Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

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Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:55 pm

Printers are not my thing. Yet I have customers who need help setting them up and in some cases, purchasing a printer. The only kind of printing I ever do is black and white for the most part and its business related. In this case though, I've got a customer who is looking for a color printer that is capable of printing nice photos. The issue is that he has always had inkjets (expensive of course) and they use it in large batches, then don't use the printer for long periods of time. This of course causes the ink to dry up and clog things, effectively ruining the printer short of buying some parts or spending more on repair than its worth.

With that said, I was curious if anyone here had a recommendation for an excellent color printer that can handle some nice photo printing as well, yet not cost an arm and a leg for ink or toner and ideally have some form of anti-clog when its not used for a long time. They are willing to spend near $300-$400 as well. Any recommendations would be helpful :) thanks.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Fri Dec 13, 2013 4:24 pm

Welch wrote:Printers are not my thing. Yet I have customers who need help setting them up and in some cases, purchasing a printer. The only kind of printing I ever do is black and white for the most part and its business related. In this case though, I've got a customer who is looking for a color printer that is capable of printing nice photos. The issue is that he has always had inkjets (expensive of course) and they use it in large batches, then don't use the printer for long periods of time. This of course causes the ink to dry up and clog things, effectively ruining the printer short of buying some parts or spending more on repair than its worth.

With that said, I was curious if anyone here had a recommendation for an excellent color printer that can handle some nice photo printing as well, yet not cost an arm and a leg for ink or toner and ideally have some form of anti-clog when its not used for a long time. They are willing to spend near $300-$400 as well. Any recommendations would be helpful :) thanks.


This is not a recommendation, although one might pick up a used one in that price range. My Epson Stylus Pro 3800 has been printing intermittently for about 6 years and still makes perfect prints. I have replaced one cartridge of the eight it has and will be doing a couple more soon. The better inkjets are just fine as far as I can tell.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:56 am

I despise inkjets, and would never recommend them except for very unique and rare circumstances. I also typically recommend against color, except when it's to be used for business graphs, presentations, etc (e.g., not photos). The are a few reasons for this. By the time you add up
  • More expensive printer
  • More expensive ink
  • Glossy photo paper
  • Continued printer maintenance
You're probably not even breaking even compared to just taking the files to a photo kiosk at Walgreens, etc. Also, the printer at the photo kiosk is a higher-end machine which produces better prints than most consumer-grade printers (unless you're spending big bucks). If someone has a large number of prints to be made, there are places online which will print large quantities at bulk pricing.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Sat Dec 14, 2013 9:06 am

The Egg wrote:I despise inkjets, and would never recommend them except for very unique and rare circumstances. I also typically recommend against color, except when it's to be used for business graphs, presentations, etc (e.g., not photos). The are a few reasons for this. By the time you add up
  • More expensive printer
  • More expensive ink
  • Glossy photo paper
  • Continued printer maintenance
You're probably not even breaking even compared to just taking the files to a photo kiosk at Walgreens, etc. Also, the printer at the photo kiosk is a higher-end machine which produces better prints than most consumer-grade printers (unless you're spending big bucks). If someone has a large number of prints to be made, there are places online which will print large quantities at bulk pricing.


I generally agree, except for the quality part. An $100 inkjet will do glossy photo prints that anyone but a professional photographer can't tell from a photo lab and a $300 inkjet will do prints on par or better than a quick turn around lab.

To the OP, I prefer Epson Inkjets and HP Lasers though my last laser printer was purchased in 2000. Yes, a quality laser printer will last that long and longer. I haven't seen a laser that will do photo prints at the same quality as an inkjet, though I haven't looked hard. I agree with The Egg. If they need to due a run, upload them to Wal-Mart, Walgreens, or some other local place and go pick them up in an hour. You looking at five to ten cents a print for a 4x6 and you can upload them and pick them up in an hour at lots of places.

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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Sat Dec 14, 2013 10:42 am

I would check what is recommended at DPreview and FredMiranda. Get what photographers use. I have heard some very good things about Canon's mid-range.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:26 pm

The Brother MFC-4510DW has one of the lowest per page costs when printing with the high capacity cartridges. Got one for my wife because whe needed an 11x17 printer for school (interior design). Print quality is decent, and photo printing on photo stock is very good (it has borderless printing on both 8.5x11 and 11x17). AS a bonus, it has automatic duplexing, which is very rare in its price range.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Sat Dec 14, 2013 1:54 pm

They use it in large batches, then don't use the printer for long periods of time.


I agree with finding a print shop. They are perfect for this situation.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Sat Dec 14, 2013 2:30 pm

I'd go with an Epson 3880. It's been awhile since I had to worry about Inkjets, but by going professional level you get a print head that's separate from the cartridges, and more effective head cleaning routines. The cartridges are also bigger, so you aren't getting hit by ink prices quite as badly. And since the print head is separate, you're less likely to have to replace cartridges after a couple months of sitting idle. Also print quality.

They should probably turn it on and have it clean the nozzles once a week or two.

Edit: I know it's well out of their price range, but that's how much you need to spend to get a good inkjet. If they can't spend it, I agree with the find a print shop sentiment.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Sun Dec 15, 2013 10:07 pm

Ink cartridges will always dry up if you leave 'em sitting for long lengths of time. I used to print my own photos and enjoyed the highest quality images, ink, and paper I could get in the consumer space, but it cost an arm and a leg, and in the end I realized that while Walgreens pics looked a bit duller, they were a fraction the cost. $300-$400 may get a low-end professional model, but if you'll be leaving it unused for long periods of time, you're not a professional in need of that equipment.

Unless your clients just want cool toys. In that case, the Canon PIXMA Pro9000 Mark II is a good place to start looking, in terms of price and features.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 3:27 am

I haven't been following the photo printer market lately (last printer I bought was an Epson RX-580 multifunction several years ago), but do HP inkjets still integrate the printheads into the cartridges? This does tend to mean their cartridges cost a little more, but it also means that if the nozzles dry out and clog you only need to replace the cartridges, not the printer. For a printer which may be left sitting idle for long periods this is a potentially valuable feature.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 8:58 am

SecretSquirrel wrote:I generally agree, except for the quality part. An $100 inkjet will do glossy photo prints that anyone but a professional photographer can't tell from a photo lab and a $300 inkjet will do prints on par or better than a quick turn around lab.


Respectfully disagree on the quality part. I have yet to see a single Inkjet glossy photo print that is anywhere remotely near photo quality. Maybe some young people can't tell, but anyone who's held a good old photo from when film was around can tell instantly.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:22 am

jihadjoe wrote:Respectfully disagree on the quality part. I have yet to see a single Inkjet glossy photo print that is anywhere remotely near photo quality. Maybe some young people can't tell, but anyone who's held a good old photo from when film was around can tell instantly.

In a similar vein, I think a lot of people under the age of 30 have been conditioned to not notice artifacts in audio or video that have been compressed with a lossy codec. To them, the artifacts are "normal".
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:27 am

just brew it! wrote:In a similar vein, I think a lot of people under the age of 30 have been conditioned to not notice artifacts in audio or video that have been compressed with a lossy codec. To them, the artifacts are "normal".

I still remember the look on daughter's face when I dropped the stylus on her favorite album that she'd only ever heard as a 128k MP3. Created an audiophile I did at that exact moment.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 10:30 am

jihadjoe wrote:
SecretSquirrel wrote:I generally agree, except for the quality part. An $100 inkjet will do glossy photo prints that anyone but a professional photographer can't tell from a photo lab and a $300 inkjet will do prints on par or better than a quick turn around lab.


Respectfully disagree on the quality part. I have yet to see a single Inkjet glossy photo print that is anywhere remotely near photo quality. Maybe some young people can't tell, but anyone who's held a good old photo from when film was around can tell instantly.


That is also comparing apples and oranges. The fair comparison is a photo quality inkjet with a digital image and a photo lab print from the same digital image. Film to digitial is like CD to vinyl -- many long arguments can be had.

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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 4:28 pm

jihadjoe wrote:
SecretSquirrel wrote:I generally agree, except for the quality part. An $100 inkjet will do glossy photo prints that anyone but a professional photographer can't tell from a photo lab and a $300 inkjet will do prints on par or better than a quick turn around lab.


Respectfully disagree on the quality part. I have yet to see a single Inkjet glossy photo print that is anywhere remotely near photo quality. Maybe some young people can't tell, but anyone who's held a good old photo from when film was around can tell instantly.

Well as one who printed with chemicals and paper in the dark and now has an Epson 3800 my opinion might carry some weight here.

Part of the reason the big high quality ink jets own high end printing is the fact they do at least as good a job as the old develop in a tray prints. You may not have seen good inkjet prints.

Apart from anything I might think, it is a fact that most fine art is now sold as Giclee which means inkjet in French or something. As well the Smithsonian specifies ink jets as what they want for their archives. It's also true colour prints made this way will probably outlast a regular chemical colour print. There is evidence that B&W, especially made with all shades of grey inks, are very long lasting. I have thought of getting another Epson 3800, or perhaps a 3880 now, so I could run all Cone inks and use Quadratone RIP for my B&W prints.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 4:58 pm

Yeap, it's pretty amazing what you can accomplish with an inkjet. From fine art with aqueous inkjets, to the color fastness and flexibility of the printed media of solvent inkjets, to color fastness and ability to print directly on thick substrates of UV cured inkjets. Then there are the dye-sublimation kits for textile printing.

But to really get high quality, you're not just talking about the printer itself. You need a quality RIP and full color management workflow, and to manage clipping between varying color spaces with rendering intents. To really do this stuff right it can get extremely expensive and time consuming. Oce and HP Scitex make some million dollar machines that made my jaw drop the first time I saw them run. Last I checked to get into UV you were looking at $100k, and for light solvents a good $25k for entry level machines, but it wouldn't surprise me if those have been coming down over the last 5-6 years.
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Re: Photo Printer Needed - Recommendations?

Postposted on Mon Dec 16, 2013 5:27 pm

Ethyriel wrote:Yeap, it's pretty amazing what you can accomplish with an inkjet. From fine art with aqueous inkjets, to the color fastness and flexibility of the printed media of solvent inkjets, to color fastness and ability to print directly on thick substrates of UV cured inkjets. Then there are the dye-sublimation kits for textile printing.

But to really get high quality, you're not just talking about the printer itself. You need a quality RIP and full color management workflow, and to manage clipping between varying color spaces with rendering intents. To really do this stuff right it can get extremely expensive and time consuming. Oce and HP Scitex make some million dollar machines that made my jaw drop the first time I saw them run. Last I checked to get into UV you were looking at $100k, and for light solvents a good $25k for entry level machines, but it wouldn't surprise me if those have been coming down over the last 5-6 years.

You also need a boatload of pixels. My 4x5 had lots and some of the B&W from my Epson was stunning, there is something rich about way too many pixels. I have an a7R in the works. already own a Ziess FE 35mm 2.8 for it, I need them yummmy pixels to feed the Epson.
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