I want to buy a home printer so that when I get home, I can plug my phone and print a few pictures to share with my friends.

Are there big differences in the cost-per-picture between printers?

  • 2
    Rule of thumb: the less you pay for the printer, the more you will pay for supplies.
    – mattdm
    Nov 21 '14 at 11:38

Yes, there is a large amount of variation by printer, but there is also a large amount of variation by photo. As a general rule, individual tank per color printers are cheaper than tanks with multiple colors in the same cartridge (you throw out unused ink). Additionally, the larger cartridges are, generally the cheaper it is per ml of ink (less buying of the cartridge itself).

The one notable exception to this is that some systems support either refills or continuous ink systems, both of which use third party ink and are drastically cheaper than first party systems, generally with minimal if any impact on image quality.

That said, you have to consider the printer as well. While the ink may be cheaper per ml in larger tanks, some printers use drastically more ink than others. Some printers have to waste ink if you don't print for a while while others do not. And that hasn't even started on the variety between paper types, print qualities or color distribution of the images that can radically alter consumption.

If you want to have a fixed cost for small runs of 4 by 6 style images, you may want to consider a die sublimation printer. They are relatively cheap for the quality and produce long lasting prints at a fixed cost (of around .25 cents per 4x6 normally). The main disadvantage is that cost is the same no matter if you print smaller and most can't go bigger.

Ink jet, there is no fixed cost option, you just kind of go with the flow (of ink). You can find some basic comparison numbers online for large volume printing, but they aren't always really reliable indications of what you will get with occasional small runs, which stats don't really exist for since you can't quickly simulate it.

  • thanks, I think I will go with a die sublimation printer (e.g. Canon SELPHY 910), that will be perfect for my use.
    – Renaud
    Nov 21 '14 at 15:56

It's very difficult to precisely work out the cost per print but there are a couple of things you can do. The biggest difference will come with the ink and the paper.

Try to look at the ink cost over the various manufacturers, but also look at amount of ink in each cartridge and how many cartridges you need.

Then look at paper costs, which papers do you want to use and how much does it cost for each one? This obviously has no effect on which manufacturer unless you plan on using manufacturer specific papers.

There are other things you may consider, for examples I like to look into whether compatible cartridges are available and how much they cost. I recently bought a new Canon printer and thought I would try the refillable cartridges just to compare the quality. I was very impressed and now I use them all the time, making my ink costs almost next to nothing.

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