Can you help me narrow down the search for a photo printer?
April 13, 2008 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Do you love your photo printer? Do you have a printer that might not be a "photo printer", but it's great at printing photos? Tell me all about it, please?

I'd like to buy a new printer - one that can print great looking photos from 4x6 up to 11x14. These photos would be photos that I have taken myself, to frame and hang at home or to give to family. I've researched so many photo printers I'm starting to go cross-eyed. Do you have one and love it? Can you tell me why? Do you have a printer that's not marketed specifically as a photo printer, but it's really good at it anyway? Budget isn't a big concern. I'd appreciate any advice!
posted by ersatzkat to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I'm a big fan of Epson, myself, since working with my R200 and a larger-format Epson printer at my school's photo department. I'm researching "what next" for my pro imaging needs. My R200 is great, but is limited to 8"x10" and is getting a bit persnickety in its old age. A great deal of my satisfaction comes from using Epson inks and papers, too. Much more expensive, but worth it for consistency and longevity. The biggest complaint I have about my printer is that it is a thirsty, ink-swilling vampire. And ink isn't cheap.

Archival quality supersedes operating cost, for what I plan to do. I'm checking out the findings at Wilhelm Imaging Research to help me make my decision. I'm eyeballing laser and dye sublimation printers, too.

A recent AskMetaFilter discussion might give you some leads: link.
posted by bonobo at 5:52 PM on April 13, 2008

A few years ago it was true that online printing services like Snapfish were cheaper than printing at home. Snapfish prices have come down (now 9 cents for a 4-by-6) but I imagine so have prices for home printers. Still, with the low volume you're talking about, I doubt you're going to come out ahead by buying a printer.

According to this comment, "Good photograph prints for a consumer are always going to be more expensive when done at home." Not sure what the reasoning is behind that.

Snapfish also allows you to have your prints made at a local place like Staples or Walgreens. It's a little more expensive in my experience, but it's useful for when you need prints fast.
posted by Dec One at 6:19 PM on April 13, 2008

What OS do you print from? How involved do you want get? Do you want to make your own paper profiles or just use canned ones from the vendor?
posted by doctor_negative at 6:24 PM on April 13, 2008

I have a Canon s330 that I got new for $85 in 2002. Six years later, it's still going strong. It is not a dedicated photo printer -- I bought it for general printing in undergrad. It does, however, print some awesome photos. I buy the pre-cut 4x6 photos and use the Canon software to print. I couldn't be happier with the results. They look just as good (and often better, as I adjust the colors before printing) as target/kmart/other generic photo lab prints that I've gotten. I think Canon makes good printers in general, whether they be dedicated photo printers or bottom-of-the-line inkjets (which is what I use!). Additional bonus, the ink is dirt cheap compared to HP/Epson/etc...I think it's $6 or 7 for the blank ink cartridge, $10 or $12 for color depending where you buy it.
posted by taraza at 7:11 PM on April 13, 2008

I have a Deskjet 970cxi that I garbage picked and cleaned up, and I feel it prints beautifully. Better than newer printers I've compared it to. And I'm sure worse than others. The only annoying thing it doesn't do is the nice edge to edge printing that newer ones have. And it has a duplexer!
posted by gjc at 7:17 PM on April 13, 2008

I have a Canon i9900 that has performed nearly flawlessly for several years; it is now nearing obsolescence but Canon has continuously improved their line over the last few years and as a high-end camera maker has been responsive to the needs of photographers in terms of such things as ink quality. Epson has pretty much been the gold standard, but their printers have tended to be prone to jamming and print head clogging, among other problems. Those are the two brands I would look at first.
posted by TedW at 7:50 PM on April 13, 2008

Epson 2200. 13 X 19, fantastic color, rich blacks. There is a newer version that has one more ink, probably even better. Great printer.
posted by johngumbo at 8:15 PM on April 13, 2008

We have this one. It's not cheap, but solid ink and 25 8x10 prints a minute is pretty damn awesome. The solid ink is pretty damn cheap too. All in all, our black copies cost us about .9 to 1.3 cents apiece, and regular "color" ones about 4 or 5 cents. Full page photos get closer to 7-10 cents.
posted by TomMelee at 8:20 PM on April 13, 2008


i used to like epsons, but if you don't use them all the time they clog up and aren't really worth fixing

thrift stores usually have a few lexmarks and a bunch of epsons. canons don't stay on the shelf if they come in.

i have a canon pixma 4000, cost $100 a few years ago, great color, fast b&w, 5 inks, duplex, quieter than an epson even if said epson is off (i kid), looks nice too. got inks for $1 a tank off 'that' auction site.

to me, epsons are almost as disposable as lexmarks.
posted by KenManiac at 9:44 PM on April 13, 2008

Epson owner, probably wouldn't buy one again. It prints(ed) great photos, but now it seems full of black ink and crap, and way (that I see) into it to clean it. It is so soaking in it, the back of the paper gets lined.

Now it is easier to walk 3m across the road to the conbini and stick in a memory card for the automatic photo printing ATMs.
posted by lundman at 10:20 PM on April 13, 2008

Sorry - got caught up in manymany hockey games last night. Home OS is XP, I'm taking beginners steps in Photoshop (babe in the woods-type stuff), and I have no idea what a paper profile is so I'll go look that up now.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:08 AM on April 14, 2008

Ok, I read a really interesting thread on the Macworld forums (but again, I'm XP PC) and a referenced thread about Aperture and double CMM. I think with my limited experience that, generally speaking, canned paper profiles would be ok to start, but that I would probably eventually run into a frustrating situation that would make me want to learn more.
posted by ersatzkat at 4:23 AM on April 14, 2008

Snapfish prices have come down (now 9 cents for a 4-by-6) but I imagine so have prices for home printers

Yeah, home printer prices have come down, but that's because all the printer manufacturers have adopted the business model pioneered by Lexmark: sell you the printer at a loss, then make money selling you ink or toner. Generally, the cheaper the printer, the more it will cost you per printed page.

Epson inkjets do some very nice printing, but their print heads are not user-replaceable. Use off-brand ink, or leave them idle for two weeks, and you have a clogging problem that only gets worse with time and is stupidly expensive (like, more than the cost of a new printer) to fix.

Lexmark: just say No.

HP inkjets: reliable mechanicals, good quality print, but the Windows driver software and especially the driver installer software is uniformly garbage. Good printers for Linux boxes.

Canon inkjets: reliable mechanicals, excellent print quality, fuss-free Windows drivers and installers. A Canon inkjet with Canon ink in it will sit idle for two months and then produce a perfect print on the first page out. With off-brand ink, not so much (especially the newer PIXMA series, which has extra-fine print nozzles).

I was an Epson fanboi (on print quality grounds) until I bought my first Canon. You'd have to work pretty hard to make me pick anybody else's inkjet for a Windows printer.
posted by flabdablet at 6:05 AM on April 14, 2008

I have been tremendously happy with the Canon Pixma Pro 9000 (link goes to my full review), which I believe is the successor to the i9000 line.

It's going for ~$340 at Amazon now. The only drawback is that it's got a large footprint. I've used it successfully on both the Mac and XP.
posted by Caviar at 7:09 AM on April 14, 2008

Yes, please learn at least a bit about color management and printing. Double color management is where most novice printers get messed up.

In the sub$1000 market the current crop of Epsons and Canons are pretty comparable. I find Canon's color profile naming overly obscure. Epson has a wider selection of papers with profiles (and their canned profiles are getting pretty good).
posted by doctor_negative at 12:54 PM on April 14, 2008

Epson - Just Say No.

I've been using Espon printers for many years. I had an Epson dot-matrix printer I used with my Radio Shack TRS80 in the early 1980s and I used it as recently as the late 90s (with Windows 98). It still worked, and it could print graphics - great for printing out webpages where I didn't need color. Noisy (as all dot-matrix printers were) but still humming along almost 20 years after purchase.

I was given an Epson 2200 as a hinted-for (on request) birthday gift a few years ago, and it's been a non-stop headache. I've had problems with the color profile, and with ink clogs if I don't use it regularly. Right now I'm trying to get it running again after having it in storage for over a year. Oh how I wish I hadn't requested the Epson over the Canon based on my past good history with the brand.

I made another mistake with a spur-of-the-moment Epson all-in-one purchase when I needed a simple printer and scanner, and had similar ink clog problems. I ended up giving away the all-in-one to someone who thought he could get it unclogged. Good luck with that!

In my opinion Epson has done irreparable damage with their printer head design (which is subject to clogging much more than other printer head designs), and with their predatory design and legal tactics that is preventing others from offering after market inks.

Based on quality and reputation, I suggest you get a Canon.

You absolutely will NOT save money by printing at home. What you gain by printing at home is convenience and turn-around time. It is by far much more cost effective to use an outside printing service. CostCo is amazingly price effective. A 12x18 print is $3. I have a friend with a Canon ipf 9000 and the same size print costs him ~$9 in ink and paper to produce (and that doesn't include the $$$$ cost of the printer, depreciation, repair and replacement costs that will accumulate over time, etc.).

His Canon ipf 9000 is a VERY nice printer. He can print on 17" roll paper so he can print a 17x60 or more) panorama, etc. I had him print up 3 16x24 prints for an exhibition and they were very, Very nice. His cost was $25 per print for ink/paper.

You probably don't need (or have the budget for) that much printer. The Canon i9100 is probably a good choice for your needs:

Be sure you budget for hardware and software for profiling your monitor. Otherwise you will waste tons of ink and paper trying to get (any) printer to reproduce what you see on your monitor.
posted by jcdill at 1:06 PM on April 14, 2008

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