Print On Demand Printers
By Print On Demand Printers we mean those desktop printers you can use in the home or small office which will produce good quality photographic prints up to A2+. There are a vast number of models in this range across the manufacturers. This article will not cover the low priced budget A4 printers as we have another article look at this - take a look at Economy Printers for more. You might also like to take a look at our Printing on a Budget article, which gives ideas on how to go about choosing the right one for your needs.
Generally the types of printer in this range are inkjet printers, however some lasers do produce good photo quality prints today. But we are going to concentrate on the inkjet range. Inkjet is the term for how the ink is transferred from the print cartridge to the paper, and as the term implies it uses a collection of nozzles to push the ink through and this results in very minute tiny dots printing on the paper and in its combinations and methods this produces the colour print we see. The technologies and inks used by the different manufacturers all have their own unique names and terminology, but in essence they are all working to the same basic principle.
They are generally referred to as photo printers or hi-definition photo printers. The print sizes that manufacturers use to describe the printers within the range we are referring to here include A4 up to A2+, although many of these machines will do smaller 6 x 4 prints. Many of the printers in this range will print documents as well as photos, but the photo printing has been optimised to give in most cases good quality prints.
Their physical sizes do range considerably from the A4-A3+ printer in most cases fitting on a desktop and can usually be put alongside a computer, to the A2+ printers which are larger. Different models and manufacturers will have different physical dimensions for the printer unit, but the media size will be common across all of them.
The three main manufacturers in this area are Epson, Canon and Hewlett Packard (HP), but there are of course others. Visit any high street computer store, trade show aimed at photographers and it will be primarily one if not all of these three manufacturers printers on display.
Epson Printers suitable for professional photographs, for prints up to A3+ and A2+, to take a look at include models such as the Stylus Photo R1900 and Stylus Photo R2880, and their professional photo range for the Stylus Pro 3800 and Stylus Pro 4880, A2+ printers which all use their Ultrachrome K3 inks, which have up to 9 separate ink colours.
Canon Printers in the same range should include Pixma Pro9500, and A3+ printer using their 10 colour inks and iPF5100 printing up to A2+ that uses 12 individual ink cartridges and can produce an A2 glossy print in less than 2 minutes. The iPF model also as a built-in colour calibration so no need for external devices and comes with software than can tell you exactly how much ink has been used per print, so allowing you to accurately cost how much it cost to print it.
Inks and Media
Most of the inkjets in this range of printer use separate ink cartridges, one cartridge for each colour and are usually 6+ based systems. Different manufacturers do have different numbers of cartridges and slightly different ranges of colour. They also have different names for their technologies used, Epson for instance has Claria, Durabrite Ultra, Ultrachrome. Within the stylus photo range the ink cartridges are not large usually around 15-25ml so do not produce many photo pages per cartridge, on the Stylus Pro range the ink cartridges are larger at 110ml and 220ml so producing a larger number of photos before inks need to be changed.
They all take a wide range of media from normal 80gsm photo copier type paper, to specialist photo papers, to art papers through to 1.3mm or 1.5mm card. Some will also have the ability to print on transfers, CD' etc. All models across the ranges take single sheet fed paper while some models will also have attachments in order to be able to take roll fed paper as well.
Each of the manufacturers produce their own sets of papers, and in most cases will quote longevity of the ink/paper combination for their own range and will not guarantee it if you mix and match across ranges or other paper suppliers. Typically in 2009 longevity from printer manufacturers for the time the prints will last is around 100 years, based on their tests.
As well as their own media there is also of course plenty of compatible inks for the different manufacturers and models. As far are print media of paper, card, transfers, board etc there is a wealth of different products available in different sizes, paper thicknesses and so one.
Prices for this range of printers vary enormously. For those targeted at the home market in the case of the Epson Stylus Photo range and the Canon Pixmia range you are looking at £400-£900 while the Epson Stylus Pro range and the Canon iPF start at around £800 and go up to around £1,500 when you get to A2+ sizes.
In relation to media it will depend on the printer you choose, with the top end of the home market printers like the Epson Stylus and Canon Pixmia printers taking smaller ink cartridges costing around £12 per cartridge, the cost per photo is going to be more. With the Epson Stylus Pro and Canon iPF ranges having larger ink cartridges of 110ml and 220ml, where the 110ml costs around £45 each, they have a lower cost per print. But this is all subjective as it depends on how the printer is set up, how much ink in puts down and the media type used which determines the cost per print factor.
So which printer you choose will be determined on a number of factors one of which will be the amount of photo printing you are going to do.