Photo Printer Buying Tips

Category: Photography , Printing

If you want high-quality paper prints of your photos, you need a photo printer. You might be tempted to print your photos on your all-purpose inkjet printer. But photo printers offer several advantages when it comes to at-home printing of your digital photos...

Photo Printer Buying Tips

Why Buy a Photo Printer?

It's true, you can print any image on your home or office inkjet printer, but a dedicated photo printer will provide higher resolutions and more vivid inks than you can get with general purpose printers. Their paper feed mechanisms are designed for stiffer, glossy photo paper so they don't jam as often as printers designed for uncoated copier paper. And there are many other features that make photo printing easier and better can be found only in purpose-built photo printers.

Some photo printers, like the highly rated Canon Selphy ES40, include LCD screens that show you the photo on the scanner bed and let you edit it before printing. You can crop the image; re-center it; wipe out "red eye" and make other color tweaks; then press a button to print when you're satisfied. The ES40 even tells you, in a computer-generated voice, when you've made a mistake such as leaving the scanner cover partly open. This photo printer sells for around $150 as of this writing.

Photo printers use special inks or dyes to achieve better colors than inkjet or laser printers. Proprietary ink cartridges (or dye rolls, or some other format) can be expensive, and it's difficult to know which technology will give you the most bang for your buck.

A $40 ink cartridge that prints 100 3x4-inch photos is more expensive to operate than a $100 dye roll that prints 1000 similar photos, obviously. But printer manufacturers tend to advertise their cost-per-print in different ways that put their products in the best light. For real-world reports on the cost of operating a given photo printer you have to search for end-user reviews.

A photo printer should accept input directly from digital camera memory cards as well as from a computer's USB port. Wireless photo printers such as the HiTi P510Si Dye Sublimation photo printer can communicate via Bluetooth or WiFi. Wireless all-in-one printers are made by most printer manufacturers including Lexmark, Canon, Epson, and HP, but dedicated photo printers with wireless capability are relatively rare.

If you can have only one printer, you want it to print ordinary black-and-white documents as well as high-quality photo prints. Some photo printers don't do black-and-white at all. Others tend to bleed a bit of color ink into black, making a muddy document. Check the printout quality of any dual-purpose printer in a store before buying one. Also, make sure it's easy to switch between coated photo paper stock and uncoated document paper; two paper trays are better than one.

The cost of a photo printer can range from less than $100 to well into the thousands. The differences depend on factors such as maximum print size (larger than 13 x 19 inches gets very expensive); maximum resolution; editing features; and speed.

In the under-$200 category popular photo printers include the Epson Charm series, noted for its high-quality mid-sized prints; the Canon Pixma mini320, with optional battery portability and Fast Bluetooth options; and the Polaroid PoGo Digital Camera - yes, a digital camera that also prints! But it does only low-resolution 2 x 3 inch prints; it's fun but not family album quality.

Do you have a favorite photo printer, or know of one to avoid? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Photo Printer Buying Tips"

Posted by:

Tom Bullock
13 Sep 2010

Bob, your article is timely. This past weekend I was searching for printers after I found out that my Windows 7 64bit system would not work with my existing printers. I started looking for printers for 64-bit Windows 7 systems. they are relatively hard to find but not impossible. Is there a way to find this category of printer and then do a comparison of features for the priters I find?


Posted by:

Reinaldo
13 Sep 2010

My experience with Canon inkjet photo printers has been phenomenal. The Pixma Pro 9000 and 9500 printers produce 11x14 prints that are every bit as good or better than I used to get from silver-based technology. They use dye-based inks in eight cartridges to give vivid color and quality.

For small prints the Selby and similar units are great too, of course, but serious photographers want somewhat larger prints.

After using and believing in Epson photo printers, when none was quickly available, I reluctantly tried the Canon ip8600 (Limited to 8x10) but the new dye-based inks are far superior and superior to Epson in being trouble-free.


Posted by:

Eugene
14 Sep 2010

I am a Mac user. The best printer that does photos, CD including Fax, scan, and copy-- the HP 309a. I was not very happy with the HP all-one-printers mainly because their document loader was flakey. But I really like the 309a.
Eugene


Posted by:

Jim Clary
14 Sep 2010

I bought one of the newer Kodak printers and have been very satisfied in the quality of the photos and MORE than satisfied on the cost of ink.


Posted by:

Lee McIntyre
14 Sep 2010

Tom, with regard to your observation that your 64-bit Windows 7 operating system is incompatible with your existing printers:

My experience has been that the operating system is incompatible with the printer DRIVER (the software interface between the computer and the printer), NOT incompatible with the printer itself.

I'm using several old HP ink jet printers successfully with my 64-bit Windows 7 operating system, AFTER I downloaded free updated printer drivers from the printer manufacturer's Web site.

Try going to the printer manufacturer's Web site and searching for "printer drivers." Read their descriptions carefully, and follow the instructions for downloading and installing the updated drivers. You may need to reboot your computer as part of the installation process. Then follow the Windows 7 wizard under Devices and Printers (off the "Start" button in the lower left corner of your screen).

You may not need to spend a penny.


Posted by:

Dave S
15 Sep 2010

Not only am I looking for a good photo printer, but are there any inexpensive printers that ALSO print on DVD's?

I keep seeing printable DVDs in the stores but I don't see printers that will print on them.

My brother had an older Epson which had a drawer and the printer would print directly on the CD or DVDs. Anything like that around?


Posted by:

ron
15 Sep 2010

Tom:

If you can't find a Win7 driver at the vendor site, give the Vista and even XP 64 bit drivers a try. They may work, but not support all of the advanced features.

You might also try drivers for other similar printers, ie earlier models or even drivers for generic printers. Many printers support HP PCL (HP Printer Control Language) and/or Postscript so you may be able to use a "foreign" driver that supports the language(s) that the printer supports.

I have read several tips where people have solved Win7 problems by installing Vista or XP drivers when new drivers were not (yet) available.


Posted by:

retiredPhil
15 Sep 2010

I have a Kodak EasyShare G600 printer dock connected to my PC. Whenever I want an excellent 4x6 print, it never disappoints. It does cost about 50ยข per pic, but my needs are very small. I can print directly from a Kodak camera with the dock, or I can print from the PC.


Posted by:

Jim
16 Sep 2010

Bob, I like all of the HP printers that take the five 564 XL inks, The operating cost is reasonable; ease of use is outstanding; and the photo quality is second to none. The PhotoSmart Premium offers "Oh, wow!" prints at a very affordable price, and I've often seen it on sale for about $50 off list price.


Posted by:

Barry
09 Feb 2012

I have used a Canon PIXMA iP4300 for many years,both for prints up to letter size,with outstanding colour, tint-free B/W. and documents on plain paper.It is a machine dedicated to printing and I bought mine on the basis of magazine reviews.


Posted by:

Barry
09 Feb 2012

I have used a Canon PIXMA iP4300 for many years,both for prints up to letter size,with outstanding colour, tint-free B/W. and documents on plain paper.It is a machine dedicated to printing and I bought mine on the basis of magazine reviews.


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