Buyer's Guide 2008: Photo Printers

With such a wide range of photo printers on the market today, printing at home is an even more appealing option for getting your digital images out of the camera and onto paper than it has been in the past. Overall improvements in technical specifications, image quality and longevity, combined with prices that are lower than (or at least equal to) previous models, makes this year’s crop of photo printers an excellent value proposition. But with variety comes the need to make decisions about the type of photo printer that’s best for you.

Snapshot Or Mega-sized Prints?

Perhaps the most important criterion for choosing a photo printer is the maximum-sized prints you plan to make. If you’re happy with snapshot-sized prints (5×7 inches or smaller), a compact dedicated photo printer may be your best bet. These little printers are so small-and some come with handles and optional battery packs-that it’s easy to carry them around.

On the downside, media options for dedicated photo printers are limited in both surface type and size, so if you want versatility, then a desktop model is a better choice. Not only can you print larger photos on a desktop printer, but you have a wide variety of paper types and surfaces to choose from, including some magnificent fine-art papers.

There are two size options within the desktop category: standard (up to 8.5×11 inches) and wide format (up to 13×19 inches). Most desktop printers can output panorama-sized prints as well, and it’s rare to find a model that doesn’t offer edge-to-edge borderless printing.

While automatic duplex printing isn’t necessarily at the top of the list for photographers, printing on both sides of a single sheet of paper without having to manually turn the paper over and refeed it into the printer can be helpful for creating portfolios or digital scrapbook pages.

Since you may want to use a desktop printer for text documents as well as photos, it’s always handy to have multiple paper trays so you can keep your favorite photo paper in one tray and plain paper for text printing in another. And, if you like to experiment with different weights of paper, a wide-format printer-with multiple paper feeds-is almost a necessity.

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