Photo Printers

Features and software to look out for

The single most important aspect of a photo printer is the output. If possible, test the printer with one of your own photos. If you're planning to use the printer directly from a camera, try connecting it to see what the interface is like. If you want to use the printer on the road, check that it can use batteries (and that these are a type that is relatively easy to acquire). A printer with an LCD screen Printers with LCD screens will give a preview and allow image editing; others may print an index card to make it easier to select other shots. Some printers support wireless printing via infrared or Bluetooth, which saves messing around with cables. Most dedicated photo printers will include a reader for camera memory cards -- make sure they include the card used on your camera. Many photo printers will also come bundled with image manipulation software, though this will inevitably be more basic than full-featured commercial programs. However, if you're not intending to do large amounts of image manipulation, these should prove adequate. If you'll be printing from a PC, try to test this feature, as it will give you an idea of how efficient and intuitive the printer driver is, as well as a better indication of the speed. While Windows will be able to recognise most printers and use basic drivers, you'll get the best results by installing drivers specifically for your printer from CD (or downloading them from the Internet). Give consideration to how you want your photos to be printed. Most printer drivers will let you print photos in bordered or borderless mode. The former is useful if you want to hand around snapshots among friends, while the latter is better for albums or display. Printer size is also important. While smaller photo printers will be lighter and take up less space on the desk, they won't give you the option of enlargements. Always check the warranty options before purchasing a printer -- 12 months is the minimum for serious consideration and, within reason, the longer the better. Some retailers will offer an optional warranty extension, but don't pay too much for this feature (remember printer prices continue to fall, so anything more than 50 per cent of the purchase price is likely to be poor value.)

This guide was last updated in July 2005

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