Dedicated photo printers are the ultimate in convenience. Each 6 x 4in photo may cost a little more than online or photo-print shops — and you have to pay for the printer as well of course — but you can hand out prints to friends and family almost instantly.
Print quality can be just as good too, and the latest models claim to resist fading, smudging, water, stains and just about anything else you can throw at a photo. There are two technologies. Inkjet printers are generally cheaper per photo, but images can appear grainy. Dye-sub printers use continuous tone, which avoids grain, but they’re susceptible to dust and can leave spots on prints if you don’t keep them clean. Prints tend to be more resistant to smudging, though.
The price-per-photo figures shown above are based on the biggest available cartridge/paper packs, which offer better value than smaller packs. As always, these aren’t based on list prices: we’ve scoured the Internet to find the cheapest option.
All the printers come with a cartridge and paper to get you going, but some are more stingy than others. Canon, Kodak and Sony include only five prints, while HP includes five sheets of paper and a starter ink cartridge, which will print considerably more than five photos.Lexmark P350
Price per photo: 40c
The Lexmark P350
is more generous with 20 sheets of paper and a starter cartridge. It’s an inkjet and, unlike previous models, sports a USB port for connection to a PC. It also supports PictBridge cameras (like all five models here) and all types of memory card, including xD-Picture cards. The 2.4in LCD is the biggest here and makes the P350 easy to use. You can edit photos and choose from a variety of layouts, but the red-eye removal button proved ineffective. And the P350 is slow: it takes 2mins 16secs for each photo. Quality isn’t great either: colours are muddy and oversaturated, making skin tones look overly red. Purchase price and subsequent prints are among the cheapest here at $155 and 40c each respectively but the below-average quality means we can’t recommend it.Canon Selphy CP730
Price per photo: 42c
The pearlescent white Canon Selphy CP730
is one of the more attractive printers and can be powered by batteries (like the HP and Kodak) for a totally mobile photo lab. We like the neat retractable mini-USB cable for PictBridge-compliant cameras. There’s a standard PictBridge USB port too and a Type B USB port for PC connection. The 2in LCD is fine, but there’s no menu — everything is controlled by six buttons around the screen. Options are fairly limited — you can crop but not edit or remove red-eye.
At 42c per photo, the Selphy’s quality was below par. We noticed a green cast in all photos compared to other printers, making grass look radioactive and skies and skin tones unnatural. Prints take 55 seconds, which is reasonably speedy, but overall the Selphy can’t match the Sony for quality or value.Kodak EasyShare G600
Price per photo: 50c
The Kodak EasyShare G600
is bigger than previous EasyShare models, with a similar footprint to the Lexmark. It comes with a USB cable and five sheets of Kodak Xtralife paper. Despite the price, there’s no display or card reader, as it’s designed to have a Kodak camera docked on top. You can also connect any PictBridge camera, whose LCD becomes the display, or hook the G600 up to a PC.
Photos take 60 seconds to print and, as with the Canon and Sony, the paper passes through four times for cyan, magenta, yellow and a protective gloss coat. The main problem is quality. Prints are 50c each, but aren’t stunning. Colours are adequate, but any artefacts in the original photo are accentuated in the print.HP Photosmart A516
Price per photo: 39c
Then there’s the $173 HP Photosmart A516
. The LCD is tiny at 1.4in, but shows how much time is remaining when printing. All media cards are supported, as are PictBridge and PC connections. Each photo takes 1min 39secs to print, while colours are lifelike and well saturated. The problem is the noticeable grain and harsh colour transitions, which spoil prints.Sony DPP-FP55
Price per photo:
The Sony DPP-FP55
offers the best prints on test. Colours are the most realistic here, and as it’s a dye-sub printer there’s no grain. Transitions are smooth and there are no artefacts visible like the Kodak. The 1.8in LCD is the best on test thanks to a high resolution, and the menus are intuitive too. Only SD/MMC and Memory Sticks can be used, but you can use a PictBridge camera or hook it up to a PC. It’s the best of the bunch but, at $251 and with prints costing a whopping $1.11 each, it’s far too expensive.
As such we have trouble recommending any of these printers: quality comes at too high a price for our liking. But if you want convenience and middling prints, then save cash and plump for Lexmark.
All models except the Kodak were provided by Jantech Computers