In a world dominated by digital image files and social-media sharing, the physical photographic print is rarer—and more impressive—than ever. If you’re going to print your work (which you should), pro-caliber inkjet printers are worth the investment. They deliver the best combination of high image quality, efficiency and low per-print price. Two manufacturers especially cater to the needs of discerning photographers: Canon and Epson. These companies offer a selection of truly pro-quality printers for the desktop. Here’s a breakdown of their features and the technology that produces superlative prints.
EPSON STYLUS PRO 3880
For photographers who want to eke out every bit of print size possible, there’s Epson’s top-of-the-desktop-line Stylus Pro 3880. With a physical footprint about the same as most 13×19 printers, the 3880 can print up to 17×22. Nine UltraChrome K3 pigment inks in large individual cartridges work in conjunction with the AccuPhoto HD2 print-engine algorithm to deliver vivid, accurate colors across a wide range of tones and with smooth transitions and optimized ink blending. Advanced Black-And-White mode uses three black inks for neutral grayscale printing, and three separate paper paths (front, rear and top) make it easier to print on a variety of fine-art media, including especially thick papers. Estimated Street Price: $1,129.
CANON PIXMA PRO-1
When Canon’s PIXMA PRO-1 hit the market last year, it made waves for its ability to produce beautiful black-and-white prints. Black-and-white printing is a challenge for inkjet printers, mainly because of the technological limitations of trying to approximate shades of gray using mostly color inks. The PIXMA PRO-1 includes 12 individual LUCIA pigment inks, of which five are grays and blacks, so only gray and black ink is used to deliver beautiful tonal range in black-and-white prints. The inks are also stored in very large tanks to help keep costs down, while more than 12,000 nozzles keep the print quality up. Print sheets up to 13×19, in color or black-and-white, at a maximum resolution of 4800×2400 dpi, for quality that rivals lab-made prints. Estimated Street Price: $999.
EPSON STYLUS PHOTO R3000
The Epson Stylus Photo R3000 is a wireless printer that uses nine UltraChrome K3 pigment inks. Pigment inks, as opposed to dye-based, are the ideal option for photographers who place a premium on archival permanence and longevity, as they’re more durable and resistant to fading from exposure to light. The R3000 also incorporates auto-switching ink technology for seamlessly moving from glossy to matte paper. The normal procedure of replacing glossy ink with matte not only is time-consuming, but it also wastes expensive ink. Auto-switching means a more efficient and affordable workflow. Print sheets up to 13×19 and 13×44 on rolls. Tiny 2-picoliter ink droplets and 5760×1440 resolution produce smoother gradients for prints that approach the continuous-tone ideal. Estimated Street Price: $799.