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Canon SELPHY CP790 – Portable Photo Printer Review

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £144.13


Best Photo Printer(/centre)

It’s not clear how the concept of a printer in a bucket got past the concept stage, but Canon’s mushroom-shaped SELPHY CP790 certainly makes for an interesting review. At first glance, it looks like something Fisher Price might have thought up, but it’s still a very practical solution to the problem of carrying around all the bits and pieces needed to get this dye-sublimation printer working.

The printer itself is much like Canon’s other small dye-sub machines, it’s just that this one has an oval, lime green top, into the top of which are set a 76 mm LCD display and a series of five pushbuttons. In the centre of these is a four-way selection cross with, embedded in the middle, one of Canon’s click wheels for browsing quickly through menus.

Each of the sides of the mushroom’s ‘stem’ includes a door or sockets. On the left are sockets for the small, white power block, which delivers low-voltage DC to power the whole machine, a USB socket for connection to a PC or Mac and a PictBridge socket for printing directly from the camera.

On the right is a cover for the film cartridge. SELPHY printers work by transferring solid ink from a very thin film ribbon onto the glossy photo paper, using a thermal print head. The cartridge supplied with the printer is enough for just five photos, but consumables are available in 36-print and 108-print packs, which include both paper and cassettes.

At the front are sockets for SD, MemoryStick and CompactFlash cards. There’s an infrared sensor too, and a Bluetooth adapter is available as an option. Also at the front is a pull-down flap so you can plug in a paper cassette when printing. Two are supplied with the printer, one for 15 x 10 cm postcards and the other for business card-sized prints. At the back is a socket for the printer paper to feed out between each printing pass.

All the parts fit in an oval, green bucket and the printer clips into its top, completing what is a very convenient way of transporting the machine. The bucket comes complete with a handle, though no spade. The whole system loses a little in portability, as you have to pay extra for the optional battery.

The printer comes with an applet called SELPHY Photo Print and a print driver and is compatible with both Windows and OS X.

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.

Trusted Score

Score in detail

  • Print Speed 9
  • Features 9
  • Value 6
  • Print Quality 9


Card slot Secure Digital, miniSD, Secure Digital High Capacity (SDHC), miniSD High Capacity (miniSDHC), MMC, MMCplus, MMCmobile, HC MMCplus, RS-MMC, CompactFlash (CF), Microdrive, Memory Stick, Memory Stick PRO, Memory Stick Duo, Memory Stick PRO Duo


Paper Size 2.13" x 3.39", Postcard - 4" x 6", 4" x 8"

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