Digital Cameras + Photo Printers = Quality Instant Photographs

In the 1950's and 1960's Polaroid's instant cameras were all the rage. You could shoot a picture and have the finished print in a minute or so. The quality wasn't that great, but hey, you had your pictures now! Today with digital cameras and high-tech photo printers, we have quality instant photos virtually indistinguishable from processed prints. And unlike the old instant cameras, you have the digital equivalent of a negative for future use.

Checking photo printer reviews happily discloses that even an inexpensive photo printer produces true photo quality prints. The main difference in printer prices has to do with features for printing digital pictures. Of course the best digital photo printers will produce better quality, but for the average consumer there's no noticeable difference.

A Quick Review of Printer Types

The two types of true photo printers are: 1) thermal dye transfer (usually called dye sublimation), and 2) photo ink jet. A quick photo printer review reveals the differences.

Thermal Dye - These printers dry transfer pigments from a ribbon, usually 3 colors plus a protective clear coat. Most have a maximum print size of 4" X 6", but a few will print digital photo enlargements up to 8" X 10". Many are portable, some even battery operated. A thermal dye printer's 300 X 300 dpi resolution will match an ink jet's 1200 X 4800, and the print's clear coat makes it look and feel more like a conventional photograph.

Photo Ink Jet - Differences from traditional ink jet printers include; faster printing, inks formulated specifically for photos, and more nozzles applying the ink. Prints are very high quality and generally cost less than thermal dye transfer prints. Photo ink jet printers print photos up to 13" X 19", and can also serve as an all-purpose printer for your computer.

Tips for Comparing Printers and Printing Photos

  • If you want to print photos directly from the camera, both camera and printer should be PictBridge compliant. Most camera/printer dock combos are brand & model specific so if you replace either one, you can't use it with the other. PictBridge is a standard allowing any compliant camera and printer to interface with a USB cable.
  • When reviewing printers make sure they will print the sizes you want. Otherwise you may not always be able to get the prints you want, and/or waste a lot of paper and ink in doing so.
  • Just because a printer has a lot of whistles & bells, high resolution settings, etc., doesn't mean it will give you better pictures. Look for the features you will actually use, and by all means carefully compare the finished print quality for each printer.
  • Download some free photo editing software for easy picture enhancements. It isn't necessary to buy expensive computer software when you can find a free photo editor with a quick Internet search.

Photo printer technology has come a long way in the last couple of years. Even though do-it-yourself prints are still about double the cost of print processing services, it's still cheaper than conventional film processing and the flexibility and convenience can be well worth it.

Digital cameras information from A to Z: camera types & features, how they work, accessories, photo printers, comparisons and more - plus digital photo processing tips and info at A-Z Digital Cameras.com, Your Complete A-Z Resource for Digital Cameras, Accessories and Information.

This article may be re-printed in its entirety, with no changes and this resource box included. © 2005 A-Z Digital Cameras All rights reserved

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