Does anyone have a digital photo printer? Please share the pros and cons of owning one. What should we know before making a purchase?
Toni B. in Seneca Falls, NY
Digital photo printers are an expensive alternative to regular developing or simply printing out on photo paper with your normal color printer. They take special software, cartridges, and plug-ins. I had one a few years ago and it jammed up rather frequently. They're a nice little toy for those with extra in their pockets, but it's not especially frugal or easy.
I am a teacher. When I first got my printer (HP All-in-One Photosmart C4180), I thought I'd died and gone to heaven. If you calculate the ink and the paper costs, it is probably not much cheaper than getting the digital pictures at Wal-Mart, but I just love the convenience! I am a 7th and 8th grade math teacher and can get the results during class or by the next day at the latest. I do quite a bit of class project photos that I post. The kids love to talk about them. My printer has a little screen that allows me to do all sorts of wonderful editing. I can make 4 x 6 and full-page enlargements. I wait for deals or sales on the photo paper. OfficeMax once had a 60-sheet package free with purchase of an ink cartridge. It does use a fair amount of colored ink, so just be prepared. The picture quality is excellent when printed on the photo paper. It's not even half bad when printed on shiny card stock.
As a graphic designer, I have experience with several brands of photo printers. I prefer Epson's line of 6-ink printers overall, but don't recommend you give up on having your photos professionally printed. There really is no track record for inkjet prints and how long they'll last, and I've seen a few brands that deteriorate quite quickly. Plus, if you were to look very close (as if you had scanned the print), you would find many artifacts from the paper and ink, rather than the continuous tones you will get in a print.
Once you do all the math, you're really not saving all that much money printing your photos at home when you consider the cost of ink and paper. Many stores offer digital photo processing. There are dozens of online processors as well and they're all relatively inexpensive. Plus, there is the bonus that we didn't have with film. You no longer have to print all of the pictures. You can print only the ones that turned out nice. The average price in my area is less than 17 cents a print.
I have one, and if I had it to do again, it is not what I would buy. While the printer is good enough, the ink is expensive and printing is time consuming. It is occasionally useful, but with a bunch of pictures, it is easier and cheaper to take them to the grocery store and have them printed. I will not buy a photo printer again.
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