My first experience with professional photo printers was in graduate school in the mid-2000s. Back then, whatever behemoth Epsons the school had would always jam, eat paper, spew ink, and generally make it incredibly difficult to make prints, though when they did work, those prints were beautiful. Fast forward more than a decade later, and that’s not the case anymore, for Epson or any other brand. Here are a few options to get started in the world of large format, professional printing.
Coming at you from Photography PX is a breakdown of the top ten starter photo printers from brands such as HP, Epson, and Canon. The list is definitely aimed at beginners, as the top printer in the bunch is the Canon PIXMA PRO-100, an aging but still awesome printer that sits at the bottom rung of Canon’s professional printers. If you don’t have time to watch the video, that’s all you need to know. The PRO-100 is a dye-based, 8-ink printer that creates beautiful prints up to 13x19”. I should know, as my part of my job required printing hundreds of 13x19” prints with this printer to send to dealers around the country. It’s why I ended up buying my own PIXMA PRO-10, a superb 10-ink, pigment based printer that, because of the type of ink used creates archival quality, long-lasting prints at the expense of the better pop of color from a dye-based printer like the PRO-100. Canon’s plugin for Photoshop, Print Studio Pro, worked to make printing easy, as did the AirPrint support that allowed for printing from the phone. The best part is that these modern printers just don’t have as many problems as they used to. I can leave my printer sitting for a while without any real problems.
That said, while the PIXMA PRO-100 is a great printer to start with, it’s age means it’s missing out on some of the newer or more useful tech that’s in some of the other printers on this list. For instance, the Epson Surecolor P400 can use roll paper and has a touch screen to run the printer much easier. I love the PIXMA PRO-100, but having a screen to see what I’m doing with it rather than relying on a computer or phone would make it much easier and more spontaneous to use. For some reason, Canon’s lower end TS-series printers have a touch screen, but it’s missing even from the newer PIXMA IP8720.
If you’re just looking to dip your toe into printing at home, affordable (Under $100) dye-sub printers for 4x6 prints are also a great option for professional quality. I use a Canon Selphy myself for that purpose, and while it’s not going to be as good as any of the inkjet printers on this list, it’s pretty close and the water-proof nature of dye-sub technology is a bonus.
I’ve printed out the same photo from pharmacy photo labs, Walmart, Amazon, Target, and other places. Other than professional labs online (my favorite is bayphoto.com) at-home printing will beat out most of your local, mass-market options. If you haven’t dipped your toe into home printing for a while, it’s worth checking out. Things have gotten a lot better.