The top photo printer buying guide

A true photo printer, as opposed to the usual inkjet printers that manufacturers call photo printers, are categorized in two, for consumers: near-dedicated photo printers and dedicated photo printers.

A dedicated photo printer (also called small-format) as the name suggests, can only print photos. They are usually limited to a maximum paper size of 2x3, 4x6, or 5x7 inches. The category however, is not just defined by its limitations.

Dedicated photo printers are usually small and very portable. They are more of a standalone consumer device, than a computer printer, and are designed to be user-friendly. You can still find a dedicated portable printer today.

image of Canon photo printer

On the other hand, a near-dedicated photo printer, at least those designed for consumers, are more useful for serious amateur photographers. They offer professional-level print quality, can usually print photo sizes up to 13x19 inches, and often require a reasonable level of skill for you to get the best photo prints.

What the two categories have in common is they print photos. And if you want to buy the top photo printer (depending on your needs) here are some things that can help you hone in on the right device.

Do you just need to print high quality photos or do something more?

While there is no such thing as an all-in-one near-dedicated or dedicated photo printer, there are a few dedicated photo printers that have other functions. Most devices have menus with basic editing features that let you crop images, remove red eye, and a handful of other basic editing tools.

There are some photo printers that provide a lot of editing tools that are practically home photo kiosks, and often come with a touch screen that you can use to give editing and printing commands. These types of photo printers can also film negatives or scan slides. Certain models have enough memory capacity to store hundreds of images. Lastly, some dedicated photo printers are built into cameras or photo frames, allowing for more convenience.

Will you print black and white photos?

black and white photo

Regardless of the type of printer you are interested in, you should decide whether you really need to print in color. Photo printers turn this particular question on its head, so you should really think about whether you need black and white photos, because many printers cannot handle this well.

The most common issue is with the tint, or rather different color tints for shades of gray. If you are going to print black and white photos, you would need to check out the quality of those prints apart from the quality of color photos. This is usually more of an issue with dedicated photo printers, rather than near-dedicated ones, but still - you have to consider it in either device.

What printer size are you okay with?

An affordable dedicated photo printer has a pretty wide range of sizes. They come in models small enough to carry in your pocket, up to larger ones, depending on your need. If you will bring a portable photo printer with you to events like parties or conferences, choose a printer size you can easily carry around. You should also think if you have to run it on batteries. If yes, make sure you have enough batteries on hand, and double check the number of photos you can print on one full charge.

A near-dedicated photo printer is bigger than most standard-size inkjet printers, because they are usually designed to print on cut-paper or glossy paper sheets as big as 13x19 inches, and even banner-size print outs in certain cases. Some dedicated photo printers can even print from a roll of paper.

To print photos on a large-size paper using near-dedicated photo printers, you need to feed a single sheet from the front, then the printer loads the paper by feeding it all the way out of a back slot on the device, and then prints photos while moving the paper forward. So if you do not have enough free space for this type of printing, choose a near-dedicated printer that can print on roll paper, or can feed large-size paper from a tray, or better yet - can do both. Either way, you need extra space.

What are your connectivity options?

memory card and computer

Almost all dedicated photo printers can print from your computers using USB connections, but they are really used as standalone devices. Most newer printer models come with Wi-Fi connectivity.

Most printers can connect directly to cameras and even have a memory card slot so you can print directly from memory cards (you need to check though that the photo printer is compatible with the memory-card format you will use). Some devices can print from internal memory. Lastly, some dedicated photo printers connect using Bluetooth to print from tablets or cell phones.

For near-dedicated photo printers, the options are pretty much the same as your usual laser or inkjet printers. Some printer models have a single USB connector. Others have two USB connectors for sharing between computers. Some have an Ethernet connector so you have shared access within a network. Some near-dedicated photo printers also have Wi-Fi connectivity.

It really comes down to determining what connectivity will work best for you and guarantee high-quality prints every time.

What is your preferred output quality?

With a dedicated photo printer, nearly any type of thermal dye or inkjet printer will - at least - match the print quality you would usually get from drugstore photo printing services. A newer desktop photo printer technology provides lower-quality output, albeit at a more reasonable price. It is considered good enough for photos that you will put on a fridge magnet, or if you want something to put in your wallet.

Near-dedicated photo printers, on the other hand, provide photo quality output that is worthy of a professional photographer's exhibition.

Keep in mind too that the type of paper you print on can make a difference in the photo quality. So make sure you ask whether you need to use glossy photo paper or other types of paper to get the most out of the device.

How fast do you need your photos printed?

color snapshot

We are asking because in truth, you do not have to worry about print speeds when it comes to photo printers. When it comes to photos, quality matters the most. Besides, and even the slowest photo printers today have pretty tolerable speeds, so you should focus more on the quality of the printed images.

How much printing will you actually do?

The rule of thumb is to determine the printer's duty cycle per month (the maximum number of prints you can do in a month) as well as the device's recommended duty cycle, and that you make sure that the printer's recommended duty cycle is more than what you plan to print. Unfortunately, this is not really possible for most near-dedicated and dedicated photo printers.

The reason being manufacturers (most of them, anyway) do not rate the duty cycle for these devices. So what do you do?

Well if you will be printing enough photos for you to be concerned about the printer's duty cycle, and the manufacturer you are considering to buy from does not give a duty cycle rating, do not buy from that manufacturer. Instead, look for a printer that is specifically designed for professional photographers' and retail stores use.

Summing it up

Whether you need to print photos for school or your work, or you just want to fill a photo album, or photo book, we hope our buying guide can help you find the ideal photo printer for your needs. And if you are wondering how to save on your photo printing costs, you can start by getting affordable photo printer ink from For years, Inkjets has been the one-stop shop for high quality photo printer ink cartridges that will not break the bank. Our superior aftermarket ink cartridges ensure you will always get the best quality of prints while staying within your budget. Contact our customer experience team todayand let us help you find what you need to start printing your favorite images!