The Biggest Problem with Consumer Printers Is This Stupid Defect

I’ve looked around. Of any significant photography publication, we’re one of the few that actually still cares about and actively reviews printers. Standard consumer printers are exhausting. They can scan, fax, email, print, cook for you (not really), etc. Lots of them have this idiotic thing that genuinely doesn’t make sense. It ultimately ends up just making the printer useless. And in the end, it’s a justifiable reason as to why everyone hates them.

I know I’m talking about consumer printers, but I’ve heard of this issue happening with others. 

Why is it that when a color ink cartridge is done, I can’t print a black and white photo or document, etc.? How does that make sense? I needed to print a document the other day, and my Epson printer was telling me that I needed to refill the color cartridges to print a black and white document. So I canceled the printing order and switched the print setting to just black and white. Even though the black cartridge was full, Epson still prevented me from printing the document without requiring color.


Now let’s relate this to families. Lots of families will probably only have one, all-in-one printer in the household. I have lots of friends who are suffering after Hurricane Ida and have wanted to scan negatives and print them at home. So if a family wanted to print all those scans in black and white, they’d need to fill up a magenta ink cartridge. Why? How is this sensical?

Somehow or another, I don’t think printer companies get it. Last year, Canon put out a professional printer without a BlueTooth feature in it. 

It feels like printer companies don’t want us to use their products. Why would you create a product that a consumer doesn’t want to use? And why would you set yourself up to have an angry customer?

I think the printer space needs to stop making so many things so difficult. Before COVID, I had a neighbor who had to buy a new printer and was dreading it. I sat and listened to her about the setup and how awful it is to do it all. While some issues are minor annoyances, I agreed with her about how stupid a lot of it is. It’s idiotic when a printer stops printing because it doesn’t have ink that wouldn’t be needed in the print anyway.

What’s more is that there are tons of printer companies out there. On the higher end, this doesn’t happen. I’ve been a Canon Prograf-1000 user for many years. I still am. Is it perfect? No. And years ago, when I reviewed it, Canon basically balked at my questions. However, I only use it to print high-end images at large sizes. And it’s never failed me. When ink gets low, it won’t let me print. And I understand why in that case. However, if I just want a black and white print, it never stops me. 

Why do more consumer-level printers do that? I could easily imagine a family doing an Office Space scene to a printer when they were annoyed by it. Maybe folks would enjoy printing again if it wasn’t such a complex and anxiety-inducing process. Hey printer manufacturers, you’ve had years to work on it; stop making silly mistakes.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.