Best Printers for Photographers in 2020: Take Your Pick!
3.57 based on 7
Jun 24, 2020By Pia Lopez
Best Printers for Photographers in 2020: Take Your Pick!www.sleeklens.com
As photographers, one of the most important things we need to consider is the final print of the work we created. For most people, just having great quality images for websites and social media is good, but for others, “prints” prove to be a must-have to earn some extra cash – or simply because you would like to display your work in a gallery-fashion.
Either way, how can we get the best quality for our work with today’s printers available in the market – let’s see some interesting facts.
Table of Contents
Inkjet vs Laser – The Starter Point
Up to this point, you probably came across one of the most longest-lasting debates on the internet: if it’s worth the investment to get a laser printer. As an ArchViz worker that I am, with constant need of printing files, I’d say: “No”. The reason is simple: Laser does not deliver as much vividness to the images as ink does. Color laser printers also are way more expensive than its inkjet counterparts, and this isn’t limited to the unit’s price but also to the (shudders) toner replacement – after three or four recharges you are probably paying the total value of the unit, even if you weigh the amount of printed files in the process.
High-quality laser printers, which can be found at print shops, are bulky, designated for commercial use, and most of all, costly. If I were to take the leap towards a better quality printer than my current inkjet option, then a plotter would be the path to follow, even if it’s just a common quality plotter – it’s all about final size output, print speed and amount of ink cartridges to get a higher range of hues for the printing process.
Does Paper Matter?
Undoubtedly yes. Most users tend to make the mistake of buying the first bulk of “photo paper” they come across at stores, and just like we do with gear, we need to look for quality when buying printing paper.
We can find different finishes for photo printing paper: matte, satin and glossy – it’s entirely up to the effect you are wanting for your work. Most printer brands offer their own photo paper as accessory products since they promote products capable of taking the best of the unit’s ink system. My recommendation on this behalf is to take a close look at the max paper thickness your printer can handle, the grammage of the paper in question and the finish prior buying photo paper.
Common-Day Printers is the label I assign to those machines capable of handling huge loads of work over time and still deliver a decent quality outcome. Most of these units happen to work under normal 4-ink cartridge systems, with a Max Output Size estimated in A3 or A3+. Able to work with both office work and photo prints, your studio needs at least one of these printers – and I mean the product range, not the specific models reviewed – not just for printing photos but also for invoicing, emails, common office-work tasks and even for mock prints of the photos you are working on.
After 3 years of heavy use of this printer I can say I know its ins and outs like the back of my hand. It’s a bulky printer that can scare you quite a bit while unboxing, and certainly requires two people to move it from site to site not just because of its size but also due its weight, though I love this silly beast for not just the reliability which under it works but also the quality of the printing work.
Its max size output is A3, for both common work and photo paper, though borderless A3 printing can be messy and not work as it should when you are in a rush. Paper is handled in two tray feeders: one with a max A4 size and the other able to meet A3 paper – and trust me it requires a good desk size to deploy it completely. Also, we can load paper on top if we desire, though in my experience that proved to be the least of the configs I desired to use.
Setup is fairly easy, though you might get some inconveniences with Ethernet connection if you aren’t familiar with these devices – fortunately for us, she prints a sheet with its overall connection status, so you can easily trigger what went wrong while installing.
Counting with a tiny LCD screen is a plus, as you can handle menus directly at the printer instead of needing complex pc apps. Since it also works as a multifunction device, the printer allows us to Scan, Copy and Fax files – though I haven’t used the last one as I consider it to be an outdated medium for sharing files.
It can handle the data loading times fairly well, although large files require USB connection to load or overall print time will be a madness. It also supports SD card and USB flash memory connection, but in my opinion it’s best to work with the laptop to avoid further inconveniences. One lovely feature is the smartphone app from where not only we can print photos or mail attachments but also configure the kind of print we desire with ease.
Ink management is outstanding: it works in a tonner-fashion, with 4 ink cartridges, but rendering high-quality prints without eating our guts out. Since this printer also does periodical clean-ups on its own, you need to consider ink consumption for these procedures as you can get an unwanted surprise in ink levels if not certain.
How can we not fall in love with this compact photo-dedicated printer? In all honestly, Canon managed to create a cult product for any photography lover, especially for those who constantly seek adventures abroad and decide to sell their prints or keep physical memories of their experiences. Let’s meet now the Canon Selphy CP1200!
Available in three different colour layouts (matte black, gold or white), this petite photo printer works with a Canon Battery that is apt to perform 54 prints per charge, though it’s advisable to get a spare one for just $89.99 if we are frequent travellers.
It counts with many physical buttons to help us to compel the printing process, offering Okay, ON/OFF, Back, Print, Edit and Menu buttons, plus Zoom IN/OUT options and the WiFi one.
We can work with a large range of options for printing: via SD Card, USB thumb drive; USB cable for PCs/Macs and Cameras (with PictBridge-compatible camera), or via WiFi, which happens to be somewhat slow – no surprise here.
We can work with four print sizes: Postcard (4x6), Card (2.1x3.4), L Size (3.5x4.7) and Square Label (2x2). Quite small no doubt, especially when compared with the Epson PictureMate PM-400, but Canon compensates this by allowing us to load up to 18 sheet at time.
Working under SD card or USB mode, print time takes up to a minute, with a lovely output quality. WiFi mode adds 30-40 seconds more to the equation depending on image quality, and it can take up to 2 minutes to print a high-end postcard file.
Keep in mind the ink cartridges used by the Canon Selphy CP1200 are thermal-dye based, which means that won’t last as long as pigmented ink results, though handled with proper care we can treasure memories for quite a long time.
A printer aimed for photography enthusiasts with restricted budget to spend in gear, this printer proves to be a must-have resource of any photography studio. With a five colour ink system, it’s main purpose is for photo-output rather than office work.
First of all, we need to assume that this model isn’t in direct competition with dedicated photo printers as the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II or its Epson equivalents, as it’s intended to be a cheap choice for those who seek to print photographs with a considerable quality. Regardless of that, Canon does a superb job by balancing quality and budget without sacrificing much printing speed in the process.
It can hold up a standard amount of 150 sheets of plain paper or 20 sheets of high quality photo paper, which isn’t impressive in comparison with other models we reviewed (quite a contrast to the Brother J6710DW), though ink system is of fairly good quality for a cheap printer, featuring 5-ink cartridges for rendering out stunning colour images. Black & White prints are handled to perfection, with subtle shading, even if we cannot say that the quality of the images printed with this device is of professional quality.
One disappointing issue we found is that PictBridge system isn’t compatible with USB mode – honestly Canon? – but it works just under WiFi mode, which obviously limits the range of models compatible with it.
In general, it should be considered as a spare printer dedicated to photography work and not to be used for common office work due price-per-print ratio.
Large Format Printers
With a huge gap in printing quality, these very printers happen to be the best that the industry has to offer for photography enthusiasts. Most of these models are able to support output sizes of over A3, and they work with 6-ink cartridge systems or more (leading model being the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 with its 12-ink system).
Initial buying cost is considerable, and unlike the Common-Day printers, we cannot use compatible ink cartridges not only for the lack of models available to do so but also for the potential damage to the printer’s nozzles.
There’s no doubt that Epson is a leading brand in producing high-end printers for both amateurs and professionals, and for that reason we cannot forget about this large format consumer printer for high-end photography work. Able to work with not just photography paper but also CD/DVD labels, it is entirely compatible with multifunction capabilities as copying and scanning without compromising the product’s overall quality.
With a 5760x1440 resolution, the Epson XP-960 stands out amongst its relatives by recreating precise details in each print it produces, while also offering professional borderless printing features in the supported print sizes.
It counts, like professional plotters do, with six ink cartridges: black, cyan, magenta, yellow, light cyan and light magenta. The reason for this, as we stated above, is that four ink printers aren’t capable of reproducing a wide range of colours as specialised printers do, therefore we need a little extra aid to prevent inaccurate CYMK output.
Depending on the image size to print, to which this printer can hold up to 11x17 printed pictures, is the average time to print per image. Our tests position this model in a range of 160 seconds per photo in large format print, not a bad number for a large format printer.
The XP-960 also works with a large variety of printing paper to try and test:
• Photo paper: gloss, semi-gloss, matte
• Newsprint paper
• Scrapbook paper
• Common paper
• Self-adhesive paper
• Thermal transfer paper
A dedicated area in this model works as an independent tray to its usual paper format for printing CD or DVD layes, a much wanted comparison in contrast with its industry competitors.
We can talk about this superb-quality printer as a dedicated photo printer able to handle paper sizes up to 22 inches, and though its price may back us off a bit, it’s the least expensive model in Epson’s Pro series.
Though it lacks a roll feeder, this impressive Epson model handles paper-feeding in three different methods: a main to feeder for up to 50 sheets of photo paper (17x22 inches max) or 120 sheets of common printing paper; a second, single-sheet top feeder for fin art paper; and finally, a straight-through manual feeder for thick (up to 1.5mm) paper (16x20 inches max).
With 9 ink tanks of 80ml capacity, the Epson Stylus Pro 3880 can craft stunning images due to its multiple range of hues available to print: photo black, matte black, light black, light light black, yellow, vivid magenta, vivid magenta light, cyan, and light cyan. Only 8 tanks are used at time, picking either photo black or matte black depending on the paper to use.
Its printing speed is pretty decent, especially in comparison with the Canon Pixma Pro9500 Mark II, which happens to be a bit less expensive than this printer, though printing common office paperwork is entirely a waste of resources due to the price-per-sheet rate of printing.
Minor printing flaws can be found, like issues with alignment or very fine hatching, though they can only be appreciated in very close examination. It works with both Ethernet and USB connectivity, though to handle large files to print is advisable to use USB connectivity as Ethernet might take an eternity to load the files.
Though considered an upgrade to the Canon Pixma Pro9500, its mainly differences are linked to aesthetical factors and improving printing speed without quality loss. Ranked as a near-dedicated photo printer, this is a device we ought to take a look at.
Print Output Quality:
Max Output Size:
Ease of Use:
Impressively high-quality photos, graphics, and text
Like most printers that fit this large output size format, the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II is one bulky printer, and it requires enough room for paper feeding despite its somewhat sleek appearance.
One impressive feature we loved is the 10-ink cartridge system: cyan, yellow, magenta, light cyan, light magenta, red, green, black, photo black and grey. Counting with dedicated red and green cartridges proves to be a must-have feature for any serious photography printer as rendered images are much closer to what we visualise in screen media, avoiding inaccurate results due to CMYK system mix. The grey cartridge stands out for improving black & white print quality. We can also say that out of inkjet printers, this device has the most outstanding printing quality we have tested, though the time needed to produce a Fine Quality print is a killer that will refrain us from working under this setup in constant basis.
This printer also supports Ethernet connections while working mainly under USB mode; and we ought to make a mention to its camera bridge capabilities, as not many printers out there can work smoothly as the Pixma Pro9500 does.
Here comes one printer I’m pretty much sure many users would love to get their hands on. The Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 – Canon’s pre-plotter format beast for any professional photographer or graphic industry worker.
Following the Pixma PRO line of products, Canon decided to take a higher stake and create an astonishing machine for any kind of user whose work requires high-end printed images. Its size amazes just by the mere act of staring at it, with an overall weight of 70.5 pounds (no paper included), but we will immediately notice its sole downside: lack of support for paper rolls. Let’s put it this way: If I was to invest around $1.2k in an amazing photography printer, with 12 ink cartridge to render out the best hues available in the market, and mostly if the output size is A2, I’d love to use paper rolls to get the benefits of the A2 Width and produce banners on my own at the comfort of my home office. Instead, Canon chops this amazing possibility by neglecting the PRO-1000 the chance to catch up with its close relatives, the plotters. Don’t get me wrong, the A2 output is, undoubtedly, fantastic, but Canon needs to consider this a potential upgrade for competing with Epson’s large-format printers.
Connectivity works with Ethernet, Wi-Fi and USB, and also Wireless PictBridge technology.
The breath-taking image quality is courtesy of a 12-ink system, but in fact the inks are arranged this way: 11 inks (cyan, photo cyan, magenta, photo magenta, yellow, matte black, photo grey, red, and blue), whilst the 12th ink is in fact a Chroma Optimiser – a clearcoat applied over the ink to preserve the pigment’s quality and make the colopurs standout. It works with Lucia Pro pigment inks, with a max printing resolution of 4800x2400 dpi. The print head is assembled as an independent unit to the printer, which benefits us by allowing to change just the printer head instead of buying an entire new machine – much like plotters work.
Despite having this amazing print quality, the PRO-1000 is a slow printer, especially under Ethernet mode. Acquiring this model is a complete commitment to work, thus you should weigh the price to pay not just to the machine but also paper and ink. Certainly, this isn’t a printer in which you desire to print common office paperwork.
We cannot miss this high-end Epson model when talking about large-format printers. A dedicated photo printer no doubt, with the added value of paper roll support, though there are many things left for improvement. Let's talk about the Epson SureColor 800
Print Quality Output:
Max Output Size:
Ease of Use:
Excellent print quality
Relatively light and compact
Can print on many different types and sizes of paper
Considered as an upgrade to the Epson Stylus Pro 3880, this printer brings high-end quality to the game, up to the point of competing with some standard quality plotters in printing results.
With a total weight estimated in 49 pounds (with the adapter and paper roll), it’s quite the contrast in comparison with its main competitor, the Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000, and for a considerable less price (though paper roll adapter must be bought as an accessory).
Easy to setup, the options are mostly controlled at the 2.7-inch touch screen panel – not a surprise for a high-end printer, and it also counts with five buttons: Power, Home, Up, Down and Back for navigating the menus.
The printer’s speed is good, about 2 minutes for a borderless 4x6 inch photo at the highest resolution – 2880x1440dpi), though it isn’t as quick as the PRO-1000. Ink system works in a very similar fashion to the Pro 3880, with a considerable number of black and grey ink cartridges to render out black & white photographs to perfection.
The paper roll adapter is a great move by Epson, although it lacks a paper cutter system (as most plotters feature), thus you need to be extra careful when removing the printed file, and losing some extra paper in the process if you don’t have enough practice.
Wide Format Printers
Finally, the professional choice to pick when working with large sized prints becomes an obligation. This kind of printer is intended for professionals in the graphic industry not just by the cost of the units and image quality delivered, but also for the amount of knowledge required to operate them.
Despite being a quality printer, the HP Designjet Z5400 has sacrificed speed to keep the printing quality in a good price range, being one of the cheapest models available in the market and a preferred choice for people who decide to try out the wide format experience.
It supports dual rolls in its feeder, which means the printer can automatically change paper refills in mid-work session, reducing the final printing time – a good compensation for its lack of speed. Compatible with borderless printing at resolutions up to 2400x1200 dpi.
It features a 320 GB hard drive, useful for queueing data without depending on your computer, but unlike some other wide format printers, it does not feature a scanner.
Supported media for this printer range from common drafting paper to satin paper, adhesive-backed paper, translucent film, canvas, vinyl, etc. The included blade can chop most of these formats with the exception of canvas and polypropylene banners, as they are too thick for the blade to pass through.
You can consider this printer as one of the most useful wide-format printers for the under $10k mark, ideal for brands that work with large printed media as photography agencies, architects and advertisement agencies.
Though it’s not capable of meeting up the speed of print-shop plotters, this Canon printer has way too much to offer for most photography or architecture studios. Unmatchable accuracy for its price, the Canon imagePROGRAF iPF840 can handle rolls up to 44 inches wide, but its main downside is directly linked to its ink system.
By working with dye-based ink, which by being water-soluble it tends to fade faster than pigments at sun-ray exposure, the final printed files will lack long-term durability if we compare this model with other plotters available in the market; however, the vividness of its hues make it easy to fall in love with this versatile printer.
Don’t feel discouraged by the ink usage, as black colours will remain vivid since its black ink happens to be pigment-based ink, but also we can work with almost any medium available to date, from classic bond paper, matte, satin and glossy stock, adhesive-backed paper, translucent film and polypropylene. Canvas isn’t officially supported as in most cased you need to work with it via the manual bypass feed.
Though it’s not one of the cheapest printer available for its functions, this wide-format Epson printer is undoubtedly promising. Great quality output and a large range of printable media to work with are among the things you should expect when getting this plotter.
Due to its versatility, this printer proves to be an easy recommendation for any home-based photography or design business, as it handles rolls ranging from 10 to 64 inches wide, supporting borderless printing on media up to 1.5mm thick.
Its max printing resolution is 2400x1200 dpi, and like other competitor models, it can pair up in speed to even high-end plotter standards – a winning point by Epson, especially if we compare it with the HP’s speed performance. Its overall printing speed will depend on the amount of passes you set for the final printed file, being at least four to six for high-quality sellable media, ranking up to 24-pass printing for gallery-quality plots.
Since it handles especially large rolls, it’s immensely useful for large-scale banners, mostly if we work under borderless printing mode.
Paired up with a 320 GB hard drive, we can directly work with high-quality PDF files, some heavy JPEG images, and queuing work to be processed without worrying about what might happen with our computer.
Working with pigment-based ink, the final files produced by this printer are lush and bright, resisting fade over time, though sun-ray exposure still proves to be an issue we have to keep in mind. It can handle regular paper, matte and satin, adhesive-backed paper, polypropylene and canvas.
Are you interested in the aspects I considered for narrowing this selection of printers? The following list of items are the main characteristics we need to consider when picking our next printer.
Max Printing Resolution: Measured in DPI (dots-per-inch), is the value in which a printer renders out its image quality. For photography work, any value above 1400 DPI is considered as great quality gear.
Printing Speed: Though quality requires time, there’s no need to wait an eternity to get the final printed file, especially when a misfortunate event like a power outage, stuck paper or running out of ink may happen and require us to start all over. No more than 2 minutes is the expected printing time for A4 sized photographs in the highest resolution supported by the printer.
Grammage Support: If you are looking for a high-end printer and you desire to work with the best photography paper available in the market, then you need to be sure that the unit you pick can support such paper weight.
WiFi Support: Having a WiFi printer can be immensely handy if we work with laptops or if we have a large studio – it allows us to move freely while the printer does all the heavy lifting. Remember that USB connection still proves to be a necessity when printing large sized files.
Ink Type: There’s a huge difference between ink types and the estimated life span they might have depending on the final destination of our work. For most users, pigment-based inks would do, as they are resistant to most climate factors in comparison with dye-inks that fade over time, but for Wide-Format printers we can also find UV resistant inks that work amazingly well for advertising prints that are constantly exposed to sun rays, or even dedicated inks for sublimation, canvas printing, etc.
The amount of Ink Cartridges needed: The more the merrier is an easy way to describe this. Having more than 4 ink cartridges to handle the printing work can do wonders to the output image quality as CYMK system happens to clip many tons due not having enough pigment to extract information from.
As it’s a term you will frequently hear in the graphic industry, grammage is the way in which we denote a measure of the mass of the product per unit of area for a type of fabric, paper or paperboard. For paper, we are talking about the paper density, measured in grams per square meter of paper. The higher the value, the thicker the paper will be, and depending on the processing method (cold or hot press) if the paper in question would be textured or with a Bristol (smooth) finish.
What to do when you suffer a paper stuck situation?
The first thing: relax. Many users happen to ruin their printers by anxiously pulling out the paper without even looking at where the paper happens to be stuck. Most printers have several areas to open, depending on the feeding system used. In this case, you still get warnings or you can’t unstick the paper on your own, try to turn off the printer and then turn it on once again – that usually does the trick unless there is a huge paper stuck (for that case, call the brand’s technical support department).
Is it harmful to use compatible ink cartridges?
Depends entirely on the printer. For some units, like Epson models, compatible cartridges tend to cause quite the trouble due to their chip system detection, and to some point, the printer might not even want to print if it detects that the cartridge isn’t original. For Canon, it really depends on the model of the printer, but for Brother, they can work without any issue and there aren’t many differences between ink quality.
Are some brands more ink-demanding than others?
In my experience, yes. I remember an old Lexmark printer that was a total nightmare when the ink replacement moment came, not only for the cost but also for getting a hold of those rare cartridges – and the printer in question ran out of print quicker than what I would have wanted. Canon and I assume this is directly linked to their printing quality, tends to consume ink faster than Epson models do. Brother, on the other hand, has a toner-fashion cartridge system that efficiently handles the ink consumption depending on the work you are doing – so far my preferred brand on regards to ink management. HP suffers the same struggles as Lexmark printers for their common-day line of products: cartridges are expensive, rare to find if the printer is somewhat outdated, and though they don’t run out as quick as Canon does, it’s still a nuisance.
What would happen if I print on the wrong side of the paper?
Oh, don’t do as I did once – It was quite the mess! Some low-quality photo paper is easy to mistake which is the side to print, but the main cause of wrong side print proves to be linked to those printers with paper trays in which you load the paper to use. Printers usually flip the side of the paper when pulling the sheet, thus if you put the printable area upwards, the printer is going to pull all the ink over the glossy back – a certain ink mess. Nozzles will get dirty due to the paper not holding the ink, and so will the paper guides. The only solution for this is to stop the printing process as soon as you spot your mistake, and then do several (and I mean several) system cleanups for the printer so the nozzles clean themselves. You will probably lose all the remaining ink in your cartridges, but it would be far worse to let the ink dry and the printer guide and nozzles to remain dirty.
Which is the optimal DPI resolution for my photos if I desire to print them?
I take as a rule to work with two resolutions: 150 DPI for prints up to A3 size, and 300 DPI onwards for large prints.
Hope these tips will prove to be useful and good luck!
Pia Lopez is a self-taught photographer, architecture student and ArchViz artist. As Editor in Chief of Sleeklens.com, technology and art are two of her passions, which take active part in her professional training. Being an authentic Montevidean, travelling is daily routine; enjoying both the green meadows and urban surroundings as well as the beautiful beaches that are so characteristic in Uruguay's landscape.