I have been photographing semi-seriously for quite a while, but one thing has been missing. Of all the photos I take, only a tiny minority has ended up as a real physical photograph. That, in my mind, is a shame as pictures on my computer are not equal to actual photos. There is a world of difference between backlit image and a real paper photo you’re holding in your hand.
During recent years I have ordered photos online, have had them made at a local camera store and even printed them myself using an Epson inkjet printer. Of all these, the online option was the cheapest, but of questionable quality. The local camera store wasn’t a lot better since they had real issues with dynamic range, i.e. 10-20% of the dark end was black and nothing else. I scanned the negatives in question myself and printed them with my Epson, and there wasn’t any problem with the dynamic range of the photos, it’s just that they weren’t printed right on whatever they’re using. My Epson was cheap, meaning that it wasn’t exactly capable of producing high quality no matter how much you adjusted your settings and used proper paper. The Epson was very practical in a sense that I could print a photo or two instead of having to collect a larger amount of them just because there was a base cost of few euros with every order. That’s what also killed the printer because the nozzles eventually dried up and even an Inkjet First Aid Kit they sell on Ebay was not capable of opening the clogged nozzles. Since Epson does not have replaceable nozzles like HP does, that was the end of the printer.
Having learned my lesson with inkjets now twice and never going that route again, I was looking at the possible alternatives. I concluded that for making standard 10×15 cm prints a Canon sublimation printer might be a good choice and for larger prints it’s more cost effective to order online instead of buying an expensive inkjet and worry about it getting clogged again. Inkjet ink is more expensive than finest wines or human blood, so that also was taken into consideration.
I bought myself a Canon Selphy CP1200 Wireless Compact Photo Printer from Amazon.de, since they had a huge discount on the white model for an unknown reason. Since I don’t judge printers nor people by their appearance, I chose the cheap white design.
Canon printer does not come with a USB cable, but that’s the norm nowadays, and I noticed that Canon printers are not supported anymore under Mac with USB cable anyway, so the missing cable was not a problem. If you need the cable connection (for God knows why), you’ll need to be on Windows. Wireless printing is fast enough for small amounts of photos and if you need large enough amount for the speed to be a problem, it’s cheaper to order them online. The printer itself is tiny, but once fully operational it will need some space around it.
Installing the printer is easy, but at least I had to read the small manual once. You’ll have to install one “ink cartridge” as Canon calls them and paper to the tray. I ordered three packs of 108 pcs photo paper from Canon and these packs always come with the “ink” needed to print them, so you’ll never have to worry about clogged nozzles, stripes on photos, smeared ink, missing waterproofing or other issues with inkjets. It also makes it very easy to calculate the cost of printing, which for me was 31,25 € divided by 108, making a single photo cost around 0,29 €. Canon claims the photos will last 100 years which is excellent if true. Some of my childhood colour photos are completely ruined and they are 40 years old at most. Black and white photos are fine no matter the age, even the ones from my grandparents are good as new.
My first prints were done from my iPad and Lightroom Mobile since the Canon was showing my wireless base station twice and one of those works for printing and the other does not. I’m not sure if that is because of 2,4 and 5 GHz networks I have or the fact that my ISP had enabled the once disabled 2,4 GHz wireless again using the same name I’m using on my Apple Airport Extreme. The joys of remote management. Once I got the network issue sorted out, I could also print from Adobe Lightroom on my Mac, which recognised the printer as AirPrint printer, meaning that I didn’t need drivers from Canon and hopefully never do, as Canon is one of the worst companies ever considering what comes to drivers. They’ll never support any old products, and while this printer was the latest model and brand new, even that was discontinued. Same happened once with a Canon scanner I had, meaning that selecting my next brand of scanner was a lot easier, ending up with Epson.
Taking a photo of a printed photo does not make sense, so you’ll have to imagine what I describe verbally. I was surprised by the quality I got from Canon Selphy SP1200 even without any adjustment. The shadows on the photos are slightly darker than on the screen but other than that it looks more or less the same. I have iMac 5k with sRGB screen and separate 100% Adobe RGB calibrated screen, and neither of these produces the same result as the photo is, but the main difference is in how computer screens and photo paper differ from each other. I was not disappointed with colour reproduction as it was accurate enough for skin tones, gradients on the sky, bright coloured company logos, green nature, etc. I still have one issue with the printer and that is the positioning of the image on the photo. The result is borderless unless you select it to have white borders, but borderless photos tend to cut slight amount from both top and bottom. It’s not usually noticeable, but if the image was already cropped tightly, you might end up with a partial picture. I’m not sure if I can adjust Adobe Lightroom’s Print module to leave somehow the photo zoomed a bit less, but so far I haven’t had the time nor the patience to try.
If you’re looking for a 10×15 cm photo printer for home use, I cannot recommend the Canon Selphy SP1200 more. It’s ideal in design as I do love the fact that I don’t have to worry about dried ink nor other issues I mentioned earlier. Compared to other non-inkjet photo printers on the market (Fujifilm Instax or Polaroid) I’d choose the Canon any day. Others are a lot more expensive to operate and produce smaller prints, not standard 10×15 cm photos your parents used to have.