Best Inkjet Printer
The quality of pictures you can produce with desktop printers today is nearly unbelievable. Just 25 years ago the received wisdom was that no low-cost, easy-to-use andldquo;home printerandrdquo; would ever be able to match traditional, lab-produced photo prints. Today, some $75 photo printers can make you think you are looking at 5-by-7andrsquo;s coming straight from the lab.
More important that specific printer makes and models, is the number of ink colors in the unit. Standard inkjets have four, the basic cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK) that yield what is called process color. Most of the color spectrum can be replicated, except there is a decided weakness in metallic hues and bright colors. This is why better printers will have 6-ink or even 8-ink color, adding light cyan, light magenta and/orange. Generally speaking, the more colors, the better.
Before looking at specific printer makes or models, there are some things you should consider. You need to decide what level (casual home user, talented amateur or professional) and quality of prints you want from your printer, and then need to factor in the cost of ink cartridges, special papers and any other consumables (cleaners, etc.). You donandrsquo;t have to print from a computer, either, since there are plenty of good PC-free, stand-alone inkjets on the market. After ink, paper makes the biggest difference in the printing of quality photos. Plain copy-machine paper produces the worst results, while the high-gloss photo papers can yield stunningly realistic prints. Of course, the more photographically oriented the paper is, the higher the cost is going to be. In addition, ink cartridges have a wide range of prices, and some printers will not function well unless you use the recommended brand (the printer manufacturerandrsquo;s, usually). Be aware of these prices, and these possible limitations, when shopping for a photo printer.
When you are looking for a photo printer, you need to do just that andndash; go look at the printers in a store. After you have done some research and read a few buyer guides, test a number of recommended models and compare the results for yourself. Although printer reviews and consumer anecdotes can help you, a good photo print (like beauty anywhere) is in the eye of the beholder. Of course, if you donandrsquo;t trust your own eyes, bring along another pair. Be careful about terminology, too. Although a printer may be called a andldquo;photo printerandrdquo; while another is not, all inkjets use the same basic technology. The special features are in the print heads and the drop (or andldquo;dropletandrdquo;) size. The better the print heads, and the smaller the droplets, the better the image, assuming good paper and a good image to print.
Specialized photo printers are very good at printing photos but may not be as good for basic word processing or text-and-graphics layouts. Conversely, makers of andldquo;all-in-oneandrdquo; printers, with scanning and faxing and even copying functions, could not keep the prices in line if they made the device with photo-level print heads and droplet size. Frankly, if printing photos is important to you, you should have a designated photo printer and use it exclusively for that purpose. PC-free printers are exactly what their name says, namely, printers that operate without a computer connected and only print photos. There are various models available at different price points that will print images directly from a flash-memory card or the digital camera itself. For the serious photo buff, however, this leaves Photoshop and Corel and other software out of the loop, but a PC-free printer could be appropriate for people who donandrsquo;t have (or want) a computer.
Like most of high-tech, printer prices are constantly changing, and usually in the right way. That is, the devices keep getting better, smarter, faster andndash; and cheaper. Now, andldquo;cheapandrdquo; is not the word you want to keep in mind when shopping for something to which you will entrust you dearest memories. If you are serious about good photography and good photographic prints, you will not be satisfied with the sale printer of the week at Wal-Mart. On the other hand, you donandrsquo;t have to pay $1000 (or five times that) to get a pro-level inkjet, because $300-500 can get you a andldquo;prosumerandrdquo; model that many people will swear produces photo-lab quality prints. Major manufacturers that have consistently produced a range of quality photo printers include Canon, Epson and Hewlett-Packard. Specifically, look at the Canon Pixma line, the Epson Stylus series and the H-P Photosmart models.
Prices start in the low hundreds, and pro models can cost, as previously mentioned, many thousands. Get the best one you can afford, based on your real (not imagined) needs and your anticipated use. Refer to the manufacturer websites to check out specs on various models then compare the physical products at office stores. Finally, put your price comparison widgets or websites to work for you and make your best deal. A great printer for great photos at a great price? Picture that!