Convincing photographers to print the images they share on social media has long been a goal of printer manufacturers. The problem is the photos we post on Instagram, Facebook and other sites tend to be fun and spontaneous in nature while outputting images using traditional photo printers can be anything but. Many photographers who grew up in the age of Instagram probably think of printing out their mobile snaps to be as antiquated a process as dialing a rotary phone.
And as much as printer manufacturers don’t like to admit it, there’s some truth to that analogy. (If you’ve ever tried to swap out a clogged cartridge on an inkjet photo printer you probably know what we mean.) But what if printing could be more like Instagram and less like Ma Bell? That’s the idea behind the Canon Selphy Square QX10, a mobile printer I recently tested out and enjoyed for printing photos previously “trapped’ on my iPhone.
Is the Canon Selphy Square QX10 good enough to turn the social media masses on to the pleasures of holding a real photo print in their hands? Probably not but it should bring in a few converts and that’s saying something since many products have tried and largely failed in the past.
Design & Features
The Canon Selphy Square QX10 has a design that is borderline cute, which should appeal to the Instagram crowd. With dimensions of 4 x 5.7 x 1.2 inches (L x H x W) and weighing about a pound, the QX10 isn’t small enough to fit in a pants pocket but should be fine for a large coat pocket or, certainly, a backpack or laptop bag.
Do I wish the Canon QX10 was a little more petite? Yes, but I liked the elegant simplicity of the printer’s design including its textured finish on top and the four different color options for its exterior: pink, green, black or white.
Unlike many mobile photo printers which use Zink (aka Zero Ink) thermal printing technology, the Canon Selphy Square QX10 is a dye-sublimation printer that requires you to insert a dye-sub color cartridge and paper into the printer, which adds to the bulk. Dye-sub also requires the paper to make multiple passes over the ribbon to create a color print. Zink tech, on the other hand, does not require ink cartridges, just the chemically treated paper, and prints color photos with just one pass.
But I’ve found the print quality from Zink printers to be inferior to dye-sub photo prints and that was certainly the case with the Canon Selphy Square QX10, which I’ll get to in the “Performance” section below. The QX10 comes with a dye-sub cartridge, which you load in the side of the printer, and a pack of ten square-shaped sheets of photo paper, which you place in a flap on the back. You’ll burn through that set pretty quickly though, so you’ll want to buy a full ink and paper pack ($15) that will let you print 20 photos. Yes, the consumable costs for these little printers does add up. Canon also sells peel-off, sticky photo paper for the QX10, which lets you attach your square prints on different surfaces. The kids like this, they say.
The Canon Selphy Square QX10 charges via USB and a cable is included in the box. Other than that, there’s not much else to it, aside from a power button on the front of the printer.
As a true mobile printer (for better or worse), all printing on the Canon QX10 must be done via WiFi from your smartphone or tablet computer. There’s no way to connect the QX10 to your device to print by Bluetooth.
You also can’t connect to the Canon QX10 to either a Windows or Mac computer directly or wirelessly. This is limiting in some ways but strangely liberating in others. As is largely true with Instagram, the photos on my phone were really the only things I could use so I just focused on those one-off moments for my creativity with the printer.
I do wish the Selphy Photo Layout app, which is your main interface for printing wirelessly to the QX10, was a bit better though. There are a few layout options in the app including ways to position the image on the square format, some cheesy virtual frames, and a handful of largely uninspiring graphics you can stamp on your images, but nothing like what’s available on most social networks for gussying up your shots. There are also some bare bones editing features, and a way to create a print layout using multiple shots but it’s all rather basic.
Print quality from the Canon QX10 was surprisingly good, however. Unlike most Zink printers I’ve used, the QX10 produced fairly accurate colors including decent skin tones in portraits. Zink printers tend to oversaturate their colors, sometimes making the photos look unnatural. People in portraits output from Zink printers can also look, at best, like plasticky dolls or, at worst, downright alien-like. This was not the case with the three-ink (cyan, magenta and yellow) dye sub-based QX10, which produced shots with just the right amount of pop.
Print times for the 2.7 x 2.7-inch photos output by the QX10 were largely as advertised by Canon: around 43 seconds per print. That’s not super-fast but I sort of enjoyed watching this Selphy printer make its three passes to create color prints of my photos, a process somewhat reminiscent of watching a Polaroid instant photo slowly develop before your eyes.
Mobile photo printing still hasn’t truly caught on with the Instagram crowd but that could change with the Canon Selphy Square QX10, a cute little printer that produces high-quality photos you’ll want to share with friends and family in real life instead of on social networks.