What we like about the Canon IVY is that it's inexpensive, simple to operate with a smartphone, and as a result, it's a cinch to get photographs out of digital space and into the real world. The ZINK instant film that the printer uses has a peel-off backing that turns the picture into a sticker. This system, combined with photo editing apps, promotes spontaneous creativity. While the image resolution in these images is poor when compared to desktop printers, the pics coming out of this machine are the best among top-ranked photo printers.Editor's Note: We updated this review for the Canon IVY on March 28, 2022, with a hot take on value and a look at other comparable products.
Canon IVY Review
Pros: Convenient, simple, inexpensive, bluetooth connectivity
Cons: Relatively low resolution, single print dimension
Compare to Similar Products
$79.00 at Amazon
$344.76 at Amazon
|$100 List||$130 List|
$99.00 at Amazon
$73.87 at Amazon
|Pros||Convenient, simple, inexpensive, bluetooth connectivity||Consistent color, easy set-up, broad format options||Easy to use, decent resolution, prints common sizes||User-friendly, sharp images, affordable, playful||Relatively good image quality, easy to set up, useful app|
|Cons||Relatively low resolution, single print dimension||Microbanding in grayscale, relatively low definition in dark areas||Microbanding in larger formats, off skin tones, over saturation||Limited print sizes, limited tray capacity||Wasteful paper refills, limited dynamic range, single size format|
|Bottom Line||This portable printer captures the fun of the old Polaroid cameras but with a fresh twist||This low-cost, full-sized machine delivers high-end results||An easy to use mid-size printer at a good price||This portable printer kicks out quality 4" x 6" prints anytime, anywhere||This easy to use, portable printer has relatively few drawbacks and is a lot of fun|
|Rating Categories||Canon IVY||Epson Expression HD...||Canon PIXMA TR4520||Canon SELPHY CP1300||Kodak Mini 2 HD|
|Black and White (35%)|
|Print Capabilities (15%)|
|Operating Cost (10%)|
|Set up (5%)|
|Specs||Canon IVY||Epson Expression HD...||Canon PIXMA TR4520||Canon SELPHY CP1300||Kodak Mini 2 HD|
|Resolution (dots per inch)||314 x 400||5760 x 1440||4800 x 1200||300 x 300||Unspecified|
|Max photo dimensions||2" x 3"||13" x 44"||8" x 10"||4" x 6"||2.1" x 3.4"|
|Cost per print (4" x 6" or mini print)||$0.50||$0.45||$0.58||$0.43||$0.68|
|Machine dimensions||0.7" x 3.2" x 4.7"||6.3" x 18.7" x 14.5"||7.5" x 17.2" x 11.7"||2.5" x 7.1" x 5.4"||1" x 3" x 5.2"|
|Printing technology||In paper, thermal-activated dye||Inkjet (Piezo DOD)||Inkjet (Theromal DOD)||Inkjet (Dye- sublimation)||Dye sublimation thermal transfer|
|Print time per 4" x 6" (or mini print)||40 seconds||34 seconds||128 seconds||51 seconds||61 seconds|
|Color palette (ink cartridges)||N/A||Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black, Gray, Red||Black plus color cartridge||N/A||N/A|
|Battery||Yes||No||No||Yes (sold separately)||Yes|
|Memory cards supported||N/A||N/A||N/A||SD, SDHC, SDXC, miniSD, miniSDHC, microSD microSDHC and microSDXC||N/A|
|Ink type||N/A||Dye-based||Pigment (black) and dye-based (color)||Dye-based||N/A|
|Connectivity||Blutooth||iPad, iPhone and Android tablets, Alexa and smartphones; Ethernet networking, andard Connectivity:
Hi-Speed USB, USB Host, Wireless 802.11 b/g/n5, Wi-Fi Direct 5, Ethernet 10/100
Wi-Fi (802.11b/g/n wireless networking, 2.4 GHz)
|Wi-Fi (Wireless LAN, 2.4 GHz, IEEE 802.11b/g)
Memory Card Slot
PictBridge (USB) & Wireless PictBridge (Wireless LAN)
Hi-Speed USB (Cable not included)
USB Flash Memory
|NFC, USB Port, Wi-Fi Direct|
|Operating system requirements||Android, iOS||Windows 10 8/8.1/Windows 7 (32-bit, 64-bit)
Windows Vista (32-bit , 64-bit)
Mac OS X 10.6.8 — macOS 10.12.x6
|Windows:20 Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7 SP1, Mac:21
Mac OS X v10.10.5 - macOS v10.13 (High Sierra)
Mobile Operating Systems:22 iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile, and Fire OS (Amazon Fire) devices
|Windows:12 Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 7, Windows 7 SP1
Mac:13 Mac OS X v10.10.x - macOS v10.12 (Sierra)
Mobile Operating Systems:14 iOS, Android™, Windows 10 Mobile, Amazon Fire devices15
|Scanner||No||No||Yes (bed and feed)||No||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
When was the last time someone gave you a real picture? Not an email or a text containing an image, but something you could hang on your fridge. The Canon IVY is about the same size as a phone, which means it's easy to slide in a back pocket or a bag when you're heading out to meet with friends. When you take that selfie, portrait, or landscape that captures the experience you're having, you can edit and print the image right on the spot. Among mini printers, the IVY produces the best image quality and one of the more compact designs.
As we present our critique of this printer's color quality, keep in mind its renderings were compared not just to other mini printers but desktop machines as well. As such, the images do not rate well overall. However, the IVY rendered the highest quality prints among the subclass of mini printers.
To analyze the color images produced by the Canon IVY as objectively as possible, we split it into resolution and overall impression. Assessing resolution is pretty straightforward when you have identical images produced by different printers laid out side-by-side as we did. You simply look for the fine detail (or its absence) present in the original image. While the Canon IVY is below average for the class in the resolution department, it was remarkably good for a mini printer.
The overall impression portion of our analysis was a bit more complex as we took more factors into account. Specifically, we were looking for color fidelity to the original and definition and shortcomings such as bleeding, microbanding, and poor tonal transitions. The Canon IVY had the most pleasing skin tones of all the mini printers. However, the printer produced a bit of a blue cast, and it tended to show some streaking. Yet, these shortcomings were largely concealed by the 2" x 3" image size.
Black and White
The black and white analysis followed the same lines as the color metric. While many other mini printers struggled to produce decent quality grayscale photographs, the IVY kicked out images with resolution comparable to the low-end desktop machines. In many ways, producing a quality black and white is more demanding than the color counterpart, so a result like this was surprising and impressive.
The images were in no way perfect, however. The Canon IVY produced a noticeable magenta color cast in the mid-grays, though it faded as the grays moved into darker and light tones. Additionally, the printer maintained good detail in the highlights. We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of this machine's black and white prints.
The Canon IVY's print capabilities are necessarily limited by the simplicity and size of the machine.
It only prints on one kind of self-developing paper (ZINK) and in just the 2" x 3" format. It did kick out prints relatively fast at 40 seconds, but it can only hold ten sheets of paper in its internal tray.
Again, the IVY looks pretty bad in comparison to desktop printers. However, its capabilities are on par with what the other mini printers can do. Moreover, it does them in a smaller, sleeker package.
Convenience comes at a cost, and the IVY is no exception to this adage. Discovering the cost per print is easy for the mini printers — unlike their inkjet counterparts — as one doesn't have to figure out how much ink they are consuming per print. The ink, or in this case the thermal-activated dye, is in the paper. As a result, the math's easy. You just divide the cost of a pack of paper by the number of sheets, and voila, you have an exact price per print.
It costs $0.50 per photo to print with this model. While that doesn't seem like too much money, consider that the desktop printers' cost per print is often less, and they are printing an image that is twice the size.
But, as they say, time is money, and the Canon IVY has no maintenance aside from loading paper. This is not the case for desktop machines. Accordingly, one could argue that it all balances out in the end.
As far as printers go, you will be hard-pressed to find a machine that is easier to get up and running than the Canon IVY. Seriously, if you know how to download an app onto your phone and how to make a connection to a device using Bluetooth, then you're going to be printing in less than 5 minutes.
This ease of use is markedly different from the desktop machines that require several steps in the set-up process, including downloading software to get them printed. All the mini printers, including the Canon IVY, crush the desktop printers in this evaluation. As a bonus, the mini printer's use of Bluetooth means that it's never been easier for your friends to print off your machine.
Should You Buy the Canon IVY?
The Canon IVY is a sweet little machine. It offers a relatively good resolution in both color and grayscale. It's compact, inexpensive, and convenient to use. However, it is limited. You can only print on one kind of paper in the 2" x 3" format. Yet, the machine requires no maintenance besides the addition of paper. So, if you're not trying to be the next Ansel Adams but are looking for an easy way to turn digital images into real photographs, this is the machine for you. This machine offers quite a lot of fun, novelty, and convenience for not much money.
What Other Photo Printers Should You Consider?
The Canon IVY is the cream-of-the-crop as far as mini printers go. The next step-up in quality and capability is the Canon SELPHY CP1300, which still offers the convenience of a Bluetooth connection. But for the same price as the IVY, you can step up to the mid-sized Canon PIXMA TR4520 and print up to 8"x10" relatively high-quality photographs.
— Nick Miley, Jason Peters and Austin Palmer
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More