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Many color printers or all-in-one printers with scanning, printing, faxing and reproduction capabilities are perfectly capable of printing out a photo downloaded from a digital camera into a computer. The highest-quality and longest-lasting photographs, however, come from printers that use inkjet dyes or pigments and contain software that has a photograph-specific interface with the computer itself. Many manufacturers offer dedicated or all-in-one printers that provide these capabilities. The best photo printer, however, is one dedicated solely to printing photographs, since the dedicated printer contains additional inkjet color cartridges and a variety of software interfaces not only with computers, but also with digital cameras and even some mobile phones.
Dedicated Photo Printers Provide Excellent Color Saturation and Image Resolution
Many high-quality color printers have cartridges containing four colors: cyan, magenta, yellow and black. A dedicated photo printer contains three additional colors to provide more nuanced hues and greater color saturation. The colors are light cyan, light magenta and light black or gray. These additional color gradations help reproduce digital photos more faithfully.
Dedicated photo printers also reproduce images at a higher resolution than standard printers, measured in ink dots per inch, horizontal by vertical. While many standard color printers have a DPI of up to 2400 x 2400, these range from 4800 x 2400 to 9600 x 9600. The higher DPI yields of photo printers accommodate the higher resolution allowances of modern photography software, including those with special effects features.
Ink and Print Technologies for Superior Sharpness
Most photo printers for consumers use inkjet technology to transfer ink onto paper. Inkjet printers consist of printing heads that contain hundreds of nearly microscopic nozzles, or jets, that shoot ink onto paper in dots so small that the ink volume is measured in picoliters, or trillionths of a liter. Models that are largely for professional use also include dye sublimation, or thermal technology, that heats ink dyes into a mixture and transfers them onto specially coated paper while also overlaying the ink with a protective coating so it maintains the color for years.
Both technologies create color-rich photographs from digital cameras. Inkjet models geared towards home users represent the largest array available. One consideration is whether the unit uses ink consisting of dyes or ink consisting of pigments. Most consumer versions use dye inks, largely because dyes are less expensive, but also because the dyes produce excellent color saturation. Inks from pigments, however, are much more fade resistant than dyes, yet offer a narrower range of hues and color saturation.
Accomodate a Variety of Photograph Sizes
Most of these handle the standard 8.5 x 11 inch paper. When these printers reproduce photographs in that size, they aren't able to provide the full saturation necessary for a faithful reproduction. Photo printers contain software that scales color saturation for true-to-life images, and they also handle large paper, from 11 x 17 inches to 17 x 22 inches as well as heavy photo-quality paper. Photograph-quality paper comes in a variety of gauges and textures and has either a glossy or matte finish.
The best photo printer is the one dedicated to the task of printing rich, vibrant images. This special purpose model offers more color varieties, yields a higher DPI resolution and accommodates photo paper to yield consistently impressive results.
Inkjet printers produces 5,760 x 1,440 dpi images for vibrant contrast and stunning image clarity
Prints full-color or monochromatic prints in as little as 46 seconds for 4 x 6" photos, one minute 51 seconds for 8 x 10" photos, two minutes 53 seconds for 11 x 14" photos and 3 minutes for 13 x 19" photos