Instant Printers For Smartphones

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Small-format printers Instant photos have their charm – and it doesn’t always have to be the classic instant camera. The duo of smartphone and instant picture printer is more flexible. We tested six current printer models. approx. 4:05 Min Comparison 4:05 Min”>

  1. 6 instant printers for smartphones in comparison
  2. Instant printers: Canon Zoemini & Canon Selphy QX10 in test
  3. Instant printers: Fujifilm Instax Mini Link & Kodak Mini 2 Retro in test
  4. Instant printers: Polaroid Hi-Print in test & conclusion

6 Smartphone Printers in Test © Maria Bulkka / Usually, fans of instant pictures use a camera. But there is a modern alternative: almost everyone has a smartphone these days. So why not send photos from the smartphone to an instant printer? Several manufacturers are following this concept with compact printers that connect to the phone via an app, allowing fast prints and plenty of mobility.

Integral film versus color printing

Two competing solutions are being used to create images with instant printers and cameras: highly miniaturized ink printers and integral film.

Integral film

Canon Zoemini and Fujifilm Instax Mini Link expose the image onto integral film. The film sheets at Canon are 50 x 76 mm. The Fujifilm printer uses the 86x 54 mm Instax Mini format. Canon also prints borderless; Fujifilm’s images are already 62 x 46 mm anyway. Canon uses zero-ink technology: each sheet contains, among other things, three color pigment layers (cyan, magenta, yellow) that are thermally activated. Printing takes about 50 seconds – but then the pictures are ready. The Instax film also has a layered structure and, in addition to light-sensitive color layers, also contains a developer that is distributed in the sheet after exposure during image ejection. The Instax image is therefore still being developed – this takes up to five minutes. Best list

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Ink printing

Four models in our comparison rely on color ink printing: Canon Selphy Square QX10, Kodak Mini 2 Retro, Kodak Mini 3 Retro and Polaroid Hi-Print. These printers are also loaded with cartridges that combine sheets, ink and print head in one replacement unit. Only in the Canon QX10 are the print unit and sheets loaded separately. The cassettes are larger and, at least in use, there is much more waste. The formats vary from 54 x 86 mm (Kodak Mini 2 Retro, Polaroid Hi-Print) to 76 x 76 mm (Kodak Mini 3 Retro) and 72 x 85 mm (Canon Selphy QX10). However, Canon prints a maximum area of 68 x 68 mm, which takes 50 to 60 seconds each.

Film prices

When deciding on an instant printer, you should pay attention to the price per page: With the Fujifilm Instax Mini, it is between 0.60 and 0.80 euros, depending on the film variant. Canon’s zinc paper for the Zoemini is a bit more economical at around 0.50 euros. With the Canon Selphy QX10 and Kodak printers, 0.70 to 0.80 euros per sheet is due. Polaroid printing is the most expensive at 1.20 euros per sheet. The printers themselves cost between 85 and 132 euros. The cheapest are the Polaroid Hi-Print (85 euros) and the Kodak Mini 2 Retro (90 euros). Fujifilm Mini Link and Kodak Mini 3 Retro cost around 100 euros, the Canon Zoemini 115 euros and the Canon Selphy QX10 132 euros. Floral splendor: Bright tones with fine markings against a dark background were best reproduced by the Canon QX10. The Polaroid is too bright and paints white edges into the image, the Zoemini produces color casts. The Kodak Mini 3 prints quite well, but is more harshly tuned. The Mini 2 prints streaky. The Fujifilm model refused to print this image. © Screenshots / Montage: connect

Image quality

To compare the quality of the images, we printed seven color motifs and one monochrome image. Some shots came from the smartphone, the others from system cameras. The Fujifilm Instax Mini Link loses in the quality comparison. It relies on the proven instant technology and the prints retain the original instant look, but it shows obvious weaknesses in color reproduction, dynamics and resolution here. The zinc paper that Canon uses in the Zoemini already covers a larger color palette and has more drawing in the highlights and shadows. However, the Zoemini only prints in a very small format and faces tend to be too hard. Its images don’t come close to those of the Canon Selphy QX10 and are generally comparable to those from Kodak mini retros. B&W portrait: The Canon QX10 delivers the best detail – and even reproduces the glasses without stair-stepping. The image from the Zoemini is color casty, the one from Kodak’s Mini 2 much too aggressively tuned. Mini 3 and Fujifilm Instax show less dynamics and details. Polaroid finds the better balance between light and shadow and is second overall. © Screenshots / Montage: connect The two Kodaks, Polaroid and Canon Selphy QX10 tend to have more potential, but not all implement it equally well. The Canon Selphy QX10 implements the ink technology best and delivers the highest quality prints of all the test subjects. The prints are rich in detail, sharpness and contrast are good at the same time and only rarely a bit too soft – overall a balanced image with rich colors and good dynamics. The Kodak Mini 3 Retro prints almost on the same size, but does not reach the level of the Canon QX10: less details, less dynamics. The image tuning is a bit harder and more shadow-heavy. Furthermore, the Kodak prints are sometimes streaky. Stripes can also be seen on the Kodak Mini 2 and the Polaroid Hi-Print: On the Polaroid prints, they appear depending on the motif and less frequently; the Kodak Mini 2 puts them on paper almost always and more noticeably. The Kodak Mini 2 prints are very contrasty and hard-tuned – more so than the larger Kodak Mini 3. Apart from the stripes, they are still better than Fujifilm’s, but less good than the prints of the other test candidates. Polaroid Hi-Print and the large Kodak Mini 3 Retro perform better than the smaller Kodak model when it comes to detail drawing. Polaroid basically produces higher color saturation, deeper blacks and also stronger contrast. In places, its prints show larger overexposed areas, but always the better tuning and more details in black and white. Image tuning: All apps prepare the images for printing. They downscale the resolution and can also adjust sharpness as well as contrasts. Kodak (image on the left) is quite aggressive, Canon QX10 almost too soft (image on the right). © Screenshots / Montage: connect

App control

Visually, the apps for the individual models mainly differ from each other in their color designs. This may still play a role when buying, but for use, convenient and fail-safe app control is more important. All printers communicate with the smartphone via Bluetooth. Since the photos are calculated smaller before they are “sent”, the transfer times do not matter. The waiting time is a few seconds and is usually shorter than print preparation, which includes warming up, for example. However, the downsampling of the images is not trivial – after all, the image quality should not suffer. Some apps tend to tune too hard, which becomes visible in the form of too much contrast and sharpness. All apps support JPEG, but not DNG or other RAW formats.

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