Given the incredible quality of ink-jet photo printers these days, there's an important question floating around that often gets overlooked. Do we still need dye-sub? Once, they were the portable photo lab that produced unbeatable prints – but what are they for now?

Canon's latest Selphy is certainly a curious machine. Aside from its striking unusual looks and EOS camera-inspired jogwheel control, the paper feed mechanism is a weird mechano-extravaganza worthy of a Tim Burton animation.

Nice action

You start by slotting in the cartridge. Fifty or one hundred sheets of 6x4 postcards are hermetically sealed into a non-refillable unit that also contains the inks – it's not the most economical way to print, but you'll forget that after what happens next.

A single sheet is pulled from the paper tray, fed out of the bottom of the unit, rotated and then passed upwards and back down four times to layer on the ink in separate CMYK runs. It may be noisy as hell, take forever and behighly impractical, but there's no denying it oozes cyberpunk cool.


Mains only

Increasingly, the whole raison d'etre of dye-subs is that they're small enough to take anywhere, ideal for producing Polaroid-style pics at parties, for example.

While the Selphy is topped off by a carry handle, though, the lack of a battery or cigarette lighter power adaptor makes it a bit limited. You can only use it in a situation where there's more than likely already a desktop printer.

The limitations continue: while it has a card reader and ports for direct connection to a PC or camera, it can't accept photos from a USB stick. The compartment doors are flimsy and – worst of all – the pictures are simply not that much cop. Compared to Canon's excellent iP4600, which uses a dye-based photo ink, images are noticeably softer and less colourful.


Stuff says... 

Canon Selphy ES3 review

Solidly built and impressive in action, the photo quality isn't up to scratch