You knew printer ink was a rip-off, but now it seems it's also a blatant scam!

Printer ink cartridge disassembled
(Image credit: Fstoppers)

If you're in the market for a new inkjet printer, those super-cheap entry level machines you see when ordering your options by 'price lowest' can be really tempting. But don't go thinking that means you're getting a good deal - quite the opposite. Just as a drug dealer might give you a cheap first 'sample' to get you hooked, then hikes the price for all future transactions, printer manufacturers adopt a similar business model. They can easily recoup any shortfall from the discounted sale of the printer by selling its ink cartridges at massively overinflated prices. You're then kept on the hook, paying these exorbitant ink fees for the lifetime of the printer - a very lucrative earner for the printer companies. I vaguely recall a statistic that printer ink - at least the stuff you get in those tiny ink cartridges - is the most expensive liquid in the world by millilitre.

(Image credit: Fstoppers)

Then just to ensure you don't try to take your repeat business elsewhere, original cartridges from the likes of Canon and Epson are also likely to have electronic chips on the cartridge body, coding them to the printer and thereby preventing you from using cheaper, third-party cartridges instead.

(Image credit: Fstoppers)

But in spite of all this, at least when you buy one of these rip-off cartridges, you're getting the amount of ink you pay so much for, right? Well now it appears even this might not be the case. In a very revealing exposé by Fstoppers, we see an ink cartridge being taken apart to see just how much ink is actually inside.

The first potential concern is the cartridge in question uses an opaque black plastic construction, hiding the ink (or lack there of) within. The advertised ink volume of this particular cartridge is 11.9 millilitres. That's already a disgustingly low amount given how much the cartridge likely costs, but when the casing is cracked open, not even a drop of ink falls out. Instead, we see the entire space inside filled by two pieces of foam, each only lightly and partially coated with ink. When squeezed, barely a drop is released from this foam.

(Image credit: Fstoppers)

And don't go thinking this was one of those 'sample' cartridges included with the printer, containing just enough ink to get the printer up and running. No, this was actually a high-capacity, 'XL' cartridge.

We knew printer ink was a rip-off, but now it appears it's also a blatant scam. So please, please, don't fall for the lure of a really cheap inkjet printer. Pay the extra up-front for an ink refill printer with refillable ink tanks, such as an Epson EcoTank 8550 or Canon MegaTank G650 machine. Sure, they're not cheap, but at least you're actually getting what you pay for. Alternatively, consider the best online photo printing services instead - that's the option I personally choose for my own photo printing.

Story credit: Fstoppers

Read more:

The best photo printer: desktop photo printers compared
The best photo printing online: top services from around the web
Best wireless printers
The best portable printers
The best all-in-one printer
Best 3D printers
Best budget printers

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Ben Andrews

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.