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.
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.
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.