With all the time and effort you invest in your photography, it makes sense to print the highest quality photos you can using a dedicated photo printer. The number of printer makers in this market has shrunk to just two, so Canon and Epson are the only companies that make the best photo printers right now.
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 – but if you've already spent significant time researching the best DSLR or best mirrorless camera, there's no point cutting corners at this stage. 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: the best regular letter-size printers and the best wide format 13-inch printers.
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 wider 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 colors 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. The best photo printer doesn't necessarily use one or the other – it's up to you how you want to balance immediate print quality against long-term stability.
Ink cartridges are renowned as being expensive, but costs compare favourably with prints created by an online lab. The best photo printers (including all those in our list) 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 letter-size (A4) print, and up to £4/$5.30 for a larger format 13-inch wide (A3+) print.
Best letter size/A4 photo printer
1. Canon PIXMA TS9120/9150
This range-topping 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 TS6120/6150
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 letter/A4 sizes. Print quality is excellent for color 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, color 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 color 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 color rendition is quite accurate, tonal range appears a bit lacking.
Best wide format 13-inch (A3+) photo printer
5. Canon PIXMA Pro-100/100S
Specialising in big glossy prints, it goes large in ink range as well as size
Max Print Size: A3+ | Print resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 33 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, BT | Scanner: No | Dimensions: 689 x 385 x 215 mm | Weight: 19.7kg
The Pro-100S uses dye rather than pigment inks, aiming for exceptionally smooth output on glossy paper. The Pro-100S is well suited to creating black & white photo prints as well as color output, with the inclusion of grey and light grey cartridges. These are in addition to the usual six inks of conventional photo printers, bringing the total count to eight inks. Build quality feels ‘professional’, with a very sturdy chassis and high-grade components. Connectivity is good, with built-in USB 2.0, Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Color accuracy is similarly impressive and print speeds are super-quick. Overall, the Pro-100S is a great performer.
6. Canon PIXMA Pro-10/10S
The same but different, the Pro-10S printer has pigment inks aplenty
Max Print Size: A3+ | Print resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 1 minute 13 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, BT | Scanner: No | Dimensions: 689 x 385 x 215 mm | Weight: 20kg
The PIXMA Pro-10S uses ten pigment inks rather than dye-based ink. One of the cartridges is a ‘Chroma Optimizer’, which provides a smooth finish on glossy paper. Of the other nine, you get the standard six colors for photo printing, plus red and grey inks, and both ‘photo’ black and matte black, for printing on glossy and matte media respectively. There are individual channels in the print head for both photo and matte black inks saving time and ink when swapping between media types. Excellent output quality combines superb accuracy for color prints and fabulous definition for black & white photo prints, without any unwanted color casts.
7. Epson Expression Photo XP-960
It’s not quite the full nine yards, but it comes pretty close
Print resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 26 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, BT | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 479 x 356 x 148 mm | Weight: 8.7kg
Compared with the other wider-format printers on test, the XP-960 is much more compact and lightweight. The catch is that it has a maximum print size of 11.69x16.54 inches (A3) rather than 13x19 inches (A3+ ). On the plus side, the XP-760 packs a lot into its small frame, including an A4 flatbed scanner, memory card slots, a 4.3-inch color touchscreen, dual internal paper cassettes, a rear paper feeder and direct printing for CDs/DVDs. It’s much more like an upscale A4 multi-function printer than the other large-format models on test. It can’t compete with the A3+ printers on test for black-and-white photo fidelity, but color print speeds are rapid.
8. Epson SureColor P600
Roll your own photo prints with Epson’s range-topping 13-inch printer
Max Print Size: A3+ (plus panoramic) | Print resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 1minute 04 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, BT | Scanner: No | Dimensions: 616 x 369 x 228 mm | Weight: 15kg
A plus point of the P600 is that it comes complete with a roll feeder, something that’s not even available as an optional extra with the Canon 13-inch (A3+) printers. It enables you to buy photo paper in rolls and create prints with aspect ratios that exactly match your requirements, even stretching to panoramic prints. The printer incorporates a 2.7-inch touchscreen, again absent in the Canon A3+ printers. High-capacity cartridges are a good match for large-format printing, containing nearly three times as much ink as for the XP-960, and about twice as much as for the Canon A3+ printers. Color accuracy is excellent and black & white prints on matte media look magnificent.
9. Epson EcoTank ET-7750
Continuous ink solution is moneysaver for those who print a lot
Max Print Size: A3 | Print resolution: 5,760 x 1,440 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 20 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Ethernet, Wi-Fi | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 526 x 415 x 168 mm | Weight: 10.5kg
Epson promises excellent savings in return for the investment involved in getting the EcoTank ET-7750. With enough ink included to print you up to 3,400 photos and ink-efficient duplex printing, it’s easy to see how this will pay off over time.
The ET-7750 is Epson’s top-of-the-range multi-format printer. But it’s main selling point has to be the ink bottles included. In the box you will get two of each of the five-color system inks. This includes your dye CMYK inks, and a photo-specific pigment black for exceptional image depth.
The tanks are at the front of the machine so you can physically see how much ink is left, rather than relying on sensors. It is satisfying to see how much ink you are using and therefore saving. Each bottle has a key nozzle to avoid accidentally filling up the wrong tank and mixing your inks, plus a valve to stop the flow automatically and prevent overfilling.
The 6.8-inch display is not a touchscreen, and so navigation is done through the buttons next to the screen. This is no real problem, as the readability is fine, and the panel tilts forward for easier reading. It’s just when it comes to typing in a wi-fi password that it becomes pretty irritating. To access the paper trays, you have to tilt up the front display panel.
Here, you will find two paper trays and one printable CD/DVD tray. The rear feed tray is for A3 and speciality media. It is worth noting that it cannot print A3 glossy photos, but is meant for colour tabloids or poster etc. For all this functionality, it is heftier in build than some of the other models. The bulk of the machine is solid, but the various paper trays feel very flimsy and breakable.