Just last week I got the Canon Selphy CP1300 portable mini printer. A few dozen prints in, I’d figure I’d share some of my thoughts on this little printer.
My first ever review
Before I get into it: please know that this is my first-ever product review, and not a typical review either; I’m neither a features nor a specs guy, so if that’s what you’re after you’ll be better of elsewhere. Why do a product review at all then you wonder? Well, I’ve found myself in search of product reviews several times lately, only to end up in endless streams of technical reviews and comparisons that are perhaps handy to some, but just don’t do much for me. I like the subjective kind of stuff; why’d you get the product, do you like it, how do you feel about the product?
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get to it. So why did I get a portable, mini photo printer? I’ll get there in a bit. But allow me some introduction. I am an enthusiastic photographer and I like to do more with my photography than keep and share it digitally. Occasionally, I’ll have an image printed through a professional print service on a3 or a2 size in order to frame it. But more often, I’ll have batches of recent shots printed that I keep around for review or hang on my walls.
I think doing so is great not only because you’re surrounded by your own photography all the time (I work from home and literally look at my photos all day everyday) and that’s really nice, but *looking* at those photos in print so much actually helps me become a better photographer. Beyond the occasional glaze on a screen, a print that’s actually present all the time starts telling what works, what doesn’t, what could improve, and so on.
So I’ve started to make a habit of printing shots, which as said I do in small batches from the professional print shop I like. They’re really the best prints I’ve come across and I am really happy with them (seriously, if you’re in the Netherlands too, and what really good prints, go with Profotonet. I have no affaliation whatsoever, just a really, really happy customer). That said; it is a bit of a hassle to have these things printed, I have to save up some material, put in an order, pay for the prints (they’re pretty cheap) and pay for the transport (that’s less cheap).
A mini printer? Why?
I started wondering: Could I maybe do these prints myself? I started researching, and as that goes (well, for me anyways), one thing led to the next and before I knew it I wanted, no: I NEEDED a big professional photo printer with a gazillion separate ink tanks (the more the better I found) that could do poster-size prints (you need one that does rolls, because who knows when you'll need it, right). However, turned out those aren’t exactly cheap — anything remotely serious will start towards a 4 figure number.
Long story short: I recollected myself and let go of that idea.
Who am I kidding…
Ok so perhaps I haven’t *completely* abaondoned the idea, but just managed to push it to the back of my mind for a bit, where it will quietly sit for a while until eventually it resurfaces with an even more vigorous demand. I’ll deal with it when that happens. That or I’ll have another printer review to write.)
“Many printers tend to be like, well, printers: not that expensive as an initial buy, then draining you in running costs”
So big professional printers were out of scope, and I did realize that although I like to do the occasional big print, it’s mostly the regular, 10x15cm (4x6inch) photo prints that I want on a regular basis. Whenever I need a big print, I can always still do that at a professional printer. I knew smaller printers, dedicated to smaller,regular photo formats were available, so I went ahead and started looking into that. What I found is that there’s a lot of choice, and I went through a lot of comparisons on the matter. What I was mostly interested in was the quality of photos that come out of these things, and obviously, als the cost of purchase and printing (many printers tend to be like, well, printers: not that expensive as an initial buy, then draining you in running costs).
The Selphy CP1300
There’s a bunch of really cool little photo printers there, like for example the Fujifilm Instax ones that I quite liked from what I read and saw. However, those all print on polaroid paper which was really not what I was looking for: I like a simple print, just a 10x15cm (4x6inch) piece of photo paper without decor. With that constriction in mind, I eventually landed on the Canon Selphy series as probably one of the best mini printers out there.
I decided to get the latest version of the Selphy, the CP1300, in black, for which I payed €138,05. There is a slightly cheaper version available as well, the CP1000, which from looking at the specs seems to match the print quality and options, at least on paper. The main difference however is WIFI; which the CP1300 does have, and the CP1000 doesn’t. Now as for me, I’ll go for cableless whenever I can, and especially if you’re having a portable mini printer (you can takes these things with you with a battery too), it makes sense to be able to use it wirelessly (it’s great using it directly from your phone for example).
As for running costs then. I’ve taken a look at what you pay per print, and that comes down to about €0,27 per photo. Here’s how that works: you have to buy ink cartridges and photo paper for these printers, which you buy together as duo packs. The most economical option then is the Canon RP-108 set, containing paper and ink for 108 photos. I paid €29,95 for it, which divided by 108 comes down to about €0,27 per print. In comparison: At Profotonet, I pay €0,33 for a regular 10x15cm (4x6inch) color print on Fuji Glossy paper (+ shipping). So when you leave out the cost of the printer for a minute, a single photo is slightly cheaper printed at home.
So is it any good?
Specs and price are all interesting, but in the end, the most important thing is if the prints are any good right? My short answer to that question: yes, they actually are quite nice! They are surely better than anything I’ve printed at home before (which isn’t that hard, all I’ve owned are printer/scanner combinations of which I think the latest two had one of the extra inserts for photos, that didn’t work half of the time), and I would say also better than what I remember your average/entry-level digital print service does. They’re not as nice good as the prints I get from Profotonet though, but that’s also really not what I expected.
Overall, I would say the details in these prints are quite good, even from somewhat scaled down JPG’s (all photos I’ve printed were taken with Olympus OMD camera’s, so I can’t really say much for the quality of prints taken with a phone for example. My impression is that you pretty much get out what you put in with this thing.). The paper is quite nice, and the prints really have that ‘photo feel’, rather than seeming like ‘prints’, if that makes any sense.
A side by side comparison
Here’s a print made with the Selphy (the one on the left, in my hand) next to the same image printed at Profotonet (the one on the right, taped to the wall. I’ll refer to this one as ‘the professional one’.). As I hope you can see from this not-so-great picture, both photos are really quite similar in detail, sharpness and overal rendering. However, also quite visible is the difference in color rendering: the Selphy photo lacks some overall warmth in this print, and as you can clearly see the green tones came out bluer than in the professional one.
For good measure, here’s the original image, used for both prints:
As you can see, the professional print got the colors quite right, while the tones in the Selphy print lacked were too cool (no, not cool like that, I mean color temperature cool). To be honest, I am not sure if this could perhaps (partially) be an issue of running low in reds on the printer; I’ve made a few dozen prints and am still on the first cartrigde, but I did find that the tones in several prints seemed off right from the beginning. It’s not in all prints though, some are really close to my digital files and are really satisfying colorwise. But some are just a bit off, like the example above, but not in all cases simply not ‘warm’ enough in tones, differentations occur in other areas as well. I haven’t yet been able to figure out if there’s any logic to when and how colors go a bit off, but I did get the impression that photo’s with less color complexity seemed to be less acurate, especially in the green range.
These occasional color differentations are annoying, for sure. Like the fact that my 3x4 aspect ratio (it’s the micro four thirds standard format that I shoot on) images always get slightly cropped when printed. It’s not that much, and I get why that is (the printer fills out the 10x15 (4x6inch) format, which is an aspect ratio of 2/3, so it can’t help but loose a little of my image when doing so), but it’s still a bit annoying, as it means I either have to accept a change in my crop, or I have to manually change my crop in Lightroom before printing for each single photo I print.
Something else that has me wondering is the (plastic) waste created with this printer. There’s a hard plastic (and whatever else else is in there besides plastic) cartridge that needs being replaced after every 54 prints. I’ve looked into possible recycling, but Canon itself, who does have a ‘Canon Cartridge Recycling Programme’ doesn’t seem to say anything about it — these cartridges are not included in any of their recycling programs, and besides a few seemingly random ‘recycle’ icons on the packaging of the cartridges, I wasn’t able to find anything on what to do with these cartridges. So while I’m not sure how printing with the Selphy compares to other types of printing in terms of waste, regular printing with the Selphy is gonna leave you with a frequent serve of hard plastic waste that you can’t do much with other than put in the trashcan.
Overall, I am not dissapointed with the Selphy: I had expected pretty decent photos that I could easily print at home for personal use. And it delivers that perfectly, no problem. The usability is quite good too: once I had unpacked the Selphy and connected it to my home WIFI network (which was easy enough), I was able to print without any other setup or software from my iphone and macbook, and that just works really well. Quality wise, the photos are really nice in detail and good enough for me and what I use them for. The colors aren’t always as accurate as I’d like though. It’s not a big issue for me personally and I think I’m the only one in our household who really notices, but still I want to mention this. I’ve sold some of my prints in the past, but if I’d do that again, I wouldn’t be printing them myself, mostly for this reason (the crop would be another, and the paper with the tear-off edges — which I do like myself, it’s nice to write on for example — doesn’t feel quite suitable for a paid product either).
Finally, I hadn’t mentioned it so far, but one last thing worth mentioning is just how satisfying it is to watch this little printer print your images. You see it being build up as the printer pulls it through 4 times, first printing three (RGB) color layers and finally a protective coating. It’s such a joy to see your image come alive like this!