Canon PIXMA G620 Photo Printer review (Part 1) – beautiful photos printed at home

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REVIEW – So much of our lives these days, including our photos, only live online, trapped in social media accounts.  Sometimes it’s nice to free these memories and bring them into the real world.  While I could print my photos at a local pharmacy, like CVS, or upload them to an online service, like Shutterfly, sometimes it’s better to print them myself here at home, where I maintain full control of the printing process.  Canon is, of course, one of the leaders in the field of photo printers for home use, and for the past few weeks, I have been testing the Canon PIXMA G620 photo printer.  This is the first in a three-part review of the G620, and this article focuses on printing photos from a computer.

What is it?

The Canon PIXMA G620 is an inkjet photo printer that can wirelessly print photos without borders using a variety of paper types anywhere in size from 3.5 x 3.5 inches to 8.5 x 14.  It is a MegaTank printer that allows consumers to refill the tanks with ink instead of buying cartridges, thus reducing ink costs.

What’s in the box?

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  • Canon PIXMA G620 printer with power cord
  • Getting started guide
  • Two print heads
  • Six bottles of ink

Canon graciously included a box of 100 4 x 6 glossy and a box of 50 8.5 x 11 pro luster photo paper.  I also purchased a box of 100 4×6 matte photo paper for comparison.

Specifications

  • Ink compatibility: GI-23 dye-based color ink bottles (57 ml each)
  • Print resolution:  4800×1200 dpi
  • Paper compatibility:  various types including plain paper; glossy, semi-gloss, and matte photo paper; magnetic and sticker papers; cardstock and envelopes
  • Dimensions: 17.2 x 12.5 x 5.8 inches (when closed)
  • Weight: 17.4 lbs
  • Display:  2-line mono LCD

Design and features

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The Canon PIXMA G620 photo printer looks like a brick-shaped block of matte black plastic.  Like most inkjets, there’s an input paper tray on the back, an output tray on the front, and a control panel with buttons and an LCD display on top.  The LCD is very minimalistic, only capable of showing short lines of text.  There’s also a lid on top where one can scan or copy.  All things considered, it’s a typical and practical design for a consumer printer.

Installation and setup

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The Canon PIXMA G620 printer arrived well-protected in Styrofoam inserts.  I removed it from its packaging and pulled off the red protective tape.

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I popped the hood to take a look inside.

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The G620 comes with a Getting Started guide that did an excellent job explaining how to setup the printer.  First, I installed the print heads.  Second, I turned it on and selected English as my language.

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Third, I poured in the six bottles of ink—the colors are gray, black, red, cyan, magenta, and yellow, and the gray and red are for more vivid colors—which were clearly marked and had custom shaped inlets to ensure that the right color goes into the right tank.  This was surprisingly easy and mess-free.  Fourth, I loaded a few sheets of plain paper in the input tray and then followed the instructions on the LCD display to run a print test and update the firmware.  At this point, the printer is ready to go.  Wow!  So simple!

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The final step is to install the drivers on my computer, a Mac mini.  Canon provides a URL where I can download an installer.  I’m unhappy with this installer; though it did install the driver, it also installed a lot of stuff without any explanation of what it was installing or giving me the option to pick and choose what I wanted.

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A program in a hidden folder?  Scanning software?  An inkjet survey program?  Seriously Canon?  Yeah, all of this got deleted immediately with AppCleaner.

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I went to System Settings and prevented these three items from running in the background.  C’mon, Canon, be transparent about what you are installing on my computer and why.  Give me the option to ignore things I don’t want.

At this point, I am ready to print some photos!

Performance

I printed a few dozen photos with the Canon PIXMA G620 printer while testing; some were older photos taken with my Canon DSLR, and others were shot on my iPhone 13.  Most were edited in Lightroom or the GIMP and then printed using Preview.  I printed the vast majority of these pictures on the 4 x 6 glossy paper that Canon included.

As I first began to print photos, I was quite disappointed with the quality of the prints.  They were inevitably darker and grainier than what I saw on my screen, and there was always an ugly white border.  It was at this point that the G620’s guide failed me; I was trying to figure out what I was doing wrong and how to print my photos better, but the guide didn’t give me any help.

I later found the G620’s online PDF manual—it comes in at a cool 338 pages!  Yowsers!—But I don’t think it has anything to add here either.

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After much experimenting, I’ve come up with a few tips for better photos.  One, use the controls on the printer to set the correct paper size and type.  Let me point out that the LCD display and the navigational controls are the biggest downsides to this printer.  It’s an absolute pain to navigate on this rinky little display, and the controls are confounding.  I would happily drop another $50 into this printer if Canon would completely redo this with a bigger, brighter display and a complete set of controls (up, down, left, right, forward, backward, etc.).

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Two, use your photo editing software to slightly increase the exposure and then, depending upon your personal taste, slightly increase the saturation accordingly.  This helps a lot to overcome the tendency of pictures to be a bit too dark.

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Three, make sure to select the borderless version of your paper size (4 x 6 borderless instead of 4 x 6), select scale to fit (critical if your photo has been cropped to any ratio other than 4 x 6), set the media type to the correct paper type, and set quality to best.

After making these adjustments, my prints began looking so much better!  I am really happy with the Canon PIXMA G620 photo printer.

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I took a trip down memory lane, found a bunch of old photos of my wife and family, and printed them.  I bought a set of magnets, hung the pictures on my Vari Mobile Glass Board, and created a nice little collage.  Super cool!

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At this point, I decided I would experiment with some different paper types.  I took a picture of a sunflower in my backyard, cleaned it up a bit in GIMP, then printed it on both glossy and matte paper.  The matte paper doesn’t feel like photo paper; it feels like an index card without the little blue lines.  Putting the two prints side-by-side…well, the matte just sucked in comparison.  The sunflower in the glossy print looked vibrant and clear, while the matte one was muted and mushy.  I don’t know why I would want to print any of my photos on Canon’s matte paper.

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I then tried the 8.5 x 11 Pro Luster photo paper.  I absolutely love the way that pictures turned out on this paper!  This paper has a textured finish; it’s similar to semi-gloss, though the texture is a bit more pronounced.  One of things that I printed was a drawing of a dog.  My daughter has a side-business where she draws and sells pictures of people’s pets based on a photo.  She sent me one of her pictures of Kylo, her dog, and so I printed it on the Pro Luster paper.  It turned out amazing; this is worth framing.  In this picture, the results were more vibrant than the 4 x 6 glossy; in other pictures that I printed, there was very little difference in the color saturation.

Choosing between glossy, luster, and semi-gloss photo paper is probably a matter of personal preference.  I plan to purchase a pack of semi-gloss and do some additional comparing.  So far, I prefer exactly what Canon sent me:   glossy for smaller prints and luster for larger prints.

There are two other details about the Canon PIXMA G620 printer that are worth discussing in this review.  The first detail is time to print.  Canon says that a 4 x 6 takes about 47 seconds to print, but I don’t know what they had to do to make that miracle happen.  Maybe they tested by printing snowmen in a snowstorm?  My pictures consistently took just under three minutes to print.  Personally, I’m not concerned about this time.  I’m not a print shop that needs to pump out thousands of prints a day, so I find that three minutes is a reasonable amount of time to wait for a nice print.

The second detail is cost to print.  For years, inkjet printers have earned a bad rap and rightly so.  Printer manufacturers set the price on the printers themselves to be very low, sometimes at a loss, thus enticing buyers to purchase them.  They then set the price of the ink replacement cartridges to be very high, which is how they made their money.  Over the life of the printer, the total cost of ownership could be crazy expensive for anyone who uses their inkjet regularly.  This is why for years I have only purchased Brother laser printers, even though they print in monochrome.

A few years back, printer manufacturers decided to offer inkjet printers that came with refillable tanks instead.  The MegaTank line of printers, including the Canon PIXMA G620, represent Canon’s entries in this market.  The initial cost is higher, but the cost of printing is lower.  Canon estimates that printing a 4 x 6 costs 2.5 cents.  Given that the glossy paper is 11 cents each, that comes out to a cost of only 13.5 cents per print.  That’s a great price.  If you’re only going to print photos rarely, it might still make sense to buy an inkjet with cartridges, since the initial cost is so much lower; anyone who does a fair amount of photo printing, however, is going to want to buy a printer like the G620.

Canon sells replacement bottles on their own website for $16 per bottle, while third-parties offer them for as little as $4.50 per bottle.  As always when making off-brand purchases, caveat emptor!

About two and a half weeks into my testing, my wife and I had printed about four dozen sheets of various types of paper without any problems at all.  Then one afternoon, my wife tried to print a sheet, the first print that day.  That’s when something weird happened:  The printer wouldn’t pull the sheet or print; instead, it kept making weird noises.  I documented the problem in this YouTube video (crank the volume to hear it click and whir endlessly):

My wife tried printing from her computer a few times, and I tried from my computer a few times, all with the same error.  Not knowing what else to do for the moment, we left the printer alone for a few hours.  That evening we came back to it.  I read through parts of the manual, hoping for a solution, but nothing seemed helpful.  I was about to try resetting the printer to factory defaults when I decided to print from my phone.  That worked.  Then I printed from my computer, and it worked.  My wife printed from hers, and it also worked.  What did we do to fix it the problem?  Apparently, we waited 6 hours.

I sent the problem to Canon.  They guessed that I should have put the feed slot cover down, but that would not have mattered, as there wasn’t enough paper in the feed to touch the cover.  Bottom line:  Neither Canon nor I have any idea what caused or fixed the problem.  This is rather scary.  Random problems are the bane of gadgets.  My recommendation is that you purchase the G620 from a store where it’s easy to return, just in case you run into this problem.  The happy ending to the story (so far) is that this problem has not been seen again.  For the moment, I am happy.

Extra Features

The Canon PIXMA G620 photo printer has the ability to scan and copy, but I never bothered to try them out.  This is a photo printer, and I used it to print my photos.  I would never notice if Canon dropped these features from this printer (and used the savings to put in a better display and controls).

What I like

  • Easy to setup
  • Beautiful photo prints (once you figure out some settings)
  • Cheap cost per print

What I’d change

  • Provide tips and tricks to get the best results when printing photos
  • Give me more control over what software is installed
  • Replace the display and navigational controls

Final thoughts

The Canon PIXMA G620 is an inkjet printer designed to print photos from the convenience of your own home.  It has refillable tanks for six different colors of ink, can print on a variety of paper types and size, and prints beautiful-looking pictures from my computer.  I found that setup was easy but adjusting the settings of my photo-editing software to get a great print took some experimenting.  Once I found what worked for me, I was able to print a lot of great shots.  I’m a big fan of printing photos with this printer, so if you’re looking to print photos regularly, I highly recommend this printer to you.

(This is part one of a three-part review, and it focused on printing from a computer.  The second part will review printing from a phone, and the third will review printing stickers and cutting them out with a Cricut.)

Price:  $299
Where to buyAmazon or Canon’s online store
Source: The sample for this review was provided by Canon.

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