The Best Photo Printers 2017

best photo printers

Whether you’re a professional photographer, a keen amateur, or a snap-happy smartphone user, the chances are that you’ll want to print out your photos. If you’re keen to do your printing at home, a specialist photo printer will give you the quality and connectivity you need to have your memories in your hands in minutes.
 
There are many options available on the market right now, and whether you go for a professional, prosumer, or portable model will depend heavily on your budget and requirements. Capability and quality will vary hugely across different manufacturers and models, so it’s important to find the one that best suits your specific needs. And, with so many models available, once you work out your requirements you’ll be able to find the perfect option for you.

How to buy a photo printer

When you’re looking to buy a photo printer, you should think about the following things:

  • Print cost – work out how much you’ll be paying per print (the manufacturer will usually provide an indication). How much you’re willing to spend will directly correlate with the level of quality you should expect from your photos. Also take into consideration the cost of replacement inks, as prices vary widely. 

  • Size – this can vary hugely for photo printers, from pocket-sized models, to machines that will need their own dedicated space in your home or office. Specialist photo printers tend to be much bigger than general printers, and some will need additional room behind them, so consider the space you have available.

  • Portability – if you’re going for a more compact model to ensure you can transport it around with you, think about whether you’ll have access to a power point, or whether you’ll need a battery powered printer.

  • Print requirements – for dedicated photo printers, there can sometimes be a reduction in quality for black and white prints. If you’re planning to print color-free images, double check that your chosen printer is capable of doing so. Also consider the size and media you want to print on, as this can vary widely, too.

  • Connectivity – what device will you want to print from, and does your chosen printer support this? Consider whether you’ll need a USB port and Wi-Fi, and whether you’ll want to print directly from a PictBridge camera or memory card. Some models also feature Bluetooth too, so you can easily print from your smartphone.
     
  • Quality – if you’re going for a dedicated photo printer, you can expect the level of quality that you’d see in a drugstore print. As a general rule, the dots per inch (dpi) resolution is a great indicator of the quality you can expect.
     
  • Quantity – check the monthly duty cycle, or the maximum recommended amount of prints, and ensure that it is more than you intend to print. This information can be lacking in some lower-end printers, so if you plan on printing high quantities, ensure that your chosen model provides this data.

Alternatively you could opt for a digital photo frame. Make your home look like a scene from Harry Potter.

Top 5 Best Photo Printers

Model

pixma 100

Canon Pixma Pro 100

prograf 1000

Canon ProGraf 1000

epson picturemate

Epson Picturemate

hp envy 5540

     HP Envy       5540  

hp sprocket portable

HP Sprocket Portable

DPI

4,800 x 2,400

2,400 x 1,200

5,760 x 1,440 

5,760 x 1,440

313 x 400

Speed

30s per 4 x 6 inche

150s per 13 x 19 inch

30s per 4 x 6 inche

60s per 5.2 pages 

Near instant

Max Size

13 x 19 inches

17 x 22 inches

5 x 7 inch

4 x 6 inches

4 x 6 inches

Wireless

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Yes

Rank

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

Best all-rounder – Canon Pixma Pro-100

If you’re looking for a brilliant all-rounder with a perfect mix of value and quality, you really can’t go wrong with Canon’s Pro-100 printer. First time buyers might be a little put off by the price, but you really do get what you pay for with this model.

A maximum print resolution of 4,800 x 2,400 is plenty for prosumers and home users, and the eight ink dye system produces stunning quality prints. 

Canon’s Optimum Image Generating System ensures that your prints are exactly as you imagine they’ll be, by analyzing each area of your print and selecting the best ink mixture for the closest color reproduction. 

Print speeds are relatively fast at around 30 seconds per 4 x 6 inch image, which is handy if you’re printing a batch of holiday snaps, and this model has no problems with handling both color and monochrome prints.

Output is possible at up to 13 x 19 inches, which is perfect if you want to print out larger versions of your images for posters or banners. The paper tray can accommodate 120 sheets of plain paper, or 20 sheets of thicker stock photo paper, which again will help you to get through batches of printing nice and quickly without having to reload the tray too often. And, if you want to print on particularly heavy stock paper, the single sheet rear feed tray has got you covered.

Connectivity includes Wi-Fi, which is handy if you take a lot of photos on your smartphone and don’t want the hassle of uploading them to your computer first, and Airprint, which is a must-have if you want to print from an Apple device. There’s also a USB port, so you can plug a memory stick directly into the printer without the need for a computer. Setup is nice and easy, and even if you install all the drivers and utilities you can get the job done in 15 minutes or so.

The dye-based inks that this Canon uses aren’t quite as resilient as pigment inkjet inks, and are also pricier. Despite the reduced durability, Canon reassures its customers with a promise that prints will last over 100 years under proper storage conditions. This model is a pretty hefty 43 lbs, and measuring in at 989 x 385 x 215 mm it’ll need plenty of room. But, it packs a lot of punch into that big body, so the bulk can be forgiven (assuming you’ve got space for it).

Epson’s SureColor P600 is a worthy runner-up: it also prints up to 13 x 19 inches, and in terms of quality, connectivity, setup, and ease of use, the two printers are pretty much in line with one another. But, where the Pro-100 prevails is its dynamic range. If you’re looking to print in greyscale, or even if not, you’ll really appreciate Canon’s abilities to add impact to shadows and darker areas in your images.

Best professional – Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000

If you’re a pro-photographer, you’ll need a bit of kit that will do your images justice once printed, and this Canon will do just that.

Unless you’re a dedicated Nikon fan, you’re sure to love this model, and with the trademark red line that embellishes Canon’s lenses, this is a printer that offers both style and substance.

The brilliant LUCIA PRO 11-color plus Chroma Optimizer ink system delivers beautifully crisp, colorful, and glossy images, no matter what media you’re using. Printing in greyscale is also no problem, as the four monochrome inks minimize bronzing to create dramatic, impactful black tones.

Whether you are printing in color or greyscale, this Canon delivers resolutions of up to 2,400 x 1,200 dpi, which will give you the professional-quality prints you need. Canon’s FINE (Full-Photolithography Inkjet Nozzle Engineering) technology monitors ink ejection conditions and detects clogs, ensuring that you don’t have any wasted prints. The smart Air Feeding System provides perfectly accurate ink-placement, which ensures that your photos are consistent and of a high quality.

With the ability to print photos up to 17 x 22 inches, this model offers the greatest sizes in the imagePROGRAF line. Speed and quietness are also impressive, and a high-quality color bordered 13 x 19 inch photo can be ready in just two and a half minutes.

Connectivity is as you’d expect with a printer of this caliber: USB 2.0, Ethernet, and Wi-Fi are all available, and Airprint is available if you’re an Apple-user. With the built-in Wi-Fi you can make the most of Canon’s PRINT app to wirelessly send images from your smartphone or tablet, as well as monitoring printer status and ink levels. Or, if you want to print directly from your camera, PictBridge provides that option.

Print Studio Pro 2.0 is the perfect software for providing enhanced printing options to improve your workflow. This includes soft proofing, which allows you to proof your final printed image on your computer, taking into account color reproduction for your chosen paper type.

This is not a compact printer by any means, and if you’re hoping for any kind of portability, this 70.5 lb. beast might not be the greatest option for you. But if you’re looking for a printer to deliver the best possible home-prints, this is the option for you.

Again, it’s Epson that comes in second to Canon. The SureColor SC-P800 is another strong option for professionals, and boasts a wide range of features including color calibration and specialist tools for fine artists. The setup and usability will definitely be tricky for beginners, but it’s unlikely that a beginner would go for the SC-P800 in the first place.

Best ease of use – Epson PictureMate PM-400

If you’re looking for a printer that doesn’t require a lengthy setup or a huge manual to master, Epson’s PictureMate PM-400 is for you. Many first time photo printer buyers can feel like there’s no justifiable reason to splurge on a dedicated model, and that seems to make sense.

But, regular picture-takers would benefit from being able to print images at home, and this beauty from Epson is cheap enough to make it a no brainer.

Capable of printing 3.5 x 5 inch, 4 x 6 inch, and 5 x 7 inch images at resolution of up to 5,760 x 1,440 dpi, you have a nice variety of sizes to choose from.

A 4 x 6 inch borderless image will take around 30 seconds to print, which isn’t bad for an entry level model like the PM-400, and will definitely be quick enough for you if you’re an occasional picture-printer. The stylish white frame feels solid and of a high quality, and at 4 lbs. the body is lightweight enough to be portable. Setup is incredibly easy, and even if you’re a printer-novice you’ll be printing in next to no time. Connectivity is also super simple to master, and inbuilt Wi-Fi allows you to print directly from your smartphone or tablet; further adding to the hassle-free aspect of this printer.

The print quality of this Epson isn’t going to win awards when compared with pricier printers, and for the quality output, the speed isn’t going to blow your mind, but you can’t go wrong with this Epson if you’re just looking to print pictures for your photo album.

Our alternative easy-to-use printer is a little ‘out there’, but needs to be included in our list due to its fun factor. HP’s Photosmart A826 doesn’t have a control panel, doesn’t need a computer, and the touchscreen really couldn’t be more simple to use; setup is essentially plug and play, too. The single print cartridge will manage around 55 4 x 6 inch print-outs, and you have the choice of printing via memory card, PictBridge, or an additional Bluetooth adapter. The hefty price tag makes it a little expensive for a novelty purchase but if you’re a fan of both photography and design, you might just think it’s worth it.

Best budget – HP Envy 5540

HP’s cheap and cheerful Envy 5540 is a brilliant option if you don’t want to spend much on a photo printer, and it will be especially appealing if you only plan to print in low volumes. The fact that it is also an all-in-one also provides even more value for money, as you can print documents, scan, and make copies. Prints are in 4 x 6 inches, and resolution is a decent 4,800 x 1,200 dpi, which is plenty of quality for picture frames and photo albums.

Inbuilt Wi-Fi Direct makes it possible to print from a smartphone or tablet without the need for a wireless network, and HP’s Smart app means that you can print and scan without actually needing to be next to your printer.

Installation is a breeze, so you don’t have to be in any way tech-minded to get your printing show on the road. There’s also 24/7 web support available, should you need a helping hand with setup or operation.

Where this printer can really save you money is with HP’s Instant Ink system, where you can pay a monthly subscription and have cartridges delivered, as and when you need them. As long as you choose the correct plan, and HP can help you with that, you can expect to save on your spend per print.

For such a cheap option you’ve got to expect some limitations, and with the Envy 5540 that limitation is speed. But, as you’re probably only printing in low volumes, that should be a small price to pay for this cheap but solid printer from HP.

Canon’s Pixma TS9020 is also great value. The 5 inch touchscreen is simple to operate and allows you to browse and print images directly from a digital camera or memory card, and Canon’s PRINT app makes it simple to connect to iOS and Android smartphones. The six separate color ink tanks provide great quality for the price, and an optical resolution of 2,400 x 4,800 dpi is more than enough for your home photos. 

Best for portability – HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

You might value portability over professional quality prints, and if you do, you can’t go far wrong with HP’s Sprocket Portable Photo Printer.

This fun bit of kit will quickly and easily print out your snaps wherever you are, essentially turning any digital camera or smartphone into a Polaroid-type device.

If you’ve got lots of pictures clogging up your library, it’s easy to transform them into printed versions.

HP’s free Sprocket app is available on iOS and Android, and allows you to connect your social media accounts to print your pictures via Bluetooth. This fun app also makes it possible to add text, borders, and emojis to your images before printing.

Weighing just 0.37 lbs. and measuring 75 x 116 x 23 mm, this palm-sized printer can literally be taken anywhere. It is battery powered too, so there’s no need to have access to mains power when you want to use it.

This printer doesn’t use ink so you won’t have to splash out on replacement cartridges. Instead, it uses heat to transform a pre-dyed sheet of paper into the picture you’re printing. The 2 x 3 inch sticky-backed paper is brilliant for scrapbooks, and if you don’t need the adhesive back, simply don’t peel the covering off! Media isn’t particularly cheap, but you’ll probably only be using this printer occasionally, and you’ll be saving on ink. The printer can hold up to ten sheets of pre-dyed paper at once, which saves time individually loading them.

It goes without saying that quality is not this stylish little printer’s USP, and with a resolution of 313 x 400 your pictures aren’t going to be gallery-quality. But, where you sacrifice quality, you gain in fun and portable printing of all your favorite Instagram-worthy moments.

Not quite as portable, but still brilliantly functional, is Canon’s SELPHY CP1200 printer. Weighing just 1.9 lbs, it is light enough to carry with you wherever you go, and the 4 x 6 inch prints are slightly superior to HP’s smaller offering. Connectivity is convenient via Wi-Fi and Apple’s Airprint, and Canon’s Selphy app will also make it super-quick to print from your smartphone. The spare battery is also a nice treat, but we think HP wins the battle of the portable printers for their fun-factor.

Conclusion

We think Canon’s Pro-100 is the best printer on the market right now, if you take into consideration the level of quality on offer for such a reasonable price.

The stunning prints that you can achieve with this Canon is pleasing to even the most passionate picture-taker, and while it might not be good enough for some professionals, it will certainly satisfy avid amateur photographers.

We love the choice between small, speedy prints, and larger, high quality prints: whether you’re printing off batches of images that have been clogging up your smartphone library, or you’re wanting one-off pictures for a frame-worthy poster, this beauty has got you covered.

Canon is one of the masters of photography, and it’s great to see such a comprehensive printer on offer from them.

About the author

John Thatch

John Thatcher is a computer science educated artist. He uses technology to solve artist problems. His friends don't like it when he speaks of himself in the third person. But John does it anyway, because he's a rebel.

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