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Canon Selphy ES1: From box to print in 9½ minutes

It's the genetically engineered child of a suitcase, a toaster, a vacuum cleaner and a VCR, but how quickly can we get it printing? Find out as we challenge the ES1 with our party snapshots

When we first saw the Canon Selphy ES1 photo printer, we were intrigued by the suitcase cum toaster cum vacuum cleaner cum VCR styling, but we didn't know whether the Frankenstein child of half a dozen household appliances would be as user-friendly as Canon claimed. Yesterday an ES1 thunked on to our desk, so let's see how quickly we can get it printing.

9:20am Open box. In the top tray we find a power brick, the wrong sort of power cable (two-prong European plug) and an all-in-one ink-and-paper cartridge. Precious seconds are wasted while we tear off the plastic wrappings, unravel the twist ties and track down the right sort of power cable. The bottom of the box contains the printer itself, in a protective shell of egg-carton material. We don't seem to have a manual or a software disc, so Canon has probably sent us an early sample (which also explains the power cable). At least we won't be wasting any time reading the instructions.

9:22am Setup. A brief game of 'hunt the power point' ends happily when we find an empty space on one of the nine plugboards lurking under the desk. Opening the paper flap on the bottom is easy, but the top flap doesn't want to flip up... hmm... okay, Canon has spurned the simple open-by-hand flap in favour of a flap that springs open when you press the Open button. Have we become so idle that we can't open our printer flaps by hand? Discuss.

Next task is to insert the ink-and-paper cartridge into the right-hand end. Canon thinks the convenience of having ink and paper in a single cartridge is a major selling point, but right now we're more concerned about the green plastic spacer that has been protecting the innards of the printer during transport. We're wise to the button thing now and we try pressing Eject, but it doesn't want to come out. Gngh. Instructions would be useful. Brute force prevails.

The print cartridge slides in easily.

9:27am Ready to print. We power up, insert a memory card and press random buttons until the correct photo appears on the screen. There are lots of buttons to choose from, including Edit, Disp, Creative, Menu, a four-way navigator with a Set button in the centre, magnifying glass (zoom in), checkerboard (zoom out) and Print/Stop. Menus on the 64mm (2.5-inch) LCD make it reasonably easy to work out what to do, especially if you're familiar with the controls on Canon's cameras.

9:29am Printing. When the Print button is pressed, the show begins. The ES1 pushes a sheet of paper out through the bottom slot, turns it 90 degrees and then sucks it up and down through the printer four times, laying down yellow, magenta and cyan inks and a glossy finishing coat. About 90 seconds later, the finished print is sitting in the top of the printer, ready to be plucked like toast from the toaster.

The print looks passably like a real photographic print. There's no banding or speckling, but the blacks could be deeper and darker. Where a true photograph gives you midnight sky in the middle of the desert, the ES1's blacks are more 8:30pm in suburbia. The glossy coating gives you an oil-on-water rainbow effect when the light strikes it at the wrong angle, but if you're actually looking at the photo, rather than playing spot the difference, the ES1 does your snapshots justice.

9:31am Playing. The auto-retracting USB cable amuses us for a couple of minutes. You haul it out by hand, then press a button to zap it back into the body of the printer. By 9:39am we've made a print directly from our camera. What else can we try? In-printer editing? The red-eye reduction option has no effect on our party photo -- perhaps we need the instructions to make this one work. We could make our photo black-and-white or sepia, but that's so 19th Century.

9:46am Bored now. It came, we saw, we printed... now let's see what else is in the post.

The Canon ES1 is available soon, priced at around £189. Ink-and-paper packs for postcard-sized (100x150mm) photos cost around £12 for 50 prints, or £21 for 100, so individual prints cost 21p to 24p. We'll have a full review soon. -ML