Measuring printing quality poses two problems. First, a degree of subjectivity comes into play due to the fact that some people prefer matte finish and others glossy, some warm colors and others pastels, and so forth. Second, to display the test photos below, we had to digitize them after printing, which resulted in a loss of quality compared to the original. So, while we also show the file that served as a model, you should compare the printers directly rather than comparing them to the model.
|Canon Pixma iP2000||Canon Pixma iP4000|
|Canon Pixma iP5000||Lexmark Z816|
|HP Photosmart 7450||HP Photosmart 8150|
|Epson Stylus C66 Photo Edition||Epson Stylus R300|
What these tests show most of all is that the models are fairly close to each other, and that nearly all of them deserve to be called "photo quality." The only exception is the Lexmark Z816. The mixture of liquid and pigment inks we mentioned earlier just doesn't really seem to work that well. The colors lack punch - especially the blues, which are pale - and contrast is weaker than on the other models.
The best printer in terms of quality seems to be the Stylus Photo R300. It achieved results that were closest to the original. But the Canon 5-color models (Pixma iP4000 and iP5000) are not far behind. We should also point out that on the second photo we used, which contains more pastel tones, the Pixma iP5000 achieved near perfection, which seems to demonstrate the value of 1picoliter ink droplets. The two HP models do a more than honorable job, provided of course that you replace the original black cartridge with a photo ink cartridge. If not, the colors lose a lot of contrast. Finally, the printers with only 4 colors - the Pixma iP2000 and Stylus C66 Photo Edition - achieved fairly good results, even if they're not up to the level of the more expensive models.