The 8 Best Photo Printers to Buy in 2016

Cherish your pictures forever with these top photo printers

Whether you’re using a pro-grade DSLR or you’re a snap-happy smartphone user, pictures tend to end up overflowing your hard drive. Regardless of your photo-taking street cred, a photo printer offers the opportunity to have those great moments in your hand moments at the click of a button. For many, that’s worth the price of admission. There’s no shortage of options and choosing between portable, prosumer and professional models heavily depends on budget and needs, but no matter what you want or when you want it, there’s a photo printer for everyone.

1
Best Overall: Canon Pixma Pro-100

Canon Pixma Pro-100
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When it comes to photo printers, the last thing you want to sacrifice is quality for budget. Canon’s Pixma Pro-100 might have some first-time buyers questioning the expenditure, but you get what you pay for with this printer. All photo printer brands like to claim fast printer speeds and great color prints, but Canon backs it up with room to spare. One notable difference between photo printers at lower price points is the use of dye inks over pigment inkjet, which won’t stand up as well to the test of time. Before you raise another eyebrow, rest assured that under proper storage conditions, Canon claims photos from the Pro-100 will last up to 100 years.

Just three buttons decorate the front of the well-designed silver and gray casing: power, cancel/resume, and WiFi. The Pro-100 offers an 8-color ink system that can handle prints up to 13”x19” inches and the main paper tray can handle up to 120 sheets of plain paper or 20 sheets of thicker stock photo paper. A single-sheet heavy stock input sits at the bottom of the rear of the printer. Weighing just over 43 pounds, the Pro-100 will need a dedicated space but if you’re looking to get serious about photo printing, that seems like a fair trade-off. Setup takes around 15 minutes or so if you’re installing all the utilities and drivers.

2
Best Entry Level: Epson PictureMate PM-400

Epson PictureMate PM-400
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For many first-time photo printer buyers, there’s a justifiable case to be made that most casual photographers don’t require a dedicated photo printer. In numerous cases, that’s a fair statement and that’s why an option like the affordable Epson PictureMate PM-400 is a superb choice. Capable of 3.5”x5”, 4”x6” and 5”x7” prints, the PM-400 produces excellent photo quality for the price. Add in WiFi connectivity for printing directly from phones or tablets and you have an inexpensive and convenient option.

Weighing just under four pounds, the PM-400 doesn’t take up a lot of room. Setting up is a snap and the speed for printing standard size 4”x6” prints ranges anywhere from 40 to 42 seconds, which seems more than worth skipping the trip to Walgreens' photo shop.

We’re confident saying this model offers impressively high quality for most types of images. We’d skip looking at anything you might want to display in a gallery, but if that’s the type of result you’re looking for, you’re in the wrong place.

3
Best Budget: HP Envy 4520

HP Envy 4520
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Discovering the best budget photo printer is inevitably going to mean tradeoffs. Fortunately, the HP Envy 4520 is a worthy investment if you want just the bare bones of photo printing. In fact, the Envy 4520 is more all-in-one than dedicated photo printer, with both a copier and scanner function. Its well-designed body offers a low-profile printer that won’t get in the way of your desk. The 2.2” touchscreen offers less clutter and confusion, along with easy setup. With included options like Airprint, Google Cloud Print and HP’s ePrint app, you’ve got a truly hands-free photo printing experience. At just 11 pounds, it’s one of the lightest printers on this list, and includes a 100-sheet input tray that pulls out from the bottom of the machine. For photo printers, the paper tray offers adjustable sliders for 4”x6”, 5”x8” and 8”x11” photo prints.

4
Best for Portability: Polaroid Zip

Polaroid Zip
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If you’re looking for a tiny printer that’s not only portable, but prints quality photos, Polaroid’s Zip mobile printer is the best choice. The 6.7oz Polaroid fits in the palm of your hand and, for smartphone photographers, that’s exact the kind of portability we want. Capable of pairing with your smartphone via Bluetooth, you’re limited to images no more than 2”x3” large. Without the need to change paper sizes, the Polaroid is truly instant, as images spit out of the printer in just under 10 seconds.

Built of a shiny white plastic, it looks more like today’s external hard drives rather than a photo printer. Setup is a cinch: just unpack the printer, charge it via microUSB, press the lone button and connect it to a phone. Lastly, just grab the Polaroid Zip app from either the App or Play Store and, voila, you’re ready to print. In fact, the entire process from unboxing, loading paper, pairing and printing should take under three minutes. Polaroid’s app isn’t what we’d call attractive, but it serves its purpose and while we’d recommend editing your photos before attempting Polaroid’s built-in editing feature, it’s still good enough for its intended use.

5
Best Splurge: Epson SureColor P600

Epson SureColor P600
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Epson’s SureColor P600 is priced at the “prosumer”, the cross-pollination of the consumer and professional, looking for the best at-home photo quality. While we’re disappointed to see the P600 limited to 13”x19” print, the superb color accuracy, black inks and saturation shot it to the top of our list.

Utilizing Epson’s formulated 25.9ml UltraChrome HD inks in nine different colors, four of which are grays and blacks, we might call the P600 prints ready for gallery use. It’s a bold claim but, for the price, you might not expect anything less. And at 35 pounds, it’s sure going to take up some desk space. The 2.7” display will assist in WiFi  setup (Airprint and Google Print as well), loading media and roll paper, and perform various maintenance functions. Mac users will find the setup slightly more tolerable while Window users will find the good old “driver install” to be somewhat tedious, especially for first-time users.

Printing the maximum image size of 13”x19” can take upwards of 5 minutes, whereas an 8”x10” will take around one or two minutes. Realistically, those numbers will vary depending on the paper and driver settings being used for each photo print, but be forewarned that a raw print at maximum size with high quality paper could take around 20-30 minutes. These times will likely turn off casual photographers, but when you’re looking for a printer that costs just under $800, waiting for the perfect print seems like a worthy investment. One final complaint about the P600 is the lack of a roll paper cutter that slices off the print when finished. Still, aside from the minor niggles, the P600 is a fantastic best splurge choice. 

6
Best Design: Impossible Project Instant Lab

Impossible Project Instant Lab
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While there are certainly some desktop-ready photo printers with attractive designs, it’s hard to see anything surpassing the look and feel of the Impossible Project Instant Lab. Unique in more ways than design, this smartphone-friendly photo printer allows you to make Polaroid-style prints directly from your smartphone photos. The introduction of their latest model and its new “touch location technology” supports devices from Samsung, HTC, Google and Apple.

The sturdy metal base turns into a design that can only be described as accordion-like, with the smartphone resting at the top of the printer. With one single pull of a dark slide, your photo is transferred to instant color film. Unlike the Polaroid cameras of the old days, the Impossible Project offers the user the option to choose which photos are printed and in today’s app world, you can edit them to your heart’s content before pulling the slide. Let’s be perfectly clear, this is no substitute for a dedicated photo printer and it’s not going to offer gallery-ready prints, but what it will do is offer exactly what many casual photographers want in today’s world: a simple, easy way to print memories.

A 300mAh rechargeable battery provides power for easy on-the-go printing. The dedicated Impossible Project app walks you through the entire process of print and allows you to select a picture from either your camera roll or Instagram account. Crop it, adjust contrast, gamma, hue and print. It’s as simple as putting the phone face down on the cradle, without your phone case, and pulling the shutter slide. The result resembles the type of Polaroid photo with a protective, roll-up sheet you might remember from decades past.

7
Best Mini: Canon Selphy CP1200

Canon Selphy CP1200
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Given that most dedicated photo printers are often too large to be carried around, the Canon Selphy CP1200 is a welcome choice. However, it comes with one caveat. The CP1200 only prints 4”x6” images. If you’re looking for mostly Facebook and Instagram-ready prints, the trade-off is worth the price point. Size disappointment aside, we love Canon’s functionality, especially the ability to print images simply by tapping a button on your smartphone through Canon’s Selphy app.

In fact, Canon’s entire buying proposition may be based on the idea that you have a smartphone that you regularly use for photographic purposes. They’re banking on you finding happiness with prints that closely resemble exactly what you see on your smartphone display. For a printer that’s compact enough at 1.9 pounds to carry around, that’s exactly what we could hope for. As a bonus feature for compact prints, Canon features a clear overcoat on each print that helps protect against dirt or liquids.

Capable of printing up to 54 prints on a single charge, options for postcard, passport and square label are also available to complement the 4”x6” selling point. Printing wirelessly is a snap via WiFi, and for you Apple uses, Airprint. The printer also offers an optional battery for traveling.

8
Best for Photo Professionals: Canon Pixma PRO-1

Canon Pixma PRO-1
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For professionals looking to get the very best in at-home print photography, Canon’s Pixma PRO-1 is the best place to look. The photo quality is glorious. The PRO-1 is an impressive photo printer that runs with models punching well above its price point. There’s little question, your 13”x19” prints will feel exactly like gallery quality photography. At 61 pounds, it’s large, heavy but not unattractive, with a familiar matte-black finish that we’ve seen on other Canon printer models. It’s limited to 13”x19” prints, a size that is often the largest most at-home pro-grade printers will undertake.

The PRO-1 features 12 ink tanks, five of which are either black or shades of gray, and each features 36ml capacity. One notable feature that’s missing is the presence of WiFi, as the PRO-1 requires Ethernet support for printing. Additionally, Canon included USB PictBridge support for printing directly from any compatible digital camera, DV camcorder or smartphone.

The rear of the PRO-1 allows for two paper feeds, one that is used for non-specialty photo paper with 120 sheet capacity and a second single-sheet feeder that is used for heavier art paper. Aside from the struggle of getting 61 pounds out of the box, setup is easy enough, especially for Mac users where loading driver software is all done on the backend. Perhaps the most important data set is print speed and, while Canon doesn’t sit at the head of the class, the numbers are more than good enough. Expect an average of around two minutes and 15 seconds for a 4”x6” photo or just under four minutes for an 8”x10”.

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