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Dec. 8, 2023

Canon S800 Color Bubble Jet

Canon updates its Bubble Jet technology, with smaller droplets, 25-year print life, great color, and great print speed!

Page 4: Operation

Review First Posted: 05/09/2001

MSRP $299 US



Of all its excellent attributes, we were probably most impressed by the S800's print speed. We're accustomed to photo-quality inkjet printers taking anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes to crank out prints in their high-quality print modes. Our view has generally been that this is OK, since you can just queue up a batch of prints and come back later when they're done. While this is true enough, immediate gratification is always more fun than waiting, and the S800 came through with flying colors in the print time category. At a little more than two minutes for a high-quality print, the S800 challenges performance times formerly available only from dye-sub printers.

We tested the S800 on both Mac and Windows platforms: A 350 MHz Pentium II on the Windows side (a little laggardly by current standards), and a 500 MHz Mac G4 on the Macintosh side. Print times were quite similar on both platforms, although we found that using background printing on the Mac (performing other functions on the computer while your prints are spooling off) delayed the start of the first print by about 90 seconds. Other than this first-print delay on the Mac, the two platforms kept up with each other quite well.

Source image size seemed to make virtually no difference in print times, and we were surprised to find that reducing the image quality settings from the default setting made little difference either. (However, increasing the print quality from "Fine" to "Super Fine" nearly doubled print times to about four minutes, though we saw virtually no quality difference between the two.) The table below summarizes the timing results we measured on the two computer platforms:

Canon S800 Print Times (in Minutes)
15MB RGB file
(From PC, with spooling)
15MB RGB file
(From Mac, no spooling)
15MB RGB file
(From Mac, with spooling)
Spooling to Disk
Printer Start
Print finished


We'll be testing more high-end inkjet printers in the weeks and months to come, but for now, the S800 is by far the fastest photo-quality inkjet printer we've seen to date.


Media Cost

This is an area that's difficult to evaluate accurately for inkjet printers (due to widely varying ink coverage of different photos). However, our test prints represent a fairly reasonable approximation of typical usage. Our source images are a mixture of aspect ratios, including 5:4, 4:3, and 3:2. We scale them to a width (long axis) of 9.5 inches, so we're sure of being able to print the full images on any printer. (Printers vary quite a bit in their printable areas, but 9.5 inches seems to be consistent for all the printers we've tested so far.) As a result of our scaling, the pages are a little shy of full coverage, but this is made up for by the rather heavy ink usage on most of our test shots.

The S800 carries a list price of $299, about average for a top-of-the-line consumer photo printer. The individual ink cartridges are listed at $11.95 each, but we'd expect to see them for less than $10 retail. Canon sells a variety of papers for use with the S800, but only the (heavyweight, ultra-glossy!) Photo Paper Pro is certified for the 25-year print life. Photo Paper Pro sells for $13.95 list price in packs of 15 8.5 x 11-inch sheets, or $11.95 for packs of 20 4 x 6-inch borderless sheets. (The borderless sheets are micro-perforated, so they can feed through the printer, and the white margins are removed afterward.) Based on these prices, our tests projected a per-print cost of about $1.56 for 7.6 x 9.5-inch prints on 8.5 x 11-inch paper, at full list price, or about $1.10 per page at anticipated street prices. This compares very favorably with other printers we've tested, and the quality of the Canon prints is exceptional. (Note too, that you can use plain photocopy paper for "economy" prints, reducing the cost to effectively that of the ink alone, which should range from $0.63 per page at list price, to $0.50 per page at street price.) The added efficiency of not having to throw away partially full cartridges would further increase the S800's cost-effectiveness compared to competing printer models.

Print Longevity & Durability

This is a rather uncertain area, but one of great concern to our readers, thanks in part to the bad name inkjet technology received from some inks and papers that faded noticeably in less than a year -- even in brightly-lit home and office interiors. (Some excuse could be made for fading in direct sunlight, perhaps, but not just from hanging on the wall!) Canon has addressed print longevity in the new ink formulation used for the S800, as well as in the composition of the Photo Paper Pro intended for use with it. Canon's own internal test results have been backed up by tests performed by Wilhelm Research, both estimating print life on the order of 25 years.

It's important to note, however, the conditions under which this excellent print life is claimed. You can't prop an S800 print in a sunny window and expect a 25-year lifetime! Canon specifies the 25-year print life is for images displayed under glass, in normal room lighting, and in a low-humidity environment. The importance of the "under glass" requirement is that atmospheric pollutants (particularly ozone) have been known to severely accelerate ink fading. When a print is mounted in a glass-fronted frame, its surface is protected from the reactive ozone.

A few inkjet printers are now using pigmented inks (with microscopic pigment particles rather than dyes to produce the colors), resulting in fade-free lifetimes of more than 100 years. Among the purely dye-based printers though, 25 years is about as good as it gets, and is actually better than what can be achieved by the majority of conventional photographic printing processes.



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