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
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…
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