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Economy Printers


Economy printers is being used here to consider printers which cost less than 200 and generally this will mean you are looking at either a small format/on the move printer or an A4 inkjet printer with photo printing capability. For many who want to produce prints for their own use to show friends and family, want to produce the equivalent of what they could get from the local photo processing shop, or want to print just the very occasional photo this may be an option to consider. So what are the options.

Small Format/On The Move Printers

Small Format or On the Move printers usually refers to the type of printer that will generally print up to a 6x4 (10x15cm) photo print, although some models may go to a 5x7 (13x18cm), and are designed for low volume home printing or being light enough to be used on the move. Some models are inkjets while others work using the dye-sub ink process, see this article for more detailed explanation. With consumables the inks and papers can be bought separately, but some have options of buying ink and paper in a combined pack, or in the case of the POGO using a thermal printing technique there is no ink as the colour comes from the paper/printing process. These printers are direct printers and can be used with the DOP facilities on some models of camera, they work with jpg images.

If you want to produce images like those that can be obtained from your local photo processing shop to distribute around family and friends, or to frame for your own use they are an option. They are a form of instant print. They can be run with or without a computer. They are also an option for those who do not have a computer as they come with slots to be able to insert the memory card direct or connect your camera via a USB cable and many of the models also have limited editing capabilities built in so that you can edit brightness and contrast and crop the images, add border frames, other decorative elements prior to print. Some models even have the ability to allow you to transfer the images from the memory card on to CD or into a Digital Photo Frame.

Models Available as at February 2009 include:

Epson PictureMate Series. There are currently three models in the range, the 240, 260 and 290. They are inkjet printers using 4 colours. They all print only 6x4 (15x10cm) images. The 240 is the basic printer with limited editing capabilities and it's LCD screen is only 1.5" so any detailed editing will be difficult. The 260 has a larger 3.6" LCD screen and also allows zoom and cropping of images prior to print. When you get to the 290 then you have all these capabilities but also the ability to save images to DVD/CD The consumables are purchased as a picture pack which includes ink and sheets of glossy paper, two packs available are 50 sheets for 13.20 and 150 sheets for 28.85. Epson reckon that a cost of a print is 20p using their Picturepack supplies. The RRP these printers are the 240 = 68.51,  260 = 97.87 and the 290 = 195.73.

Epson PictureMate 260 printer

Hewlett Packard have a Photosmart A826 Photo Centre which is designed to give a kisok-like convenience of printing without the need of a computer, your memory card direct from the camera is put into one of the slots. It has a 17.7cm colour touch screen built in which also acts as a keyboard so you can add messages and graphics to the images prior to printing, It will also run slideshows of your images so can be used like a mini digital photo frame. It will print image sizes of 10x15cm and 13x18cm. Costs around 150. They also have easy to use compact photo printers which print direct from the memory card, but with a smaller 6cm LCD screen allowing you to view, select, enhance, and print. These printers are small and are able to be portable and can be taken with you to print while out. The current two models are the A530 which prints up to 13x18cm and costs around 100 and the A520 printing 10x15cm prints only for 60.

Canon have their SELPHY compact portable printer range which print direct from camera, memory card or mobile phone without the need for a computer. The ES3 and ES30 models even have stylish carry handles on top to make them easily portable. They use Easy Photo Packs which combine paper and ink in cassettes in capacities of up to 50 sheets. Available with several different media types, including credit card sizes and postcards in both colour and black & white, and packs can be easily swapped halfway through use. They have auto image optimisation where it detects faces in the images and corrects brightness, but you can also do limited editing including, cropping, red-eye correction, colour enhancement and more using the 3" LCD screen. It also has a creative print button, allowing you to add filter effects, clip art and picture frames. They claim the prints will last 100 years and they have a durable high-gloss coating to protect them from splashes and sticky fingers. The ES30 costs around 150 and the ES3 around 200. There are others in the Selphy range see this link for details on the latest models.


Poloroids POGO is a pocket sized printer which can be used anywhere with no computer necessary. Truly portable as it doesn't use ink, just like the old Polaroid cameras before it you buy a cartridge of special paper, in this case thermal paper which when heated produces the colours. It prints in under 60 seconds and they're dry to touch as soon as they come out. This paper also has a self adhesive back, so you can peel of the backing and use them as stickers. No need for a computer you can print direct from your camera or mobile phone, no card slots.  Maximum print size is a 2"x3" sticky-back print. Probably not a true contender to the others above, but at around 100 probably a bit of fun, cost of paper pack is 3.89 for 10 sheets and 8.78 for a 30 pack, which works out at 30p per sheet.

A4 Inkjet Printers

A4 desktop inkjet colour printers from all the major manufacturers like Epson, Canon and HP can today produce borderless photo prints, and you can cost as low as 30 to buy. These low cost printers are usually general purpose printers so you can use them for other documents such as letters as well as producing what is termed 'lab-quality' prints from borderless 10x15cm (6x4) prints up to A4. They generally use 4 separate colour ink cartridges or black cartridge and single colour cartridge containing 3 colours, and in most cases can be profiled. One thing to watch is that although some printers in the range are now at a throw away prices, the cost of the ink cartridges will cost more than the printer. For example the Epson Stylus range a set of 4 inks will cost around 35, Canon Pixmia set of 1 triple colour cartridge and 1 black around 35 and HP Photosmart set of 1 triple colour cartridge and 1 black around 30.

They are generally good all round printers and will produce letters and other documents for you as well as photos. The photo quality is good and acceptable in most cases, they are slower to print out photos and you don't get many prints out of a single ink run, so will be more expensive to run for photo printing, than some of the models in the next price range. If the model you choose is able to be profiled then the colours will be accurate within the limitations of the ink set, with models in the next ranges up where more inks are used quality and colour range will be greater.

Inks and Paper used

All printer manufacturers have their own ink sets, all with differing claims. Many are now quoting 100 years life if used with their inks and their paper ranges and kept within certain environments. With the small format/on the move printers the ink is usually in a single cartridge, while the A4 inkjet printers at this lower end of the product scale usually have 4 ink colours, either in separate cartridges or in two cartridges one for black ink, the other for colour ink.

For more details on ink and paper types see the two separate articles we have on this.

Cost effectiveness

Generally with these types of printer the cost per print is going to be higher than some of the larger models. However having said that in most cases here, our demonstrations have shown that cost is around 20-30p per print, which in comparison with online printing at 5p per print is around four times more, but you have the fun of being able to print out your work when you want, how you want, and if in the case of the low cost A4 inkjet printers if it can be profiled the quality will probably be better than that you get done elsewhere.

When at this lower end scale of the budget the cost of a set of consumables can be more than the cost of the printer, but the convenience of having your own printer should out way this.

For a photo printer for less than 200 there are some good quality models on the market today, and as technology moves on quality will improve. Printers at this level have their use and for some with digital compact cameras these are an ideal option, and those with no computer the small format/on the move options are an ideal investment.


See Also:

Taking a Look at Printers for the Photographer

Print On Demand Desktop Printers

Event Printers

Ink in Printers

Printer Profiling

Printing on a Budget

No Cost Low Cost Media



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