One more thing about ink. There are two primary camps: pigment and dye. Both are capable of producing beautiful photos, but the difference basically boils down to this—dye inks aren’t as "archival," or permanent, as pigment inks, but they generally produce bolder, more vivid colors. If it’s important to you to ensure your prints will remain durable and lightfast for over a century, pigment ink might be your best bet—as long as you’re using it with an equally archival paper stock. If you want an edge in boldness and the most vivid colors, consider dyes.
The most important thing to remember is that your best photographs should not be confined to computer screens—they’re made for printing. Consider these six desktop photo printers as ideal choices for at-home printing.
Canon’s Pixma Pro9000 Mark II is a great option if you’re in the market for an affordable, large-format, 13-inch-wide printer. The FINE thermal printhead outputs two-picoliter droplets—which translates into 11-million ink dots per square inch. (Good luck discerning the individual dots in that print!) Dye-based ChromaLife100 inks are designed for lightfastness up to 100 years, come in eight individual cartridges and produce a color 8×10 in only 47 seconds. Estimated Street Price: $499.
A step up in the Canon photo printer lineup is the Pixma Pro9500 Mark II. With 25 percent more nozzles on the printhead than the Pro9000 (7,680, up from 6,144), the Pro9500 is capable of an even more accurate approximation of true continuous-tone printing. The printer incorporates Canon’s Lucia pigment inks for longer print life span without fading, and 10 ink tanks mean more refined tonal blends and better black-and-white prints thanks to the addition of two black inks and a gray ink. Without that, printers are forced to combine colors to simulate gray—which makes neutral black-and-white prints no easy feat. A second paper tray (to match the second black ink) makes switching from glossy to matte paper a breeze, and a straight-path feed option makes the printer more compatible with thicker paper stocks. Estimated Street Price: $849.
While you can certainly make beautiful color prints with the Canon Pixma PRO-1 Professional inkjet printer, it definitely shines when it comes to producing darkroom-quality black-and-whites. Canon’s newest printer is also its top-of-the-line model. It includes a whopping 12 individual pigment inks, and what makes it perfect for black-and-white prints is that five of those inks are shades of gray and black for beautiful tonalities across the grayscale. Large ink tanks help keep costs down, and dual feeding slots allow for easy printing on heavier matte stock up to 13×19 inches. With 12,288 print nozzles, fine tonal gradations and subtle differences are easily rendered in almost continuous tones. Estimated Street Price: $999.