Of the four major printer makers, only Canon has chosen not to use ink-jet technology for its standalone photo printers. It has made a considerable success of the thermal dye-sublimation technology it bases its Selphy range of printers around and one of the latest to join the range, the Selphy ES20, offers a wide range of features, built into its attractively styled case.
If you're used to photo printers being small squat boxes with large paper trays sticking out the front, the ES20 may come as some surprise. Its vertical design - it's as high as some all-in-one machines - means it has a very small footprint. The integrated paper and ink film cartridge slides in at the side in a simple, mess-free installation and provides enough of both consumables to produce 50 full-colour prints.
The photo blanks built into the cartridge are loaded in landscape orientation inside the printer, so you don't need to carry a pack of paper with you when travelling. That's fine, except that the ES20 must feed the paper back and forth four times in a portrait orientation to print each colour photo.
To achieve this, the printer uses the technique pioneered in Canon's earlier ES1 machine, which feeds the paper part-way out and then turns it through 90-degrees before starting to print. Virtually everyone who sees this manoeuvre is impressed and it's certainly a novel solution to keeping the paper protected when the printer is not in use.
The control panel of the Selphy ES20 includes a 76mm colour LCD and assorted buttons to handle not just simple printing but additional features like red-eye removal and adding simple frames and even speech bubbles to photos.
At the bottom of the front panel, behind a fold-down flap, are three separate memory card slots, which between them cater for all the main types. Around the side are similar sockets for USB 2.0 connection to a PC and PictBridge connection to a camera. The one method of connection missing, which was available in Canon's earlier ES1 model, is the pull-out, vacuum cleaner-style, PictBridge cable for direct camera connection.
There's a sprung carrying handle built into the top of the printer and a pop-up cover to the paper-out hopper. This cleverly pops open automatically, if you start printing without opening it manually, first.