Once switched on, the Canon jumps to life in a busy, industrious manner that fills you with hope. The monitor proves to be bright and clear, and all the little whirring noises convince you that it's ready for some serious action. Before you start printing, however, you need to sort out the ink and paper.
As we mentioned earlier, the ES1 doesn't have a separate paper tray -- instead you buy cartridges that contain both paper and ink. This is possible because the ES1 is a dye-sublimation printer, so ink use can be predicted right down to the last print -- if you buy a 50-sheet pack, you get the right amount of ink for 50 photos. Media comes in four sizes, ranging from credit card size (54x86mm) to postcard size (100x150mm) and prints have a glossy, water-resistant finish.
The combi paper tray and ink holder pops into the side of the ES1. When you press 'print' the paper appears through a slot near the bottom of the printer, turns itself through 90 degrees and then pops out the top when it's finished (click on the View Video button to see it in action). It's mesmerising stuff… for a while anyway.
Getting images onto the ES1 is quick and easy thanks to the wide range of connection options available. Once they are loaded, however, the Canon seems to have a spot of trouble moving between them. We had a 512MB SD card full of 6-megapixel images and the lag when moving from one image to another was offputting. We kept thinking nothing had happened, pressing the button again and then having to wait for it to move on again so we could go back.
This is a shame, because in many other respects this Canon is as good as it gets in terms of image handling from a compact printer. It certainly betters the brand's previous Selphy options when it comes to editing functions. There's a useful cropping tool, red-eye reduction and some more 'creative' options that, to be honest, aren't that exiting. Once you work through these and press 'print' the ES1 whirls into action.
It takes a little over a minute to produce a postcard-sized image. This isn't too bad at all, especially when you see the quality of the image. When it comes to bright and vibrant colours there's little to touch this Canon at the moment. There's also plenty of detail in the prints, even in tricky areas of shadow, and the blacks are very impressive considering they are made by printing the other colours over each other. Contrast levels are also good, with the reasonably rich blacks set off by a cracking white, without any hint of other colours intruding on the party. Performance was consistent right to the end of the printing pack, without any visible difference between the first and last print we processed.
The ES1 was so good that it was easy to spot the difference between images taken on an older 4-megapixel Nikon rather than the 6-megapixel Kodak V610. This is great news if you have a good camera, but not so good if your technology needs updating.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin