Last updated: September 2, 2021

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In recent years, the field of photography has undergone significant changes. This phenomenon is not merely a consequence of the advent of digital cameras and the great models featured in most modern smartphones, but also thanks to the spectacular improvement of photo printers.

In that regard, you can now create fantastic copies of photographs in paper form without having to head to a specialized laboratory. Portable printers even allow you to print your shots exactly where you take them. Today's technology truly offers a world of possibilities.




Key Facts

  • Photo printers let you print high-quality paper copies in different formats of your favorite shots without having to visit a specialized laboratory. You won't have to worry about opening hours or delivery times anymore. It is also much more affordable in the long run.
  • There are currently three types of printers that can run photographs off in high-quality formats. First of all, you can find portable equipment specialized in small-format photographs. Desktop printers with photographic capacity are also available. Last but not least, you can get a professional-type photo printer.
  • There are various key aspects to keep in mind when choosing your photo printer: resolution, design, consumable cost, and connectivity options. By contrast, the printing speed is no longer relevant because most models offer fairly fast printing.

Ranking: The best photo printers

In the following section, you'll discover our very own selection of the best photo printers available right now on the market. With quality and value for money in mind, we've tried to make our ranking as varied as possible. This is why you will find that the products we've picked come from recognized brands in the industry.

Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about photo printers

There is a number of important aspects that you should be familiar with when you're purchasing your own photo printer. You'll find many photo printers out there, most designed for specific uses and therefore offering different features. To help you make the right decision, we've answered the most frequently asked questions in our next section.

Photo Printer

Choosing the right paper is key to print high-quality photos.
(Source: Andriy Popov: 39431897/ 123rf.com)

What is a photo printer exactly?

This electronic device is specifically designed to print all your photos. This means that it is compatible with photographic paper and offers higher printing quality. The inks it supports also contain pigments of better quality, and its resolution will be higher than that of standard printers.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of photo printers?

Having a photo printer at home or on the go offers a number of key perks. First of all, they allow you to print high-quality paper copies of your favorite photos in a variety of formats without having to go to a specialized lab. This is very useful since you won't have to depend on their opening hours and pay their exorbitant prices.

Portable models even let you print your photos immediately without having to go anywhere. The great news is that these products tend to be fairly affordable, except for professional printers. On the downside, the cost of their consumables can be quite high. We've listed the main benefits and drawbacks of photo printers in the table below:

Advantages
  • They print brighter colors
  • Wireless connection
  • Moderate price
  • You can get a copy of your photos in paper format directly after taking your shot
  • You don't depend on photo labs
Disadvantages
  • The price of consumables can be high
  • Many of them offer a single function

Is buying a photo printer worth it?

If you're an amateur or professional photographer, having one of these printers will allow you to run off your shot in very high quality. It gives you the possibility and freedom to print paper copies of your own photos without having to pay a specialized lab for it.

You won't have to wait in front of the store's door hoping your photos are finally ready. This also means you won't have to pay their high prices. You could even decide to purchase a portable printer and have your snapshots on paper instantly wherever you are. Since most are affordable, you won't have to make a huge investment.

What types of photo printers are there?

There are currently three main types of photo printers available: standard or multifunction printers with photographic quality, portable models, and professional photographic printers. In the following table, you can read a small description of the uses of each of these types:

Type Uses
Multifunction printers with photographic capacity They can perform a wide variety of tasks, from the printing, copying, and scanning of documents to the printing of photos.
Portable printers These compact models are used to print small-sized photos anywhere, since you can easily transport them.
Professional photographic printers They are designed to print high-quality photos in different formats.

How does a photo printer work?

Photo printers can work in different ways. Some operate through the use of ink, therefore creating the images from dots. This is the method found in standard printers. Other models use the sublimation process, which requires solid plates with base colors placed inside the equipment.

During the printing process, a head in the printer passes over these color plates. This head is heated, causing the vaporization of the colors on the plates, which then adhere to the paper. This method is generally found in models specifically designed for photo printing.

What are the characteristics of photographic paper used by printers?

Using the right paper is essential if you want to print quality photos. The manufacturers generally indicate which product is best suited for their devices. Photographic paper has three key characteristics: the grammage (the weight of the paper), the gloss, and the finish.

Note that the thickness and hardness of the paper are closely related to its weight. The gloss corresponds to the purity of white and favors color printing. Finally, the finish can be either glossy or matt. The former saturates color and contrast, while the latter doesn't reflect at all and absorbs the ink better.

Did you know that the very first printer was launched on the market in 1953? Designed by Remington-Rand, it was called UNIVAC High speed printer and could run off around 600 lines of text per minute. 

Shopping Criteria

There are various key aspects that you'll have to consider when the time comes to buy your very own photo printer. In the following section, we've discussed those important criteria to help you with your decision. If you pay attention and use this information to guide you, we're confident that you'll be satisfied with your purchase and get the best possible value for money.

Design

This aspect is one you definitely shouldn't neglect considering the fact that your printer might take up some space in your home or office. Luckily for us, manufacturers are paying more and more attention to the design of their products. As a matter of fact, many models available on the market come in different colors.

Regarding portable photo printers, it is essential that you opt for a lightweight model, small enough to carry with you. The more compact it is, the more comfortable it will be for you. Once you've got that covered, the design you go for really depends on your personal tastes or preferences.

Photo Printer

You can choose the photo printer that best suits your needs.
(Source: Andriy Popov: 35462410/ 123rf.com)

Image resolution

The image resolution of the printer you want to purchase is another fundamental criteria, since you'll be printing copies on photo paper. We advise you to opt for at least 2,400 x 1,200 dpi. That being, a minimum resolution of 4,800 x 2,400 dpi is what will most interest you if you're looking for professional quality.

Printing costs

Unfortunately, many people tend to overlook this factor when they're buying new printing equipment. The reality is that it will make a very big difference in the long run because printing consumables are far from being cheap. Start off by checking how many cartridges your photo printer needs. You can then have a look at how much each one costs.

Remember that printing photos requires special paper, and a lot more ink than would normally be used for other types of prints. Certain photo printers on the market work with ink cartridges.

Did you know that the first functional printers were very similar to typewriters? The ink was transferred onto the paper using the impact force of the device.

Connectivity

The vast majority of current photo printers feature wireless connectivity via Wi-Fi. In that regard, we strongly encourage you to choose a model that connects using Wi-Fi Direct. This means you won't depend on any access point to use your equipment. In addition, having a Bluetooth connection is always a good back-up solution.

You naturally need to be able to connect your device using a USB port, too. Having a microSD card reader can also come in handy to print your photos.

Last but not least, don't forget to consider the option of having an NFC connection, which will allow direct and instant connectivity. Certain photo printers even include a camera support so you can directly connect the two devices.

Each photo printer will support different print sizes. This is particularly true when talking about portable models, which can rarely run off photos larger than 4x6 inches. The HP Sprocket, for instance, can only print in 2x3 inches. Professional models, on the other hand, will let you print in sizes up to A3+.

Additional aspects

If you want to use your photo printer without connecting it to your computer or another similar device, you will realize that having a display on your model is more than helpful. You may also want it to feature automatic paper loading, especially if you plan on printing a lot of copies. Some products even offer the possibility of automatic double-sided printing.

Brand

Choosing a recognized manufacturer guarantees you a quality product and good customer service. You'll also be able to enjoy the latest technology available. Brand recognition is always the result of a long experience in the industry and many satisfied customers.

One of the most prestigious printer brands on the market is the Japanese company Canon, currently a world leader in photographic equipment. You may also be familiar with the American brand Polaroid. Epson is also famous for producing high-quality electronic devices, in particular when it comes to printing. HP, Kodak, and Fujifilm are other well-known brands offering quality products.

Summary

The arrival of digital cameras and smartphones with high-resolution cameras has led us to take more and more photos. The truth is that we won't look at many of them twice. That being said, some mean more to use, and we want to immortalize them on paper for the ages.

Photo printers allow you to do just that without having to resort to a specialized laboratory. You can also print them in different high-quality format, and even do so almost instantly if you have a portable printer. Keep in mind key aspects such as resolution, printing costs or design when you're deciding which model is right for you.

If you found our shopping guide on photo printers useful and informative, feel free to leave us a comment in the section below. You can also share this article with your friends and family on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Andriy Popov: 39430637/ 123rf.com)

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