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7 best photo printers to bring your memories to life

·11-min read
We looked at colour and quality of the print, but also kept an eye out for extra functions (The Independent)
We looked at colour and quality of the print, but also kept an eye out for extra functions (The Independent)

Instead of keeping your photos languishing on your camera roll or in some mythical-seeming cloud, use a photo printer to print them out and show them off. They’re easy to use, cheap to run and there whenever you need them.

These days printers are easy to set up – trust us, we’ve tried many and aren’t the most patient. Gone are the days of having to spend ages uttering four-letter words under your breath while your computer tells you it can’t find a printer. They’re quick to install and most have an app that guides you through the painless process.

They’re also a lot smaller now too and can usually fit on a small table or even under a bed. Snapshot printers meanwhile will fit in the palm of your hand and you can sling them in your bag to take with you on the go.

But while many home printers claim to be photo printers, to really make your pics pop and be worthy of framing, you are best off using the proper equipment and some decent photo paper. A top tip from us to you: check the paper you buy will work in your printer. This stuff doesn’t come cheap, so you don’t want to be lumbered with the wrong type.

What will also help the quality of your printing is the ink in your printer. As a rule of thumb, separate cartridges or tanks for separate colours will produce better colours, and the wider the spectrum of coloured inks the printer takes the better. So six inks is best, but we’ve tested a real range here.

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We’ve also tested some instant-style printers, which produce wallet-sized photos in, well, an instant. You might immediately think “Polaroid” here, and while Polaroid is still a big player in this arena there are other brands offering similar products. These printers are often more based around producing fun prints to stick on your fridge than jaw-dropping quality.

How we tested

We looked at a real cross section of the market, from more-simple desktop printers to higher-end models. Ones that do scanning and all that jazz, and straight-up printers. We also looked at A3 and A4 printers. And those aforementioned instant-photo printers. We printed the same photo on all the printers so we could directly compare, and tried lots of different types of paper in the printers to see how that altered results. We were looking for colour and quality of the print, ease of set up, speed of printing and any extra functions.

The best photo printers for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – HP envy inspire 7920e inkjet printer: £169.99,

  • Best for on the go – Polaroid lab instant printer: £119.99,

  • Best for A3 printing – Canon PIXMA iP8750 colour inkjet printer: £349.99,

  • Best for cost-effective printing – Epson ecotank ET-2850 inkjet printer: £249.99,

  • Best snapshot printer – Fujifilm instax link wide mobile photo printer: £139.99,

  • Best for high-quality – Canon pixma G650 all-in-one wireless printer: £279.99,

  • Best instant-printing camera – Fujifilm instax mini evo: £174.99,

HP envy inspire 7920e inkjet printer

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • Print cartridge: Black and tricolour

  • Extra functions: Double-sided printing, scanning, copying

  • Print resolution: 1200 x 1200dpi

  • Dimensions: H23.3, W46, D51.13cm

We were seriously impressed with both the quality and speed from this printer. The colour is absolutely spot on, even when printed on standard paper. And the detail it manages to produce is as good as a professional printer, with textures and lines so lifelike it feels like you can jump into the photo.

Set up is easy between the HP Smart app and the touchscreen panel on the printer itself and took us about 10 minutes in total. There are some nifty features too, and we were particularly impressed by the dual paper input tray. Simply put this means you can have your standard printer paper in the main tray, and then load in your fancy photo paper in another. It’s easy to select which tray to print from when you go through the printer prompts which really cuts down on faff. The printer can also scan and copy, and has a document feeder meaning you can photocopy a multipage document without having to feed in each page yourself. Overall this is hard to beat, especially given the reasonable price.

Buy now £169.99,

Polaroid lab instant printer

Best: For on the go

Rating: 8/10

  • Print cartridge: N/A

  • Extra functions: Photo editing within the app

  • Dimensions: L5.9 × W4.6 × H5.9in

This nifty little printer feels like a collision of analogue and digital worlds. Download the Polaroid’s app (very easy to use, no faff here), pop your phone face down and it prints out the photo on your camera screen as a Polaroid. This was a lot of fun, and we admit we got a bit addicted. The print outs are good quality – not sharp and the colours aren’t true to life, but they have that colour grading on them that Instagram has spent a lot of time emulating with filters.

As for the printer itself, it is quite chunky and heavy so not something you can easily slip into a small bag, say. But we took it on a weekend away with us and had lots of fun printing out our memories on the go – and our whippersnapper kids (who will probably never have the fun of picking up a developed roll of film from Boots photo desk) were totally entranced. It’s worth noting the i-Type film that this printer takes costs £15.99 for eight images – so it’s not a cost-effective way to print your photos, but boy is it fun.

The app software also lets you create a Polaroid collage (one large image spread over up to nine prints). You can also embed a film in your physical Polaroid – whereby you hover your phone over the Polaroid with your camera app open and a film linked to the photo plays. What a time to be alive!

Buy now £119.99,

Canon PIXMA iP8750 colour inkjet printer

Best: For A3 printing

Rating: 8/10

  • Print cartridge: 6 individual inks (PGBK, BK, C, M, Y, GY)

  • Extra functions: None

  • Print resolution: 9,600 x 2,400dpi

  • Dimensions: 23.23 x 13.03 x 6.26cm

This printer feels seriously heavy duty when you get it out of the box, mainly because it can print in sizes up to A3. We were impressed by how easy it was to connect to our laptop and phone and get printing – the whole process probably took less than 20 minutes, and we didn’t utter any expletives in that time either. Seriously impressive!

The quality of the photo printing on standard paper is very decent indeed – a full A4 photo printed out looks pin sharp and highly detailed, with an excellent range of colours. The colours are slightly warmer than some of the others we tried too, which is probably thanks to all those individual print cartridges it has. Home learning and any of our own work looked noticeably sharper than the stuff our bog-standard printer normally churns out, which makes it ideal for creative types or those that need a more professional edge to their printing. Another plus point is that it’s very speedy and quiet – it made short work of even detailed, print-heavy documents.

Buy now £349.99,

Epson ecotank ET-2850 inkjet printer

Best: For cost-effective printing

Rating: 8/10

  • Print cartridge: 4 individual tanks (BK, C, M, Y)

  • Extra functions: Double-sided printing, scanning, copying

  • Print resolution: 5760 x 1440dpi

  • Dimensions: 187 x 375 x 347mm

After some initial headaches setting this up– which were probably more to do with us than the printer – the ET-2850 impressed us. We will say though that set up is a bit lengthy as you have to manually pour in the ink from supplied bottles (not at all as messy as that sounds), and ideally have a smart device to take you through set up. Our tip is set this up before you urgently need to print something.

The colours from this printer are incredible – they are true to life. The detail on the printing is fantastic too and there was not a single blur or smudge in our printouts. In fact it had us wanting to print out our entire camera roll. And thanks to the EcoTank, the ET-2850 can go and go. You’re supplied with one bottle of CMY, and two bottles of black ink. This bundle is apparently equivalent to 72 ink cartridges, making it more cost effective and eco-friendly too. As well as top-quality photo printing, this printer can handle standard printing, two-sided printing, scanning and copying.

Buy now £249.99,

Fujifilm instax link wide mobile photo printer

Best: Snapshot printer

Rating: 9/10

  • Print cartridge: N/A

  • Extra functions: photo editing within the app

  • Print resolution: 12.5 dots/mm

  • Dimensions: H13.9 x W12.8 x D3.4cm

If you want to print photos from your phone in a quick and fun way, then this Instax number is for you. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and using an app on your phone you can pick any photo from your camera roll to print out in Instax format. The printer then produces a cute little photo with that retro feel. The Wide indicates that the end result is a bit bigger than the little Instax photos you might’ve seen around, but it’s still rectangular.

The app (use the dedicated Instax Wide app, rather than the general Instax one) allows you to also add filters, little icons and make a collage. You can even ask friends to collaborate on a photo with you via the app, and then print it off once everyone is happy with it. The print takes a good five minutes to develop and you’re left with a gorgeous, nostalgic print. The colours are never going to be as close to the true colours from a desktop printer, but that’s not the point of this device – it’s meant to be fun, and it certainly delivers.

Buy now £139.99,

Canon pixma G650 all-in-one wireless printer

Best: For high-quality

Rating: 9/10

  • Print cartridge: 6 separate ink tanks (GY, BK, R, C, M, Y)

  • Extra functions: Scanning, copying

  • Print resolution: 4800 x 1200dpi

  • Dimensions: 445 x 555 x 167mm

This is really the printer you want if you’re doing some serious printing at home and want the images to be good enough to hang on your walls. The print quality of the Pixma 6250 is second to none, and the depth of colour is perfect. This is thanks, in part, to the six-colour ink tanks which contain photo-quality inks. We also used glossy photo paper, normal paper and matt paper in this printer and weren’t disappointed by any of the results – although you’re always best opting for photo paper if you want a more professional finish.

Set up was simple – the small screen guides you through the process and connecting it to our wireless network via WPS was just two clicks of a button. Then we easily printed from both our laptop and smartphones, and were able to select the print quality and type of paper to get the best results. The Pixma G650 is also able to take care of your day-to-day printing needs as it has a scan and copy function too, although no automatic paper feed for doing multipage documents.

Buy now £279.99,

Fujifilm instax mini evo

Best: Instant-printing camera

Rating: 9/10

  • Print cartridge: N/A

  • Extra functions: Filters, lens effects

  • Dimensions: H8.7 x W12.29 x D3.6cm

Oh the fun we had with this camera. Yes, it’s a camera and a photo printer in one and it comes with 10 different lens effects including soft focus and fish eye – there are film filters too if you want the Insta effect on your snaps. To use, simply load in the film, snap away and then pull the printing lever and out comes your photo. It really couldn’t be more simple. The quality of the photos is sharper than other instant photos we tried and we liked that this meant you could pick the photos you print. Plus, you can also print one photo multiple times.

Unfortunately it is out of stock at the moment, but you can sign up with your email to be notified as soon as it’s back.

Buy now £174.99,

The verdict: Photo printers

We were so impressed with the HP printer. It produces great prints and is great value for money, with extra functionality too. If you’re looking for something more high-end, then it’s hard to beat the Canon pixma G650.

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