photo printers get sharper, cheaper

Canon Pixma Pro-100, $400,

We snap so many pictures nowadays that it sometimes seems as if we've forgotten to savor any.

A good print is more aesthetically pleasing than a photo on an LCD screen — the colors are more vibrant, the light against paper more favorable than against glass — and because it is a permanent, physical object that can be mounted in a place you'll see regularly, a print tends to pack deeper emotional resonance.

But these days the most common way of creating prints is to send your pictures to an online or drugstore lab, and that process rarely works well.

Fortunately, it's never been easier, or more rewarding, to print your own photos at home. Inkjet photo printers have come a long way over the past five years. The best home versions cost as little as $400 and use cartridges in eight colors, more than the two or three found in earlier versions meant for home use.

One example is the Canon Pixma Pro-100, which sells for around $400. It is one of a few home models that can print on paper as large as 13 inches wide. What's more, the Pro-100 easily connects to your home Wi-Fi network, meaning you can set it up anywhere, and it is compatible with Apple's AirPrint system, so you can print photos straight from your iPhone or iPad.

Another selling point is price. The Wirecutter, a review site, looked at several 13-inch printers, and it found another model, the Epson Stylus Photo R3000, to be the best on the market. But the Epson costs around $800. The Canon, which the Wirecutter calls its best "step down" from the Epson, is not only half the price, but has won rave reviews for its print quality.

Be warned, though, that printing your own photos isn't going to be cost-effective. Each ink cartridge sells for about $17, and you can get the whole set for $125; how many pictures you get from this set depends on the size and colors of your prints. But when you add the cost of paper, it's unlikely you'll be able to beat the per-print price of some of the largest online photo labs.

On the other hand, if you're looking for beautiful images that will last, nothing beats doing it yourself.