We have spent a lot of time analyzing various photo printers to find the best one for photographers and overall, we would recommend the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000. One of the first problems you are going to have to overcome when you decide to start printing your photographs is to one to suit your specific needs. It doesn’t matter whether you are using a pro-grade medium format camera, entry level DSLR, a point and shoot or even a smartphone camera, using the best photo printer allows you to have a great physical copy of your images and gives you the opportunity to have your special moments in your hand at the click of a button.
Overall Best Photo Printer Winner
The options available in the market are numerous – there is a photo printer out there for everyone, so it depends on your budget and requirements.
Whatever your need is, you will be looking for a printer that can reproduce the quality of the image you have created digitally, to look the same way when printed on paper and to last a long time. If you are a professional photographer running a business, or a photographer looking for stunning quality prints, you may not always want to print at a standard size – for example a postcard, 4”X6” size or A4 size – but there are times when you may want to have a landscape printed in a large format, you may want to make a few large and small prints to add to your collection, or maybe other larger prints to support your clients’, friends’ or families’ needs. Keeping this in mind, in this article, we will be focussing on the best photo printer that can be used for professional grade printing, which means gallery-quality prints at home between 13” to 17” wide (note that this is not the very large format commercial editions like 24” or 36” or 44” wide printers provide).
The printers that we have analyzed here are all professional inkjet printers that have more colors with the high-end printers having up to 12 different colored inks to accurately replicate the rich colors in your image (scroll down to read our reason for this selection).
Briefly: Why the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 Came Out Top in Our List of Best Printers
In our estimation, the best printer of a reasonable size, that can match the needs of a professional photographer would be the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 that can print up to 17 inches wide, is suitable for most purposes, comes with the Lucia Pro 11-ink system + Chroma optimizer, which means it produces prints with a broader color gamut (accurate color reproduction) and strong shadow details in darker areas, great image clarity, gloss uniformity and anti-bronzing.
The printhead is engineered with 1,536 nozzles x 12 inks = total 18,432 nozzles and sensors that continuously monitor the status of the nozzles and it has dedicated nozzles for photo black and matte black inks – which means, if you often switch back and forth between output types, you will neither have to waste time or ink when you switch between matte and glossy prints as you do with some other printers.
How We Selected The Best Photo Printer Available Right Now
Table of Contents:
- Who are we?
- Why You Want to Avoid Bad Printers
- How This Analysis Was Conducted
- Research Methodology
- Best Photo Printer for Professional Grade Printing
Who Are We Anyway?
If you're new to Light Stalking, you might like to know a little about us first. The Light Stalking Team has been featured by leading organizations including Nat Geo, Adobe, and is one among the top 10 most followed photography blogs in the world. The writers at Light Stalking have years of experience in the field of photography and this has given them the opportunity to test and use many different photography tools and accessories. This experience allows us to understand your needs and evaluate the best products in the market. Moreover, being connected with the industry ensures that we keep ourselves up-to-date on the latest technologies available for the consumer and that we are continuously researching new product categories, reading user reviews, and trialing those products, which ensures that we can provide the right suggestions when you are looking for one.
Why You Want to Avoid Inferior Quality Printers as a Photographer
You may have spent hours scouting for locations and then more hours hiking to those spots with all your heavy camera gear, including your cumbersome tripod, further you were probably shooting in bad weather – all in the name of capturing that epic image. Maybe you’ve even completed a portrait session (with all the wrangling that involves!), making sure that your photo represents the spirit of the person, friends or family.
You’ve then spent hours post-processing your image, ensuring that every little detail is correct, tweaking your images to make them look their best and to really represent your creative vision for that photograph. Then, you’ve chosen to print one or few of your very best images to go on display.
You’ve sent it to your current home printer, waiting patiently for a few minutes, or longer (depending on print size), only for it to be of such poor quality that the image is unusable – the colors are not what you expected, nor are they representative of your work, and the quality of the print is just not up to scratch.
There are also times when you’ve chosen to print your black and white photographs, only for the prints to come out with strange color casts and the printed image does not reproduce the expected dynamic range or tonality, of your photograph.
Sometimes, when you’ve printed your printhead has malfunctioned, usually as a result of nozzle block, or your paper has become skewed due to humidity or moisture – in this scenario, you had to waste paper and ink; ink and paper are not cheap!
What is the reason for these unexpected issues? Poor print results can be due to a number of issues. Predominantly, the quality of ink used in cheaper printers means that you do not get a true representation of your image. Less advanced printhead options have limited your color range and potentially leave you with a strange color cast to your image. Technology failure can also be due to the cheaper components used in these printers underperforming or wearing out. Unfortunately, compromising and buying a cheap printer can cause more issues and be more expensive in ink, paper and time, than you envisaged.
Avoid these issues by buying the best photo printer out there that has advanced print technology with more color combinations to reproduce a broader color gamut while printing. By choosing the cheaper product, you may have saved money but you’ve compromised quality, time and money as you reproduced on paper what you spent all your effort in creating digitally.
Moreover, you waste expensive ink and paper trying different settings or rectifying printer problems in hopes to arrive at a better print. The best advice is to invest in the best printer out there, that can print your images with the same colors, contrast and clarity that you expect.
Why We Think You Should Err Towards Inkjet Printers for Printing Photographs
The pigment ink for professional inkjet printers are made of tiny particles that sit on top of the paper and are of archival quality. This can last up to 200 years or more when maintained in proper conditions, compared with dye-based inks which are absorbed into the paper and tend to fade quickly lasting up to 75 years if maintained in proper conditions.
However, you should understand that there are two drawbacks to pigment ink:
- metamerism, which is a slight shift in color when the print is viewed at an angle
- pigment ink isn’t as vibrant as the dye-based ink colors
If you did not know what metamerism is, it is a phenomenon where two colors appear to be of the same shade under one light source (maybe an incandescent light) but appear to be different shades under a second source (maybe a fluorescent light). In our case, the difference in shade appears when the print is viewed at an angle.
How This Analysis Was Conducted:
With so many printer manufacturers out there offering a vast range of products – starting from print from mobile portable printers to the very large format 64-inch printers, there are hundreds of printers out there in the market that suit every person’s need. Cost is similarly diverse with printers starting from below $50 to consumers being able to purchase printers that cost well over $10,000 and everything in between. As with most photography accessories, all printers are not the same but come with a variety of ink systems, technologies, and print sizes.
While some printers use the best quality pigment-based ink and printhead technology, they do cost more. Conversely, there are some printers that favor lower cost over more features. Unfortunately, we found that lower cost printers, in particular, do not produce acceptable quality black and white images.
So we focussed our attention on printers that are not overly large but could produce at least 13 to 17 inch-wide prints. We wanted those printers that performed best not only for color but also black and white images and finally, we also focussed on printers that could consistently provide high-quality images that you’d be proud to see displayed on your wall, hanging in a gallery or sold to clients.
The top line of printers that were analyzed fell broadly into two manufacturers – Canon and Epson – with a few of their printers making it to the top of the group. We also looked into one of HP’s professional line of printers, the HP Photosmart 8750 Professional, as this met the specifications we were looking for.
Some of the reasons that other manufacturers did not make it through our analysis stage include the use of fewer ink colors meaning that these options could not provide the color gamut required, or the ink type used was not of a high enough quality. Further, some printers used laser and LED, thermal printing or dye sublimation – these technologies currently lack the quality required, particularly in printing monochrome photographs. Finally, we did not include printers that are not dedicated photo printers.
The criteria taken into account while analyzing the contenders for best photo printer were:
- Printing technology – this is very important as the printhead technology determines the quality of the print that is produced and determines whether there will be wastage of paper or ink. Printing technology also impacts potential maintenance issues and the print speed
- Image quality – the maximum print resolution was taken into account as this is a ruling factor when producing high-quality images for any purpose.
- Maximum print size – we understand that many people want to print out larger format prints, whether they are professionals or enthusiastic amateurs, therefore we looked at a maximum print size of 17 inches that is required in many galleries, but we also looked at a few 13-inch-wide printers.
- Ink type – the ink type is a major deciding factor for the quality of the prints, be they color or monochrome images, and we have looked mostly at only pigment based inks, but also checked two printers with dye-based inks.
- Ink palette and Chroma Optimizer – The high the number of inks the printer uses while printing, the broader the color gamut the printer can capture. Thus this became another crucial factor that we have taken into account while deciding on the best printer along with the Chroma Optimizer that helps create amazing quality prints.
- Monochrome prints – it is no good having a black and white print with no tonal variations or one with awkward color casts and so we have looked at printers that have a few inks dedicated to black and white prints so that the produced prints have an amazing dynamic range and produce true grey colors. Dedicated matte and photo black nozzles are also a very important factor to be looked into if you are someone who very often switches printing media. A printer without a dedicated nozzle for photo black and matte black will cost you some money on ink when switching between media as some ink is wasted in this process and it will also take some time for switching, although not a huge amount.
- Roll feeder – if you are someone who is into printing panoramas, then a printer with a roll feeder attachment will help you print on rolls of paper up to 129 inches long depending on the printer. However, beware, you may have to buy the roll feed adapter as an optional attachment at an extra cost.
- Print speed – the more nozzles and bigger the printhead, the higher the printing speed and this ensures that you get high quality 17 inches prints in less than 5 minutes.
Taking the above criteria into consideration, we have eliminated the HP Photosmart 8750 Professional, although a decent printer, it comes with nine dye-based ink colors that are delivered in tricolor cartridges which is a high waste technology, because, if one of the inks in the tricolor cartridge runs out, you will end up disposing of the entire cartridge wasting any remaining ink in the remaining two cartridges, this can be a concern increasing costs. Further, the HP Photosmart 8750 Professional prints only up to a maximum of 13 inches wide which means if you need prints larger than 13 inches, then you will need to get the help of professional print services.
Excluding HP from the list, the remaining printers were all various models from Canon or Epson as most of their 13” or 17” wide carriage printers came with quality pigment-based ink systems with three to five colors for monochrome printing making them the best printers for not only color, but also black and white photo printing. Some of these printers come with a total of 12 ink tanks (11 colors + 1 Chroma Optimizer) so they can print a broad color gamut and have uniform glossiness protecting the printed products from getting damaged. Two of Canon’s printers were the best at this range, but we have eliminated one due to the fact that it is extremely large compared with the other printers, occupying an enormous amount of space and weighing in at around 44 kg!
A Note About Very Large Printers: A general rule with really large format printers like the 36” and 44” wide printers are that they are designed for graphics, maps, scientific renderings or where the printing is related to technical information. As a result, these printers are very large and come with a smaller number of ink cartridges – these very large format printers produce a narrow color gamut compared with printers that are dedicated to photo printing. As we are looking for the best photo printer for most photographers, we decided, therefore, to omit these machines from our analysis.
The three top printers that came out of the initial analysis are:
- Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 (Available at Amazon | B&H | Adorama)
- Epson SureColor P5000 (Available at B&H | Adorama)
- Epson SureColor P800 (Available at Amazon | B&H | Adorama)
The 3 Best Photo Printers for Professional Printing Up to 17 Inches Wide
Although all the printers that have made it to the final can print up to 17 inches wide, the prints from the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 and Epson SureColor P800 are slightly better due to their advanced printing technology and ink systems. Also, the print speed is slightly faster. The Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 and Epson SureColor P5000 have dedicated nozzles for matte and photo black ink tanks which makes switching automatic. The Epson SureColor P800 lacks this facility. Another feature to note with Epson printers that have been listed here is the roll feeder that lets the user print panoramas on rolls of paper.
Let's look at the three main contenders in detail.
The Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 (Overall Winner)
The Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 (Available At: Amazon | B&H | Adorama) comes with a 17-inch-wide carriage photo printer and is priced at around $1,299.00 at the time of publishing, which means it is affordable for serious photography enthusiasts, professionals and comes with that “red line” which Canon has on their professional line of lenses.
The printer comes with the Lucia Pro 11-ink system + Chroma Optimizer, that has an optimized resin coating for each pigment and allows denser droplets to be applied to the media. This means it produces beautiful prints with a broad color gamut and accurate color reproduction. It also prints great shadow details in darker areas, has outstanding image clarity, gloss-uniformity and anti-bronzing.
There are four inks for monochrome printing, which helps to reproduce amazing black and white images with a broad tonal range with deeper and richer blacks.
The printhead is 50 percent larger compared with previous versions and comes with anti-clogging technology where sensors detect ink ejection and clogs, providing automatic back-up via another nozzle. The printhead is engineered with 1,536 nozzles x 12 inks = total 18,432 nozzles and sensors that continuously monitor the status of the nozzles. This aids in consistent ink droplets, limits clogs, avoids wastage of ink and reduces the frequency of cleaning cycles. This means, you won’t need to worry about frequent printhead maintenance and you will not be wasting prints because there was a block in the nozzle. The tubular ink delivery system also ensures faster print speeds.
The dedicated nozzles for photo black and matte black inks mean, if you often switch back and forth between output types (media), you won’t have to waste time or ink during the switching process as you do with some other printers. The air feeding system prevents the pages from being skewed due to moisture and humidity and ensures accurate and uniform ink placement. The air feeding system provides a consistent height between the printhead and the media that leads to ink droplet accuracy and improved image quality. So no more worrying about wasting ink and papers because your print got damaged as a result of skewing.
Due to the bigger size of the printhead, anti-clogging technology, and air feed method, you can have a reliable and hassle-free standard color print to a maximum size of 17 x 22 inches in less than 5 minutes, while a full bleed edge to edge photo can take between 25 to 30 minutes to print.
However, this printer has one drawback that there is no provision to print onto roll paper, which means, the maximum sheet size you can print is 17 x 22 inches with a printable area of 16.73 x 21.69 inches (clicking the “C” option in the settings lets you print borderless). If you are into printing panoramas often, then this printer is not for you.
The important features of this printer are:
- Printing technology – full photolithography inkjet nozzle engineering
- Nozzle Configuration – 1,536 nozzles x 12 inks = total 18,432 nozzles
- Image quality – Up to 4800 x 2400 dpi 4 for both color and monochrome
- Maximum Print size – 17 x 22 inches
- Ink type – Pigment based Lucia Pro Ink
- Ink palette – 11 + 1 at 80 ml each (Cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red, blue, photo black, matte black, grey, photo grey and Chroma Optimizer)
- Monochrome prints – has greyscale printing with photo black, matte black, grey and photo grey ink tanks with dedicated nozzles for photo black and matte black
- Print Speed – 17 x 22 inches color photo – approximately 4 minutes 10 seconds for standard printing (full bleed edge to edge can take up to 25 – 30 minutes because it prints only one way)
If you are looking for a printer that is low on maintenance, with exceptional image quality, broad color gamut, dramatic black and white images and high-speed printing at only approximately 4 minutes 10 seconds for a standard 17 x 22 inches color photo, then in our estimation, the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-100 should be your first option as a professional photographer looking to have gallery or fine art quality prints.
Moreover, the price is a bargain compared with other printers of this range.
The Epson SureColor P5000
The Epson SureColor P5000 (Available at B&H | Adorama) is a printer aimed at professional imaging and comes as a wide format printer that can print up to 17” wide with enhanced performance and reliability. The advanced PrecisionCore TFP printhead and Epson’s precision dot screening technologies along with the 10 color gamut UltraChrome HDX pigment ink cartridges and high-density blacks (1.5 times denser than previous generations) deliver twice the print permeance compared with previous generation printers, which means prints last twice as long.
The SureColor-P5000 also comes with a roll media feeder along with paper cassette which means you are not limited to just the 17 x 22 inches wide prints but can print panoramas as well. Automatic switching is possible between front paper cassette and roll media feeder.
Black and white printing is done with three levels of black inks, photo black, light black and light light black, to create smooth tonal transitions and to bring out the subtlest details in the image. The switch between matte black and photo black is automatic which means you do not waste ink and time while switching media.
The printhead is designed to achieve high ink efficiency and printhead reliability, offers improved dust and static control and comes with ink-repellent surface coating for reduced nozzle maintenance. Matte black and photo black inks are delivered through a single channel which means, the ink type is chosen automatically based on the chosen media.
The important features of this printer are:
- Printing technology – Inkjet printhead
- Nozzle Configuration – 360 nozzles per ink color = 360 x 10 = 3600 nozzles
- Image quality – 2880 x 1440 dpi
- Maximum Print size – 17” x 22”
- Paper handling – front tray and roll feed
- Ink type – UltraChrome HDX pigment ink
- Ink palette – Standard edition of 10 (Cyan, Light Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Vivid Light Magenta, Yellow, Orange, Green, Light Light Black, Light Black, Photo Black, Matte Black)
- Monochrome prints – has greyscale printing with UltraChrome HDX Light Light Black, Light Black, Photo Black, Matte Black
- Print Speed – 17” x 22” borderless color photo – approximately 7 minutes (normal) to 12 minutes 26 seconds (maximum) depending on print speed setting
When comparing the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 with the Epson SureColor P5000 the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 excels in two categories.
The printhead is 50 percent larger and comes with anti-clogging technology where sensors detect ink ejection and any clogs providing automatic back-up via another nozzle. The 18,432 nozzles and sensors continuously monitor the status of the nozzles and this aids in consistent ink droplets, limits clogs, higher print speed, avoids wastage of ink and reduces the frequency of cleaning cycles.
The air feeding system prevents the pages from skewing due to moisture and humidity and ensures accurate and uniform ink placement and prevents loss of ink or media due to skewing. This means a consistent height is maintained between the print media and printhead resulting in improved image quality.
If you are not concerned about the above criteria but are looking for a printer that can print panorama besides the 17 x 22 inches photo, then in our estimation, the Epson SureColor P5000 should be your second option as a professional photographer looking to have prints made up to a size of 17 inches wide.
The Epson SureColor P800
The Epson SureColor P800 (Available at Amazon | B&H | Adorama) utilises professional imaging technologies and comes with a 17-inch-wide option for printing sheet media and roll media; yes, you can print panoramas with this printer up to 129 inches long, because it can print onto roll paper that comes as an optional adapter (will have to be bought at an extra cost of around $250). The printer uses UltraChrome HD inks which is the 8 color pigment ink technology for reproducing outstanding colors + resin encapsulation technology (similar to Chroma Optimizer) for uniform glossiness. The MicroPiezo AMC (Advanced Meniscus Control) printhead combined with the professional grade ink ensures accurate and stunning print detail.
The printhead comes with 180 nozzles per ink color and utilizes the AMC technology, combined with an ink-repellent surface coating that ensures consistent dot placement. However, when switching between matte and photo black, although it is automatic, there is some time involved and ink used in that process; matte to photo black, 3 mins 30 secs, 4.6 ml ink used, photo to matte black, 2 mins 30 secs, 1.6 ml ink used.
The important features of this printer are:
- Printing technology – Epson MicroPiezo AMC inkjet printhead
- Nozzle Configuration – 180 nozzles per ink color x 8
- Image quality – 2880 x 1440 dpi
- Maximum Print size – 17” x 22” and panoramas up to 129 inches long
- Paper handling – auto sheet feeder, front fine art feed, front straight path, optional roll media adapter for prints up to 129 inches long
- Ink type – Pigment based UltraChrome HD inks
- Ink palette – 9 individual cartridges at 80 ml each ((cyan, vivid magenta, yellow, light cyan, vivid light magenta)
- Monochrome prints – has greyscale printing with UltraChrome HD photo black and UltraChrome HD matte black ink tanks, light black and light light black
- Print Speed – 17” x 22” borderless color photo – approximately 7 minutes (normal speed) to 12 minutes 26 seconds (maximum) depending on print speed
When comparing the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 with the Epson SureColor P800 the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 excels in three or more categories.
- The Canon printhead is 50 percent larger and comes with anti-clogging technology where sensors detect ink ejection and any clogs providing automatic back-up via another nozzle. The 18,432 nozzles and sensors continuously monitor the status of the nozzles and this aids in consistent ink droplets, limits clogs, higher print speed, avoids wastage of ink and reduces the frequency of cleaning cycles compared with the fewer ink nozzles for Epson SureColor P800.
- The air feeding system prevents the pages from skewing due to moisture and humidity and ensures accurate and uniform ink placement and prevents loss of ink or media due to skewing. This means a consistent height is maintained between the print media and printhead resulting in improved image quality.
- The Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 comes with dedicated nozzles for photo black and matte black inks which means, when switching back and forth between output types (media), you will neither have to waste time or ink when you switch between matte and glossy prints as you do with the Epson SureColor P800.
If you are not concerned about the above criteria but are looking for a printer that can print very long panorama besides the 17 x 22 inches photo, then in our estimation, the Epson SureColor P800 should be your third option as a professional photographer looking to have prints made up to a size of 17 inches wide.
Huge prints are made to last for a lifetime. Photographers are always looking for rich colors, broad color gamut, high dynamic range, exceptional monochrome images, sharpness and amazing details in the shadow areas. When you are working on large projects, you are also looking at print speeds and maintenance issues and so you need a printer that can accomplish all these things.
Taking into consideration the above facts, the number 1 recommendation from us would be the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000 as it comes with professional quality ink that has a wider color gamut and four ink tanks for monochrome printing. It also has a Chroma Optimizer that provides uniform glossiness. Added to this is the air feed system that prevents media from skewing, the anti-clogging technology reduces maintenance frequency and the improved size of the printhead and increased number of nozzles provides increased print speed at only a little above 4 minutes for a 17 x 22 inches standard color print.
If you are looking for the best professional photo printer out there that can print up to 17” wide, then our number one recommendation would be the Canon ImagePrograf Pro-1000. It is also sold at quite an affordable price for serious professionals and can be purchased at these outlets: