On the upside, the MP510 offers many features that amateur photo hobbyists will find useful, shows decent print quality, and does a fast job with prints. And best of all, it's inexpensive. But the Pixma MP500 is still available in retail channels, so we recommend that you spend the extra $30 and go for that model.
The Canon Pixma MP510 is a photo-centric all-in-one printer that combines print, scan, and copy functionality. It lacks fax capability, a feature that's more commonly found on office-oriented all-in-ones. It's slightly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the MP500. It sits 17.6 inches wide, 14.5 inches deep, and 6.8 inches tall and weighs slightly less than 16 pounds. Its boxy body is swathed in white and light silver plastic. The most notable design change is the location of the control panel. On the Pixma MP500, the control panel sat front and center on a shelf. The control panel on the Pixma MP510 is more discreet: it sits to the side of the scanner under a flip-up lid that measures about 3.25 inches wide and 4.5 inches deep. The small 1.9-inch LCD is embedded in the underside of the lid, and you can pivot the lid forward and back to optimize the viewing angle (the MP500's LCD measured a much more generous 2.5 inches). Despite the smaller real estate, the MP510's control panel offers the same array of buttons as the MP500: three buttons to toggle between Copy, Scan, and Memory Card tasks; a four-way rocker switch and Menu, Back, and OK buttons to navigate the various menus; a Settings button; a Photo Index Sheet button; a Feed Switch button to toggle between the input sources; and, of course, start buttons (one each for color and black) and a cancel button.
The scanner lid conceals a flatbed scanner that can hold up to 8.5x11.7-inch originals (approximately A4 size). The lid hinges back slightly to accommodate thick originals but doesn't detach entirely. Two memory card slots are concealed behind a door and can read most major types of memory cards, though you'll need adapters for a few types. Recessed under the memory card slots is a PictBridge port for printing from PictBridge cameras or connecting an optional Bluetooth adapter.
The Canon Pixma MP510 offers two sources of paper input: a front feeder and an auto sheet feeder in the rear. The front feeder resides under the output tray, and Canon recommends that this tray be used only to feed plain paper in A4, letter, or B5 size. All other sizes and types of paper, including photo paper, should be fed from the auto sheet feeder, which folds out from the back of the printer. A small lever hidden under the left edge of the printer adjusts the distance between the paper and the printhead. According to the user guide, switch the lever to the right only for envelopes and T-shirt transfers; all other types of paper should be used with the lever to the left. The output tray sits above the front feeder, and a plastic arm swivels out to corral long sheets of paper.
The Pixma MP510 employs a four-ink system, with separate ink cartridges. The three color inks are dye based, while the black is pigment based for better text prints. The MP500 uses a better five-ink system that includes both pigment- and dye-based black inks. The MP510's black tank costs $16.25 to replace, while the color tanks cost $14.25 each. Canon estimates that color documents should cost around 3 cents per page and 4x6 photos should cost about 28 cents per print. Both numbers are reasonable for an inkjet printer in this price range.
The Pixma MP510 is a breeze to set up thanks to the included CD and a quick-start guide. The CD contains all the necessary drivers and software, including ArcSoft PhotoStudio 5.5 for editing photos, OmniPage SE 4 for scanning, and Canon's Easy-PhotoPrint and MP Navigator utilities. You'll have to provide the USB cable yourself. The MP510 doesn't have wireless capability, but you can purchase an optional Bluetooth adapter for printing wirelessly from Bluetooth-enabled phones and PDAs. The MP510 does come with IrDA standard, though, which lets you print wirelessly from certain cell phones.
The MP510's features are much the same as those on the MP500. When copying, you can scale from 25 to 400 percent, make up to 99 copies at once, make borderless copies, make fit-to-page copies (the original is reduced or enlarged to fit the output page), repeat images, make sticker prints, and restore faded originals. The nice thing about the MP510's image repeat feature is that you can manually determine the layout, that is, how many times you want your image repeated. Keep in mind, though, that the printer won't shrink the image if it's too large to be repeated as many times as you like; instead, the image will be cut off.
When scanning, you have the option to initiate the scan from the printer itself or from your PC, using the included ScanSoft software or any TWAIN-compliant software, such as Photoshop. If you initiate from the printer, you have several options: scan to PDF; attach the scan to an e-mail; save the scan to your PC; or open the scanned document in an application. If you use the ScanSoft program, you can take advantage of the optical character recognition feature, which allows you to edit scanned text documents.
You get a lot of useful options when printing photos from a memory card. You can print all the pictures in one fell swoop, pick individual photos to be printed in one batch, or step through the contents of your card to print photos individually. You can also print one of three types of photo indexes: all the photos on a card, all the photos taken in a date range, or just the last 36, 72, 108, or 144 photos. The last option is convenient if you tend to just add to your memory cards without deleting. Once you've printed the index, you can bubble in the images you want to print; indicate how many copies of each image; make a few minor tweaks, such as turning on the photo optimizer or face brightener; and select the size and type of paper to print on. Then just scan the sheet on the flatbed scanner and, voila, pictures printed. The MP510 also offers some special photo layout options, including a 2X, 4X, half borderless with lines for a memo, and so on.