Canon Selphy CP900 review
While an inkjet might seem like the obvious choice for printing photos at home, it's not the only one. The Selphy CP900 is the latest in Canon's range of dye-sublimation photo printers. It comes with a large colour screen, a memory card slot and support for wireless networking.
For the uninitiated, dye-sublimation printers use a ribbon that's permeated with a solid dye. As the paper moves through the printer, the ribbon above it is heated, causing the dye to sublimate (become a gas without first becoming a liquid) and re-solidify on the cool paper, forming an image. This takes place in four quick passes beginning with yellow, then magenta and cyan to complete the image, then finally a clear protective overcoat.
Supplies for the CP900 come in matched packs of ribbons and paper, so the 36-sheet KP-36IN supply will print exactly 36 6x4in prints, for example. You can even use the prints as postcards thanks to address and stamp markings. Other formats, including sticker packs are available, but the printer can't handle anything larger than postcard size.
This is a small and attractive printer but, like other dye-subs, it requires a deceptive amount of space on the desk. The lidded clip-in media tray makes it about 300mm deep, and you must leave around 200mm of free space at the back to avoid blocking the paper as it emerges from the back of the printer during prints. It's important to keep the working area free from dust, as it can cause quite significant blemishes on a dye-sub print. With ribbons lasting only a maximum 36 prints, you'll be changing them fairly often, but it's a simple clip-in job and there's no mess.
The Selphy doesn't do much but print photos, so the driver has comparatively few options
The CP900's thermal print head means it needs a quiet cooling fan and uses slightly more power than you might expect, but it's quieter than most inkjets and faster than any we've tested. Over a USB connection, it takes around 55 seconds to print each borderless 6x4in print, although we found this increased to nearly 90 seconds over Wi-Fi, which is almost double Canon's 47-second claim.
You can tweak the colours and contrast of prints; many of ours seemed muted using the default settings
Prints from the CP900 were free of grain, and didn't suffer any obvious softness - a potential weakness in the dye-sub process. We weren't overly impressed with their colours, though, which seemed muted. The printer also struggled to cope with the smooth progression of shades in the blue sky of one test picture, seemingly running out of range at the darker end and tending toward blocks of a single shade.
This Canon Selphy CP900 is a quick photo printer, but the best photo inkjets produce superior prints. Alternatively, for those in less of a hurry, an online service such as Snapfish has no upfront fee and each print costs about half as much.
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