#1267. Canon G650. Preview of a (good) small photo printer

By pascaljappy | Review

Feb 13

The Canon G650 proves quality isn’t tightly linked to printer size.

B&W wall art
 

As regular victims of my self-pitying rants on digital-printing complexity know, I’ve been looking at ways of doing my own test proofs at home, rather than send 50 euro bills to my favourite lab in Paris for this.

My previous printer was a Canon Pro-1000. It delivered very nice results in colour, as well as good results in black and white. The latter was my main reason for selecting this specific model. And it didn’t disappoint. But, to my eyes, the piezography prints from Picto were head and shoulders better than anything my limited skills were ever able to achieve with the Canon. This, combined to the fact the A2 capacity gobbled up a significant amount of my work space, led to its ending up … in the bin. Horrible, I know. But moving a printer like that means it empties its vastly expensive tanks (700€ last time I looked) and becomes essentially worthless.

A simpler, smaller, cheaper option was needed. One that made life easy, but managed to handle b&w with grace.

B&W café chairs
 

My small Epson 6100, while great for quick scanning and low volume printing fails at the photo aspect of its brief. Prints are OK for a quick family share but not something you’d want to hold on to. Which is perfectly reasonable at the giveaway price it cost.

And changing its inks happens way too frequently to make sense for photo use anyway, as replacement cartridges cost nearly as much as the printer and run out after very few A4 prints. So large ink tanks figured high up my list of priorities.

For a while, the tiny Canon Selphy cp1500 felt like a nice option. Fuss free, with a tiny footprint and very affordable to use, it has been recommended by many respectable photographers as a great tool for test prints that you can handle physically and arrange into various layouts for projects and photobooks.

B&W waves
 

Still, 6×4 inches is quite small for any print. Particularly if, like me, you enjoy white borders around your images. Perfectly fine for arranging like playing cards, but probably not something you’d want to look at often. And not big enough to inspect as a proof for a larger and more upmarket print.

Having recently made a test print on my son’s A4 Epson Ecotank model made me hopeful that there was light at the end of the tunnel. That printer is perfect for the graphic arts my son uses it for, and did a solid job of a monochrome print, but with a very strong magenta cast. It is also quite an expensive little machine.

The Canon equivalent, according to reviews, is not quite as economical to run, or as good for general printing, but better for photos. It also costs significantly less, making the blind purchase less of a potential disappointment. Out came the credit card.

Apologies for the appalling image quality 😉 (the plastic “windows” left & right are the ink tanks)
 

Fast forward a few days, and the printer is now set up into my daughter’s room. She chose uni over her mum & dad, having her room turned into my print studio is the price to pay. Satisfaction of wardrobe-annexation aside, what is the printer like?

Early days. But, so far, brilliant. For me, the hunt looks to be over 🙂

To sum the Canon G650 up, it is a small footprint, affordable (under US$300), photo printer with large-ish ink tanks and good print quality. Let’s unpack this in a little more detail.

The first three
 

Setting up the Canon G650

A CD is included in the box. For those who no longer own anything capable of reading those plastic pancakes, step-by-step instructions are also available online. Following them is easy, and the various matching sets of notches cut into both the provided ink bottles and the ink tanks makes it completely impossible to insert the wrong liquid anywhere. Fool-proof and satisfying. Full tanks should be good for roughly 1000 A4 prints. And a refill will set me back about 100 €. Excellent value.

I chose not to install Canon software, only the drivers and WiFi connection that would let me print from Lightroom.

While every step is easy, finding the proper method for inserting the proper WiFi code proved a little challenging. All in all, from opening the box to printing my first samples took about an hour. Definitely not as plug and play as the Canon Selphy, but still very acceptable for a relatively stress-free and one-time-only job. After this setup, waking up the printer takes only a few seconds of whirring, which is brilliant compared to the for-ever antics of the Pro-1000.

5 more
 

Print quality

Take this early review with a pinch of salt. For one thing, I’ve mostly done b&w tests, and on glossy paper at that. And, also, I’ve no idea of quality over time, obviously.

Still, with those caveats in mind, print quality looks to be excellent.

Remember this purchase was intended for proofs, small prints to check for defects, fine-tune tone curves on, and possibly organise into books or folders. In spite of this, all the prints so far are keepers.

Throw in some colour 😉
 

There’s a purple elephant in the room that must be dealt with.

As you can tell from the photographs above, the b&w prints suffer from a cyan/magenta shift. The first samples suggest that highlights and deep shadows are largely immune (which is normal, given those tones have less colour) and that most of the shifting happens in the mid tones.

I’ve also found that the shift seems to fade a bit after a few hours (drying?). And those photos make the cast look worse than it is in the flesh. But, still, it is definitely there.

12Q
 

The jaw-dropping print quality (at this price-point) makes this cast very annoying. Because suddenly, seeing those first results, I’m no longer thinking in terms of proofs or cheap printing, but enjoying what I see – almost – every bit as much as more elaborate efforts from a pro lab costing 15% of the printer’s price each. The prints are simply too nice for me to allow the colour cast to remain.

So, in spite of my whole-hearted dislike of software complexity, I’m going to look into profiles to see how neutral those gorgeous little prints can be made. I hope the photos above show how nice they look, in spite of the issue. At this price, this size, this level of simplicity, consider me a happy camper 🙂

Very happy.

Ageing beautifully
 

What now?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’d like to reiterate how nice it is to print. There are two main reasons for this:

First of all, a print is a physical object. As with all crafts, there is some learning to do before you can create something worth keeping. But when you do, the beauty of the object itself takes on a life of its own. Typical photographic considerations fade away, and you just look at that thing in your hand or on someone’s wall, and think “I made this”. The beauty of the paper and the beauty of the tones both add to and go far beyond the simple beauty of the photograph alone. Even though the medium of paper and inks imposes severe limitations on the dynamic range, physical prints look much more exciting than photos on a screen (even a large, well calibrated screen).

Secondly, learning how to print takes your mind away from the typical considerations of digital photography. It adds layers that make resolution, ISO and fps seem less important. It’s a liberating feeling.

Stoned
 

The fact that this little printer is so good out of the box, with so little actual learning to do, is an exciting added bonus. And it makes me want to get the absolute best out of it. There is a level of excitement the mightier Pro-1000 never triggered, because it was huge, expensive, and high-maintenance, while still not as good as piezography. I understand why the Pro-1000 and similar printers are attractive to advanced amateurs and pros who can do away with lab printing. But, for my process, the convenience/quality ratio of something like the G650 is more conducive to experimentation and … simply … more fun. The top 1% will be sent out to Picto or, better still, hand-made printing shops 🙂 but the other 99% is probably where the most satisfaction will come from! The test printer may well become a cheap and convenient personal archive printer! Brilliant, and (so far) highly recommended.

So, the next steps are trying to profile it with a few chosen papers, selecting said papers, and trying some colour work to accompany my attempts at mastering colour photography a bit more proficiently.

Two packs of Ilford Premium glossy paper is all that’s available to me, right now, all my preferred Canson and Hahnemüle papers being in A2 format. If you have any idea how to cut those sheets in 4 in straight lines, I’m all ears. Using scissors feels like a recipe for disaster, so I’ll have to find other ways. As for profiling, zero is my amount of knowledge of the topic. But duckduckgo is my friend, and early results have made me want to try.

In denial?
 

This sure feels like the beginning of a beautiful friendship. More confirmation soon, I hope 🙂

 

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  • Pascal Ravach says:

    I’m jealous… considering your inks cost 20 times less than the ones for my Epson, no wonder I regret my old purchase every day…

    I have zero knowledge of your specific Canon, but usually a research about « Metamerism » and RIPS gives good starting points… I suggest you just make a few tests with other papers to begin with.

    Tons of « trimmers » exist for photo paper, with guides; I never had problems with my model with a little rotary cutter; I use it each time I want to print an unusual format from my 24’’ rolls.
    Just an example amongst many, affordable and solid: https://www.carlmfg.com/professional-rotary-paper-trimmer-10-sheets

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you, Pascal. I’ll certainly look into a trimmer like that. Maybe my framer has one and could indulge? Unless it actually makes sense to buy it and never buy A4 paper again?

      My guess is the print quality output by your Espon is better than my little Canon’s 😉

      Cheers

      • Kristian Wannebo says:

        Hi Pascal,

        I agree about those paper cutter with a rotating knife.
        There are even larger ones – at a cost…

        In the meantime :
        To cut A2…
        A flat table,
        A sheet of linoleum or similar on top,
        A very straight metal ruler,
        One of those sharp knives with retractable thin blade, where you brake of the tip to get a new tip.

        For the ruler,
        try a metal ware shop and try a few (wide enough) strips or profiles for straightness by laying pairs close together – and don’t forget to turn one upside down for retesting.
        You’ll probably soon find one within less than 1/2 mm.

        ( And don’t start by cutting more than one sheet at the time…)

        Easy!

        Cheers!

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    P.S.
    – or just get a 60×80 cm piece of plywood, 1/4″ ought to be stiff enough, to put anywhere – and you won’t need the linoleum.

  • Jaap Veldman says:

    The backside of a laminate floor panel also works,
    I didn’t have success with plywood.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thank you, Jaap! I was worried about the “grooves” in wood. I’ve got to keep it cheap, or it will make more sense to buy A4 paper than to cut the A2 sheets, but laminate shouldn’t break the bank.

      • Jaap Veldman says:

        Hi Pascal,
        It’s indeed the grooves that can steer the knife away from the ruler.
        I also use a steel ruler, a Stanley knife in the version in which you can brake off every 5 mm of the knife, the heavy version. And 1 sheet at a time indeed.
        It’s a lot of work…

  • Kristian Wannebo says:

    P.P.S.
    – and fasten a few of those self adhesive pads for furniture legs under the plywood and you can use in also on your “best” table…
    Cheers, Pascal

  • John Wilson says:

    Pascal – That looks like a sweet little printer. I really love the ink tank approach; wish they’d use that on their larger printers, but they make too much money selling ink cartridges. Unfortunately it’s limited to A4.

    You are probably getting the colour cast in your images because you’re printing a BW image from an RGB file. Converting a colour image to BW does not produce a true BW file. It produces an RGB file with the colour suppressed and that leaves residual colour data in the file; hence the cast. Once you’ve finished your adjustments convert the BW image to GREYSCALE. That deletes all the colour data from the file and leaves a pure greytone image. If at some future time you need to reopen the file in an RGB sensitive ap like NIK, open the image in PS or whatever processing ap you use and click on the RGB selector. That put’s the RGB header back into the file so the ap can open it.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi John, the Pro-1000 has similar tanks and larger and better printing abilities. A refill is around $700, for 200 A2 prints. A lot of money but far cheaper than a lab, I guess. My personal gripe with that printer is that it needs to be used constantly. The less you use it, the more maintenance it does, gobbling up ink in the process. At my rythm, it was using 2 to 3 times more ink in maintenance than in actual printing.

      Trying several icc profiles for glossy papers has allowed me to get a more neutral (still not perfect) and more open in the shadows rendering. Getting there. Printing in strict b&w on the printer still produces a cast, don’t ask me why … 😉

      Cheers

  • Jens says:

    This sounds like a very interesting printer. Since my printer for office related tasks was of very little use for printing photos I opted for a second printer a few years ago and I know I’ll have to have to replace some cartridges soon. Most of the time A4 is sufficient for me. The few larger prints I tend to get it properly framed with a passepartout anyhow at my local store and they’ll do the printing.

    If you had a chance to test it yet – how does it handle heavier / thick papers? Sometimes my printer has issues with the paper feeder and ruins a sheet of paper. I’m considering getting a new printer and something that takes less space and offers sufficient quality to enjoy the results sounds very tempting.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Jens, so far, I have been printing with 290g/m2 Ilford Paper. I have a large remaining stock of Hahnemüle 315g/m2 art paper that apparently is no problem either. Anything thicker I cannot speak about, not having tried. But Keith Cooper has a review of this printer online and he seems to say it is fine with thick paper. Being used to much more expensive printers, Keith only rates this one as OK. But it’s cheaper, fun, very convenient, and good enought for me.

      Print quality is not up there with the best. I’ve tried a few icc profiles (from Keith Cooper) and one of them produces a slightly cool tone, but not a significant cast like the default driver. That’s my default for now, and it’s easily good enough for me, for tests and for a little personal archive 🙂 Like you, I’ll go to a pro lab for anything bigger and better. Cheers.

  • jean pierre guaron says:

    I’m jealous too. Glad to learn you’re happy with your printer – hope to hear more from you, as you use it more often. Making our own prints is all part of the learning process, in the creation of “good images”.

    I thought I was buying one that used paper rolls as well as sheet. And it’s certainly designed to. But what I wasn’t told, when I bought it, was that the paper manufacturers (including Epson) hardly make any roll paper that size.

    The printer I bought, you see, was the Epson P600.

    And then I found out that inks for that printer are vastly more expensive over time than inks in larger tanks. Each larger tank costs way more than my tanks – but contains FAR more ink, so it soon works out way cheaper.

    After that, I found I don’t have the full range of colours that you get with some of the others.

    So next, when something went wrong with it & I had to get the techo to come to my place to fix it, he said something rather “noir”. A new version has come out, you see, and I’ve had this one for a while, and the new one has the missing extra colour.

    Here’s what he told me. No. 1 – don’t worry about the missing colour, it wouldn’t make your prints any better if you had it, you’d never notice the difference. Hmm And no. 2 – DON’T – even though the new one hasn’t been out long, it’s not as reliable as the P600 – as long as the P600 works – can be made to keep working! – keep using it, and don’t even think to upgrade to the new one. I’ve had more repair call on the new one than on the P 600, despite the fact it’s only been on the market for a fraction of the time. Hmm, twice over!

    I actually get very satisfactory prints with my P600 anyway, up to about A3. Beyond that, I go to my local professional – dine out on this one, all you Canon devotees! – who has a selection of professional printers, ranging from large to incroyable – you’d need two small elephants to help you bring it in from the delivery truck! And they’re ALL Epson printers – his choice – based on his experiences, with both brands. He’s not all that expensive, either – considering the cost of his printers, I’m amazed how cheap his work is! The most expensive one so far was the shot of Rottnest Island, from the foreshore at Cottesloe Beach, 18 Km away. The print is a panorama (I created that – using Affinity Photo, because the panorama function in Photoshop & Lightroom were incapable of doing it!), over 2 metres wide and about 15cm high!

    And the total cost, including framing (a metal frame attached to the back of the print – to reduce the possibility of any twisting, on an image that size) was just under 195 Euro. He even ran it across to the framer himself, picked it up, and delivered it to my place on his way back to his office! A wonderful guy! Makes first class prints, too!

    • pascaljappy says:

      It’s interesting that the added ink proves invisible. It often seems like new stuff is added purely to encourage users to upgrade. Still, it’s understandable.
      You’re a lucky man if you can get a print that large framed for under 200€. Over here, that wouldn’t pay for the frame alone. I’m having a 140×40 frame made and that alone is 200€. Enjoy 🙂

      • jean pierre guaron says:

        Yep – and he’s using a printer that I imagine cost AUD15,000. Just guessing! I suspect he did it for me as much for fun, as for profit. He’s done a few more for since he did that one, and I don’t know how he manages to get a print quality so much finer than I can, on my machine. Whatever he charges, I’ll happily pay it!

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