Canon Selphy CP740

The Canon Selphy CP740's dye-sublimation photos compare well with those produced by the more common inkjet technology. The Selphy costs very little to buy ($100 at the time of review), and its replacement supplies are also inexpensive. It's pretty slow, however, and it can be awkward to use.

Printing on the Selphy CP740 is somewhat nonstandard in a few key ways. The paper and film-based ink are matched precisely to one another. You can't use third-party supplies, and if you want to change paper size you also have to change the cassette and cartridge.

The included postcard-paper cassette is external; inserting it into the printer's front nearly doubles the machine's footprint. The cassette's lid requires careful maneuvering to load paper, and oddly, you have to leave it askew to insert it into the printer correctly.

The ink cartridge inserts easily into a side bay. Its continuous roll of film contains alternating sections of cyan, magenta, and yellow dye, which are transferred onto the paper in successive passes. Each pass moves the page in and out of the printer, requiring several inches of rear clearance.

The two media slots take most major formats (xD requires a third-party adapter); there's also a PictBridge port and a retractable mini-USB cable for attaching digital cameras. A small, two-inch color LCD lets you view an image and current settings. A bank of buttons offers layout and printing options.

The navigation buttons to the right of the display are, strangely, not illustrated in the Printing Guide booklet; more confusing than this omission, though, are two other things: the combination Print/Stop button--which seems to contradict itself--and the lack of an OK-type button to confirm a setting.

The output of photos printed on the Selphy CP740 averaged slower than one page per minute, but they looked very good overall. Flesh tones and hard surfaces looked a bit light, but natural. Details in shadow were often obscured--a common problem, but in the Selphy CP740's case, a landscape image's layers of vegetation and receding topography ended up looking dark. It struggled most with a monochrome photo, which took on a sickly yellow tinge.

Though installing the printer on your PC is easy, the process is sketchily covered in the documentation. Bundled applications include Canon's ZoomBrowser EX, for organizing images; Easy-PhotoPrint, for making special layouts; and PhotoStitch, for combining several shots into a larger image.

The printer comes with a measly five-print starter cassette and five sheets of postcard paper. A kit containing 108 sheets of 4-by-6 paper plus a 108-print cassette costs $30, or a reasonable 27 cents per print.

Although the Selphy CP740 falls short in various small ways--whether it's the clunky paper tray, the small omissions in the documentation, or the slow print times--it does print a good photo. Its acquisition and supply prices are reasonable, too, which makes it a good value.

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