If you want to print high-quality photos at home or in the office rather than using an online lab, you need a dedicated photo printer. The number of printer makers in this market has shrunk to Epson and Canon, but these two still offer strong printer ranges in different sizes and for different budgets.
But what type of printer should you go for and how much do you need to spend? When you start getting into paper sizes, ink systems and pigment versus dye, it all starts to sound complicated. That's why we're here to help!
First, you have to think about what size photos you need. We cover the two main sizes here: A4 printers (8.5x11 inches in the USA) are on this page, and the best A3 photo printers are here.
For printing up to A4 in size (8.5x11 inches in the USA), most recent models follow Canon’s lead of combining a pigment-based black ink for crisp document printing, with four or more dye-based inks for premium photo output on glossy paper. Moving up to larger format A3+ printing (13x19 inches), there’s a choice of printers based exclusively on dye or pigment inks.
Very broadly, pigment inks last longer without fading, but dye inks tend to give richer, denser colours and sink deeper into the paper surface. They're both 'inks', but they have different pros and cons and printer makers will choose one or the other (or combine them) according to what the printer's designed for.
Ink cartridges are renowned as being expensive, but costs compare favourably with prints created by an online lab. All printers in our test use individually replaceable inks, so you only need to replace cartridges that have actually run dry. Combined prices for manufacturers’ own-brand inks and high-quality papers generally average out to around £1.20/$1.60 per A4 print, and up to £4/$5.30 for an A3+ print.
1. Canon PIXMA TS9150
This range-topping A4 PIXMA takes a different twist on six-ink printing
Max Print Size: A4 | Print resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 17 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 372 x 324 x 140 mm | Weight: 6.7kg
This printer leapfrogs the intermediate TS8150 in the new PIXMA range (TS8120 in the USA). Both printers have the same six-ink line-up, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, memory card slot and facility for printing on white-faced CDs and DVDs. However, this printer has a 5-inch touchscreen and adds Ethernet into the connectivity mix. Build quality is excellent throughout, with refinements that include an automatically-tilting front panel and extending output tray. Portraits have the same beautiful warm skin tones as from the TS6150, but inky blue skies sometimes look fractionally smoother. Overall print performance is outstanding.
2. Canon PIXMA TS6150
The latest in a long line of 5-ink Canon PIXMA printers, it sticks to the formula
Max Print Size: A4 | Print resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 35 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 372 x 315 x 139 mm | Weight: 6.2kg
Well connected, the printer has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and is fully compatible with Canon’s PIXMA Cloud-based printing and scanning facilities, along with a remote printing app that you can install on your smartphone or tablet. For standalone control, there’s a neat and intuitive 3in touchscreen. A welcome addition is the rear paper input tray that holds plain paper in the front-loading cassette, and up to 20 sheets of photo paper at the rear, at any size up to and including A4. Print quality is excellent for colour photos and pretty good for black-and-white images.
3. Epson Expression Photo XP-8500
It’s the most conventional A4 ‘photo printer’ in the group
Max Print Size: A4 | Print resolution: 5700 x 1400 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 15 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 394 x 340 x 142 mm | Weight: 6.7kg
Epson six-ink photo printers are renowned for their vibrant looking output, and the XP-8500 is no exception. Indeed, colour saturation and contrast can sometimes look too strident in ‘photo enhance’ modes. Ink costs about 12 times more than for the Epson EcoTank printer, although the XP-8500 is much less expensive to buy. Again, there’s a 2.7-inch colour LCD but this time it’s a touchscreen without the surrounding array of pushbutton controls. This makes standalone printing from memory cards and photocopying more intuitive, but the small touchscreen is a bit fiddly to use. Print speeds are very fast.
4. Epson EcoTank ET-7700
Comes supplied with nearly a pint of ink
Max Print Size: A4 | Print resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 42 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Ethernet, Wi-Fi | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 390 x 341 x 138 mm | Weight: 8kg
Epson’s new solution for ink cartridges comes in the shape of its ‘EcoTank’ printers, available in A4 and A3 formats. This A4 model is supplied with two high-capacity ink bottles, including a 140ml bottle of pigment black ink and 70ml bottles of cyan, magenta, yellow and black dye inks. That’s nearly a pint of ink, sufficient for up to 14,000 mono documents and 3,400 6x4-inch photos. Scanning, photocopying and printing from memory cards is based on a pushbutton interface with a 2.7-inch screen. Wi-Fi and Ethernet are built in, along with a USB 2.0 interface. Quality is good overall but, while colour rendition is quite accurate, tonal range appears a bit lacking.