Still looking for a printer.
December 13, 2013 3:17 PM   Subscribe

I tried this last week but got no response, so I'm going to ask again in a somewhat more general way. I'm looking for a good photo printer that is reliable, takes lots of different paper sizes, doesn't cost a ton, and is relatively cheap to run.

Hi, this is a follow-up to last week's question in which I was asking about recommendations on a printer for a photo booth. Nothing came of that, so I figured I'd broaden my query a bit and see if anyone can help me out.

I'm shopping for a photo printer. It's going to go into a photo booth, but never mind that for now. All it really needs to do is be flexible about paper sizes, print nice photos, not break down all the damn time, and be relatively inexpensive. I'm hoping for something under $250 up front (cheaper is better as long as it fits the bill) but per-print costs are more important so if you can shed any light in that area that would be great. Ideally it would also be small and fast, but I can live without those qualities. It doesn't have to scan, copy, fax, or any of that – it's not necessarily bad if it has those features, they're just irrelevant to my purposes.

If anybody out in the great Hive Mind knows of such a beast, I would be overjoyed to hear about it. I've been researching like hell, but it's really darn hard to get a straight answer about printers for some reason – plus I think I'm being a bit demanding in my criteria, which I imagine is also why I didn't get any answers to my previous question. I'm willing to be a bit more flexible now, since I've pretty much decided that my perfect printer doesn't exist. I just want a printer that I can stick in the back of my photo booth which will reliably crank out nice-looking photo strips and not destroy my wallet in the process. Please let me know if you have any ideas!
posted by Scientist to Technology (7 answers total)
What exactly do you mean by "flexible about paper sizes"? There really aren't that many different sizes for photo paper meant for at-home use. Printers, in general, also don't take that many paper sizes.

I just searched the Staples website for photo paper and got the choices of 4x6 and 8.5x11. Those are really your standard casual use printable photo paper sizes. When I worked in the art department of a television show, we also used a lot of 11x17 and 13x19 photo paper, but most affordable consumer grade printers are not going to be compatible with those sizes.

So you're looking for a printer that can print both 4x6 and 8.5x11 paper, basically.

Beyond that, you're not really specific enough in your request to recommend a specific printer. When you say "fast", what do you mean? When you say "price per print", what are the parameters there? If you have a budget for ink, what is it? You're being the opposite of demanding in your criteria. You're basically asking "what are some printers".

Checking Staples again, it looks like there are three printers in your price range that are specially designed to print photos. You've got the Canon SELPHY, the Canon Pixma, and the Epson Picturemate.

The SELPHY is so small I'm guessing that it can't possibly take 8.5x11 paper, so that's right out.

The Pixma does everything you want. You could definitely get that. No idea if it matches your super vague ideas about speed or per-print cost.

Re the Epson, to be honest I've had good luck with Epson printers in the past, so I'd be inclined to get that. But I can't tell from the product specs what paper sizes it takes. You're going to have to physically go to a bricks and mortar store to check that one out and see if it meets your needs.

TL;DR, you should probably get the Canon Pixma.
posted by Sara C. at 3:50 PM on December 13, 2013

I really don't think there are photo quality inkjets that are affordable to run. I used to run an Epson R285. The carts are expensive, and I don't think I could print more than a dozen 8x10s before one of the cartridges ran out. Really good quality when paired with (the expensive) epson calibrated photo papers.

Which reminds me, if you are going down the inkjet route, make sure you find papers that match your printer, and that are calibrated to that specific printer/ink. if not, you may encounter the ink not drying (This is my experience running kodak paper with the R285 XD) or truly terrible colour (off brand photo paper)

You'll probably want to calibrate your screen as well with a colorimeter, else, like several of my artist friends (who insist they don't need calibration) - will spend insane $$$ and time wondering why their prints do not match their screens lol.

If you are using it for a photobooth (at a convention?) you might want to see what other people are using. I remember some acquaintances using dye-sub printers at anime cons.
posted by TrinsicWS at 4:26 PM on December 13, 2013

Sorry, by "flexible about paper sizes" I meant that it needs to accept strip-sized paper. These would be custom-cut strips, 2"x6". So the paper needs to be able to handle custom paper sizes, as my current Pixma iP4700 does. I've looked into dye-sub printers, but they only seem to accept packs of specialized paper in a small range of sizes - and they tend to be several hundred dollars, though I am aware they are cheaper on a per-print basis than inkjets. (The Selphys are cheaper, but they don't accept custom paper.)

Which Pixma were you talking about, Sara C.? I've been looking at the range, but there seem to be like ten or so printers under that heading (basically all of Canon's consumer-grade photo inkjets) and also my own Pixma 4700 is a bit of a prima donna so I was hoping somebody could point me to something a little more trouble-free.
posted by Scientist at 4:42 PM on December 13, 2013

I'm not familiar with every printer on the market, but I do use photo printers and based on my own research I don't think your printer exists, even given your more flexible criteria. In my experience, you can have low purchase price or low print cost but you can't have both.

As noted by Myself in your other thread, CISSs reduce print costs dramatically but are only made for certain printers and probably nothing as cheap as what you want. Looking at what CISSs are available for what printers could be worthwhile.

The other criterion you may have difficult meeting is reliability. Printers in this price range are not designed for heavy usage and are unlikely to be reliable over time. You have what sounds like a commercial application. Getting it done in a way that doesn't cause regular headaches will require a commercial solution I suspect.
posted by mewsic at 4:55 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

You are not going to find a consumer-grade printer that prints on 2x7 strips, at your price point.

Your best bet is to print 4 or 5 strips on 8.5x11 paper and use a rotary trimmer.

You'd have a little more paper size flexibility with something like the Epson 1430, but two inches is narrow enough that I'm not sure it'll work. And the Epson 1430 will run you $300. This is also a HUGE printer for your needs, and not very portable. Seriously, it will be a MILLION times easier to go with a cheaper printer and hand-trim the photos.
posted by Sara C. at 5:08 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I found a photo booth printer hack here. (It seems this hack either needs to have a printer with a center roller, or the paper has to be wide enough to be caught by the two rollers.)
Could something like this be applied to a printer in your price range?

That's really all I've got, because when Googling around for photo booth printers that print in strips, they are in like the $750 range. Is it extremely mandator that they print in a 2 inch strip? Or can you just do 4 photos in a square arrangement on a 4x6 print?
posted by Crystalinne at 5:41 PM on December 13, 2013

That's one weird-ass paper size you want to use. Cheapest would be printing 2up on 4×6 and slitting it down the middle. Almost every consumer printer will do 4×6.

If you're looking for bigger, the Ledger-sized Epson WorkForces are fairly cheap to run only if you buy the oh-shit-huge high capacity cartridges. Anything smaller gets into the pricey zone.
posted by scruss at 5:48 PM on December 13, 2013

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