Photo Printers: Inkjet vs. Dye Sub
So what exactly differentiates a photo printer from a regular printer? Most notably, good photographic printers have a broader gamut of colors that will produce more vibrant and color-accurate prints. Another way photo printers are defined is by their ability to operate without a computer through wireless technologies like PictBridge or memory card slots that allow you to print directly from camera-to-printer. There are two major types of photo printers on the market today -- inkjet and dye-sublimation (dye sub). Inkjet is definitely the most popular option, but it's worth understanding them both and figuring out what suits your needs best.
Inkjet: When Versatility Matters Most
The good thing about inkjets is that you can print on a variety of sizes and paper finishes, often including DVDs and other non-paper printable media. The sore point on inkjets is that even with an 8-ink inkjet printer, it's hard to get the color quality of a dye sub because of the inkjet process. Like most printing, inkjet uses a process called dithering, which is simply thousands of different colored dots printed next to each other to simulate a solid color. You can see these dots with a magnifying glass. Here are a couple inkjets to take a gander at:
Epson PictureMate Express Printer ($89.95 at Amazon)
The portable printers can be a lot of fun. If you scrapbook or like to print "live" when on family gatherings and such, this can be a perfect solution. Epson's PictureMate will print up to 4" x 6" borderless prints and is compatible with memory card and USB.
Epson R1900 Large Format Photo Printer ($511.25 at Amazon)
This is a great printer for options and quality. Maybe you want to print a poster this week, holiday card prints the next and an iron-on t-shirt pattern later. Get to it! Features Epson's UltraChrome Hi-Gloss two pigment ink for excellent glossy prints.
Dye Sub: When Quality is Your End Game
A dye sub printer uses a ribbon containing CMY (cyan, magenta, yellow) which is heated over a piece of photo paper (go here for detailed information on this process) which makes for a 16 million color gamut (woah) and transparent inking that gives you solid colors. Dye sub is also dry instantly and colors will not fade over time. Unfortunately, there is little flexibility in print size or material with dye sub -- if you want to print 4x6 photos, you purchase a 4x6 printer and 4x6 ink ribbons. Paper and ink are usually sold together and you will find that the per-print cost is higher than inkjet, but that's to be expected with quality. Check out this dye sub printer as a place to start:
Canon Selphy CP760 Compact Photo Printer ($99.99 at Amazon)
This portable dye sub printer will print on paper up to 4" x 8" and features onscreen editing. Works with PictBridge, Bluetooth, memory card and USB.
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Posted by Susan Moriarty at July 9, 2008 11:40 AM