Inkjet and Toner Printer Cartridges Refill

Canon Pixma inside out - the iP4200 Photo Printer

Canon has been keeping mum over the longest-lasting-photo-prints debate for sometime now. Possible explanations include the newly released Pixma iP4200, with built-in duplex printing; individual cartridges; two paper-input trays; easy operation; inexpensive; great-looking photos; and 100-year print life. Epson, the leading contender for lasting prints, now has competition. The key ingredient to long-lasting prints is Canon's ChromaLife 100 ink set, included in the Pixma iP4200. The company claims that when used with their branded photo papers, photos printed using ChromaLife 100 inks will last up to 100 years when stored properly.
When you get into this area of "anti-fade" it is difficult to make categoric statements. I previously looked at Canon's website and found that they do not specify the life expectancy either! Other than they say that if you keep the print in a portfolio - (i.e. not exposed to any light) it would last 100 years - Well that is not a real test - is it? This Technology Overview describes Canon's new system of image permanence. Over recent years we have seen a fundamental shift in the market from analogue to digital photography. As a direct consequence, more and more people are now choosing inkjet printers as a means to deliver their photo prints. Apart from the convenience and simplicity of printing photographs at home, users typically look for three things from an inkjet printed photograph - quality, durability and "authenticity". The first concern is often "will the quality be good enough?" These days, quality is often taken for granted as image quality rivals that of traditional silver halide. The next key question is "will inkjet photo prints last as long as traditional silver halide prints?" Image durability has become an issue; primarily because inkjet printed photos had a reputation for fading faster than equivalent silver halide photos. All photographs fade - inkjet prints are no different to silver halide photographs in this respect. Fading is basically a loss of colour intensity, but other related effects, such as changed colour balance, may also affect photographs.
Authenticity is harder to define but what people typically look for from photos printed at home is images that are indistinguishable from those printed in a photolab. Here the surface finish, glossiness, and the feel - paper weight, thickness, rigidity etc may all be factors.

WHAT IS CHROMALIFE100? ChromaLife100 is a new system to achieve beautiful photographs with improved image permanence and enhanced longevity. The name is derived from "Chroma" - meaning vividness, in effect the purity of colour - and "Life" - meaning durability. Improved image permanence is achieved through the use of a combination of Canon’s genuine photo media and compliant inks. By printing with the ChromaLife100 system, your printed photos will resist colour fading for longer. Canon considers that the printer, ink and media are all equally important components of the system. The underlying basis of improved image permanence using the "ChromaLife100" system is achieved by the combination of Canon’s genuine photo media and compliant inks*. Improved image permanence and optimum print quality may not be achieved by the use of compliant inks alone.


 Whether developed and printed from negative film onto silver-halide paper or printed on inkjet printers, all photographs gradually fade over time. This is largely due to the effects of gases in the air. Compared with the iP4000, the iP4200 is less expensive, faster for business applications, and offers more longevity for photos. However, photos take a little longer to print and earn a lower quality rating than the iP4000, but the overall balance of features makes for an impressive package. The Pixma iP4200 uses Canon's Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering (FINE) print head, which releases droplets as small as 1pl for each of the 1,536-nozzle cyan, magenta, yellow, and black print heads (plus 320 nozzles for pigment-ink black text), providing an effective color resolution of 9,600x2,400dpi. Two separate black ink cartridges for both a pigment-based black and a dye-based black, significantly improve photo output. Apart from five inks, the photo printer offers the advantage of two paper inputs: a standard paper feed tray in the rear and a second paper tray that slides into the front bottom. You could now easily load standard paper in one tray and photo paper in the other, and switch back and forth between standard printing and photos without having to swap out paper every time. One eco-friendly feature of this printer includes the ability to automatically print on both sides of a sheet of paper. However, it might take you three times as long to print a 10-page Microsoft Word document in this mode compared with printing one-sided sheets. The iP4200's driver can automatically adjust colour balance, you can access sliders that modify the intensity of the individual inks; you can also switch from sRGB to Windows Image Color Management (ICM). Grayscale printing simply requires the tick of a check box, and a simplistic Print Advisor wizard can quiz you on the type of document you're printing and recommend an appropriate paper.

Other than duplexing, the Page Setup options include size and orientation, number of copies, border/borderless printing, and addition of a background image or a watermark. An Effects tab provides settings for optimizing the image; reducing noise; boosting contrast; or adding effects such as sepia, pink, and other colours. You can save your settings as a profile for reuse in another printing session.

The Maintenance tab offers functions such as nozzle checks and cleaning, printhead alignment, and other tasks, including a bottom-plate-cleaning function that uses a folded letter-size sheet to tidy up before duplex printing.

Graphics quality, rated at the high end of good, is suitable for schoolwork or internal business use, and is marginally good enough for an important client or customer you might want to impress. However, some visible problems with photos include a slight pink tint in monochrome photos and a tendency for some colours to be overly punchy. It was also a little troublesome to get a neutral gray out of the printer as prints tended toward either green or blue depending on the driver settings used.

Refilling the Pixma iP4200 Cartridges

The new Canon PGI-5 and CLI-8 cartridges have an onboard chip to measure the ink level of each individual cartridge. But they don't actually measure ink levels they just gauge how many prints have been made with a "Full Cartridge" and guess that after a certain number of prints where the ink level is most likely to be. So don't be fooled by this apparent new sophistication.

The five individual ink cartridges in the Pixma iP4200 feature bright red LEDs that light up when properly installed. The cartridge lights also start blinking when ink is running low, and the blinking lights get faster as the tanks get emptier. The numbers of the Pixma iP4200 cartridges are:

PGI-5BK - Black pigment ink CLI-8BK - Black dye based ink CLI-8C - Cyan dye based ink CLI-8M - Magenta dye based ink CLI-8Y - Yellow dye based ink These cartridges are also suitable for Pixma iP5200, iP5200r printers, MP500, MP800 and MP950 MFPs. Needless to say, many people would like to know if these cartridges can be refilled, or if compatible cartridges are available. As of now (February 2006), compatibles are not available for the PGI5 or CLI8 inks, probably for 2 reasons: The ink formulations are quite complex, and refill ink manufacturers need to ensure their inks will perform equivalent to the original Canon inks. Canon has patented the on-board chip; consequently, compatible manufacturers have to be very careful not to infringe that patent, which could leave them open to litigation. Canon recently won a lawsuit against a company in Japan, which was involved in the business of refilling and resale of Canon cartridges. Naturally, this will set back any plans for compatible cartridges. However, there are refill inks available on the market and refilling instructions are available from ink vendors. Canon has very cleverly adapted their printers; if you refill the cartridges and re-insert them into the machine, a warning message will appear on your computer along the lines of: "You are using refill ink in your cartridges. If you continue, your printer warranty will be void." You are prompted to press OK, and after doing so, the low ink warning facility on the printer no longer works. If this is the case, you must be very careful never to let the inks run dry, as this will burn out your print head if you continue to print with an empty cartridge.

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