Jeff, I agree with your point about brand loyalty - there's no point to it. All these things are tools. They either do what they're chalked-up to do, or they don't. Their makers either support them properly or they don't. And yes, as long as there is adequate competition the market sorts it all out. High-end alternatives though are still a bit thin in both printers and camera systems. Therefore much depends on the integrity and commercial foresight of the manufacturers. Some are better than others.
As for product reviews, I think it needs to be understood that they have inherent limitations. Reviewers don't have the time and resources to ferret-out all the nooks and crannies of potential problems, and as you say, some of them do take a while to make themselves known. The best reviewers can do is honestly report the ones they do discover, and on this site at least, that is done. So yes, it will happen that customers buy products on the basis of reviews they trust and when they get disappointed there will be a tendancy to blame the reviewer for letting them down, without stopping to consider that the reviewer is not the product testing laboratory that the manufacturer is supposed to be. Reading reviews, we learn with experience, is but one component of a wise procurement strategy. Fortunately web-sites like this provide ample resources for sharing experience, and reading the better web forums must be an essential element of informing oneself about a potential purchase. "Caveat Emptor" remains necessary.
Ray, Canon's product support policies go far beyond the training of staff, or lack thereof, which also seems to be part of the picture John painted. What we're seeing is a corporate culture. If it were isolated to one line of product I wouldn't say that. In a way, you are correct - their printer embodies technological advances, as do those of their competitors. That we expect - the whole rationale for new models. Their eagerness to innovate is to be applauded - that is what makes this industry so dynamic. But I come back to my central point that these innovations need to be properly tested and documented BEFORE they hit the market with them. There is growing evidence that all of them are rushing stuff out the door too quickly. It causes more trouble and ill-will than it's worth. Maybe some people in Canon got thrashed over the IPF5000, but I wonder. How many months has that machine been on the market now and they haven't even bowed to consumer pressure for a proper instruction manual? Couldn't they have done THAT by now? Or did they not do it because they know the printer has flaws they will only correct in the next model, so why bother?
John, yes I agree with what you are saying. I have seen that printer in production mode in the hands of some-one who has mastered all the aggravating quirks and there is no question it is a robust machine that churns out gorgeous images reliably one after another. I still wouldn't buy one for all the reasons you have so carefully explained. To think that a 600 dollar print-head doesn't come with a substantial warranty (based on time or throughput) is so shocking that it defies comprehension. Two of those is most of the price of the printer, net of ink, and the business about defective cartridges is equally mind-numbing - you really wonder how they can be so dumb. The cost of replacing the cartridges compared with the cost of the ill-will and the negative publicity has to be negligible. They just seem to be living in a bubble (or a bubble-jet?). I must say it was a huge disappointment for me, because when it was first announced I looked upon it as a very desirable alternative with the promise of more flexibility and less clogging. Those features it has of course - but at the unacceptable cost of all the other baggage it carries. And the problem you raise about the print permanence data is very concerning indeed. It raises fundamental questions of good faith.