The quality is -- or will be -- very close on the new printers, comparing the top of end the prosumer line and bottom of the pro line. Look at Epson (2400/4800). Even with Canon, you've got the ipf5000 for 12 inks for 17" for just under $2K. Then in 2007 you'll have the PIXMA Pro9500 with 10 pigment inks for 13" at price unknown but a lot less. Quality should be very close. And now with HP with the 9180 and what's to be announced at Photokina.
IQ between the B-size and the C-size printers will not be very different, but other things will be: build quality and service life, support, cost-per-print, color mgt options, software options, blah blah blah.
It all depends on your needs.
I devote an entire chapter of my book to this one question (which printer to purchase?).
Good luck choosing!
author, "Mastering Digital Printing, Second Edition"
DP&I.com ( http://www.dpandi.com )
digital imaging & printing consultant
Thanks Haraldo - I appreciate you taking the time to comment.
In the interests of saving myself a few bucks at your advice.. I rang Canon Australia and spoke to both their sales dept. and tech dept [very helpful ppl there!].
According to Canon Australia the new Pro9500 will be released here [Australia] in 3 weeks - priced at around $1400-$2000 Australian [approx. $1100-$1500 US] - their tech dept. says this printer will be - quote 'revolutionary in its performance' at this price point. [whatever that means!] They wouldnt elaborate much further other than with its 10 inks its good for B&W and Colour and is archival with photo papers.
Their advice to me was:
1. to wait and check out the Pro 9500
2. Buy the 5500 only if I need roll facility and plan tp print hundreds of prints a month
seems like good advice - so I will wait and hopefully check out the 9500 in the next 3 weeks and make a decision then.
Interestingly the Canon USA website shows the 9500 for release in 2007 - the aussie website doesnt show it at all at the moment - but they are saying 3 weeks for release. *shrug* waiting game I guess....