Help Me Buy a… Photo printer

Want to make your own high-qual­ity photo prints? Here’s our guide to photo print­ers and what you need to know

Digital Camera World - - CONTENTS -

Look here for high-qual­ity home print­ing

If you want to print off dozens of photo-sized prints from your last hol­i­day, you’re prob­a­bly go­ing to take your mem­ory card down to a high-street photo lab or get them done online: it’s both cheap and sim­ple.

But what if you want your prints straight away? What if you want a print to fit a favourite photo frame, or hang your best work on your wall? What if you’ve got your sights set on winning your cam­era club’s next photo com­pe­ti­tion?

This is where you need your own desk­top printer. Not only is it more im­me­di­ate than or­der­ing en­large­ments online, it also gives you com­plete con­trol over the print size, print set­tings and pic­ture qual­ity.

But mod­ern printer tech­nolo­gies can be con­fus­ing, with dif­fer­ent printer sizes, ink tech­nolo­gies and even dif­fer­ent num­bers of inks – so here’s our guide to choos­ing the per­fect photo printer for your needs.

1 It’s a two-horse race

The boom in online print­ing ser­vices has slimmed down the photo printer mar­ket some­what: these days it’s pretty much a two-way bat­tle be­tween Ep­son and Canon. Both pro­duce photo print­ers across a range of prices and needs, in­clud­ing high-end print­ers for the most de­mand­ing needs.

2 Printer or multi-func­tion?

When you’re choos­ing a printer for your home, it’s tempt­ing to pick one that can do sev­eral dif­fer­ent jobs. A multi-func­tion de­vice (MFD) will be very good at print­ing crisp, clean doc­u­ments and will have a scan­ner for mak­ing copies. They may also be pretty good at print­ing pho­tos – but they won’t have quite the same depth or fidelity as those from a ded­i­cated photo printer.

3 Size mat­ters

Get a printer ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing the big­gest print sizes you’re likely to need. An A4 printer can only pro­duce A4 prints (ob­vi­ously), but these don’t look very big when framed and hung on a wall. You’re bet­ter off with an A3 printer or, bet­ter still, an A3+ printer.

4 Dye vs pig­ment

Dye-based inks are ab­sorbed into the pa­per and give richer, deeper colours and a smoother fin­ish, but may fade more quickly than pig­ment inks, though this can still take many years. Pig­ment ink mol­e­cules tend to sit on the pa­per rather than be­ing ab­sorbed into it, so prints can some­times look a lit­tle flat­ter, but should re­sist fad­ing for longer.

5 How many inks?

Cyan, ma­genta, yel­low and black are the four ba­sic colours used by print­ers. This can re­strict the range of colours pro­duced, so nowa­days photo print­ers have six inks, in­clud­ing ex­tra ‘light cyan’ and ‘light ma­genta’ inks. The top print­ers may have even more.

6 Black-and-white print­ing

You can’t get truly neu­tral black-and-white prints with reg­u­lar colour inks – there’s al­ways a colour cast. If you want to pro­duce rich, dense, neu­tral mono prints, you need a photo printer with ded­i­cated ‘grey’ inks.

7 Own-brand prod­ucts

Own-brand inks and pa­pers cost more than third-party al­ter­na­tives, but de­liver more qual­ity and con­sis­tency. Third-party inks may also re­quire more head-clean­ing.

Third-party pa­pers are a dif­fer­ent story if you are in­vest­ing in premium or art pa­pers, how­ever. These can pro­duce a fin­ish and feel you don’t get from the printer maker’s own pa­pers, al­though you may need to use a ded­i­cated printer pro­file to get ac­cu­rate colours.

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