Inkjet printers are still the most widely used printer technology in homes, home offices and small businesses. There are basically two types of inkjet printers: all-purpose and photo quality.
Most moderate to high priced all purpose inkjet printers excel at producing sharp, crisp looking black text. Though not specifically designed for photo printing, many find the photo quality satisfactory.
Two levels of photo inkjet printers
Photo Quality printers, which often have six or more color ink cartridges, offer the highest quality prints and are usually the choice of photo-enthusiasts. The more color and varying shades of black ink cartridges a printer uses, the more true-to-life images it will produce. Photo Capable printers typically use three colors with individual ink tanks for each color, or a single multi-color ink cartridge, plus black cartridge.
Photo printers that use individual ink cartridges save money because you don’t need to buy an entire multi-color cartridge when a color runs out, only buy the ink color you need.
Consumer or professional printer?
Consumer photo printers
For near-lab quality prints, a photo quality inkjet printer is recommend. Some have several useful features such as making borderless prints, printing on CDs and DVDs, duplexing and Bluetooth for wireless printing with a compatible Bluetooth device. The maximum width size of consumer photo quality printers is usually 8 1/2.”
For those who only make 4×6″ prints, or have limited space, considera a portable or compact printer. They typically do not have as many ink cartridges as full-sized consumer printers, but the difference in photo quality is barely noticable when making small prints.
Professional photo printers
Professional photo printers are very expensive and beyond the needs of most consumers. However, they deliver gallery-ready images. They come in larger sizes (17, 24, 44 and 64-inch) than consumer printers.
Professional photo printers produce accurate colors and have 8 or more cartridges including more than one shade of black. Some professional wide printers come with an attachment that lets you print on rolls, allowing for lengths to much longer than standard sized photo papers.
If you want to print directly from your camera, bypassing a computer altogether, both camera and printer must be PictBridge compatible. They are connected using a USB cable, usually supplied with a new digital camera.
Besides PictBridge and Bluetooth, some printers offer wireless network connectivity. This can be useful if you share a single printer between a number of computers, or want to print from a computer in another location of the house or office.
Printer settings and properties
During installation of camera software, a printer driver is installed on your computer and is accessed in the “print” menu. Use the printer setting menu to select basic settings such as paper type, size and orientation and print quality.
For more precise control over the printer output and to select special effects, use the “properties” menu. The properties menu will also give you access to a variety of other settings such as power options and general maintenance such as cleaning printer nozzles and aligning the print head.
Extra ink cartridges
It’s a good idea to keep a set of extra ink cartridges on hand. Most print drivers warn when the level of ink is getting low. However, some printers will automatically stop when an ink cartridge is empty and you won’t be able to resume printing until a new cartridge is inserted.
Others have an Ink Usage Control that lets you print in Composite Black if the black ink cartridge runs out and you don’t have one immediately available. The “black” is printed with color inks though print quality may be diminished.