A portable, easy-to-use snapshot printer with some creative functions children and scrapbookers will enjoy.Canon's Selphy ES3 is the latest in quite a long series of snapshot printers that use dye-sublimation technology to produce prints with the look and feel of traditional photo prints. Designed for portability, it is more curvaceous than the Sephy ES2 model it replaces and has a curved carrying handle on top. Unfortunately, it's mains-driven only; no battery pack is available. . . [more]
Canon's Selphy ES3 is the latest in quite a long series of snapshot printers that use dye-sublimation technology to produce prints with the look and feel of traditional photo prints. Designed for portability, it is more curvaceous than the Sephy ES2 model it replaces and has a curved carrying handle on top. Unfortunately, it's mains-driven only; no battery pack is available.
The control layout is also different from the earlier ES models and somewhat easier to use. Dominating the front panel is a 72 x 55 mm LCD panel, which is large enough for previewing shots and provides adequate brightness and colour reproduction.
Lined up along the left side of the monitor are four buttons: Mode, Menu, Disp. and Edit. On the opposite side are another four buttons, the top two for zooming in and out and the lower + and - buttons for specifying the number of copies for each print.
The Selphy E3 set up for direct printing from a digital camera. (Source: Canon.)
Right of the monitor is the Easy Scroll Wheel, a rotating dial that also acts as an arrow pad. It's used for selecting menu items and scrolling through images. Above it is the Print button while below it is the Back button that takes you back to the previous setting or menu page. A sliding knob below the Back button opens the door to the cartridge compartment.
Paper and ink media are supplied in a single cartridge, which slips into place under a flip-open door on the right side panel. The ES3 comes with a cartridge already loaded but, since it only contains five sheets or paper and enough ink ribbon to print them, you should buy an extra cartridge when you purchase the printer.
The media cartridge contains an ink ribbon plus printing paper.
The review printer was supplied with the EP50 Easy Photo Pack Postcard Size (RRP $24.95), the EP25BW Easy Photo Pack Black & White Postcard Size ($19.95) and the EL50 Easy Photo Pack L Size ($24.95). Integrated 20-sheet cartridges that support gold and silver printing are also available for adding 'metallic' frames and clip art effects. Loading and swapping cartridges is very straightforward, as shown in the illustration below.
Loading the media cartridge.
The left side panel has USB A and B sockets for connecting a PictBridge compliant camera and linking the ES3 to a computer. On the top panel is a sliding cover that opens to reveal three memory card slots (SD/SDHC/MMC/miniSD, CF/microdrive and MS/MS Duo). The SD slot is half covered by a slider that reveals a microSD slot (no doubt catering for camera-phone users).
Inserting a memory card.
xD-Picture Cards can be printed via an adaptor that fits into the CF slot. Adaptors are also required for MMCmobile, MMCmicro, RS-MMC and Memory Stick micro cards. All must be purchased separately. Behind the card slots, a lift-up cover protects the output hatch, where the print is delivered.
Left of the LCD monitor on the front panel are two buttons and an infrared receiver which is used when images are transmitted from a mobile phone. IrDA is supported but an optional BU-30 Bluetooth transmitter is required for wireless printing from Bluetooth devices. The top button is the power on button. Below it is the Creative button, which opens sub-menus for adding frames, clip are, speech bubbles and image effects to pictures as well as creating calendars, ID photos and prints from movie clip frames.
The mains power plugs into a socket on the rear panel. This panel also has a grille of air vents to prevent over-heating. The Selphy ES3 is similar in size to earlier ES models - and also Epson's PictureMate series, which have a similar footprint. Overall weight of these printers is a little more than two kilograms - and there's only a gram or two between them.
One key feature of the Selphy ES3 is its internal memory, which has space for up to 999 images. Canon doesn't specify how large this memory is (although we've seen the figure 1GB mentioned in an online report), nor what size images should be for storage or whether the printer will reduce the size of larger files before storing them as Favourites.
You can print images directly from the memory, erase unwanted shots and protect Favourites against accidental deletion. The internal memory is also used for storing 47 frame templates, six calendar templates, 28 pieces of clip art, six multi-layout templates, six speech bubbles, 12 image effects and templates for a wide range of ID photo sizes.
The printer can also store a list of images you have printed and you can recall this printing history when you require reprints of certain images. Simply select Save for Reprint in Printer Setup (the default setting is on).
Suppled with the Selphy ES3 is Canon's Compact Photo Printer Solution Disk (V. 16.0), which contains the user manual in PDF format, Windows and Macintosh drivers plus the standard Canon Utilities applications (ZoomBrowser/ImageBrowser, Selphy Contents Utility and EOS Utility 1.1). Windows users also get Ulead PhotoExpress LE 6.6.
Printing with the ES3
Inserting a memory card or connecting a digital camera displays the first image in the memory. You can move backwards and forwards through the stored images by rotating the Easy Scroll Wheel. The image is selected for printing by pressing the Set button when it's displayed on the monitor.
Print mode settings: Normal, Favourites and Reprint.
Once the image has been selected and the desired adjustments made (more on these below), pressing the Print button initiates the printing process. A sheet of paper is selected from the cartridge and fed out through the slot near the lower edge of the printer's front panel. It is then rotated through 90 degrees before being fed back into the printer to receive the yellow layer of ink.
The paper is rotated through 90 degrees before printing can begin.
Subsequent passes through the machine apply magenta and then cyan colour layers before the print makes a final pass for the overcoating to be applied. It then pops out in the output hatch.
Pressing the Menu button displays a menu with selections that allow you to print all images or only one, select DPOF automatic printing (which prints tagged images), add a selected in-mage to the Favourites memory or auto play all images on a memory card, displaying each for three seconds. Two sub-menus cover print settings and printer setup controls.
The print settings sub-menu.
The former allows you to turn on and off date and file number imprinting (the default for both is off), choose between borderless and bordered prints, select a page layout and switch on red-eye correction. You can also apply Image Optimise, which automatically corrects exposure faults or adjust image brightness, contrast, sharpness and saturation manually.
Manual image adjustments provided in the print setting sub-menu.
Canon claims the following printing speeds for the Selphy ES3:
Postcard - approx. 55 seconds/print;
L size - approx. 47 seconds/print;
Card size - approx. 33 seconds/print.
In our tests we found actual printing times to be just under 30% longer.
Prints emerge from the printer dry to the touch and looking and feeling like 'real' photos. Canon claims they have a '100-year print life' when stored in albums. Independent testing specialist, Wilhelm Imaging Research (www.wilhelm-research.com) gives the following lightfastness ratings for Canon's dye-sublimation media:
- Displayed prints framed under glass: 41 years;
- Displayed prints framed with UV filter: 44 years;
- Displayed prints not framed: 2 years;
- Album/dark storage: >200 years;
- Unprotected resistance to ozone: 2 years;
- Resistance to high humidity: very high;
- Resistance to water: high.
The message to users is that if you want prints from this printer to keep their colours, don't stick them on the fridge door, where they will be in a high-ozone environment and exposed to light with no protection. Instead, store them in albums or frame them behind UV-filtering glass.
On the plus side, prints from the ES3 will resist smudging and splashes and you'll probably be able to salvage them if tea or coffee is accidentally spilt on them.
Adjustments and Effects
Pressing the Creative button opens a sub-menu that allows you to add frames, clip art stamps and speech bubbles to shots. You can also include selected images in one-month calendar pages and multi-shot layouts and create ID photo index prints in a wide range of sizes.
Adding frames is straightforward; you simply select the image, press the creative button and select Frames from the menu. You'll be asked to confirm the selected image before being taken to a 'themes' sub-menu with five options: Kids & Baby, Events, Seasons, Active and Simple. Select your theme and press the Set button in the centre of the Easy Scroll Wheel to choose the frame.
The frames vary in how much of the image they cover and the design of the graphics. You can rotate the picture in the frame by turning the Easy Scroll Wheel and enlarge, reduce or move the subject with the simulated arrow pad controls. However, you can't change the colour and brightness of the graphics and you can't change the width or position of the frames.
Some frames cover a fair amount of the image.
Similar constraints apply to the clip art and speech bubbles; you can change their orientation by rotating the Easy Scroll Wheel and relocate them by pressing on its edges but colours can't be changed and text can only be entered in the labels and speech bubbles by writing with a biro.
The calendar templates let you choose where you place the picture with respect to the dates and whether the week will start on Sunday or Monday. You can opt to highlight Saturday, Saturday and Sunday or have no highlight and add highlights to specific days. You can also crop the picture and set the background colour as white, pink, pale green, cream, pale blue or dark green.
Multi layout templates.
The same background colours are available for multi layouts, although the dark green is replaced by pale orange. Up to four different images should be selectable for printing on a single sheet of paper.
Background colour option for multi layout prints.
Selecting an image for a multi layout.
We found some of our images couldn't be used for multi-shot layouts and ID prints but had no way of determining whether it was because of their size or aspect ratio. When this happens, the message 'incompatible JPEG' is displayed on the monitor. You can specify the area of the image to cover when setting up an ID print - within pre-set limitations - but there's no guarantee you will end up with a correctly-sized passport or ID photo (for example).
Two of the Effects that can be applied to digital photos before printing.
Print Quality and Costs
Print quality was generally good for a snapshot printer and certainly up to the quality of many minilab photo prints we've seen. Unlike some minilab prints, saturation was restrained and colours were natural looking - although green grass tended to be almost European in character (rather saturated).
The dynamic range in prints was somewhat restricted. Shadow details were often lost, particularly when they covered large areas of pictures. Clipped highlights in digicam photos also tended to be blown out. Monochrome prints had no colour casts.
The auto correct function was fairly subtle with shots that were only slightly under-exposed and didn't make much difference to flare-affected images. The Image Optimise adjustments were similar, which means you have to over-correct when trying for a slight enhancement.
Printing with the Selphy ES3 is relatively expensive. Assuming no rejected prints, each colour print (standard and L size) costs approximately 50 cents, while each monochrome print costs just under 80 cents. These costs are higher than prints from similar printers that use inkjet media, which typically cost less than 35 cents per postcard-sized print.
Our regular pre-teen testers found two critical faults when making prints with the review unit. The first was that images were cropped to fit the paper when borderless printing was selected. No options were provided for selecting which parts of the image would be cut off.
The second was that no provisions were made for adjusting the width of the white borders when the bordered option was selected. While this setting printed the full image area, borders were often more than 15 mm wide, which meant the actual image was relatively small.
On the plus side, they were delighted with the Creative options the ES3 provided and spent several hours deciding which effects they wanted to use and where to position clip art stamps and speech bubbles.
Eight-year-old Phoebe Batley has written the following report on the review unit:
I think that this printer is a very good printer. You can put in lots of clip art and then move it into various places. It also looks like a mini robot and is like a printing Wall-E. What I don't like about the printer is that it trims off some of the photo.
Buy this printer if:
- You want a snapshot printer the whole family can use.
- You want lots of clip art and special effects for scrapbooking.
- You'd enjoy making prints from video clip frames.
- You want direct wireless printing from a camera-phone (an optional Bluetooth antenna may be required).
Don't buy this printer if:
- You require a full range of user-adjustable controls.
- You're looking for low-cost prints.
- You need fast printing.
Printer type: Dye sublimation thermal print method (with overcoating)
Resolution: 300 x 600 dpi (max)
Paper sizes: Dedicated paper for Postcard size ( 100 x 147.6 mm), L size (89 x 119 mm), Card size (54 x 86 mm), Card size (full size label sheets)
Ink cartridges: Integrated paper and ink cassette (Y, M, C, and overcoating material)
Ink yield: Approx. 50 sheets or more
Printing modes: Single image print, All image print, Multiple image print, DPOF image print, Print area settings (trimming), Date print, File no. print, Layout settings, Movie print, Image optimisation, Creative Print (Speech Bubble, Calendar, Multi-layout & Album)
Image rendering adjustments: Red-eye correction, My Colours (Vivid, Neutral, Sepia, Black &White, Positive Film, Lighter Skin Tone, Darker Skin Tone, Vivid Blue, Vivid Green and Vivid Red)
Interfaces: PictBridge and Canon Direct Print, USB Type A and Type B connectors: Wireless: IrDA (print beam), Bluetooth with optional BU-20 adaptor
Power consumption: 70W or less (standby: 4W or less)
Dimensions (wxhxd): 225.0 x 226.3 x138.0 mm
Weight: Approx. 2090 grams
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Rating (out of 10):
- Build: 8.5
- Features: 8.5
- Print quality: 8.5
- Print speed: 8.0
- OVERAL VALUE: 8.0