Skip to main content

The best photo printer in 2021: top A4 and A3 desktop printers for photography

Best photo printers

If you're looking for the best photo printer, then you'll be choosing between two companies: Canon and Epson. While there are other manufacturers that produce portable printers, instant printers or large format printers, Canon and Epson have truly cornered the market for photographers looking to create top-quality enlargements. 

However, this doesn't mean that you have limited choices when it comes to finding the best photo printer for you. Canon and Epson both have a wide range of printers with different ink technologies, price points and print sizes. 

When it comes to deciding what kind of printer is best for you, it's best to think about two key factors: what kind of size photos will you want to print and what sort of ink will you want to use? You can scroll to the bottom of the page to discover some helpful tips to help you choose the best photo printer for you.

We've covered the two main printing sizes in this best photo printer guide, including regular A4 and 13" A3 and A3+ printers. While A4 printers tend to be affordable – and super helpful for day-to-day printing chores, not just printing photos – if you want to regularly print out high quality prints, we'd recommend investing in a larger A3+ format printer.

One of the things that can put people off buying one of the best photo printers is the cost of ink cartridges, which renowned for their expense. However, investing in a printer is actually pretty cost-effective when compared to one of the best photo printing services. All of the printers on our list use individually replaceable inks, so you only need to replace cartridges that have run dry.

The best photo printers 2021

Best A4 photo printer

Recommended

(Image credit: Canon)

1. Canon PIXMA TS6350

This Canon workhorse is an excellent dual-purpose choice for photo and document printing

Max Print Size: A4/8.5 x 11in | Print resolution: 4800 x 1200 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 19 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 376 x 359 x 141mm | Weight: 6.3kg

Fast print speeds
Standard, XL and XXL cartridge options
Relatively limited ‘photo’ ink range
No memory card slot

Typical of Canon 5-ink printers over the years, this one runs on a pigment-based black cartridge for rich, solid text in document printing, along with dye-based cyan, magenta, yellow and black inks for photo output. Better still, you can keep plain paper for document printing in the internal cassette, and load sheets of variously sized photo paper into the upright rear feeder, as and when you want to create photo prints. The four dye-based inks for photo printing naturally have a smaller gamut (or color space) than in Epson’s competing photo printers that use six dye-based inks but, even so, the Canon’s color rendition looks very lifelike and natural for everything from portrait skin tones to vibrant landscapes. The motorized output tray adds a touch of automation and the onboard controls are simple and intuitive, based around an OLED screen. As usual with document/photo printers, there’s a built-in scanner, ideal for creating photocopies, but this model lacks a memory card slot for direct photo printing, although it does have built-in Bluetooth. This printer is also available in white (rather than the standard black) as the Canon Pixma TS6351.

(Image credit: Future)

2. Canon PIXMA 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

Auto-tilt 5-inch touchscreen
Excellent build quality
Outstanding print performance
Ethernet connectivity
Out of stock in many places

This printer leapfrogs the intermediate TS8150 in the current PIXMA range. 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, the TS9150 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 TS6350, but inky blue skies sometimes look fractionally smoother. Overall print performance is outstanding.

(Image credit: Future)

3. Epson Expression Photo XP-8600

It’s the most conventional A4 ‘photo printer’ in the group

Max Print Size: A4/letter | Print resolution: 5700 x 1400 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 10 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi | Scanner: Yes | Dimensions: 394 x 340 x 142 mm | Weight: 6.7kg

Fast, high-quality photo output
Full line-up of six individual inks
Compact and clever
‘Photo paper’ tray has limited size
Auto corrections can be too vivid

If you want an A4/8.5x11-inch printer that puts the emphasis on photo quality rather than document output, the Epson XP-8600 is an excellent choice. It has a tailor-made color range that does justice to images produced by high-end cameras. It’s compact, has clever motorized photo paper input and photo/document output trays, smart connectivity options and is good value for both purchase price and running costs. And despite being so photo-friendly, mono and color documents look pretty good too. This does appear to be a very minor update to the older XP-8500, however. If you’d prefer a step up in size, take a look at the similarly new Epson Expression Photo XP-970 A3 printer instead.

Read more: Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 review

(Image credit: Epson)

4. Epson EcoTank ET-7700

Great for long-term value, this 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

Accurate color rendition
Good range of connectivity
Pedestrian photo print speeds
Highlights/lowlights could be better

Epson’s new solution for ink cartridges comes in the shape of its ‘EcoTank’ printers, available in A4/letter and A3/13-inch 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, the tonal range appears a bit lacking.

Best A3+ photo printer

(Image credit: Canon)

5. Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300

The best A3 photo printer overall

Max Print Size: 13x19 inch / A3+ | Print resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi | Print speed (13x19 inch; std quality): 6m 30s | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, BT | Scanner: No | Dimensions: 25.2 x 15.0 x 7.9in / 639x379x200mm | Weight: 14.4kg

Superb output quality
Printer uses 10 pigment inks
Front or rear feed
Not the fastest printer

The Canon PRO-300 is the successor to the highly-regarded PRO-10 and again its distinguishing feature is that it 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 newly-formulated Lucia Pro inks, 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.

(Image credit: Canon)

6. Canon PIXMA PRO-200

Canon’s new and much improved dye-based A3+ printer

Max Print Size: 13x19 inch / A3+ | Print resolution: 4800 x 2400 dpi | Print speed (6x4; std quality): 33 seconds | Interfaces: USB 2.0, Wi-Fi, Ethernet | Scanner: No | Dimensions: 25.2 x 15.0 x 7.9in / 639x379x200mm | Weight: 14.4kg

Superb output quality
Printer uses 10 pigment inks
Front or rear feed
Not the fastest printer

The replacement to Canon’s popular PRO-100 and 100S dye-based A3+/13x19-inch printers, the revamped PRO-200 has a revised range of Chroma Life 100+ inks that deliver richer deep colors and blacks. There’s also better gamut matching between what you see on-screen and what you get in print. The uprated paper transport mechanism features auto skew correction and automatically retracting side paper guides, enabling greater precision. An upside of this is that borderless printing is now available for matte and fine art media, instead of just for glossy paper (as with the imagePROGRAF PRO-300 and PRO-1000 models). The built-in color screen makes for more intuitive operation and again, as with the pigment-based PRO-300, you can create panoramic prints of up to 990cm in length. Color output on glossy paper is simply spectacular, easing ahead of Epson’s larger-format 6-ink photo printers, and the Canon also delivers very convincing output for both color and mono photo prints on matte and fine art media. Even so, the PRO-300 has the edge for printing on matte and fine art media, with its more robust pigment-based inks and additional matte black ink cartridge.

(Image credit: Epson)

7. Epson SureColor P700

Roll your own photo prints with Epson’s range-topping 13-inch printer

Max Print Size: 13x19 inch (plus panoramic) | Print resolution: 5760 x 1440 dpi | Print speed (8.5 x 11"; std quality): 1 min 29 sec | Interfaces: USB 3.0, Wi-Fi, BT | Scanner: No | Dimensions: 20.3 x 7.3 x 14.5in / 616 x 369 x 228 mm | Weight: 35.3lb / 15kg

Excellent color accuracy
High capacity cartridges
Paper roll feeder

A plus point of the new P700 is that it comes complete with a roll feeder, something that’s not even available as an optional extra with the Canon 13-inch 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 4.3-inch touchscreen, again absent in the Canon 13-inch large-format 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 13-inch printers. Color accuracy is excellent and black & white prints on matte media look magnificent.

8. Epson Expression Photo XP-970

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

Vibrant A3 glossy photo output
Individually replaceable ink cartridges
Built-in scanner
Even ‘XL’ ink cartridges lack capacity
Lacks color range of most rivals
Maximum output size smaller than A3+

There’s a lot to love about this new Epson printer, although it’s incredibly similar to the previous XP-960 model. It works very well as a standalone printer and photocopier, with intuitive touchscreen controls. Going large to A3/wide format printing makes your photos look much more imposing, and print quality itself is very good. Even so, for glossy color and black & white photo output, the XP-970 loses out to the more specialist Canon PIXMA Pro-100S A3+ printer. The Epson is smaller, lighter and less expensive to buy, but has dearer ink costs. 

Read more: Epson Expression Photo XP-970 review

(Image credit: Epson)

8. 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

High-quality print results
Extremely high ink capacity
Cost saving for bulk printing
High initial outlay
Paper trays are flimsy

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. 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, the gamble is that this will pay off over time. 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. The Epson feels solid in itself, but the various paper trays feel somewhat flimsy and breakable.

Pigment vs dye inks for photo printers

For letter size printing up to 8.5x11 inches, 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 13x19 inch printing, 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 costs

Ink cartridges are renowned as being expensive, but the costs actually compare favorably 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 $1.60 per Letter-size print, and up to $5.30 for a larger format 13-inch wide print.

Epson has introduced its 'EcoTank' system where you get a much larger ink supply when you buy the printer, but we're not convinced this makes better economic sense since you have to pay much more up front.

Read more:

The best portable printers
The best large-format printers
The best all-in-one printers
The best wireless printer
Budget inks for printers - the pros and cons
The best online photo printing services
Best 3D printers