For a long time digital photography seemed to somewhat ignore probably the most prominent part of the activity – photographic prints. Things have changed a lot since those times, and digital photographers are now offered an overwhelming amount of different photo printers that are jam-packed full of useful, and sometimes not-so-useful features.
But which photo printer is the best choice for you? This article takes a closer look at the different types of photo printers available and will help you to choose the most suitable photo printer to cater for your needs.
Inkjet Printers for Photos
Generally providing a combination of fast printing speed and photo-quality printing, inkjet photo printers range in price from as little as $40 (if you look hard enough) to around $400.
Most of these printers offer good quality output for printing standard size photos, but pay attention to the detail because not all inkjet printers provide good quality output for larger photos. Although most inkjet printers produce a similar quality – the majority providing the maximum dpi (dots per inch) of 1,200 X 4,800 – spending more on an inkjet printer will most likely provide you with more features or a faster printing speed.
Keep in mind that many photo printers use color ink cartridges to produce black and white, or grayscale images, which can lead to photos printed with a colored tint, so try to stick to inkjet printers that use black or gray inks if you want to print many black and white photos.
What separates professional photo printers from consumer models is that the professional variety can produce quality images at much larger sizes.
Depending on your needs, printers accepting paper sizes from 24-inches all the way up to 60-inches wide are available, but because they are targeted towards professionals, many convenient features such as printing from your digital camera will not be available on professional printers.
If you want to create large quality prints of your photos, maybe even posters, then a professional photo printer may be the choice for you, if you can afford it – professional printers range in price from around $500 to anywhere in the thousands.
While many inkjet and professional printers can also double up as printers for reports and other documents, those dedicated to printing photos alone are often much more compact and offer faster printing speeds. Print size is often limited to 4×6-inches but the quality remains high, and larger models do exist if you are prepared to pay a higher price.
Although the dpi tends to be low on these types of printers, the output quality is high due to the use of thermal-dye technology that utilizes primary printing colors in several hundreds of shades, meaning no need for dithering like inkjet printers do.
Another great thing about these printers is that their reduced size makes them very portable – some can even be battery-powered!
Maybe you don’t need a printer for the sole purpose of creating prints of your digital photos, and would like a little more freedom with what you are able to print.
If this is the case then there are many printers available to you that can fulfill your needs – standard inkjet and laser printers, and consumer printing services – all of which can be excellent choices if you are not too concerned about exceptional quality or do not plan to print a lot of photos.
Both standard inkjet and laser printers can provide good quality photo printing even if they are not exclusively designed for it, but make sure to choose your printer carefully because photo quality can vary wildly on standard printers.
One of the factors that people often overlook when choosing a printer is the type of paper and ink they will be using to print their photos and how the price of these supplies adds up in the long-term. It’s not just the price to take into consideration either – choosing the right paper and ink cartridges will also make sure that the photos you print are of the best possible quality.
While ink cartridges made by a company other than the printer manufacturer may cost less, they will more than likely produce lower quality prints and can also cause photos to fade faster.
Most printer manufacturers also create paper for their specific printers, and although it may not seem as important as ink, testing a sample of paper that isn’t made by the printer manufacturer is advisable before making a large purchase.
Many new photo printers come with useful features like being able to connect your digital camera directly to the printer, or allowing you to print from memory cards directly – both cutting out the time needed to print your photos.
It’s also important to remember that most of the photo printers out there can produce excellent quality photos, and many have very attractive price tags to match.
Also make sure that your printer will be able to create large or small enough prints, and once you have made a purchase make sure to test with different types of paper to find the best compromise between quality and price.
I hope that this article has helped you to understand the difference between the types of photo printers available and the important factors to take into consideration when making a purchase.
About the Author
Gary Hendricks runs a hobby site on digital photography. Visit his website at http://www.basic-digital-photography.com for tips and tricks on buying digital cameras, as well as shooting great photos.
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