until now, spiffy photographs required high-priced paper designed specifically for use with color printers. But the new Canon BJC-7000 goes a long way toward making great images on the same plain paper that you use for everything else. With an expected street price of $450, this desktop workhorse also delivers outstanding text and superb business graphics, making it a good choice for home or small office use.
What makes the BJC-7000 different from a dozen other fine inkjet printers on the market? Consider that all of them work their magic by squirting tiny dots of ink onto paper to form what you see as text or images. The smaller and closer together the dots, the smoother and more detailed an image appears. By squirting dots of primary-color pigments near one another, the printers generate a rainbow of hues.
But ink is messy stuff. When it hits plain paper, it splatters and soaks into the fibers. That makes the dots less than perfect, resulting in fuzzy, washed-out images. The only way to avoid such blahs has been to use coated paper that keeps ink from penetrating. That's expensive: 10 to 12 cents per sheet for special inkjet paper, and 50 cents to $1 for glossy photo stock. It's not the kind of paper you want to leave in the printer when the kids are fiddling with party invitations.
To get good quality from plain paper, the BJC-7000 uses ink cartridges with an extra reservoir that contains a clear sealer--like the primer you brush on when you prepare to paint a wall. Before it lays down ink, the printer seals the paper to keeps the dots from splattering. A far sharper image results. The ink also bonds strongly to the sealant, making it less likely to run when it gets wet.
I tried the BJC-7000 with pictures scanned in from real photos, snapped with a digital camera, and downloaded from the World Wide Web. On plain paper the photos were impressively clear and sharp--much better than such prints from other inkjet machines I've tried. The Canon also did a superb job on a newsletter I concocted using text, photos, and graphics. When I shaded text with a gray background, there was no sign of bands, the unintended stripes that are the bane of jet-printed documents. To be sure, the images looked even better on coated paper and photo stock--almost as good as real photos. But you certainly won't look like a cheapskate if you use the regular stuff.
Setting up the printer is easy enough. You need desk space--the chunky unit is 18 inches wide and 16 inches deep (a paper catcher adds another 12 inches). The software enables the printer to work with Windows 95 or 3.1, and you also get Canon Creative 3, a CD-ROM package with nifty programs for creating greeting cards, fliers, signs, stationery, newsletters, name-tags, invitations, and other goodies. The hardest part is deciding which print cartridge to snap in. The BJC-7000 comes with a black-ink cartridge, which you'll use all the time, and two color cartridges, one for everyday work and one for high-quality photo reproduction. Unfortunately, installing a color cartridge is a laborious process that takes four or five minutes--it involves a mandatory print-head cleaning and alignment test.
While its output is superb, the BJC-7000 won't win any races. Text pages emerge two to three per minute, while pages with complex graphics take from two to ten minutes each, depending on the quality setting. An onscreen setup program gives you lots of choices--too many, in fact.
Those caveats aside, the BJC-7000 delivers what it promises--excellent photo reproduction on plain paper, in a printer that can also handle regular office chores. For information, call 800-423-2366 or point your Web browser to http://www.usa.canon.com.