It's slow and a bit clunky, but the Canon Selphy CP740's photo prints look smooth (albeit dark).

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, and its replacement supplies are also inexpensive. It's pretty slow, however, and it can be awkward to use.

Printing on the Canon 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 Canon Selphy CP740'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 Canon Selphy CP740, 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. The Canon Selphy CP740's small, 2in colour 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 Canon Selphy CP740's 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 Canon 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 Canon 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.

Although installing the Canon Selphy CP740 on your PC is easy, the process is sketchily covered in the documentation. Bundled applications include Canon's ZoomBrowser EX, for organising images; Easy-PhotoPrint, for making special layouts; and PhotoStitch, for combining several shots into a larger image.

The Canon Selphy CP740 comes with a measly five-print starter cassette and five sheets of postcard paper. But running costs are reasonable.