Canon has had considerable success with its range of Selphy dedicated photo printers, which use dye sublimation, rather than the more usual inkjet. Its latest machine in the series, the ES1, refines the technique and provides extra features which should make it still more convenient to use.
Unlike earlier Selphy printers, the new machine sits vertically, more like a small toaster or transistor radio. Full controls for the printer are mounted on top, with a set of buttons on the left-hand side and a control dial and other buttons on the right. In the centre is a 63mm LCD screen, which can be used to preview pictures from memory cards and to navigate the printer's menus.
One of the key innovations in the new model is the photo cartridge, which combines photo blanks with rolls of the thin ribbon which holds the multicoloured dyes transferred during printing. This now slides in at the side of the machine and you no longer need to connect a bulky paper cartridge to the front of the printer.
At the bottom of the front panel are sockets for memory cards or to plug-in a PictBridge cable to your camera. For most people, though, a small cover on the left-hand side of the printer gives access to something more useful. The printer includes an integral USB cable on a spring-loaded retractor, complete with the miniature USB plug which fits most modern digital cameras. We had no trouble using this with HP and Ricoh models we tried. Also at the side is a USB socket for connection to a PC.
A flip-up hatch at the top stops dust dropping into the print mechanism, when the printer is not in use. Dye sublimation printers are particularly sensitive to particles of dust, so it's important to close this hatch when the printer isn’t in use. At the back is a hatch to take an optional lithium-ion battery, which should handle 50 prints on a single charge.
The ES1 is designed primarily as a standalone machine and to get it working this way, just plug the print cartridge into the side and close the cover. Push in a memory card – the card slots take all the common types, including MicroDrive – or connect a camera and you can print directly.