When you print, the paper is fed into the SELPHY CP790 and out the back of the machine. It then feeds through four times, being rewound between each feed, and layers of yellow, magenta and cyan dye-sub ink are laid down, followed by a final, clear, covering layer to protect the print.
Despite this complicated process a four-pass 15 x 10cm print completed in 58s from a PC, exactly a minute from an SD card and 54s from a PictBridge camera. All three times are quick compared with many inkjet printers, including the small-format Photosmarts from HP.
Print quality is pretty close to traditional silver halide photographs. There is very little of the dottiness of inkjet prints, as the ink in dye-sub printers is very briefly vaporised, or sublimated, to transfer it from the film in the cartridge to the print. The inks mix, giving what is often referred to as continuous tone print, without ink dots.
Our photo test prints look good, with smooth transitions between colours and sharp detail in foregrounds. By default, colours are rather dark, but flesh tones are natural. Overall, these images are easily as good as the best to come out of equivalently-priced inkjet printers and better than some traditional photos.
Canon has taken its eye off the ball when it comes to pricing the consumables for the SELPHY CP790. A couple of years back a cost of 20-25p for a 15 x 10cm print would have been average. Now, though, it looks decidedly expensive. With rival companies, such as HP and Kodak, offering colour prints for around 10p and cheaper short order photo prints available from high street chemists in under an hour, you're paying a lot for the convenience of printing where and when you wish.
In lots of ways this is a great little printer. Although its ‘toadstool in a bucket’ design might be a bit gimmicky, there’s no denying it’s a convenient way of carrying printer, cassettes, power supply and spare consumables. It’s easy to use and is versatile, printing from USB, PictBridge, memory cards, optionally Bluetooth and even infrared. Prints complete quickly and are high quality. Unfortunately it's let down by decidedly expensive running costs.