The MP970 is Canon's latest top-end inkjet multifunction. It has a higher price point than its competitors, but has a number of well-designed functions in order justify this.
Most of these functions can be controlled without a PC, through the use of the Easy-Scroll Wheel control system. The control panel provides quick access to the multifunction's PC-less functions such as CD/DVD label printing and 35mm film negative printing to photo formats — a great way to sort through old negatives. Both of these functions are easy to use with the provided media trays.
The MP970's built-in media reader is acceptable, with support for SD, MMC, CompactFlash, MemoryStick and a USB port for PictBridge devices. While there is no option to scan to a memory card, the photos can be used to print CD/DVD labels as well as a number of other printing options.
The MP970 has both rear and front paper trays, allowing users the option of keeping both photo paper and A4 paper in ready supply at all times. A combined paper capacity of 300 easily allows for medium use around the home. The addition of an Ethernet port also allows the printer to be networked around the house.
The printer's quality is generally outstanding. In comparison to Epson's flagship Stylus Photo RX690, the Canon exceeded it in print quality, with only some slight disadvantages with high-quality photo prints. In draft mode, the Canon's results were vibrant, due to the use of five colour inks. The produced much less colour in draft quality, resulting in faded text which became hard to read. This also occurred in standard quality testing, with Canon's results proving more vibrant than Epson's.
When comparing the two printers' results for high quality A4 and standard 4x6-inch photos, the Canon again revealed a vibrant image, suited towards outdoor photos. This vibrancy however, sacrificed black definition and realistic flesh tones. Epson's outdoor shots were less distinct, but provided a much darker black and better flesh tones.
Scanning tests yielded similar variations. At 600dpi resolution, scanned images from the MP970 were much brighter than the Epson, showing greater detail in darker images but a sacrificing quality in brighter images. Canon's major disadvantage is that the 9600x4800dpi scanning resolution is reserved for the 35mm film scanning function, with normal scanning usage restricted to a relatively meager 600x1200dpi.
The MP970's printing speed is more than adequate. Standard quality tests revealed speeds of 9.2ppm for text documents, and 4.7ppm for graphics documents. Photo printing was much slower, taking 45 seconds to print out a standard-quality 4x6-inch photo, and a minute and a half for a full size A4 photo. Nevertheless, the results are well worth it.
One of the MP970's key capabilities is its built-in 35mm film negative scanner, and the 9600x4800dpi resolution scanning quality is designed specifically for this purpose. The multifunction device is capable of scanning negative strips and mounted slides to a computer, or printing them in full colour. Though it is quite slow at times, the resulting printing and scanning quality is very impressive.
Consumables may be a turnoff for some consumers as they are a slightly more expensive price than Canon's competitors. However, the use of two black cartridges to differentiate between colour and monochrome printing should lead to better ink efficiency in the long term. As such, the elevated price of individual cartridges may be outweighed by better long-term ink management.
Overall, the Canon MP970 is a great choice for any new consumer, but particularly for photographers and families.