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Printing has become rarer these days as online albums have replaced physical ones, but there is something special about holding a physical photograph in your hand after a day of shooting. Photo albums filled with Polaroids and your drugstore 4 x 6 prints always seem to hold a place in people’s hearts as they reminisce about old times. Now, with technological improvements in the printing world, and the digital revolution, setting up a print lab at home is quite simple. Here are a few of our favorite printers, available today, for photographers who want to create beautiful works of art for their walls, desks, and tabletops.
Offering a 9-color Ultrachrome HD pigment-based ink palette, Epson’s SureColor P series printers deliver vivid prints with an exceptionally wide color gamut and deep blacks. The P800 and P600 allow users to print quite large, up to 17 and 13" wide, respectively, and they both have options for using roll papers for creating spectacular panoramic images. These models feature tilting color touchscreens for intuitive control and checking printer status. Another benefit is the addition of Wi-Fi connectivity, along with the more common USB 2.0 and Ethernet options.
Epson has long stood among the top printer manufacturers and it is no surprise that these printers are a favorite of many photographers, me included. Another bonus for these models is a driver with built-in profiles for Epson’s entire lineup of photographic papers and Advanced Black & White control.
The imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 from Canon is quite impressive. Sporting the distinctive red line normally found on Canon’s pro-level L-series lenses, this printer is designed with photographers in mind and is the company’s first desktop printer for large 17" wide images. It has a large print head that uses FINE printing technology and the L-COA PRO image processing engine found in Canon’s large-format units that produce crisp images quickly. Also, it has an 11-color LUCIA PRO pigment-based ink set with a Chroma Optimizer to create color-accurate images with a wide gamut. Additionally, this printer is equipped with a vacuum feeder system that feeds media through the unit accurately and quickly.
A strong option in the inkjet photo arena, the Canon PIXMA PRO-1, along with its siblings the PRO-10 and PRO-100, is optimized for photographic printing and offer a wide selection, so nearly any photographer will find one that fits their needs. Of course, the flagship PRO-1 sits at the top, mostly thanks to an advanced 12-color LUCIA pigment-based ink set, far more colors than any competitors. This includes five different monochrome inks for creating very fine gradations in tone, along with a selection of different colors, including Red and a clear Chroma Optimizer. Also, the printer does not require any swapping of black ink when moving from glossy to matte paper—a significant time saver.
The PRO-1 offers great paper handling, as well, with the ability to handle 13 x 19" and 14 x 17" sheets up to 350 gsm in weight. Speed is also paramount, and it can create an 8 x 10" photo in just 2 minutes 10 seconds. Additionally, it has disc-printing capabilities and is very quiet.
The PRO-10 and PRO-100 feature three monochrome inks and print up to 13 x 19". While the Pro-100, with its dye-based ChromaLife 100+ ink system offers faster speeds, such as the ability to output an 8 x 10" print in 51 seconds versus three minutes and 35 seconds for the PRO-10, the pigment-based PRO-10 makes up for the additional time it uses in quality. Like the PRO-1, the PRO-10, with its 10-color LUCIA ink system, utilizes a dedicated matte black ink cartridge, a clear Chroma Optimizer, and a red ink for a wider color gamut.
DNP’s dye sublimation printers, such as the DS40, are an alternative to the common inkjet, and offer speed, quality, and portability by using specialized paper rolls and ink ribbons. This makes them great for use in photo booths or when you want to deliver prints on location. This unit can handle anything from 2 x 6" to 6 x 8" and, in high-speed mode, it can produce a 4 x 6" photo in just 8 seconds. An extremely unique function is that, using the same photo paper, the DS40 can produce glossy and matte prints.
Luckily, it seems Polaroid hasn’t forgotten about the joy of near-instant printing, with its release of the ZIP Mobile Printer. This pocketable, battery-powered unit connects directly to your iOS and Android devices and allows you to pop out 2 x 3" photo prints quickly. It works with ZINK Zero Ink Technology, meaning no messy refills; just add the specialized paper and you can be printing in no time. The Mobile App furthers your printing capabilities with basic photo editing, color filters, a collage mode, and painting, among other tools. For photographers always on the move and perhaps missing their classic Polaroid film cameras, the ZIP printer may be just what you were seeking.
Though not as pocketable, the Fujifilm instax SHARE Smartphone Printer SP-2 is still very portable. Like the ZIP printer, no inks or ribbons are needed, just its compatible media, in this case, 2.4 x 1.8" instax mini Instant Film. Through the instax Share app, smartphone photos can quickly be being brought into the real world, after bring edited for brightness, contrast, saturation, and having filters or templates applied. One of the SP-2’s strongest attributes is speed. Only 10 seconds stands between pressing the print button on your smartphone and having a picture in hand. While instax mini pictures need a few extra minutes to appear, not unlike traditional Polaroids, the SP-2 is a great solution for when you want to quickly share physical prints of digital photos in large groups or gatherings.
Available in sizes up to 60" wide, Canon’s imagePROGRAF series is designed for photographers looking to make truly large prints for display. While there are many to choose from, the best options include the pigment-based LUCIA EX ink system, which creates images that will last. Some models, such as the iPF6450, which can print up to 24" wide, even offer a 12-color set, maximizing color gamut and providing smooth gradations in the final prints. One additional advantage of Canon’s large format printers is a user-replaceable print head, meaning that if issues ever arise, you can easily make the fix yourself and get back to printing right away.
The SureColor P-series offers a variety of features and tools, along with a wide color gamut optimized for high-quality photography and design, so users looking to print large will do best with a large-format member from these teams, especially if you are used to working with smaller Epson units. They share many of the same features as their smaller siblings, including pigment-based UltraChrome inks, auto-switching black ink, and ink droplets as small as 3.5 picoliters that will maximize your prints for the ultimate in resolution and color. Additionally, Epson has units that can print up to 64" wide.
With select models offering an embedded spectrophotometer, users of the HP Designjet series will be able to constantly ensure that their work will always be color-accurate. Along with this, the large-format family features up to 12 pigment-based inks with the Z3200ps printers, including 4 blacks and a gloss optimizer to ensure smooth gradations between dark and light areas and a uniform print. These printers also offer built-in hard drives and memory to handle large jobs and support for numerous types of media so you can make the exact print you would like.
Do you have a favorite photo printer we haven’t mentioned here? Tell us about it in the Comments section, below.