Looking at consumer level printers, but wanting to get the best bang for my buck, I noticed that Canon has two separate lines of all-in-one printers. The "MG" line they advertise as "Photo All-In-One" printers, and the "MX" line as "Office All-In-One" printers.

The only significant difference I found between models of similar cost (PIXMA MX882 and PIXMA MG6220 both $200) is that the MG/Photo line has an additional ink tank dedicated for grey that should be better for photography. Am I missing something else or is that really it? I am just confused why they segment the entire line and call it "Photo" when not all of the printers even have the grey ink tank.

  • Trying to keep this on topic by pointing out that I am using this printer for photography, but as a photographer I do use my printer for things like printing contracts, scanning, copying, etc. If this was going in your studio, help me decide! – dpollitt Nov 26 '11 at 14:26
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    Just a quick note about Canon printers...when they have a tank for it, they consume gray ink like it was printer candy. I own a PIXMA 9500 II, and in the years I've owned it, its burned through three times as many gray ink tanks than any other color. I don't print anything that has a particularly high amount of gray in it most of the time (outside of the occasional B&W prints). Generally, small black droplets are used to darken the otherwise very light CMY inks...but with gray, Canon uses that more often than K to darken the bulk of colors. So, just something to keep in mind...gray costs!! – jrista Nov 27 '11 at 3:32

The additional inks are part of it, but there's also the matter of drop sizing, drop positioning and dithering algorithms. A photo-oriented printer will produce text and business-type graphics that are a little less crisp than they can be, and long, smooth, pure gradients often pick up a bit of banding†, while a text-and-graphics printer tends to add subtle artifacts to photographic images by finding and enhancing what it perceives to be edges -- an effect not unlike oversharpening.

If the most important aspect of your printing is going to be photographs, then go with a photo printer -- its text output won't be all that bad. You'd notice a difference in a side-by-side comparison with an equivalent-level text-and-graphics printer on a top-quality hard-finished paper, but you wouldn't notice anything deficient on its own at font sizes greater than about 6 points. (Long gradients in printed PowerPoint slides might not be perfect -- but printed PP slides are not the intended end product unless you're stuck with an old overhead projector, and they have enough optical problems that nobody would ever be the wiser.) You will, however, notice that your photos won't be nearly as good as they might be if you use a general-purpose printer, even if you can't quite put your finger on why.

† Real photographic images rarely have long, smooth, pure gradients; there's almost always some amount of noise even in, say, a blue sky to add a degree of "natural dithering".

  • Awesome Stan! One question though, the printer pages both show "1 pl" technology so don't they have the same size drops? Sorry for my ignorance. – dpollitt Nov 26 '11 at 17:54
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    @dpollit: At the base size, yes. In use, though, neither printer produces the base size drop all of the time; most of the time they produce a larger drop that will fill the droplet's space on the grid. The smallest drops only happen when they have to, and how they are handled is different. Photo printers will put the drop in the center of the addressed grid square (which only results in a tonal change); text-and-graphics printers will steer the drop to a position that reinforces and smooths an edge. Exactly how that happens (electrostatic or mechanical) depends on the maker. – user2719 Nov 26 '11 at 23:06
  • Your printing knowledge blows my mind! Thank you for the help, you have made my decision easy. – dpollitt Nov 26 '11 at 23:30
  • Just to throw out another option...if you want high quality photo prints, then you might want to put your money into a better photo printer. I think you can pick up a basic office text-and-graphics printer from Canon for around $80 these days, and any one of those cheapies will usually do a superb job on the paperwork stuff. You can then put your money into something better suited to photography. Canon just released their new PIXMA Pro-1 series printer (a whole new line) so the prices of the PIXMA 9000/9500's should start dropping. I think you can already get a 9000 for around $400 on sale... – jrista Nov 27 '11 at 3:36
  • The 9000's $300 where I live; the 9500 is down to $600. Still, the hundreds aren't always disposable. – user2719 Nov 27 '11 at 12:25

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