Our top picks:
1: Best for most users Canon TS6350
2: Best for quality Canon TS8350
3: Best refillable Canon G620
4: Most compact Epson XP-8600
Large-format A3+ printers
5: Best quality Canon PRO-300
6: Best dye-ink Canon PRO-200
7: Best for panoramas Epson P700
8: Best A3+ refillable Epson ET-8550
9: Cheap A3 printer Epson XP-970
The title of best photo printer is essentially a dogfight between two names: Canon and Epson. While there are other printer manufacturers, these two are the only game in town when it comes to desktop printers for quality photos. If you're looking to frame, mount or display your images, this is where you want to be.
Key factors to consider are the size of the photos you want to print, and the type of ink you want to use. Scroll to the bottom of this page for our top tips on how to choose a photo printer.
We've divided this guide into two sections. First, we run through regular A4 printers, and then we look at larger A3+ (13-inch) printers.
The thing about printers is that it isn't just the initial cost. Ink refills are infamous for being eye-wateringly expensive. However, if you are planning on doing a lot of printing, it is still more cost-efficient than using even 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. Also, both Canon and Epson have introduced printers that run on bottles rather than cartridges, which is both more efficient and less wasteful.
The best photo printers in 2023
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Best photo printer: our top picks
Best for most users
Typical of Canon 5-ink printers, 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.
Read more below
Best for quality
A step up from Canon’s 5-ink printers, this model goes one better with six separate ink cartridges. Along with the usual mix of pigment-based black and dye-based CMYK, it features an additional ‘photo blue’ ink for more vivid photo output with even smoother graduations. For our money, it’s the best letter-sized photo printer on the market, but it’s equally adept at document printing.
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If you're sick of the time, inconvenience, and considerable expense of having to replace your printer's ink cartridges, then Canon might just have a solution with its latest Pixma Megatank printer. It's a cartridge-free printer, which uses refillable bottles for its ink, and unlike other models, actually comes with a full set of 60ml ink supplies.
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Epson calls this its small-in-one printer, and it is one of the slimmer multi-function printers available. What's more thanks to its six-ink set-up, this produces great-looking photo prints too – and produces them quicker than some of its competitors.
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Best large format
If you want large-format prints, the Canon Pro-300 is the best you can buy for outright photo quality. It produces 13x19in borderless prints using ten pigment inks, that help it excel whether printing color or black & white, or on matte or gloss paper.
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Best A4 photo printers
Best photo printer for most users
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, we love that 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 we didn't like 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.
Read our full Canon PIXMA TS6350 reviewfor more details
Best photo printer for quality
A step up from Canon’s 5-ink printers, this model goes one better with six separate ink cartridges. Along with the usual mix of pigment-based black and dye-based CMYK, it features an additional ‘photo blue’ ink which we find produces more vivid photo output with even smoother graduations.
For our money, it’s the best letter-sized photo printer on the market, but it’s equally adept at document printing. Key features include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, a memory card slot, and a facility for printing on white-faced CDs and DVDs.
Mono and color print speeds are fast and there’s an auto duplex facility. A motorized tilting front panel and output tray add refinement, along with auto paper width detection, which can save setup time when using different types of paper.
Dual input paths include an internal cassette and rear feeder. You can control the printer from a smartphone or tablet, complete with print, copy and scan functions and linking to the cloud via the Canon PRINT app, or print with AirPrint and Mopria.
As an all-rounder, this Canon PIXMA delivered outstanding print quality in everything from mono and color documents in our extensive tests - from creative projects on arty media, to vibrant glossy color photos. It’s a bit more expensive to buy and to run than the TS6350 and, while the enhancement offered by the extra photo blue ink can be very hard to spot in most photo prints, the large color touchscreen, SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card slot, higher-resolution scanner and CD/DVD/Blu-ray print tray will make it more appealing to many prospective buyers.
Read our full Canon PIXMA TS8320 review for more details
Best refillable photo printer
If you're sick of the time, inconvenience, and considerable expense of having to replace your printer's ink cartridges, then Canon might just have a solution with its latest Pixma Megatank printer.
It's a cartridge-free printer, which uses refillable bottles for its ink, and unlike other models, actually comes with a full set of 60ml ink supplies. Refills are also cheaper than XXL cartridges, meaning the printer represents a long-term saving.
Of course, all this wouldn't mean much if the prints didn't look any good. Fortunately, the Canon PIXMA G650 MegaTank (G620 in the US) puts out images of great quality, with good color rendition and tonal range.
It makes the most of its six-ink setup, and can put out high volumes of prints: a full tank load can produce up to 3,800 6x4-inch photos, 3,700 mono documents, or 8,000 color documents. It's not the fastest printer we have tested, but it is extremely efficient.
Read our full Canon PIXMA G650 MegaTank review for more details
Best compact-sized photo printer
If you want an A4/8.5x11-inch printer that puts the emphasis on photo quality rather than document output, we think 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 in our tests.
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 our full Epson Expression Photo XP-8600 reviewfor more details
Best A3+ photo printer
Best large-format photo printer for quality
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 colours 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 colour prints and fabulous definition for black & white photo prints, without any unwanted colour casts.
Read our full Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-300 review for more details
Best dye-ink large-format printer
The replacement for 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 colours 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 colour 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. Colour 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 colour 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.
Read our full Canon PIXMA PRO-200 review for more details
Best photo printer for panoramas
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 printer. Color accuracy is excellent and black & white prints on matte media look magnificent.
Read our full Epson SureColor SC-P700 review for more details
Best refillable 13in photo printer
If you want to print both photos and documents regularly, it can be a pain to find a solution. Printing documents on a photo printer is expensive and inefficient, while photos will look bad coming out of a document printer.
And buying two is quite an outlay of cash. So what's the answer? Well, Epson reckons it's their EcoTank ET-8550, a do-it-all printer with a five-ink setup designed to cover the spread and do everything well.
Its ink is tank-based rather than cartridges, making the ET-8550 less costly and wasteful to refill than other printers. Photo quality is very good, with bold and punchy colors, which can be fine-tuned using custom color-management settings. You can also load different papers in separate paper cassettes, and switch seamlessly from photos to documents and back.
Read our full Epson EcoTank ET-8550 review for more details
Best cheap large-format photo printer
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 the 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 our full Epson Expression Photo XP-970 review for more details
How to choose a photo printer
Pigment vs dye inks: which is best for printing photos?
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.
What is the cost of printing your own photos?
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 upfront.
How we test printers
Printers come in many shapes and sizes, from pocket photo printers to large-format professional models. We check the suitability for wide-ranging tasks from printing office documents to high-end photographic output and, consequently, the type and quantity of dye/pigment inks. Additional features can include a built-in scanner, a standalone control panel, a touchscreen interface, Wi-Fi connectivity, direct fax functions, and a card reader slot.
Our test procedure begins with installing the latest software drivers and running nozzle check and print head alignment routines. We then create test prints from mono documents, mixed text and graphics color documents, and a wide range of digital photos that include landscapes, portraits, and black & white images.
We use the various available quality modes, including optional image enhancement features. We also create prints from our own specially created test chart, to test the printer's accuracy in terms of color reproduction, tonal range, retention of detail in bright highlights and dark shadows, and the ability to deliver smooth gradations in subtle color variations. The printer manufacturer’s own-brand inks and papers are used throughout the entire testing procedure.
For output speed, we record the time taken to produce various sizes of prints at different quality settings. Ink costs are calculated on typical page yield against average prices for the manufacturer’s own-brand cartridges or bottles.
To learn more about how Digital Camera World tests products for reviews and buying guides please visit our how we test and review page.
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