Pros: Print blanks held internally; Cost competitive with inkjet; Neat and small; Water and light-resistant prints.
Cons: Prints dark by default; 50-print battery pack not included.
Bottomline: The Canon ES20 is a convenient photo printer, though it's not fully portable without the optional battery pack.
Most dye-sublimation photo printers – which print using a roll of coloured plastic film rather than droplets of ink – sit long and low on the desk with a plug-in paper tray on one side. Some of Canon’s Selphy range, including the ES20, use a different design, which makes carrying and using them a lot more convenient.
The ES20 is a small printer that sits vertically on a desk – rather than feeding paper back and forth through the printer like most, this one is designed to feed prints up and down. It takes a cartridge of up to 50 sheets internally, rather than having a clip-on cassette holding the paper, which further reduces bulk. You load the cartridge, with the paper in a landscape format, from the side.
The printer, however, takes it up and down through its mechanism in portrait format, so it performs a neat trick we first saw in Canon's Selphy ES1: when it starts to print, a single sheet is fed out from a slot at the base and is turned through 90 degrees before being fed in again in the required direction. It then makes four passes through the printer, for the colours to be printed together with a transparent, protective coating.
The ES20 comes in ice-white with a cleanly curved top panel that includes a 76mm colour display as well as controls to print and to remove red-eye, add frames or even put speech bubbles on photographs. You have to hand-write the contents of the bubbles once they've been printed, though.
Sockets at the bottom of the front panel enable the user to plug in the most common memory cards and compatible cameras, and a USB socket at the rear connects it to a PC – what with the camera link and all the memory card sockets, though, it's certainly possible to use it without connecting it to a computer at all. All prints take about 75 seconds, with those from a camera being slightly quicker than others.
This is a good speed, particularly when compared with typical inkjet photo printers. Print quality is fair, though by default, colours come through darker than they show up on screen, and they may need to be adjusted to get a more accurate reproduction. Photo packs are available that contain both the blank paper and the film for either 50 or 100 photos.
Costs work out at about 16p a print, slightly above recent inkjet offerings from HP and Epson, though only by a penny or so. The ES20 works well, it's simple to use and convenient, but it takes a little work to get the best quality prints out of it.