CNET logo Why You Can Trust CNET

Our expert, award-winning staff selects the products we cover and rigorously researches and tests our top picks. If you buy through our links, we may get a commission. Reviews ethics statement

Canon i950 review: Canon i950

Canon i950

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
6 min read
As successor to the popular but discontinued Canon S900 photo printer, the Canon i950 doubles the S900's resolution and halves its dot size. The result: this photo printer is quick, compact, and attractively priced. Most importantly, however, it delivers high-quality pictures for photographers on a budget. The i950's design mimics that of its little brother, the i850, but in charcoal, putty, and silver plastic instead of silver and blue. At 16.5 by 10.8 by 6.3 inches (width, depth, and height, respectively), the i950 is nicely compact too, compared to competing photo printers such as the Epson Stylus Photo 925 (23.4 by 19.4 by 12.2 inches), with curved paper trays that tuck snugly into the body. When they're extended, though, those paper trays feel a bit flimsy for our comfort. The rest of the printer appears almost featureless: two buttons for power and paper feed and a green power light sit on the top, and a lone USB port and power connector occupy the back panel.

The control panel is simple.

A single USB port, no parallel port.
A clearly illustrated setup sheet makes it easy to get started with the i950. As with most printers, the entire process involves merely plugging in the printer, inserting six ink tanks, connecting to your system via a USB cable (sold separately, unfortunately), then letting your PC's OS and the i950's driver CD do the installation automatically. Windows XP should have the appropriate driver already, thus saving XP users the trouble of installing it themselves. The process also includes the option of copying the online manual and bundled software--a handful of Windows and Mac apps for printing and managing your images and creating panoramas. As a whole, the i950's feature set ranks about average. The printer outputs to envelopes and paper up to 8.5x30 inches and as small as 3.5x4.7 inches at a maximum thickness of 28 pounds, unless it's heavyweight, Canon-branded paper. It can even print borderless 8.5x11-inch photos, which is rare for its class, though the paper feed makes these sheets a bit crooked at times, leaving some white edges. Unfortunately, the i950 lacks a straight-through paper path and the option for a roll-paper feeder. Other printers, such as the Epson Stylus 960, have attachable roll-paper feeders. Its 5-foot, 10-inch power cord is on the short side, which means that the printer can't sit too far from an outlet.

Hobbyists will want more correction options than those offered by the i950.
The printer driver lets you select any of the standard layout options, including n-up (multiple images printed on a single page), poster, manual duplex, and scale-to-page printing. The i950 allows you to print using its automatic settings--High, Standard, and Draft print quality, with automatic color adjustment--or make your own combinations of resolution and half-toning preset choices from the Custom Print Quality menu. If you opt for custom color adjustment, you can alter the percentages of each individual CYMK color in the ink mix and increase or decrease a picture's overall color intensity and brightness. But you don't have any color controls to speak of, aside from disabling the automatic adjustments that the printer makes for specific document types or enabling Image Color Matching (ICM), the color-matching algorithms used by Windows. Advanced users should be aware that there's no way to pick the gamma (PDF file), adjust the contrast, or override the driver entirely. Even in this price range, photo printers should offer this level of control.
The driver does offer several settings that can automatically correct, enhance, or add effects to your pictures. Effects include simulating an illustration; creating duotones (reformatting the picture in various shades of a single color) in any of 120 colors, with presets for sepia and, oddly, pink, green, and blue; and pumping up the colors while maintaining natural skin tones. We find the sepia too yellow, though, and the slider for choosing among the duotone tints is too imprecise.

You can skip retouching entirely and have the driver fix basic image problems.
The i950's driver also gives you several ways to correct photos. Image Optimizer blurs low-resolution pictures to reduce aliasing (a pixelation effect). Photo Optimizer Pro fixes incorrect exposures and color casts. Noise Reduction decreases the visibility of typical digital-camera noise. You can set the driver to individually apply Photo Optimizer to separate images on a single page--a nice touch for producing thumbnail index sheets. These all work well but under only certain circumstances. For instance, you can spot the effect of Noise Reduction on large areas, such as skies or shadows. And the Image Optimizer works solely for really low-resolution images, such as Web graphics. Still, they're nice options to have around. Like many Canon models, the i950 zips through its print jobs. At almost two minutes per page for an 8x10 color print, it's not technically a speedster, but it's significantly faster than competing photo printers, such as the Epson Stylus Photo 925 and the HP Photosmart 7550.
Inkjet color-photo speed test  (Shorter bars indicate better performance)
Minutes per page  
Canon i950
Canon S830D
HP Photosmart 7550
Epson Stylus Photo 925

Inkjet printer text speed  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Pages per minute  
HP Photosmart 7550
Canon i950
Canon S830D
Epson Stylus Photo 925

However, you probably shouldn't try to force this right-brain printer to do left-brain work: it prints text at a poky 2 pages per minute (ppm). In the same vein, text and graphics prints look good but not great. Text displays visible aliasing, while diagonal lines and curves are somewhat jagged, making it a less-than-ideal choice for desktop publishing and detailed graphics work, such as CAD (computer-aided design) tasks.
Inkjet printer quality
Poor   ••Fair   •••Good   ••••Excellent
 Printer Text Graphics Photo
Plain paper  Coated paper  Plain paper  Coated paper  Photo paper 
 Canon i950 •• ••• ••• ••• ••••
 Canon S830D •• ••• •• •• •••
 Epson Stylus Photo 925 •• •• •• •• •••
 HP Photosmart 7550 ••• ••• •••• ••• ••••

Its photos, on the other hand, come out exceptionally sharp and smooth, with no banding, thanks to the tiny 2-picoliter droplets. The colors are definitely pleasing, though the color matching requires some tweaking, either in your retouching software or the printer driver. Overall, the colors err slightly to the yellow. You'll get the best results with files that originate in the sRGB colorspace. It does a pretty good job of matching the colors across various paper types, however.

Ink cost for an 8x10 photo are on the inexpensive side for this class of printer.
Best of all, the i950's consumables won't drive its price into the stratosphere. Each color photo can run less than 30 cents. That's quite a steal for a photo inkjet these days, many of which have print costs of 40 cents or more.
Finally, the printer does a very good job of holding gray balance on matte paper, and it delivers extremely good composite black-and-white prints; at worst, if you stare really hard, you might start to see magenta in the midtones. On glossy paper, though, there is an overall cyan cast. Canon's driver-based help and its electronic manual are pretty skimpy, but they cover all of the basics nonetheless. Web-based resources, on the other hand, include e-mail support and no-fee, toll-free tech support for the duration of its industry-standard one-year warranty. Out of warranty, tech support will run you $9.99 per toll call.
On our test call, after a wait of about six minutes, we spoke with a tech-support rep who was extremely thorough and quite chatty. Rather than pay per call, you can also opt for the $95 Canon CarePAK Extended Service Plan, which, among other things, extends the warranty to three years and adds overnight exchange.

The printer's online manual is as skimpy as the help system integrated into the driver.

Canon i950

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 8Support 8