If you're looking to print your photos without firing up your notebook, take a look at Canon's Selphy ES1. This dye-sub printer is easy to take with you, thanks to its built-in carrying handle and relatively light 4.5-pound weight, yet its output rivals what you'd get at the local drug store.
Setup couldn't be simpler. The paper and ribbon come packaged together in single tray. Insert the tray and a memory card and you're ready to go. The Selphy ES1 supports all the major memory card formats, including SD Cards, xD Cards, and Memory Sticks; plus, it's USB- and PictBridge- compatible. Canon sells an optional BU-20 Bluetooth Adapter for $79.99, which will let you print photos from your Bluetooth-enabled camera phone. And the optional NB-ES1 battery makes the Selphy ES1 truly portable, although it's a bit expensive at $99.99.
On our tests, the Selphy ES1 displayed our first image in about five seconds after we pressed the power button. The 2.5-inch display is fine for viewing and selecting photos, and its screen is the same size as the LCD found on the Epson PictureMate Flash PM-280, but smaller than the 3.6-inch screen on the Sony Picture Station DPP-FP90. The time between photos was slow as well, and scrolling through images stored on an SD Card was tedious, as we had to wait for the Selphy ES1 to catch up.
While Canon claims that the ES1 can produce 4 x 6-inch prints in 69 seconds, our tests revealed that the actual time was between 71 and 74 seconds. This is slower than most of the Selphy ES1's competitors' print times. Like many other prints from compact photo printers, the 4 x 6-inch images have perforated tabs on both sides, which we find a minor annoyance.
Photos were clear and vibrant with fairly accurate colors and saturation. Our only complaint with the printing is the way paper is handled. The Selphy ES1 rotates the paper 90 degrees during printing. While this is fun to watch, the Selphy ES1 doesn't always line up the paper accurately; as a result, some of our test prints were slightly misaligned (this wasn't noticeable once we removed the perforated sides, however).
The Selphy ES1 lets you perform minor enhancements right on the printer, including red-eye correction and cropping functions. You can also add cartoon speech bubbles, create mini calendars, and design multiple-image prints.
Prints made with the Selphy ES1 cost between 28 and 48 cents depending on which Easy-Photo Pack you purchase (the packs are available with 25, 50, or 100 sheets). At the cheapest price, prints made with the Selphy ES1 are in line with what they would cost at a retail outlet or an online gallery, and the price falls between those of other portable photo printers, like the Epson PictureMate Flash PM-280 (25 cents) and the Sony Picture Station DPP-FP90 (37 cents).
Canon claims that the photos printed on the Selphy ES1 are protected from moisture and light fastness for 100 years. While we can't test the longevity claim, our sample prints looked exactly the same after we submerged some of them in a sink full of water for about ten seconds and then allowed them to dry.
In general, we were pleased with the Canon Selphy ES1. Our biggest beef is with the slow and awkward print method, but if you can overlook that and want a printer that you can tote with you, this model may be right for you.
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