The best photo inkjet printer

We've narrowed the options to Epson and Canon.

Amadou Diallo/Wirecutter

By Amadou Diallo

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If you're a photo enthusiast ready to make the leap to creating your own gallery-quality prints at home, the most flexible option is an inkjet printer. After spending a total of 76 hours of research and side-by-side testing during various iterations of this guide, we think the best inkjet printer for making long-lasting, high-quality photographic prints up to 13 inches wide is the $800 Epson SureColor P600.

Who should buy this?

If you already own a 13-inch-capable photo inkjet printer, you should probably sit tight. Photo printer technology is so mature that you won't see much (if any) difference in print quality between a printer made today and one released even five years ago.

If you don't already own a photo inkjet printer, the first thing you should know is that getting one is not about saving money. Our pick is $800, a full set of replacement inks runs more than $280, and you also have to factor in paper costs (and, of course, your time). If you're a casual hobbyist who occasionally wants to create physical mementos of life's special moments and milestones, there are many in-store and online print services available, many at very low prices.

But home printing is a great option for photographers who print at least a few times a month, want the flexibility of printing at any time that's convenient, enjoy selecting from an incredibly wide range of papers on which to print, and revel in the ability to make finely tuned adjustments to an image after evaluating an initial print.

How we picked and tested

Buying a 13-inch-wide inkjet printer means unpacking a large and heavy box. Photo: Amadou Diallo

To find the best inkjet photo printer, I spent hours poring over spec sheets and reading reviews from authoritative sources. Starting with a list of dozens of photo printers, I quickly narrowed the candidates to inkjet models capable of printing up to 13 inches wide. These printers are wide enough to give you the option of a larger print, have at least six ink colors (in individual cartridges) and let you print on both matte and glossy photo papers.

We printed on both glossy and matte papers up to 13 inches wide using paper stock and ICC profiles provided by the printer vendor. We used each printer's default resolutions and viewed prints using professional color-corrected viewing booths. We also set up each printer on a home Wi-Fi network and compared speed over cable connections and wireless. Finally, we compared our photo inkjet prints with those from two online print services using identical image files. Please see our full guide to photo inkjet printers to learn more details about our testing methods.

Our pick

A 13-inch pigment-ink photo printer like the Epson SureColor P600 lets you make gallery-quality color and black-and-white prints on a wide variety of paper surfaces. Photo: Amadou Diallo

The Epson P600 consistently delivers outstanding, long-lasting color and black-and-white photos with great image detail and accurate colors. These are truly gallery-quality prints that can provide many years of viewing pleasure. The printer accepts a wide range of inkjet-compatible media up to 13 inches wide, from photo lab-quality glossy paper and fine-art-oriented sheets that mimic classic darkroom prints to CDs/DVDs and even sheets of metal up to 1.3 mm thick.

Its newly formulated pigment-based UltraChrome HD inkset offers noticeably richer blacks than previous Epson models when printing on fine-art matte papers and comes in nine individual large-capacity cartridges. The nine-color ink set is able to print dots as small as two picoliters (two trillionths of a liter), and in addition to the standard CMY (cyan, magenta and yellow) inks, the printer uses Light Cyan, Vivid Magenta, Vivid Light Magenta, Photo Black (for glossy media), Matte Black (for matte papers), Light Black, and Light Light Black.

The P600 uses large 25.9 mL cartridges. With a current street price of $32 per cartridge, this works out to an ink cost of $1.28 per mL—not quite as cheap as our alternate pick, the Canon Pro-10.

You can connect the P600 to your computer via USB or wired Ethernet. The printer also has built-in Wi-Fi (helpful if you need to share the printer among multiple computers in separate rooms), and comes with a mobile app for direct printing from iOS and Android devices. These wireless options are much slower than wired printing, however, nearly doubling your print times.

Budget pick (for personal use)

If the P600 costs more than you're willing to spend (it was $800 at time of writing), we recommend the dye-ink Canon Pixma Pro-100 (currently $380). This is a great choice if you'll be making prints only for personal use, as opposed to selling editions of your work. It makes vibrant, professional-looking prints faster than any other 13-inch photo inkjet we found. At less than half the cost of our top pick, users who may occasionally skip a month between making prints can more easily justify the up-front expense. Because it uses dye inks, however, its prints won't stand up over time as well as those from a pigment inkjet, and the Pro-100 can't handle the superthick sheets that our top pick can.

Also great (when the price drops)

The Canon Pixma Pro-10 is a great alternative to our top pick if you'll be printing primarily on glossy papers. It's solidly built, has a lower ink cost than our top pick and delivers great print quality, falling just slightly short of our top pick in highlight and shadow details when printing in black-and-white mode (because it has fewer black ink dilutions). With a $700 street price, the Pro-10 doesn't offer any significant benefits over the P600—but we've seen occasional price drops of more than $250, and at that much of a discount, it's a compelling alternative.

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