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UPDATE: We’ve created an ultimate guide to instant film which you can find here.
As photographers in a digital age, we’re always on the lookout for easy ways to get our photos off of our devices and into our hands. So when we heard about the Fujifilm Instax SHARE Smartphone Printer SP-1, we were excited.
This miniature printer – it’s smaller than your average paperback book – lets you print photos from your smartphone or tablet wirelessly, on Instax film, in just seconds!
Watch the video below for a quick demo and review of the printer. Then read on for our full rundown on this cool little gadget!
Ok, some basic specs on this printer.
Size & Weight
It measures 4 x 1.7 x 4.8″ and weighs just over half a pound. It’s too big to, say, stash in your pocket (unless you have extra-roomy pockets!), but it’s small and light enough that you could store it in a camera bag or sturdy purse and carry it around with you no problem.
The printer takes Fujifilm “instax mini” Instant Color Film. This is the same film as for the Instax Mini 8 – the main Instax Mini on the market right now – meaning it’s easy to get your hands on. The full print, border included, measures 3.4 x 2.1″ – about the size of a credit card. The image itself is a bit smaller, measuring 2.4 x 1.8″. It sounds small, but we were happy with the results!
Note that the printer does not come with film included – you’ll have to buy it separately. It retails at B&H for $16.29 for 20 sheets, or about 81 cents per print.
The printer is powered by two CR2 batteries, which come included with the printer. They’re not the easiest batteries to track down, and will exhaust pretty quickly if you’re doing a lot of printing, so you’d likely need to invest in either rechargeables ($20 for the charger plus two batteries) or a power converter ($35).
On the plus side, once you pop your batteries in, the printer functions totally wirelessly – you can use it at the beach, on top of a mountain, and just about anywhere in between. Super-portable, super-cool!
The print process relies on Fujifilm’s “instax SHARE” app, which can be downloaded for free from the Google Play or Apple App stores. It requires a device (phone or tablet) that can run Android 2.3.3. or later, or iOS 5.1 or later. If your device runs on an older operating system, alas, the printer’s not going to work for you.
Ease of Use
One of the major appeals of this little printer is that it’s meant to make it super-easy to get photos off of your device and into your hands. So, how did it fare?
Setting up the printer is quick and easy. Simply take it out of the box, pop in the batteries and the film, and hit the power button. The film and printer include a bit of color-coding so you know exactly which way the film should be installed.
From there, download the free “instax SHARE” app from the Google Play or Apple store. When you open the app, you’ll need to connect your phone to the printer, which should automatically show up in your Wi-Fi networks, the way an internet network would. It took us three tries before the connection was made, but we got there eventually! Refer to the paper instructions when prompted for a password, and you should be good to go.
The Print Process
Once the app is installed, it will automatically read in all of the jpegs on your device. From there, you simply pick the photo you want to print, apply any of the provided filters or templates you want to use, and hit the ‘print’ button.
Except that, upon hitting print, our phones sometimes failed to connect to the printer on the first try. In part this was because the printer, presumably in the interest of saving power, turns itself off pretty quickly, and needs to be turned back on before the connection can be made. Other times, it just didn’t work on the first attempt, with no obvious explanation why. It was a bit of a pain, but we always got there eventually and in all the other reviews we’ve read no one has mentioned the same problem, so it could very well just be us!
In other ways, the print process is quite user friendly. For example:
- The app keeps track of which shots you’ve already printed (quite handy if you’ve spent the time picking the perfect shot from a set of similar options and want to be able to reprint it down the road)
- A reprint button on the physical printer allows you to make duplicates of the same shot without having to head back into your phone.
- Both the printer and the app show you how many sheets of film are left in the printer – no need to open it up to check or keep a mental tally.
- If you can email jpegs of your DSLR shots and film scans to your device, you can print them on Instax film! For folks with DSLRs with Wi-Fi or near field communication capabilities, it’s especially easy to transfer shots from your DSLR to your phone.
- So long as your image editing app allows you to save your edits in jpeg form (like VSCO), you can print your edited phone shots. Pretty cool!
- You can also print directly from Facebook or Instagram, or take a real-time shot with the app’s built-in camera function.
- We had no trouble connecting multiple devices to the same printer. That’s great news for anyone who wants to pull the printer out at a party!
The app comes equipped with a few filters (black and white, sepia, and “intelligence” – a sort of auto-correct), along with some themed templates that allow you to apply text and graphics to your images. We had success with the black and white and intelligence filters, but didn’t give any of the templates a try – we were after the classic Instax style!
We printed 10 test shots, and were happy with the exposure on all of them. The tendency seems to be for the shots to turn out a touch bright, but not to the point where we’d make adjustments to our shots before hitting ‘print’.
The color is impressive – white balance is great, saturation is great!
As for sharpness, don’t expect results that are on par with a standard photographic print here – it’s instant film after all, so the lower-tech look is part of the charm – but it’s still pretty impressive.
We tried printing shots from our phone both with and without sharpening, and liked the results without sharpening a bit better. Our test wasn’t especially scientific, but when film’s ~80 cents a sheet, you can afford to experiment a bit and find out what you like best.
The time between hitting print and having the photo in your hands is short – something like 16 seconds! From there: it’s Instax magic! Faint outlines begin to appear within seconds, and grow in strength before your eyes. It takes about 2-3 minutes to get the final exposure, but you’ll have a good sense of the scene much earlier – around the 30-60 second mark.
Overall, we’re excited about the print quality and are itching to print more!
Other Things to Consider
Now, one of the biggest things to remember here is that this is not an Instax camera. You’re not actually taking photos with the device itself. And that has both its pros and cons.
Anyone who’s shot with an Instax camera before knows it can be a bit risky. Unless you’re super-skilled with an Instax, you don’t totally know whether your shot’s going to turn out until the developing process is over. But in the case of the printer, you’re a shot that you know worked. Success is pretty much guaranteed!
But more than that, you’re able to print shots that aren’t suited to an Instax camera’s capabilities (shots that require faster shutter speeds, or make use of more dramatic depths of field).
In short: You get the Instax style, but with less risk and more flexibility. And that’s pretty sweet.
You won’t be honing your photo skills directly. Sure, having the opportunity to print your shots easily might push you to take more photos, but you won’t be learning the ins and outs of analog shooting, the way you would be if you were working with an Instax camera.
Second, you won’t get quite the same level of surprise as you do with a real Instax camera, since you already took the shot. This isn’t a huge downside though – it’s still pretty magical!
We don’t see this as a substitute for archival printed products, like photo albums or canvases. But we do see it as a super-fun addition, especially for capturing family holidays and other special occasions. And because the printer prints photos you’ve already taken, you don’t have to make that risky tradeoff between getting great shots with your DSLR and getting that awesome Instax aesthetic. Friends, you can have it all!
Because the printer is ultra-portable, we can totally see pros taking it along on portrait and wedding shoots, and printing off an awesome shot on location. Sending your clients off with a photo on the same day as the shoot will get them so much more excited to see the full set of files and pick up more printed products. Clients win, photographers win!
Kids especially love the magic of instant film, so we expect you’d have a lot of fun with this one if you have kids of your own or do a lot of family shoots.
The scrapbookers, crafters and organizers out there (not us on any count, alas!) are likely to find lots of creative uses for the little prints.
Getting fully set up isn’t cheap: A printer, a few packs of film, and batteries (or a charger) will cost you between $200-250.
But if you’re a pro, we can easily see how this would be a valuable addition to your kit. For personal use, it’s more of an extra, but if you love the Instax aesthetic or are looking for a ridiculously easy way to get prints into your hands, our guess is that you’ll have a ton of fun with this!