Best Photo Printers – Tips on Buying the Perfect Photo Printer
I bought my first ever photo printer in 2003 (it was a Canon inkjet), back then photo printers weren’t as sophisticated as they are now. I still remember how bulky and clumsy they were! In this day and age, there are a huge variety of photo printers on the market ranging from ultra portable photo printers to the gorgeous large format photo printers. I can only imagine how daunting it might be to pick not only the best photo printer, but one that actually provides what you want and need.
And that’s where I may be able to help. I’ve personally written many photo printer reviews along with a photo printer guide to help you learn how to choose the right photo printer and get the most out of it.
If you want to see my personal recommendations of the best photo printers, check out the following options below:
1. Best Large Format Photo Printers. These photo printers have a great deal of features and are primarily designed to print larger photo sizes ranging from 13″ x 19″ to 60 inches and above. They are larger than portable photo printers and are designed with very sophisticated, high quality ink technology. Photos produced can be framed and put on walls or used in professional business-related situations. Click here to see my list of recommended large format photo printers.
2. Best Portable Photo Printers. These are ultra-compact photo printers that can be easily carried outdoors. They can usually only print 4″ x 6″ size photos and can print without being connected to your computer. They are great for producing photos on-the-go and are great for scrap booking and other lifestyle uses. They are also fantastic personal gifts. Click here to see my list of recommended portable photo printers.
On this very page you’ll find my buyer’s guide, which gives you a broad overview of photo printers, along with with some tips on what factors to look out for when you’re looking at various printers. This will help you to make a more informed buying decision and is important because the really good photo printers can be quite costly.
Types of Photo Printers Available
There are two types of photo-printers currently in the market. The first type is an Inkjet photo printer and the second type is dye-sublimation (or dye sub for short) photo printer. Inkjet printers is the choice for people who want quantity instead of quality and inkjet printers are often all-in-one or multi-purpose printers that can not only print photos but documents as well
Inkjet printers use a procedure called dithering where different sized dots of a single colored ink are printed one layer over another to fool the eye is fooled to believe that there are more colors than there actually is. The printing head goes back and forth the medium (a sheet of paper) as it distributes the ink.
On the other hand, Dye Sub printers uses continuous tone technology – a strip of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key tones) ribbon is heated within its thermal head, to form a sublimated ink gas to be transferred onto the printing media. In the past, it can be said that Inkjet printing’s resolution and photo quality tend to be poorer than Dye Sub printing technology, but today’s advanced Inkjets are comparable and can be said to even surpass the better of dye-sub printers. This is due to the introduction of smaller, microscopic particles of ink distribution and a wider array of secondary colors that mimic real-life colors more vividly then before.
Dye Sub printers also have their own selling points. The thermal head for Dye Sub printers do not move the way that Inkjet printing heads does, so there is less chance of mechanical damage. Dye Sub printing technology is also more reliable as the ink does not liquidate like Inkjet printing inks do, thus photos come out clean and dry. There is also a lesser chance of inking problems like bleeds and clogging. However, dye sub printers do not have the flexibility and range of Inkjet printers when it comes to printing media.
The ink transfer process for Dye-Sub printers require specialty papers (photo/ gloss coated paper) whereas Inkjet printers are able to print on just any paper. Dye Sub printers are also limited by the size of their thermal head. The media to be printed on has to be the same length and width of the thermal head in order for image to be transferred. In terms of quality, Dye Sub printing can also be less sharp compared Inkjet printing. Dye Sub printing technology uses sublimated gas which is diffused onto the sheet of paper. Due to this, the results can be a bit blurry, which is fine for real-life photographs but not optimal for business oriented projects such as graphic or architectural design.
It is advisable to go with an Inkjet printer if your intention is to print documents, text and an occasionally a photograph or two as Inkjet printers can process text and small details clearer, with the additional advantage of being able to use most types of paper. If you’re only interested in printing photos and nothing else, go with a Sub-Dye photo printer for the best value-for-money results.
How to Choose the Best Photo PrintersThere are a great number of photo printers available on the market and many of them have different features, specifications and sizes. It can be a challenge to find the best photo printer to meet all your photo printing needs but here are some useful tips that will help to narrow down your choices and pick the most suitable photo printer.
- What are your photo printing needs? It is important for you to first examine your photo printing requirements. If you plan to print photo images exclusively and want the highest quality possible, then you need to consider buying a dedicated photo printer. On the other hand, if you are only printing pictures occasionally or don’t need pictures of exceptional quality, you should look for a multi-purpose printer that can handle a wide range of documents other than just photos.
- What kind of photos do you want to print? The type of photos you print matters as well. Black and white photos look better when printed by inkjet printers and are capable of finer detail but dye-sublimation printers produce pixel-free photos with better color saturation. A dye-sublimation printer also uses thermal dye which doesn’t dry up. This is useful when you do not print photos for long periods of times.
- Is the photo printer compatible with your hardware? The photo printer you choose should work well with your computer’s operating system or camera. If you want to print photos without a computer, make sure that the photo printer you pick can be connected directly to your camera or accepts your camera’s memory cards. Certain photo printers are Pict-Bridge ready, this means they can print photos just by being connected to a camera. For ease of use, you may want to get the same photo printer as your camera. For instance, if you own a Canon camera, it is advisable to get a Canon photo printer.
- Consider the price and costs involved. When making your final decision, it is essential that you take into account your budget. How much are you willing to spend to get a photo printer? What features are you willing to sacrifice and what features are absolutely essential? How much does the photo printer paper and ink cost? Remember, there may always be auxiliary costs involved when choosing a printer. In this way, you can be able narrow down your options to the top printers that fall within your budget range.
- Where will you be using your photo printer? If you’re looking to print photos while you’re traveling or outdoors, you should get a portable photo printer that operates via memory cards or a direct connection to your camera. Not all photo printers don’t offer on-the-go connectivity and you should take that into account. This is especially the case when it comes to the size of the printer. Some ultra-portable photo printers are easily be carried in a bag along with your camera and made for traveling. Other photo printers are much larger and less easy to carry around.
- Photo print size and resolution matters. Some other factors to consider when choosing the right photo printer include photo print quality, photo resolution and photo size. For instance, many photo printers only print smaller size pictures that are 4 by 6 inch. If you want to print large sized photos, you should go for a large or wide format photo printer. In general, it is recommended to purchase photo printers from established brands that are known for their build quality, warranties and excellent customer service.
- Print Durability and longevity. Therma-dye printers can produce photos that are coated to prevent fading by VD light and smudges. Quality inkjet printers will also produce photos that do not smudge when touched with water. Some photo printer manufacturers like Epson, who produces the PictureMate printers, claim that their inks have a lifespan of 200 years when photos are kept in archival conditions.
These are just some of the factors you should consider when choosing a photo printer. To sum up, you should see your photo printer as a long-term investment. A high quality photo printer can last for years so you don’t have to worry too much about the price. What matters is the printer’s reputation, features and capabilities.
Where to Buy the Best Photo Printers?
Photo printers can be found in big stores like Best Buy and Circuit City although you should probably call to check if they actually sell the model first. Because photo printers have so many features and you may have very specific requirements, I highly recommend that you do your research before hand by reading photo printer reviews online.
Look for authentic customer reviews because they provide a good deal of vital first-hand information you will not be able to obtain just by looking at the photo printer’s specifications alone. Amazon.com is a great place to start if you’re looking for first-hand customer comments on photo printers.
One more point to keep in mind, I’ve noticed that Amazon often has fantastic discounts for photo printers and their prices are cheaper than the local retail stores. Keep in mind, not all photo printers have discounts. But a good number of the best photo printers on the market are known to have discounted prices on Amazon. Sometimes, shipping is free as well.
If you want to avoid the inconvenience of having to drive to the store and deal with over-zealous sales-people who want to sell you more stuff, I highly recommend that you buy your photo printer online. It’s fast, hassle-free and the prices are the same, if not lower.
The best photo printers are produced by well known brands such as Canon, Epson, Sony, Polaroid and Hewlett-Packard. You can’t go wrong with buying any photo printer from them. My personal preference is for Canon photo printers although brands like Sony and Epson have produced some really superb specialty photo printers as well.
All in all, there are many different types of photo printers available on the market and choosing them can be rather tiresome. But fear not, I’ve personally owned and tested many of the best photo printers available in the market and am an expert on their features. I’ve written quite a few photo printer reviews which you may want to check out after reading this buyer’s guide.
Thanks for your time and I do hope that you’ll find the best photo printer for your needs. Feel free to recommend this website to friends or anyone who is interested in buying photo printers.