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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 10:02 GMT
PC photo printers challenge pros
Printed image that has faded, PC Pro
The wrong ink can mean your prints have a short life
Home printed pictures can be cheaper and higher quality than those from High Street developers, tests shows.

A survey carried out by PC Pro magazine looked at which of 100 home photo printers offered a better deal than handing your snaps to a photo lab.

The tests found that images from top PC printers kept their colour longer than professionally produced photographs.

But using the wrong printer cartridge could means snaps fade in months, warned the magazine.

Paper chase

The group test of 100 home photo printers for PCs discovered how much it costs to create images using the devices compared to online developers as well as High Street names such as Jessops, Boots and Snappy Snaps.

The comprehensive test also revealed how quickly different printers produced images, the quality of the finished image and how resistant finished pictures were to smudging or water damage.

It found that although some ink for printers now costs more than 2 per millilitre it can still be cheaper to produce prints from photographs at home than it is to send them off to a High Street store.

"If you really like your photos, then it's definitely worth printing at home instead of going to the high street, but only if you choose the right printer," said Nick Ross, top tester at PC Pro.

Epson Stylus Photo R800
Canon Pixma iP3000
HP PhotoSmart 8150
Canon Pixma iP4000R
Source: PC Pro magazine
Mr Ross said that a new generation of printers produced images with brighter colours and that were less likely to fade than many High Street developers or even some professional wedding photographers.

Some High Street photo shops can be the cheapest when it came to developing prints that were 6x4in, said Mr Ross, but the test revealed that images 7x5in and 8x10in in size were cheaper to produce at home.

According to PC Pro, producing a print 8x10in on an Epson R800 printer using top quality paper costs 1.87. At Jessops the same image would cost 2.50 and at Snappy Snaps 9.99. A 10x7in snap at Boots would cost 4.99.

"Considering how inconvenient it can be to go to the High Street and how silver-halide prints can fade in the sun, we're adamant that it's now better, cheaper and more convenient to print at home," he said.

Ann Simpson, marketing manager at Snappy Snaps believes the convenience of high street printing will continue to attract customers.

"Some people will want to do their own thing on their computer but the feedback to us is that customers often have to print two or three pictures at home in order to get a good one," she said.

"Many people are not skilled at getting the colour, contrast and cropping right and they don't want the hassle," she added.

The magazine test found that which ink consumers use determined how long their prints lasted before they started fading.

It recommended avoiding so-called third-party inks not produced by printer makers because they tended to produce prints that fade the quickest.

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