Which printer to buy: how to choose the best photo printer for your needs
- Fri, 2 Jul 2010
Which printer: What will you use it for?
There are a number of different printers intended for different usages. From A3 photo printers to office inkjet models, a variety of attributes can make the printer better suited to an office or studio.
For example, those wanting to bypass a computer altogether would do well to consider a camera with an LCD screen and built-in memory card reader. This will allow images to be read directly from a card, then viewed and even cropped before being printed. Of course the screen won't be as large or detailed as a computer, but will give a fair idea of how the end product will look.
For those after something more hi-tech, printers with the ability to be networked makes it easier to print remotely. This means a laptop in one room can send a file to a printer in another, or multiple computers wouldn't need a printer each. Advancing a step further forward, those searching for a way to scan and fax a file a printer can provide all-in-one functionality for a small office.
Finally for studio professionals after larger format photo printers A3 and larger is available, giving out superb quality art prints in your home. The price is increased far higher, but the results are such that those requiring such a model will be highly impressed.
Printer features to look for;
- Flatbed scanner
- Built in Fax
- LCD screen
- Phone connection
- LCD screen
- Memory card slots
- USB connection
- Network capabilities
How much will a photo printer cost?
The cost of a photo printer doesn't end with the printer itself. Ink and paper are both necessities, and spending the necessary cash wisely can make it go much further. There are multiple varieties of both ink and paper which makes purchasing the products far more difficult.
Not only do the likes of Epson and Canon make paper, but Jessops and other companies not directly associated with photographic manufacturing. Although all the packets and photo paper may look the same, there are subtle differences in the best usages.
Gloss offers a shinier surface to the image, which makes the likes of portraits seem more appealing. Matte does the opposite, making fine detail and contrast easier to pick out, so landscapes are a perfect subject. There are compromises in between, such as semi-gloss, and more art-focussed stock.
For example a canvas-style paper can be used, but be sure that your printer is compatible with it prior to purchasing. The weights of standard photo papers are also worth considering. The heavier the paper, the more ink it'll absorb. If the printer isn't set up correctly through either the driver software or on the printer itself, this may make the photo look duller than it should.
By adjusting to the right amount of ink levels the colours will appear far deeper, and the prints will last longer. The weight is measured in grammes per meter squared, and has a maximum of around 271 g/m2. At the other end of the scale is more standard inkjet paper, which provides less longevity at a lower price, both per sheet and for ink usage. This is more for previewing work or turning out a quick copy as it'll take far less time to print out. Once again it's important to cater the printer correctly, or ink will simply sit on top and not be absorbed by the paper.
Printer ink can be purchased in a number of ways, either in multiple packs or individually. Your printer may have separate cartridges for each colour or all in a single unit. The separate cartridges route is marginally cheaper usually, as the specific colours can be replaced as and when needed.
Often if a printer has three or more colours in a single cartridge just one colour running out can necessitate a new cartridge. Although it's unlikely that one colour will be full and another empty on the same cartridge, it's still possible to be wasting an amount of ink unnecessarily.
Many consumers have started refilling cartridges, which is less complicated than it sounds but still requires an amount of skill. A number of shops also provide this service for a fee, so if you are considering it but don't have the know-how try going through a retailer first.