Lab-Quality Prints from a Supertank Inkjet Printer


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Replaceable cartridges for inkjet printers are expensive and run out quickly, which is why printers with refillable ink tanks, called supertank printers, have become a popular option. Until now, though, there weren’t any supertank photo printers. Now you have a few options: two models from Epson, which invented the supertank category, the EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and wide-format EcoTank Photo ET-8550, as well as Canon’s Pixma G620.

Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8500 and wide-format EcoTank Photo ET-8550

There are two ways that Epson elevates the photo print quality of its ET-8500 (shown above) and ET-8550 printers. Both printers have six ink tanks instead of four – cyan, magenta, yellow, dye black (for photos), pigment black (for regular printing), and gray. The addition of gray delivers smoother color gradation and will also create more vivid black and white prints. Both printers also have five ink drop sizes versus three for Epson’s other EcoTank models. With this increased range in dot size, the application of color to the print can be more precise, resulting in lab-quality prints.

There are two separate trays for regular paper and photo paper, so you don’t need to swap them out each time you want to print a photo, or worse, forget you have photo paper in and print a text document by accident.

The ET-8500 prints borderless photos up to 8.5 by 11 inches, and the ET-8550 (shown below) prints borderless photos up to 13 by 19 inches. Both have a straight pass-through paper feeder so that you can print on media up to 1.33mm thick such as card stock or poster board.

Epson EcoTank Photo ET-8550

The Epson EcoTank ET-8500 and ET-8550 photo printers have all the features you would expect from a high-end multifunction printer. For both, there’s a 1,200-by-4,800 dpi flatbed scanner for faxing or scanning color photos and documents. (Photo scans are interpolated up to 9600 dpi with 24-bit color) A full color 4.3” Touch Panel display makes it easy to check the status of your print job and perform routine maintenance.

There are various ways to connect to your printer, depending on your home office setup. You can connect via ethernet, USB, WiFi, or print from an SD card or the Epson SmartPanel app from your smartphone.

With the EcoTank printers cost more money upfront, the ET-8500 is $599 (check price on Amazon), and the ET-8550 costs $699 (check price on Amazon), but you save money in the long run. The ink that comes with the printer will last for two years on average and costs significantly less than buying dozens of sets of standard ink cartridges. Replacement ink bottles cost from $10 to $15 depending on the color, keeping hundreds of ink cartridges out of the landfill as well. Epson says it costs $0.04 to print a 4-by-6-inch photo using the EcoTank instead of $0.40 per photo for an ink cartridge printer.

Canon Pixma G620

Canon Pixma G620

It’s all about color accuracy with Canon’s first supertank photo printer, the Pixma G620. In addition to the base four colors – cyan, magenta, yellow, and black – Canon adds gray and red. The gray color smooths color gradation, and the red produces more true-to-life reds.

There is one paper feeder for the Pixma G620, so you’ll either load up to 100 sheets of plain paper, 20 sheets of 4-by-6-inch photo paper, or ten sheets of 5-by-7-inch photo paper. The maximum borderless print size is 8.5 by 11-inches. The Pixma G620 does not have a straight-through paper path for thicker card stock or poster board.

The Pixma G620 is a multifunction printer with copying, faxing and scanning at up to 1,200 by 4,800 dpi. (The maximum resolution of photo scans is 1,200 dpi with 16-bit color.) There is a small monochrome display with function keys for operation, and you can connect to the printer via USB, WiFi, or the Canon Print app.

For a supertank printer, the Pixma G620 is relatively inexpensive at $299.99 on Canon. It comes with a two-year supply of ink, which will deliver around 3,800 4 by 6-inch prints. Canon estimates the cost per print is approximately $0.025 per print.

[Image credit: Canon, Epson]

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