Printer comparison: Epson vs Canon

Recently I murdered my beloved Canon IP4000, which I have used for disc printing since that model 1st came out. I decided to take a walk on the dark side, and try out an Epson R280. This printer is virtually identical to the R380, minus the LCD screen and memory card reader. It uses the Epson 6-ink system.

As my Canon is quite dead, (please don’t ask), side-by-side comparisons of identical disc print projects are not possible, but I was able to go back and re-print about 6 disc labels which were previously done with the Canon, on a variety of media.

My reasons for choosing the Epson were that the newest Canon model, IP4500, is not yet available in stores here. (USA) Also, both brands now use chipped ink tanks. The Epson has compatible tanks available with re-set chips on them already, the available Canon compatibles require chip replacement and fiddling. So apart from the chip issue, the Epson was readily available in stores, and was also cheaper.

So here are some observations, I’ll try to group them by category:


The Canon uses a 5-tank system, with dye-based inks for photo black and colors, and pigment black for documents and plain paper. The Epson uses a 6-tank system, incorporating photo-cyan and photo-magenta and a single black, all are dye-based. The Canon tanks hold approximately 12 cc when empty, the Epson tanks hold approximately 13 cc. Prices on compatibles are about $4.50 each for the Canon’s newest models, $5.00 for the Epson. I don’t have a comparison on the 2 for how much is left in the tank when the printer stops printing due to low ink. 2 cc is probably a fair guess in both instances.


Too close to call. Unless you do massive amounts of disc or photo printing, don’t worry about it. Both are cheap to operate using compatible inks, and costs are likely to be comparable with OEM ink as well. Also note that the Canon uses a pigment blank tank that is nearly 2x the size of the color and photo black tanks, which cuts costs significantly if you print a lot of documents.


The Canon CD LabelPrint program is robust and quite adequate for all but the most demanding user. Custom text is easy to create, with many adjustable features like shadows, distortion and bending. Access to the printer driver settings is seamless for adjusting print settings.

The Epson Print-CD program is adequate for basic users. Options for custom text are very limited. There is access to the printer driver for manual adjustment of the print settings, but thus far I have been unable to get this to actually work. In other words, you can access the manual print settings, but it does little or nothing. There is access to a basic saturation slider in the print dialog, which does work well. Epson also offers 2 settings for printable media, a basic “CD/DVD” and “premium surface CD/DVD”. It appears that “premium surface” simply increases the saturation further.

The Canon printer driver is also very robust, and offers fully customizable settings for media types, color profiles and color settings. The Epson driver offers most of the same settings, although the layout is a little “clunky”. I have also noted that the Epson driver tends to lose it’s settings and revert to default, though this is not consistent.


The Epson offers excellent color matching right out of the box, slightly better than the Canon, although the differences are slight. I find I get better results from the Epson by skipping the use of the Epson “auto photo enhancer” settings, and using the Adobe RGB setting with 2.2 gamma and slight bumps for saturation and contrast. I used similar settings for the Canon. The Epson tends to be slightly under-saturated with default settings. Also, the Epson offers fewer choices for media types. (paper) Comparing a series of high-res and high color photos from both printers resulted in only a slightly lower saturation of greens and reds on the Epson, but not objectionable. The Epson appears to produce slightly sharper photos, but again the difference is very small.

I’ve not yet seen any real difference between the 6-color and 5-color ink systems as far as the output is concerned, except maybe that the Epson tends to be under-saturated in comparison. I can see where some photos that have fine gradient colors might benefit from the 6-color system. I noted on some photo prints that the darker colors were identical, where the lighter color tones were less saturated on the Epson. (Less saturated than the same areas when viewed on my monitor)


I’m hard pressed to see significant differences between the 2 printers. Out of the box, the Epson is again slightly under-saturated, but this is easily corrected by using the premium disc setting and increasing saturation slightly. Both printers produce discs that are nearly dry immediately, but slightly tacky with darker labels. Color matching with both printers is excellent, only saturation and contrast require adjustment. Epson claims that their inks are more water proof than the competition, and last longer. I find that the opposite is true. Using compatible ink, the Canon-printed discs are not easily smudged with a wet finger, but smudging is certainly possible. The Epson ink is easily wiped off with a wet finger, leaving only a dark grey outline where the ink was. This is noted particularly on TY silver-printables. On TY Watershield, smudging of the ink itself is not possible with a wet finger, only the finish is affected with both printers.

The Epson was printing disc labels slightly off-center (0.1-0.2mm) out of the box, minor adjustment with the provided sliders worked well. The Canon never required centering of the label. The Epson does appear to be remembering the centering adjustment, and no further adjustment has been needed.


I’ve tested Memorex white matte CDR (CMC), Verbatim printable dual layer, TY white matte CDR and TY white matte DVD, TY silver and TY Watershield. Results on all of these are excellent, with no obvious differences between the 2 printers. I again note that the Epson ink is noticeably easier to wipe off with a wet finger on all media except the Watershield.

I further note that results on the TY Watershield are stunning, rivaling even high quality photo paper. The Epson MAY produce a slightly sharper image on the Watershield, but it’s not easy to discern. I’ve yet to see a Watershield disc come out looking bad on either printer.

On all tested media, use of the Epson “premium CD/DVD” setting is recommended based on my tests.


Here, the Canon clearly wins, hands down. With full auto-duplexing and dual paper feeds, it’s a workhorse. I’ve become very reliant on the Canon printers for the dual paper feeds, keeping different paper stocks in each feed for flexibility.

The Epson lacks auto power-on and power-off, making it clumsy to use if you’re used to having that. Canon employs fully automatic power-on and off. Epson recommends leaving the printer turned on 24/7 if you use it daily. Epson does have a manual “direct driver update” feature that is very nice, just click a button and your driver is up to date. The Epson does not have an automatic ejection tray opening function, so if you forget to open the exit door the paper will get wadded up behind the door. The Canon will refuse to print if the door is not open. (Some Canon models have an automatic door opening function)


As a stand-alone printer, (your only printer), the Epson leaves a lot to be desired in comparison to Canon models. The price is lower, so if you want a 2nd or 3rd printer for nothing but discs and/or photos, the Epson is a good choice. If you need one printer with maximum flexibility, duplexing, etc, get a Canon. With 2 other Canon printers in my stable, (one PIXMA and one laser), I can live with the limitations of the Epson.

The fact that the Epson ink is so easily wiped off with a wet finger is disconcerting. While the Canon compatible ink I have used is less so, it’s still an issue with all discs I fear.

The Epson disc printing software is a bit crude and limited, but is still functional for basic needs. I essentially just copy disc labels and do very little custom design, so it’s not a huge issue. If you have to go buy label software to suit your needs, the cost of the Epson goes up, so again Canon might be the better choice in that regard.

Great review! Thanks for taking the time to share your helpful insights. :bow:

Thanks for sharing that interesting and comprehensive comparison, [B]CDan[/B]! :clap:

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Great post, CDan, very imformative and nice to see some real-life comparisons between the two. :slight_smile:

Excellent presentation, very informative, Thanks CDan.

After playing a bit more, it’s apparent that the Epson is using ONLY the “photo-cyan” and “photo-magenta” inks for photo and disc printing. This explains the under-saturation that I’m seeing in certain colors. Use of the color sliders in the printer driver can correct this to some extent, but not completely. Too much correction results in a color shift before you can get the saturation you want.

This means that graphics and images with deep greens, reds and blues might suffer some of the under-saturation that I’ve seen. Canon also uses the 6-color system on the higher-end photo printers, I can’t say if they behave the same. Most photos do not have the deep greens, reds and blues that are affected.

I’ve also found that using the “manual print” (printer driver) option in the Epson disc print dialog does, in fact, seem to work OK. So I was mistaken about that unless it’s an intermittent issue. The “density” slider in the disc print dialog seems to work whether you are using the manual print option or not, so use of increased saturation settings in both places is not recommended.

Here’s a couple examples of ink smearing from each printer. Discs are over 24 hrs old, although it’s important to note that the smearing issue does not change with time. It’s the same when discs are 5 min old or 5 months old.

In each example, a wet thumb is wiped firmly from inside to outside, one time, near the edge of the disc. The first set is with TY Silver, the second is with TY white matte.


which compatible inks are you using for your epson r280? if you don’t mind me asking. I have recently purchased the R280 myself and was wondering if compatible inks work with the newer manufactured Epson printers.

I haven’t used any yet. G & G sells tanks that include a re-set chip, and that’s what I’ll prolly use. I used G & G a lot in the Canon.

I’ve heard that Epson has been meticulous this time around to prevent compatible inks to work with their newer printers, they don’t want to loose money on inks this time like they did with the R220. Meritline offers Epson compatible inks for very cheap but I don’t know if the chip they use work with the R280 even though they state that their latest ink cartridges use a newer chip.

“As of 8/6/07 these cartridge contain the newest compatible chips that work with all printers manufacturer before and after May 2007.”

Meritline has what appear to be both 1st and 2nd generation tanks. The ones marked “new chips” should be the right ones, but I don’t trust Meritline to send the right thing. has them listed, but not in stock. is very reputable, they tell me they have the newer tanks with the latest chip. also tells me that they stock the 2nd generation tanks.

Generally, it seems that the ones priced around $5 are 2nd generation, 1st generations seem to be around $3.50.

If you’re not sure, get 2nd generation tanks. You can tell which printer you have by the date of manufacture. The date is revealed in the serial number. The 7th and 6th numbers from the end are the year and month respectively. Manufactured after April 07 is likely to be 2nd generation.

Just for fun, I modded my old Canon IP3000 (USA model) to print discs. This is an older generation printer with very different heads than the newer ones. But I thought it would interesting to compare. The newer Canon model (IP4500) has vastly superior print heads to the IP3000. The IP3000 uses a 4-ink system with no photo black ink, and has a much larger drop size.

The most obvious difference in the discs is the color matching. The Canon is much closer to the original. Using the available driver settings, I did try to keep the settings as close as possible without doing a lot of color profiling. The discs are TY-Watershield Glossy. The discs were scanned at 600 DPI, then resampled to 96 DPI and shrunk for posting here.

Taking the original 600 DPI scan of the above discs, I expanded a small section of each image. I did not re-sample, just changed it to 96 DPI so all the original image is retained.

I know you said that the Canon color saturation was closer to the original but of the last 2 posts comparing the 2, Epson, to me, seems more pleasing. In the 1st the blacks are blacker, in the second the print is less mottled. Just an observation. If you look at any of the photography forums, and from my personal experience talking to a few professional photographers and the local photo processer, they almost exclusively say Epson it the only one they would use. Of course, none are using the lower end R280 model.

[QUOTE=ricoman;1917946]I know you said that the Canon color saturation was closer to the original but of the last 2 posts comparing the 2, Epson, to me, seems more pleasing. In the 1st the blacks are blacker, in the second the print is less mottled. Just an observation. If you look at any of the photography forums, and from my personal experience talking to a few professional photographers and the local photo processer, they almost exclusively say Epson it the only one they would use. Of course, none are using the lower end R280 model.[/QUOTE]

The IP3000 uses color inks to make black in photo mode, the Epson uses black.

The IP3000 and R280 are not comparable printers by any stretch, I made the comparison only out of curiosity. Recent Reviews of the Canon IP4500 puts it well ahead of the comparable printers from Epson and HP for resolution. Color matching varies from printer to printer, so it’s not usually a big deal unless it’s way off. Use of default profiles and driver photo optimizers will greatly skew any evaluations of color matching too. It IS more difficult to get the Epson to match than it is with the Canons though, but not hugely. And as always, the image being printed has a big impact on results. My experience has thus far been that the Canon 5-ink system is easier to color match than the Epson 6-ink system. But it may just be my paper.

I use iP5000, downside can’t print to the hole but advantage is you can use ink compatibles and are cheap and you can even re-fill the tanks. If you haven’t done it before you can try my method.

  1. put enough ink into a syringe.
  2. penetrate the filling point located on top of the cartridge this was plugged by a rubber.
    3)once the neddle was inside turn the cartridge “UPSIDE DOWN” and empty the syringe in this position slowly so not to create too much pressure allowing the air out through the ink output hole.
  3. turn ink cartridge bottoms down and release the needle.
  4. put a drop of super glue to the penetrated hole to re-seal.

cheaper than buying an OEM which uses the same ink anyway i guess.

I appreciate the review but the printers compared are so different it’s really an apples and oranges comparison. I print loads of disks at work (over 1000 last year) and here are some observations.

We print only on TY matte white DVD-R and DVD+R at 8x and 16x, we use only genuine ink, we don’t print regularly (one week might be 100, one week might be 10), and we run Windows XP SP2 and Mac 10.4 (no Vista or Mac 10.5) We’re running a lot of printers but only 5 are able to print directly on disks, 3 Epsons and 2 Canons, we also use these printers to make 8x10 matte prints. The Epsons are all on the 9 Ink K3 system with Matte Black, and the Canons use the 8 Color CLI-8. All of the printers are between 1 and 2 years old and everything is printed using 8 bit drivers.

The Epson systems are 15% more expensive to run because of ink but produce a higher quality output than the Canon. Both systems have poor color out of the box which vary widely depending on your media. The Epson color gamut is more natural, can produce finer gradations, more accurate and pleasing when profiled. The Canons color gamut is less realistic, more graphic and poppy but you might want that. Also most mid to high end Epson systems can only hold a Matte Black or a Glossy Black so if you switch between the two it’s a giant waste of time and money. Because quality and not cost is the goal we use the Epsons more.

The Canons seems to occasionally scratch disks because of the feed mechanism which has never happened with the Epsons. However our Epsons go out of alignment more frequently and cause banding than the Canons (our Epsons for disk printing do not have the laser auto alignment feature that better Epsons do). Also it was a pain for me to have to order the Canon “extras” from eBay and go and modify software, when I wanted more CD trays from Epson I just drove down to their building and picked them up (Yes I’m in the U.S.).

I hate both the Canon and Epson software. I didn’t have any of troubles using manual adjustments or lost settings on either brand. If you’re printing photos on these both Canon and Epson have free generic profiles which would be good enough for the home user. Epson paper is better if you buy the high end 5 star versions except they discontinued their super high gloss paper because it was too expensive to produce (and the Canon Premium Bright Glossy is very cheap looking and not as glossy).

I haven’t done a real smudge tests but we haven’t had significant issues with either brand. Once a disk is done we put it in a case and leave it open to so it can dry and outgas for at least 3 hours before we ship them out. We used to have a 6 color CIS for an old Epson but the new Canon and Epson inks are so outrageously better than the generics that we only use real ink now. We used to have the problem everyone had with ink clogging on the Epsons but we haven’t had an issue with any of these lately.

Just my 2¢.

I finally broke down and got a Canon IP4500. Current Amazon prices are $100 for the IP4500 and $90 for the Epson R280. So I’m running the Canon and Epson side-by-side here.

First impression of the Canon IP4500 is that it is fast, text and graphics are a whole lot better than I expected. As are all the PIXMA series printers, it’s a terrific workhorse for every day use, with dual paper feeds and auto-duplexing. Enabling disc printing on this USA model was a breeze and took about 10 min. The printer comes with the disc tray feed rollers in place, you only have to remove a small piece of plastic that blocks the tray feed, and change the firmware settings.

First thing I noticed about disc printing is that the Canon is WAY faster than the Epson. Not that this is a huge benefit, but the Canon spits out a high-quality disc print about 45 sec. faster than the Epson does. As with the other Canon models, color matching seems a little better, even with it’s 3-color ink system. Blue in particular is a lot closer to being accurate than on the Epson.

So I printed a series of discs on both the R280 and IP4500. I used an actual scanned copy of a disc label. The label was scanned at 300 dpi, then down-sampled to 150 dpi with no color or contrast adjustments. Here is the original image, down-sampled to screen res:

Here’s the first set of discs. This is TY hub-printable CDR, flat finish.

Each of these sets of discs are printed with the 150 dpi image, then scanned at 300 dpi, cropped and down-sampled to 96 dpi and saved as high-quality jpg.

Printer settings in both cases are standard highest quality settings with about a 10% boost in density and no color or contrast changes. RGB color profile is used on both printers. The same printer settings are used on all 3 types of media. For the record, the Epson is using compatible inks, the Canon has it’s original inks.