There are many color photo printers on the market, all with different features and capabilities. So who decides which one is “the best” and how is that determination made? Choosing the “best” photo printer isn’t just about getting the most features or the most expensive machine. Rather, it’s about determining your budget and the available features, then evaluating different print technologies and deciding which printer best suits your particular needs.
Determining Your Budget
The prices of color photo printers have declined dramatically in recent years, but you will still pay handsomely for a color photo printer with excellent photo print quality and all the desirable features. Photo printing quality varies widely from one model to another, ranging from pixilated, grainy pictures to high-quality, vivid photos.
A medium-priced photo printer can provide decent prints, but may not be sufficient if you’re looking to create photo prints you can frame and hang or sell. If you’re an avid photographer looking for professional-quality photo printing, be prepared to pay top dollar for the best color photo printer available.
Comparing Print Technology
Most home photo printers utilize one of four types of print technology: dye sublimation, inkjet, laser or piezoelectric technology.
Dye sublimation is the least-practical print technology, as it employs color ribbons that are expensive and can be difficult to change. Additionally the print process is quite slow. On the plus side, these prints compare favorably to what you would receive from a photo lab.
Inkjet is the most popular type of photo print technology. Inkjet printers are inexpensive, plentiful and the ink is easy to replace. Color photo print quality varies from one model to the next, but it can be quite impressive.
Piezoelectric technology, such as that used in Epson print cartridges, provides the best color photo print quality possible. This video expains the process:
Finally, laser printers tend to produce the lowest quality photo prints, although the best photo laser printers are becoming quite impressive.