Buying an inkjet for photo prints? Get one with at least six ink colors

Today’s inkjet printers can create photographic prints that rival or beat the image quality of a photo lab.   Some high-end inkjets produce the best image quality you are likely to find anywhere, and under proper storage conditions the prints will last as long as conventional photographs.    

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Six individual ink cartridges in a Canon S9000 printer.   Yellow cartridge, far right,   is missing its label.

If  are going to print at home, be sure to get a printer with at least six colors of ink.   A four-color printer, using yellow, magenta, cyan, and black ink, can produce good-looking photographs, but they will lack the color range and realism of a six or eight-color printer.   A six color printer adds photo cyan and photo magenta inks to bring the prints up to the next level of photographic reality, and it is a difference that anyone can see.   Eight-color printers add either red and green, or a light black ink and clear ink to improve quality even further, but these are usually found in expensive wide format (13×19 inch) printers.   For most home users a six-color printer will exceed their expectations.   The illustration above shows a printer with six individual cartridges.   Please note that some printers have six ink colors, but only two cartridges- one for black and one for the colors.

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Epson Stylus Photo RX580

All-in-one machines (scanner, printer, copier) have become increasingly popular for the convenience and value they offer.   In the past  I have shied away from recommending them because the print quality usually lagged noticeably behind a dedicated photo inkjet printer, but this may have changed.    I will soon have a review of Epson’s Stylus Photo RX580,   one of the only all-in-ones I have seen that uses six-color inks.      I have seen the RX580 on sale for as little as $99 and if the quality is as good as it is reputed to be, it’s hard to imagine a better  value in an all-in-one.  

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