Printers are not as expensive as they used to be, but models that produce prints that compete with what a professional print company can do cost more. Where printers made mainly to produce documents often have just two cartridges – one for black ink, one for colour – photo printers are often fitted with three colour cartridges plus a black one, and sometimes they have more than that. The benefits of photo printer are that you only replace the cartridges as the ink in each one runs out, and greater colour fidelity is possible.
Features to look out for include wi-fi, so you can print from your living room while the printer’s in the study: all the full-size printers covered here feature this. Most photo printers also double up as scanners and photocopiers, but be sure to check each model’s specification for this feature before you buy.
Printing direct from smartphones and tablets is possible when there are dedicated apps, like Canon’s, or compatibility with Apple AirPrint, Google Cloud Print and so on. If you want big prints, some models here can print in sizes up to A3, while for tiddly photos a portable photo printer may be all you need. The brands that stand out here are Canon (a camera brand, so no surprises there) and Epson.
1. Canon TS8050: £139.99, Currys
This is a slick machine that produces great photos, thanks to its six ink cartridges including one for grey ink that helps to reduce graininess in prints and improve the appearance of shade in images. The 10.8cm touchscreen is easy to use and you can print straight from a smartphone or tablet, thanks to Canon’s Print app. The device also supports AirPrint and Google Cloud Print. The TS8050 delivers excellent results at a good price.
2. HP Envy 5544: £59.99, John Lewis
This is an efficient, well-priced all-rounder ideal for those who want to print photos occasionally. HP has a system for buying ink by subscription which, depending on your usage, can reduce costs noticeably. Ink comes in two cartridges: one black, one tri-colour. HP’s printers are known for simplicity of use and reliability. The quality doesn’t match the pricier machines on the list but this is a good-value option.
3. Epson Expression Photo XP-760: £129.99, John Lewis
Another all-rounder, the XP-760 scores higher than most general printers for picture quality, not least because it has six ink cartridges – black and five colours. This also means you can replace each ink as one runs out. A second paper tray for 5x7in prints is included with the model. Epson quotes photo durability at 300 years, while other brands promise 100 years: clearly, we haven't tested either claim, but prints are look good.
4. Canon Selphy CP1200: £116.99, John Lewis
If you need to print photos on the move, the CP1200 is one of several that will suit. It only prints postcard-sized snaps (15x10cm) or smaller, though that’s bigger than on the HP Sprocket or Prynt (both reviewed further down). It’s small and light enough to be truly portable and has connections (wireless, SD card and USB) for every situation. Print quality is very good, so if you only need small prints it’s worth considering. Speed isn’t optimal, especially with wireless connectivity, but it’s fine.
5. Epson Expression Photo XP-960: £209, AO.com
The XP-960 is another beast that’s capable of printing photos up to A3 size, though it has a footprint not much bigger than an A4 printer. To print A3, you fold out a telescopic adjuster, which keeps the size of the unit smaller for non-A3 printing. Its six-ink system makes for excellent, faithfully realised photos printed in deep blacks and rich colours.
6. Canon Pixma PRO-10S: £519.50, Jessops
This is a full-on professional inkjet photo printer. When you pay as much as this you get a printer that handles paper bigger than A3 (which manufacturers call A3+, measuring 328x423mm). It has 10 ink tanks, which produce incredible prints especially in black and white. As such, it’s overkill to use it on text documents, though these obviously look as good as the photos. The quality of its prints was the best on test, and running costs are on a par with other printers.
7. Epson EcoTank ET 3600: £239.99, Currys
This printer isn’t cheap to buy, but should offer lower running costs: it comes with a high-capacity ink tank system and two sets of ink bottles, each with one black bottle and three separate colour ones, which Epson claims is enough for 11,000 pages. Print quality is strong, though it’s not the fastest printer on test.
8. Epson Stylus Photo 1500W: £194.99, Argos
This is a big beast, as wide as it is because it prints up to A3. It’ll take up half your desk, or so it feels when you have the feed and output trays open. It’s a good price for a printer that can print to this size but the six-colour ink system means you can spend a lot on ink if you do a lot of A3 prints. Print quality, especially on photo paper, is very strong and colours look realistic.
9. HP Sprocket: £99.99, Amazon
The Sprocket, available in black or white, is a compact portable printer that’s battery-powered (a microUSB socket recharges it). Prints are small (5 x 7.6cm) and come in a 10-sheet pack of either regular prints or stickers. It’s designed to make it easy for you to print from your smartphone or tablet on the go and is great fun, though image quality is not the highest.
10. Prynt Smartphone Case: £119.99, Amazon
This is a real novelty: a phone case available in models to fit an iPhone from the iPhone 5s onwards. Use the app to shoot, adding filters and text if you wish. Press print, and a photo pops out of the case. What’s more, video shot at the time is automatically stored in the cloud. View the photo on the Prynt app and the video is revealed. Prints, like those from the HP Sprocket, are 5x7.6cm and are sticky-backed.
The Verdict: Photo printers
Canon’s winner delivers strong photo quality, is easy to use and good value. For occasional photo printing, the Epson Expression Photo XP-760 is very good value, though lacks the exceptional print quality of the much pricier and more versatile Canon Pixma PRO-10S. For portable prints, the Canon Selphy CP1200 and HP Sprocket are efficient and fun.
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