Two things have radically transformed photography in the past two decades. The first of course, is the rise of the digital camera with its ability to take limitless photos and instantly see results without having to wait for film to develop. The second is the growing popularity of photo printers. Thanks to the ability of these machines to produce high quality colour prints on demand, photo labs have all but disappeared. Photo printers have only gotten better, with higher resolution, faster printing and features on some like on-printer editing with built-in LCD displays, super-sized prints and wireless access. There are plenty of photo printers to choose from, but here are five of the best to consider if your printer needs are less about pages of text and more about high quality pictures.

The first real photo printer I ever owned was a Canon CP-200, a portable marvel released in 2003 that produced glossy 4×6 prints. Printing one photo took well over a minute and the dye-sub thermal transfer had just 300 x 300 dpi resolution, but I thought it was pretty cool.

Things have come a long way since then.

Photo printers today offer extremely high print resolution, ensuring the printed output is crisp with no pixelation. Most have multiple ink tanks so you can replace colours individually as needed. A computer is usually not required with a photo printer, either —whether it’s by way of memory card, Wi-Fi, cloud services or a protocol like AirPrint or HP’s ePrint, the move is toward photo printers being able to print directly without computer support. Some even include LCD displays and editing capability to preview and touch up photos on the printer itself.

You won’t find a laser printer among the photo printer crowd. Colour laser printers may be great for reports, but they lack the brilliant colours, resolution and compatibility with photo grade paper needed to produce the high quality prints photo printers are capable of.

In no particular order, here are five of the top photo printers currently on the market.

Canon PIXMA (MG5520) Wireless Inkjet All-in-One Photo Printer


This printer proves you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a printer capable of producing good quality images. Not only do you get a wireless inkjet printer with five ink tanks, you get a 1200 x 2400 dpi scanner capable of scanning a letter-sized document in 14 seconds.

Print resolution is 4800 x 1200 dpi for both colour and black printing and output is rated at 8.7 PPM for colour (12.2 PPM for text). 

A full suite of connectivity options is offered, including Wi-Fi, USB, PIXMA Cloud Link and AirPlay. Want to preview an image before hitting the “print” button? A 2.5-inch touchscreen with Auto Photo Fix II lets you easily make last minute corrections. 

HP Photosmart (PS6520) Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer


HP doesn’t just do business printers, the inkjet pioneer also offers performance photo printers like this Photosmart AiO that combines lab-quality photo capability with a 24-bit 1200 x 2400 dpi flatbed scanner. It can even be used as a photocopier.

Able to accept photo paper, inkjet paper and an assortment of specialized media the printer is capable of producing 8.5 x 11-inch, borderless, fade-resistant photo quality prints at a rate of 8.5 pages per minute.

USB, Wi-Fi and memory card slot mean its easy to get images to this printer, while its built-in 3.45-inch touchscreen display makes operation intuitive.

Canon PIXMA (iP 100) Mobile Inkjet Printer with Battery

This photo printer is the spiritual successor to my old Canon CP-200, although it takes portability a step further with a built-in battery.

It also offers a lot more in terms of print quality and flexibility than my old portable photo printer. The iP100 features colour output at a resolution of 9600 x 2400 dpi (600 x 600 in black if you’re on the beach and the urge to print off a report strikes). Auto Image Fix optimizes the photos or images before you print them, no image processing software or knowhow required.

With USB 2.0. IRda, PictBridge and optional Bluetooth 2.0 EDR4 support, you can print digital photos, pictures (and documents) from pretty much any device to the iP100 —laptop, smartphone or digital camera. It also supports a huge range of paper sizes including 4 x 6, 5 x 7, letter and legal, as well as special media like photo stickers and #10 envelopes.

This is the kind of photo printer that would be ideal for someone on the go who might need a high quality photo at a moment’s notice — a realtor, for example.

Epson Expression (XP-810) Wireless All-in-One Inkjet Printer


Epson has a well-deserved reputation for making high performance photo printers that leverage advances like the DX5 MicroPiezo technology featured in the Expression XP-810. This gives the printer the ability to produce the finest colour and detail possible without sacrificing speed.

That DX5 MicroPiezo print head and five cartridge system results in colour (and black) output at an ultra-high 5760 x 1440 dpi resolution with printed results as good as anything you’d get from a photo lab —fade, water, scratch and smudge resistant. It can print in colour at speeds of up to 11 pages per minute and produce a professional quality 4 x 6 print in 12 seconds.

A touch panel with 3.5-inch LCD display, built in auto-correction and red eye removal guarantee results.

The Epson Expression XP-810 includes a scanner, fax capability, colour copy capability, two-sided printing, an automatic document feeder and offers a full range of connectivity options: PictBridge, memory card slot, USB, ethernet and Wi-Fi with support for mobile printing standards like AirPLay and Epson Connect.

Canon PIXMA (PRO-100) Wireless Inkjet Printer


If you’re a professional photographer, an artist who wants to sell high quality prints of their work or just a demanding prosumer, Canon’s PIXMA PRO-100 represents state of the art in professional photo printers.

It’s able to produce large format prints, up to A3+ size (13 x 19 inches) and features a 150 page paper tray plus a manual slot that can accept thicker media. It can handle a variety of fine art and glossy papers to ensure you get the result you want.

When it comes to print quality, the PIXMA PRO-100 is unbeatable. It uses a ChromaLife 100+ 8-ink dye system (five colour tank/three black tanks) and Canon’s Optimum Image Generating technology to chooses the best mixture of inks to bring out the most vibrant colours possible throughout the print. These systems offer a huge colour gamut and combined with the included Print Studio Pro 2 plug-ins (that work in tandem with your favourite image editing software), ensure the output from this printer is like nothing you’ve seen before. 

Print resolution is 4800 x 2400 dpi in both colour and black. 

Canon hasn’t overlooked connectivity, either. The PIXMA PRO-100 is PictBridge compatible, includes Wi-Fi, 10BASE-T and Fast Ethernet ports for network connectivity, and supports AirPlay.

To learn more about the capabilities of the this amazing photo printer, be sure to .

If you’re still hanging on to the last remaining vestiges of the photo lab experience —uploading your digital photos to a website or dropping off a memory card then waiting for the batch to be processed and paying for each shot— you should consider a photo printer instead. It’s like having a photo lab in your home, only a lot more convenient.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.