The Canon Selphy CP800 snapshot printer is inexpensive ($100 as of December 15, 2010), and it does a generally nice job of printing photos. Watching the machine’s dye-sublimation technology in action is interesting, too: It applies ink from a continuous plastic sheet in three passes–one for each colour–and then applies a clear coat on the fourth pass. You can see the photo paper peek out of the printer during each pass; it’s almost like watching your photo develop. Regrettably, this printer’s somewhat poky speed and its expensive, wasteful consumables overshadow its fun aspects.
Setting up the Selphy CP800 is easy enough, but we had to read the documentation to figure out that we needed to flip back the top of the 18-sheet input cassette for it to fit into the printer. The flipped lid creates an output tray for holding a small number of photos–clever, but not entirely intuitive. Beyond that, the tilt-up 2.5-inch LCD provides all the feedback you need to print directly from the CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, Memory Stick, SD Card, and XD-Picture Card slots on the front of the unit. Controls are minimal, nicely arranged, and sufficient for all the required actions. You can use the printer exclusive of any computer connection, but PC and Mac drivers are available.
The Selphy CP800 is styled in matte black (though the input cassette is incongruously white), which seems more appropriate for a professional setting than the family den. In contrast, the bundled Selphy Photo Print software is definitely kid-oriented: fun, easy to use, and ready to step you through the print process. It even talks to you–not something most adults would want. The software’s chirpy personality fits in better with Canon’s beach-bucket-shaped Selphy CP790 snapshot model.
Photo output from the Selphy CP800 arrived a little slower than average, with colour photos emerging at 0.7 pages per minute and grayscale items printing at 0.8 ppm. Print quality was generally good: Flesh tones seemed smooth and natural, sports shots appeared bright and detailed, and grayscale images looked subtle. The printer struggled a bit, however, with the complex foliage patterns in a landscape shot; everything looked flat.
The Selphy CP800’s consumables are the worst aspect of the printer: inflexible, expensive, and wasteful. They come in bundles of media and ink cartridges. A five-print starter kit of postcard-size (3.94-by-5.83-inch) paper and ink arrives with the printer. A 108-sheet replacement kit costs $35, or a pricey 32 cents per print. A $15, 36-print bundle costs 41.6 cents per print. To print small labels on the Selphy CP800, you must buy a dedicated, $13 paper input cassette for that media size (2.13 by 3.39 inches), as well as the ink-and-paper pack. Ink that the machine doesn’t use for a print is rolled up and never seen again, and the plastic cartridge that holds the ink roll is nonrecyclable.
The Canon Selphy CP800 prints pretty good photos, but it does so slowly, and to the detriment of your budget and your local landfill. If you don’t mind being limited to one size of photo, the Epson PictureMate Charm is a much better option in this price range.