In the past, in order to obtain the best results with the photographs, you had to turn to a photographic studio equipped with all the tools to get the most out of every shot.
Although this advice still remains valid (especially if you do not want to spend money on an additional printer dedicated only to photographs), there are many printers for color photos that offer a final result very similar to professional photo prints , just know which printer to choose and do not dive headfirst into a purchase without having understood at least the basics to choose a good photo printer.
In this guide I will give you an overview of the parameters to consider in order to purchase a quality color photo printer, so you can buy carefully and without “surprises”.
The features you need to consider before buying any color photo printer are as follows.
1) Print technology : printers dedicated exclusively to photographs can adopt two types of printing technology: inkjet (inkjet) or thermal sublimation. From the point of view of quality, the best technology is certainly thermal sublimation, but this benefit is almost completely canceled due to the high costs for compatible photo paper (the absence of a cartridge for this technology is charged with a special card that can to sublimate the ink), certainly more expensive than the classic cartridges and normal photo paper for inkjet printers. It therefore orients the choice also based on management costs, certainly higher on thermal sublimation printers.
2) Number of cartridges: on inkjet color printers you can find the number of cartridges needed to generate color photos. The basic printers offer 4 colors for printing photos (black, cyan, magenta and yellow) while some printers also offer more colors for printing (pentachromy or hexachrome). It is assumed that all the colors supported for the photos are generated thanks to the combination of the 4 basic colors, the addition of a separate cartridge for a particular color will increase the level of detail of the colors on the final print, but also generating a higher cost in cartridges terms. Choose if possible always printers that offer 4 colors, they are a good compromise between quality and cost.
3) Print speed: choose a printer that can generate photos with a fair speed, so you can immediately see the result and print more photos as a result. The speed is expressed in PPM (pages per minute). A good reference point for this kind of photographs is 8 PPM, but a lot also depends on the chosen technology.
4) Print resolution : the resolution level on printed paper can be evaluated with the DPI parameter (dots per inch), which is often available in the printer’s color photo card. Inkjet printers have a lookout to focus on models with at least 300 x 300 DPI.
5) Photo format: the most used photo format for this type of printing is 10x15cm, but in this format you can combine others with different sizes (9x13cm, 13x18cm and 15x21cm the most common). Make sure the printer supports at least two of these formats, so you can print photos of different sizes depending on the type of shot taken and the frame in which you want to place the souvenir photo.
6) Weight : a lightweight printer will be much easier to transport. By choosing a printer weighing less than 1000 g you can also print outdoors and outdoors and still count on a quality result. Thermal sublimation printers tend to weigh less than inkjet printers due to the absence of cartridges.
7) Power supply: in addition to the classic power supply via the electrical network, many lightweight printouts allow you to print color photos on the move using an internal rechargeable battery. No great autonomy is required but the minimum necessary to print at least 20-30 photos.
8) Connectivity: in addition to the classic USB cable many color photo printers allow you to take advantage of wireless or Bluetooth connectivity to connect smartphones, tablets and SLRs without using any type of cable. Excellent also the possibility to use WiFi Direct (no modem or WiFi router is required) and other similar technologies for direct printing (often available through specific app for portable devices).
9) Operating costs: certainly one of the most discussed items when it comes to color printing. In order to print color photos, ink and photo paper are required; the choice of quality ink and photo paper will also affect the final result of the photo, as well as on the pockets! In the case of thermal sublimation printouts, ink and paper are supplied together in the same “cartridge” (actually a special paper cartridge ready for sublimation) with much higher costs. If you want to save money without sacrificing quality, you can bet on inkjet printers with original cartridges and quality photo paper; if you are looking for uncompromising quality, you can bet on any model of thermal sublimation printer.
Best color photo printers (inkjet)
After seeing what features your color photo printer should have, here are some inkjet printer models that you can purchase online and save money.
1) Canon Pixma iP7250
A sufficiently inexpensive print for this category of printers is the Canon Pixma iP7250 . This printer offers 5 ink cartridges (pentachrome) to generate superior quality photos, WiFi connectivity and WiFi Direct to print from any wireless media and a slot for optical discs (DVD, CD, Blu-Ray). The color print speed is 10 PPM in color and the final print resolution reaches up to 9600 DPI.
2)Epson Expression Premium XP 640
Another color printer that is useful for printing photos with a quality comparable to a lab is Epson Expression Premium XP 640 .
This photo prints boasts a very high resolution (up to 5760 x 1440 DPI), a slot for reading a large amount of memory cards (MicroSD, MicroSDHC, MicroSDXC, MiniSD, MiniSDHC, SD, SDHC, SDXC), has a display with which to control the print preview, a scanner to scan photographs to be imported to the PC and supports WiFi networks and WiFi Direct connectivity to print photos directly without the use of a support network. It offers a print speed of up to 32 pages per minute (color printing) and has 5 ink cartridges (pentachrome).
3) Canon Pixma TS8050
Among color printers with 6 ink cartridges I recommend you buy the Canon Pixma TS8050. This multi-function offers a high quality photographic quality thanks to the addition of the gray cartridge, which allows you to replicate the various shades of color much more precisely than systems with 4 or 5 cartridges. The print resolution is 9600 x 2400 DPI and the color print speed is 10 PPM. You can connect it to your PC via USB cable or use a WiFi network to print wirelessly.
Color photo printers: purchase guide (thermal sublimation)
After seeing the color printers here are the thermal sublimation printers, much faster and more compact to the point of being able to use them even on the move.
1) Canon Selphy CP1200
Among the best thermal sublimation color photo printers, the Canon Selphy CP1200 occupies a prominent place, thanks to the good relationship between quality and running costs.
This printer offers numerous advanced options: ID photo format, simple connection with smart devices, 256 color levels, with a 24-bit color depth.
The print resolution is 300×300 DPI and the battery allows you to print up to 52 photos away from the current.
2) Polaroid ZIP
Polaroid returns with a very small thermal sublimation printer, able to quickly print all your most precious memories on photographic paper.
The Zink Zero PREMIUM card offers a pleasant visual effect on a compact photograph, to which is added the possibility of being able to upload your own shots from a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth or via NFC.
The print resolution is 300×300 DPI and the internal battery allows you to take up to 30 photos
3) HP Sprocket
HP offers a compact thermal sublimation printer capable of borderless printing, just like photographs obtained in a photo lab.
The weight is really very low (only 172 g) and can be connected to a smartphone or a tablet via Bluetooth technology. The print resolution is 300×300 DPI and allows you to print up to 40 photos with the internal battery.