As photographers, our work deserves the best visual representation possible and exist in the world as more than just a catchy social media post.
What ultimately separates our work is the way it compels and grabs our attention. And what better way to showcase your work than to display it in a large format in a beautiful frame to mystify your friends and family? To achieve the highest quality prints that truly bring out the details and colors of your photographs, consider investing in the best photo printers available.
Table of Contents
In today’s post, we will cover a list of the top ten most affordable printers to get you started with confidence. And the options that will display your work, in the quality and resolution it deserves.
Epson SureColor P700
Epson’s SureColor P700 comes in fresh to the pro-grade near-dedicated printer market to replace the older P600, released five years prior. It was released alongside the larger P900, its 17-inch singling to replace the older P800. But, this model comes ready to tackle the competition amongst the 13-inch crowd and specifically sway loyalists to Canon’s Pixma Pro-100 directly or new professional photographers who desire utmost quality.
With this refresh, Epson’s gone ahead and delivered a redesign, now bringing a smaller footprint, about 30% so, and a refined user interface to make things easier. And now, we have an all-new 4-inch HD touchscreen, which is both detailed and even color calibrated, to perform functions that always required a computer on its predecessor, like customizing the paper settings for example. But, crucially, this model also brings a new 10-channel AMC printhead using UltraChrome PRO10 ink, rather than only eight channels like the lower-end P400.
The result is exact droplet dispersion and outstanding rendering and nuance, given the extra ink actually expands the printer’s color gamut. There are also dedicated photo black and matte black inks, so no wasting ink or manually switching between. And now you’ll also receive better contrast for both luster and matte papers. The nozzles also have an ink-repellent coating to prevent unnecessary clogging, a generous bonus. Otherwise, the P700 supports paper from 4×6 inches up to 13×19 inches and a maximum panorama length of 129 inches.
While for connectivity, it uses USB 3.0, Wi-Fi Direct, both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, Ethernet, along with AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. But, it doesn’t offer an SD card or USB port. Instead, you can print from a computer using Print Layout with fine-tuned precision or using the smartphone app, which, interestingly, offers excellent color management.
Overall, Epson’s SureColor P700 is an enormous release from the firm in the 13-inch professional market. And it brings well-deserving updates, earning it a highly recommended.
Canon PIXMA PRO-200
Canon’s Pixma Pro-200 is the long-awaited replacement to the Pro-100, released nearly eight years earlier. And it comes with updates to a fan favorite amongst the professional near-dedicated market.
With this update, Canon’s brought several notable changes. Firstly, Canon’s added a 3-inch front control LCD with helpful navigation buttons to check levels or perform basic maintenance, a generous addition as its predecessor lacks this functionality altogether. Next, a new design, now making the device about 15% smaller and noticeably leaner in all directions. But despite the 10 lbs weight reduction, it still weighs 32 lbs, though, and it’s still quite hefty and unlikely to be a go-to if you want portability. Even so, it does take up a much smaller footprint than before.
On the bright side, its weight brings the excellent image quality and rendering this line is prized for. In this case, it obtains its predecessor 8-channel ChromaLife100+ printhead, with FINE technology, producing vibrant prints. And now, it’s refined to remove any color shifts and brings higher accuracy with a richer gamut. While the dual gray inks and dedicated black create outstanding monochromatic images, closely taking the lead in this regard.
Yet, the Pro-200 is also surprisingly fast for this kind of device, delivering an A3+-sized or 13×19-inch image in 90 seconds. Otherwise, though, it supports paper from 3.5×5 inches up to 13×19 inches. However, it does have a limited banner size of 39-inches long, rather than 100+ inches like some rivals who support paper rolls. So you’ll have to print on self-cut sheets or purchase custom sheets. While for connectivity, it uses USB, both 2.4 and 5 GHz Wi-Fi, Ethernet, along with PictBridge, AirPrint, and Mopria.
Overall, Canon’s Pixma Pro-200 is an excellent option for professional photographers wanting outstanding print quality. It’s not a bargain though. It’s a professional-grade inkjet printer. But, it’s a must if you want quality; that is, if you can live with the limited banner printing size and don’t require large-format panoramas.
HP Envy 5055 – All-in-One Photo Printer
HP’s Envy 5055 is much more humble than the competition as an all-in-one. However, it delivers quality that easily rivals its counterparts. When used with high-capacity ink cartridges, it provides incredibly competitive running costs along with support for the A4 size, 8 X 10, and envelopes. For connectivity, it offers a USB port and built-in Wi-Fi. And it is optimally configured for those who prefer to print from a smartphone. Printing is arguably the easiest in its class using HP’s well-designed Sprocket app, which includes a diverse selection of sources, including social media platforms.
The app also provides an editing function, allowing you to adjust the photo before printing. Not to mention the printer includes a 20-page tray, so you can also print multiple images in batch at a time. Overall, while it’s smaller than the competition, it makes a more portable option for those looking for high resolution water-resistant and smudge-proof images. And with its sleek, understated design, it will easily blend into any décor in the home.
Epson’s XP-970 is a sleek and smooth 3-in-1 wide-format inkjet printer. It uses a six-ink cartridge system that delivers excellent color accuracy and astounding vibrancy. This configuration provides smooth gradations and pleasing skin tones. And it’s 4.3′ touchscreen makes navigating the interface easy. It prints in the A3 size, for large and wide-format prints that pop. It also enjoys the ability to print on specialty papers, as well as CDs and DVDs.
For connectivity, it’s designed with convenience in mind with its PC-free interface and built-in Wi-Fi for printing from smartphones and tablets. Overall, the XP-970 is simple but elegant. And there’s much to love about this small, lightweight, and affordable option in Epson’s lineup.
Epson Expression Photo XP-8600
Epson’s XP-8600 is a small-in-one printer by Epson that’s ideal for printing professional-quality photos at home. It uses a six-ink system that provides smooth gradations and exceptional skin tone rendition. It supports borderless prints up to 8″ x10″. It’s also feature-rich. Users can take advantage of its 4.3″ touchscreen for intuitive operation and navigation, as well as printing on specialty papers or direct to CD or DVD. For connectivity, Epson’s equipped the printer with USB, SD, Ethernet, and built-in Wi-Fi, for direct printing from a smartphone or tablet.
And it offers the Epson Creative Print app to create custom collages without hassle. Overall, the XP-8600 is a sleek, compact and convenient printer that’s ideal for on the go user. And the ideal choice for creative homes with constant projects.
Epson’s XP-7100 is a small all-in-one printer that’s ideal for creative families. It uses a 5-color ink system for vivid borderless photos up to 8 x 10″, as well as DVDs and specialty papers. This setup makes it quite versatile and capable of providing sharp text for eye-catching documents. And while it’s quite compact in size, it remains feature-rich with its hefty 4.3′ touchscreen for easy navigation and in-printer editing. For connectivity, it provides a built-in SD slot, for convenient file transfer directly from a camera, as well as USB, Ethernet, and built-in Wi-Fi.
It even offers a 30-page auto document feeder and fast printing speeds, which make it an excellent choice for high-volume printing or to quickly cherish family memories. With Epson’s Creative Print app, you can also create custom cards, collages, and print directly from social media. Overall, the XP-7100 is a printer that tackles more than just printing photos yet still delivers high-quality results across the board. And its stackable design and versatility will be sure to fit both your space and your needs.
Epson EcoTank ET-7750
Epson’s EcoTank ET-7750 is quite a unique option that stands separate from the competition. And it’s Epson’s flagship wide multi-format printer engineered for outstanding print quality. It uses Epson’s refined EcoTank system, which dramatically reduces the ongoing ink costs compared to its rivals. Epson even includes ink in the box, which is rated for two years of use or up to 14,000 pages in black or 9,000 color.
Epson’s generosity makes it one of very few to offer ink included with the purchase. Its tanks are also directly on the front face of the machine, making it easy to see how much remains rather than relying on sensors alone – a nice touch. It uses a five-color and one photo-specific black system which guarantees superb quality and extraordinary depth. And it supports images up to 11″ x 17″.
The printer even features dual trays as well and a printable CD/DVD tray to compliment. And for connectivity, it supports USB, SD, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Google’s Cloud Print, and Apple’s AirPrint. It’s a rather large printer, however. But, its size allows it to deliver a robust feature set and produce high-speeds, making it ideal for creating bulk work. And, overall, it’s one of the very few printers that promise real long-term savings and guarantees a return that pays for itself with time. And it’s a printer that offers users the freedom of printing anything they want in color, without fear.
Canon Pixma TS9120 (TS9150/TS9160)
Canon’s TS9150 is their flagship Pixma printer and looks as premium as you’d expect with its generous 5-inch touchscreen. It achieves photo lab quality thanks to a six-color ink system, now with Photo Blue ink. These combine to beautifully render warm skin tones, making the printer particularly strong at portrait work. The new Photo Blue ink also helps the printer reduce graininess and provides better color tones over the predecessor. It supports the 8 “x10” size. For connectivity, it offers USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as a memory card slot. Canon’s even installed their Creative Filters for in-printer editing and adjustments, when used with an SD card. Overall, the TS9150 is a simple, functionalist design that delivers a premium appearance and modern appeal.
Canon’s IP8720 is a borderless inkjet printer that supports enormous print sizes. It’s a good looking option that is incredibly functional, with its sleek low-profile matt black design. But, it’s brand-new and backed with Canon’s outstanding quality. It uses Canon’s six-ink cartridge system, which produces gorgeous and vivid color reproduction, with staggering fine details. This system also includes a grey ink, which makes it particularly suitable for reproducing detailed black and whites in photo lab quality.
It supports the 13″ x 19″ size, surprising considering its small footprint. For connectivity, it provides a USB port, built-in Wi-Fi for printing from mobile devices through Canon’s Print App, Google’s Cloud Print, and Apple’s AirPrint. While not the absolute strongest contender in this class, it represents a healthy compromise between quality, price, and ease of use. Plus only weighing 18 lbs, it’s a lightweight option that fits virtually anywhere in your home and one that’ll free your imagination.
Epson HD XP-15000
Epson’s XP-15000 is a wide-format inkjet printer and the ideal choice for those who want their prints to match their creative vision. It uses a 6-ink system with all-new Gray and Red inks to provide an even wider color gamut. The extra red ink improves color accuracy dramatically for colored prints, with smoother gradations. Additionally, the added gray enhances the tone rendering of black-and-white images. It supports the 13″ x 19″ size and offers a 50-sheet specialty tray for added versatility.
And it even enjoys the convenience of auto two-sided document printing. For connectivity, it provides USB, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi for seamless transfers. Compared to its predecessor, it’s also 30% smaller, making it surprisingly little considering its performance. Nevertheless, it remains capable and ready to take your photo printing game to the next level. And, overall, the XP-15000 is a quick all-rounder that’s a workhouse for both general and high-end printing needs. And it quickly achieves colorful high-quality images in great detail that’ll perfectly match your vision.
Epson Surecolor P400
Epson’s Surecolor P400 delivers results that are hard to tell apart from a dedicated photo lab. It’s a printer aimed to expand your creative potential. It uses an eight-color ink set, which includes both photo black and matte to provide a full spectrum gamut for vibrant colors. These HG2 pigment inks are also highly water, fade, and smudge resistant. The printer also auto-selects between the black inks, to seamlessly shift between photo black and matte channels to deliver superior archival prints across a variety of papers. The reds and oranges are deep, producing exact skin tone accuracy with a gloss rivaling pro-level labs.
And these colors come ready to tackle prints up to 13″ x 19″ or panoramas up to 129″ long, even on canvas. Unlike the competition, it also supports advanced features such as cut-sheet, fine art, and roll paper, providing superior versatility. For connectivity, it includes a CD/DVD tray, USB, Ethernet, and built-in Wi-Fi. Overall, the P400 is a high performing economical printer that creates brilliant high-resolution prints that are perfect for photographers or DIY artists looking for lab-quality, without the lab.
Canon Pixma Pro-100
Canon’s Pixma Pro-100 is the best all-rounded printer available to date. It includes grey and light grey cartridges as well as the standard six inks found in conventional printers. This unusual addition makes the printer exceptionally well suited for printing black & white photographs. While it’s complete ChromaLife 8-ink dye system provides unrivaled color accuracy and a broad color gamut for ultra-vivid prints with superb realism.
This printer also obtains the OIG System, which analyzes each area and chooses the best ink mixture for maximum accuracy. It supports the 13″ x 19″ size, plus two paper trays, making it quite versatile. Build quality and connectivity are also excellent. It supports USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, PictBridge, and AirPrint.
Overall, it provides enormous flexibility and creates a seamless printing workflow, be it wired or wireless. And despite its compact size, it makes a strong all-rounder, especially for those wishing to step up to a large format printer. It provides both the functionality and tech you need to make your prints look as good the lab, minus the lab.
Photo Printers Buyer’s Guide
You can find several subcategories of printers, ranging from portables aimed at smartphones or multifunction all-in-ones aimed at business use. All categories can technically print an image, but not all can offer high fidelity or archival quality images. But, each model does have its benefits. For example, portable snapshot printers aimed at smartphones have excellent wireless integration for mobile devices. And they let you wirelessly connect a smartphone or tablet for direct printing without the hassle of drivers or a dedicated computer.
Dedicated photo printers, however, are tailored explicitly towards developing images. But, the trade-off is that performing other standard office tasks are complicated and involved. You’ll likely have to switch the paper roll and ink cartridge to optimize its function for office tasks, which is a hassle. And when compared to portable printers, they require a dedicated computer and, usually, wired connections. Limiting their versatility.
So the first primary consideration here will be whether you’ll only be developing images. Or do you also want a device doubling as a document printer or scanner? This will be the guiding force to determine which subtypes are best before diving into the specific details.
But, with that said, let’s go into another detail about this that’s critical as well.
Laser vs Inkjet
This is the next major consideration to decide which device is best. You have two major options, laser, and inkjet. Laser printers use high temperatures and powered toner, which produce sharp text, rich blacks, clear letterforms, and high contrast. And this design makes them perfect for printing documents, and cheaper as a bonus. Inkjet, however, deposits ink onto the page, which provides better color gradations while supporting a greater variety of paper stocks. And this design makes them better suited for developing images, especially amongst the high-end models.
Thus, in most circumstances, inkjet printers will outperform a similar capable laser print when developing photos. And while today’s laser printers have improved dramatically, it’s best to avoid these models if your goal is explicitly developing images. Instead, use them for other tasks and the occasional print if you don’t have other options. Their cost is too high, given their output quality, added size, and the need for specialization. But, that said, if you’re only developing images occasionally and you focus mainly on documents, then a laser printer may indeed be the best option.
Next, you’ll want to consider the ink type. There are two main options on the market, that is dye-based or pigment-based ink. Each has its benefits, but their differences are subtle these days. Dye-based ink is the standard amongst most inkjet devices. And it uses a fully dissolved colorant in a suspended liquid. Pigment-based ink, however, uses a fine powder of colorant suspended in a liquid. Until recently, dye-based devices offered a wider tonal range with a lower running cost, while pigment-based ink offered less color fidelity at a higher price.
But, these days, there is little difference due to the refinements to their formulas to address these key shortcomings. Both are now also rated to remain fade-resistant over the lifetime of their prints. But, generally, professional photographers opt for pigment-based devices, as they provide slightly better images with rich and dense colors. But, again, the differences are subtle, especially if you opt for a relatively new printer. So either should prove sufficient for most users.
Color vs Black & White
Next, you’ll want to know whether you’ll develop both color and black & white, or one or the other. Most devices are configured for color from the get-go. But, not every color printer can handle black & white or monochromatic images well. Many have flaws in developing images, leaving a colored tint across various shades of the greyscale. So if you particularly enjoy monochrome prints, you’ll want to investigate the printer’s black & white image quality separately.
But, regardless of whether you plan on developing color or monochrome images, you’ll want to check the output quality beforehand. Most inkjet devices, be they dye or pigment-based, will match images you can get at a local drugstore. But, understand, the photo paper you use makes an enormous difference in the final result. So it’s doubly important to know which papers the option you’re considering supports, as this varies. Thankfully, most manufacturers supply fine-art paper and various other forms of dedicated photo paper. And you can also find paper-specific color profiles (ICCs) to use third-party papers while improving their translation.
The print size is another area of consideration and will help narrow your search. You can find wide-format devices ready to develop 13 x 19 inch images or those only offering standard 4 x 6 or 8 x 10 inch. So it’s essential to know the desired size before finding a particular model. Unfortunately, larger prints will require bulkier and more expensive devices though, so keep that in mind.
Cost per Print
It’s also important to understand the running and total ownership costs of the device when possible. This information isn’t widely available, though, as the industry lacks an accepted standard for this calculation. But, you can calculate it nonetheless using the typical cost of paper and ink combined.
All you have to do is divide the cost of a pack by the number of photos provided, then multiply that number by its expected lifetime. This will give you the lifetime running cost to add to its initial price to compare options. You can also find some manufacturers offering subscription services where you pay a monthly fee to develop a certain number of images. And this option is generally cheaper if you plan on developing many photos.
Overall, though, while the cost per print initially seems high, it compares fairly with a dedicated lab. But, here at least you get the benefit of having physical images produced in the comfort of your home. Even so, it’s important to know that some of these devices consume ink and paper at alarming rates, increasing their price. So the real cost of ownership varies.
You can find these devices in a range of sizes, some of which are small enough to store in a jacket pocket. Others require a dedicated shelf or table. Even so, if you’re looking into a dedicated photo printer, they’re usually larger than standard business-class inkjets, as they offer more paper variations. Some also have large paper stocks or a roll feeder on their rear. And these models, in particular, require an enormous amount of working space.
So it’s essential to consider the device’s portability. If you want something ready for mobile work, look for options that’ll run on batteries. Otherwise, look for a larger model with a standard tray.
Lastly, you may also want to consider connectivity. Most options will use a single USB cable. But, you can find models with Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity too. Whether the added connectivity options are helpful, though, will come down to your workflow. But, it’s an area to consider.
Printers mention in this post
Last Updated on September 12, 2023 by Photography PX Published April 16, 2020