Not all photo printers are created equal

Regardless of the depth of your photographic experience, when it comes to printing your pics you should always look at buying a good quality photo printer that will produce the best quality prints possible.

It always pays to do your homework before you make a printer purchase.  Epson has compiled a guide on how to choose the best photo printer for your needs:

Laser or inkjet?

While laser printers can print high quality graphics for workplace documents, they are simply not designed to print photographs. 

Their toner cannot deliver the quality and crispness demanded by photographers, because images printed on a laser printer are “rolled and melted” onto the page. This means that slight misalignments – known as registration errors - can occur between printing each colour, leading to blurring or streaking.

Inkjet printers are specifically designed to print photos. Inkjet printers use print heads that spray ink droplets onto the photo paper, which is both highly accurate and gives users the ability to print the widest possible range of colours.

Differentiation between light and dark shades is more pronounced, and the colours appear more realistic.  Inkjets can also print on a wider variety of paper and the ink itself lasts longer.

The rule of thumb is that photos are best printed on inkjets, and high volume documents are best printed on laser printers.

Number of inks and droplet size

Traditionally, colour printers have used a combination of four inks, namely cyan (light blue), magenta (pinkish red), yellow and black to achieve the correct colour mix. In fact, many printers today, including a variety of Epson printers, still use these four ink colours to produce amazing-looking photographs.

However, mid-to-high-end printers use up to eight inks, which make pictures appear richer and crisper, with the colours closely matching the original colours of the photographed subject.

The size of the droplets being fired onto the photo paper also makes quite a difference to the end result.  Simply put - the smaller the droplets, the more detail you can fit into a single print and the better it looks.

For beginners and even amateurs, traditional four-ink printers serve their purpose.  But if you make a living out of your photos or you are a photo enthusiast, it is worth your while investing in a six- or eight-colour ink printer.

Multiple or individual inks

Many low-end printers still use cartridges which place the yellow, cyan and magenta colours together in a single cartridge. While this is a cost-saver for printer manufacturers, users will end up wasting money and ink if they have to replace the whole ink cartridge when only one or two of the colours have run out. A printer with individual ink cartridges is more cost effective, and lets you manage your ink usage.

Speed to print and picture resolution

If your top priority is quality, then speed needs to play second fiddle to giving your device the time it needs to produce the best possible print. Remember that speed is not just affected by your printer – if it is connected to your computer, its processing power will also have an impact on print speed.

There is no defined industry standard for measuring printing speed, but one way to print more quickly is to use a device with a wider print head that covers a greater surface area of the photo paper and that by default, improves the printing speed. Companies like Epson have developed wide print heads that cover a great surface area of the photo paper and, by default, improve the printing speed. Usually, the larger the printer, the faster it will print, because the print head is bigger.

Printer resolution, however, is something that you can compare between brands. Resolution refers to the manner in which ink droplets (pixels) are fired onto the printed page.  A higher resolution means a more detailed picture. For example, 1440 x 720dpi suits most printing requirements – and is usually the standard for most inkjet printers these days.  Remember that the higher the resolution, the slower the print speed, and the higher the resolution, the longer it will take to print.

The trick is to find a happy medium between quality and printing speed. For consumers and amateurs, 1440 x 720 is sufficient. Professionals may want the higher resolutions that only high-end printers can print.

Size and paper path

While the ‘footprint’ of the printer is important in a desktop or studio environment, the size of a printer will also dictate the size of paper it can accept. Most printers will accept a maximum of A4 and smaller, while mid-to-high-end printers will accept up to A0.

Paper also comes in varying thicknesses and textures. Many fine art papers, for example, are almost as thick as cardboard, and there is also the printer’s ability to print on canvas to consider, as this can cause a jam if it’s too thick for the printer to handle.

Many mid- and high-end printers will have multiple paper paths, which will allow you to select the most appropriate path for paper to feed into your printer without causing jams. The best is a straight-through paper path, which means that paper will pass directly through the printer and underneath the print heads without bending – reducing the risks of paper being fed in skew or jamming and causing wastage or – even worse – damage to the printer itself.

Ready to purchase your printer?

There are several factors to consider when choosing the best photo printer for your needs, but taking time to carefully consider your options will lead to a better long-term investment. Whether you’re looking for print quality, ease-of-use, or fast print speeds, there is a printer out there for you.

About Epson

Epson is a global imaging and innovation leader that is dedicated to exceeding the vision of customers worldwide through its compact, energy-saving, high-precisiontechnologies, with a product line-up ranging from printers and 3LCD projectors for business and the home, to electronic and crystal devices.

Led by the Japan-based Seiko Epson Corporation,the Epson Group comprises over 70,000 employees in 106 companies around the world, and is proud of its ongoing contributions to the global environment and the communities in which it operates.

About Epson Europe

Epson Europe B.V., based in Amsterdam, is the Group’s regional headquarters for Europe,

Middle-East, Russia, and Africa. With a workforce of 2,400 employees, Epson Europe’s sales for fiscal year 2009 were 1,875million Euros.

About Epson sub-Saharan Africa

Epson’s operations in sub-Saharan Africa were established in 1997 with headquarters based in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since then, Epson has established a panel of distributors and resellers throughout sub-Saharan Africa who are dedicated to serving Epson’s end-consumers with the highest quality products and levels of support. Epson now manages sales and support in 21 sub-Saharan African countries including South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, Angola, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Eritrea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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