Go large with your photo printing, right on your own desktop. We test six leading models to find the best A3 and A3+ printers for photographers.
Regular A4 photo printers are compact and convenient but, if you want a picture to frame and hang on the wall, the maximum size of their output leaves a lot to be desired.
By upgrading to an A3+ printer you can generate photo prints of up to 19×13 inches in size. A large print has much more wow factor, while you still have full control over the printing process and retain the relative immediacy of creating prints on your own desktop, without having to upload images and wait for photo prints to be delivered in the post.
Designs differ when it comes to large-format printers. Some use dye-based inks, which typically give the smoothest output on glossy paper.
Pigment-based inks are more robust and a better choice for matte media. Another consideration is whether you only want to make colour prints or if you’re also keen on top quality black-and-white photo output.
Best A3+ printer for photographers: 01 Epson Stylus Photo 1500W
Price: £220, $350
Like the newer XP-950, this printer features six dye-based inks: CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta.
Without any grey inks, it’s a poor choice for black-and-white photo printing, and best suited to glossy colour output.
The ink tanks have a capacity of 11ml, which is on the low side for large-format printing.
At least the 1500W can generate full A3+ sized prints, unlike the XP-950, taking about 11 and a half minutes in top quality mode.
There’s nothing to choose in print quality between the two, both being particularly vivid when printing landscape shots, although the 1500W is slower.
Pros: Vibrant colour rendition is suited to landscape shots.
Cons: Only six inks with no additional grey cartridges.
We say: Cheaper than the Canon Pro-100 but slower.
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Best A3+ printer for photographers: 02 Epson Expression Photo XP-950
Price: £260, $280
Epson’s newest large-format printer, this one doesn’t go quite as large as most.
The maximum print size is A3 rather than A3+, which equates to 16.5×11.7 inches instead of 19×13 inches.
A full-size, top-quality print takes just under six minutes. Unlike every other printer on test, this has card readers, a touchscreen display and an A4 scanner in the lid.
However, even the ‘XL’ cartridges have a capacity of just 10ml, and the dye-based ink range has only CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta.
Colour output is vibrant but black-and-white photo output is relatively lacklustre.
Pros: ‘All-in-one’ printer, relatively compact and light.
Cons: Maximum A3 paper size, low ink capacity, poor for B&W.
We say: A decent multi-function printer for A3 colour output.
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Best A3+ printer for photographers: 03 Canon PIXMA Pro-100
Price: £400, $450
Running on eight dye-based inks, the Pro-100 adds grey and light grey inks to the usual mix of CMYK plus light cyan and light magenta, which improves accuracy when printing mono images. Cartridge capacity is 13ml.
There’s a slight warmth in the balance of colour photo printing, which can be flattering for skin tones.
The printer outputs top quality A3+ borderless prints in under four and a half minutes, making it the fastest in the group.
It reigns supreme for smooth results on glossy paper but prints on matte media lack the robustness of those made on pigment-based printers.
Pros: Fast; gives sumptuous results on glossy photo paper.
Cons: Dye-based inks are never best for matte photo media.
We say: Top choice if you’re only interested in glossy prints.
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Best A3+ printer for photographers: 04 Canon PIXMA Pro-10
Price: £500, $700
A scaled-down version of the Pro-1, this printer is slightly smaller and noticeably lighter in weight at 20kg.
It uses nine rather than 11 pigment-based inks, in 14ml cartridges, plus the same type of chroma optimiser.
It features photo and matte black inks and just a single grey. Mono photo prints still look very good and are generally free of unwanted colour casts, but can lack the contrast of those from the Pro-1.
For colour printing, there’s practically no different in quality between the two printers, while A3+ borderless printing is slightly slower at 11 and a half minutes in top quality mode.
Pros: Colour prints look as good as from the Pro-1.
Cons: Black-and-white photo output isn’t as convincing.
We say: A very good buy, if you’re not mad about mono.
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Best A3+ printer for photographers: 05 Epson Stylus Photo R3000
Price: £530, $760
The R3000 includes a roll feeder for large-format panoramic printing, giving you the ability to supersize images.
The nine pigment-based inks (26ml cartridges) include photo black, matte black and two greys, for good-quality mono and colour prints.
However, the photo black and matte black inks share a channel in the print head, which needs to be purged when you swap between glossy and matte media, wasting ink and time.
An A3+ print takes just under 11 minutes in top quality mode and, despite lacking a gloss optimiser cartridge, output looks smooth on glossy paper.
Pros: Excellent quality; has a panoramic roll sheet feeder.
Cons: Lacks separate black channels in the print head.
We say: A great printer, but the Canon Pro-1 has the edge.
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Best A3+ printer for photographers: 06 Canon PIXMA Pro-1
Price: £645, $990
With its premium build quality, the Pro-1 is aimed squarely at pros who demand top-quality monochrome as well as colour prints, on everything from glossy or matte photo paper to fine art media.
It uses 11 pigment-based inks plus a ‘chroma optimiser’ to enhance the smoothness of the finish.
Extra-large 36ml ink tanks help to reduce running costs.
At the best quality setting, an A3+ borderless print takes about nine and a half minutes, and results are spectacular for both colour and mono, the latter helped by the provision of both matte and ‘photo’ black inks, plus three greys.
Pros: Stunning print quality on all sorts of media.
Cons: The only printer on test without Wi-Fi connectivity.
We say: The best photo printer for quality and versatility.
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