Photography

What’s the best photo printer?

best photo printer
Prints of thieves: printer, ink and paper costs make home printing impractical

This question comes from a loyal reader: my dad. Dad burns through printers at the same rate most people get through loaves of bread. He’s bought about a dozen of them in the past decade; I’ve got one of his rejects on my desk as I type. So when he rang yesterday to ask which was the best photo printer, I didn’t need a sit down and cup of sugary tea.

Dad’s got into digital photography (he goes through cameras like razor blades, too) and is sick of replacing expensive ink cartridges every few weeks. Which photo printer would I recommend, he asked? My answer: none of them.

Why you shouldn’t buy a photo printer

There are two major problems with home photo printers: cost and cost. 

To get a photo printer that will even get close to matching the quality you can get from ordering online or at a dedicated print store, you’re talking many hundreds of pounds.

A printer such as the Canon Pixma Pro-100S can deliver very respectable, poster-sized prints. It has eight separate ink tanks, delivering superb colour accuracy, and it’s got a maximum resolution of 4,800 x 2,400 dots per inch, so it’s not wanting for detail either.

But you’re looking at an initial outlay of £359 to get your hands on one. 

The comes the second of those costs: the ink. Those eight individual inks cost around £12 each. You’ll probably get dozens, if not hundreds of photos from them, but to replace an entire set of inks, you’re looking at well over £100. 

So now you’re talking well in excess of £450 for, say, a year’s worth of home printing. Not to mention the photo paper, which is another £20 or £30 for 100 sheets, pushing our total bill closer to £500.

Now go online to services such as Photobox, and you’ll see A4 prints are priced at around £1.69 each. There might be some postage and packing in there, too, which we’ll harshly round up to £2 per print. You’d have to make 250 A4 prints to match the cost of the printer. And, as I explained to my dad, very few people will print more than a dozen or so photos a year. 

Unless you’re a professional pumping out several shots a day, my opinion is home photo printing just isn’t worth it. Yes, you can get cheaper £50 printers in supermarkets, but the quality isn’t a patch on professional prints. And while there is something to be said for the convenience of near-instant prints at home, how many times do you really need a photo printed that second?

The best photo printer is the one you left in the shop. Not that my dad will, of course… 

Now read this: What’s the best way to clear a paper jam?

About the author

Barry Collins

Barry has scribbled about tech for almost 20 years for The Sunday Times, PC Pro, WebUser, Which? and many others. He was once Deputy Editor of Mail Online and remains in therapy to this day. Email Barry at barry@bigtechquestion.com.

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