The History of Instant Photography
When I was growing up in the early 1980s, my father had an instant camera, which at the time was mind-blowing. You’d hold up your camera, press a button, and minutes later have a fully processed physical image that everyone could share.
It all started in 1948 when Edwin Land created the Polaroid Land Model 95 camera.
How Instant Photography Works
Instant film is remarkable because it has its own built-in developing studio. The film is a plastic base coated with particles of silver compound that are sensitive to light. The instant film developing process combines colors the same way that regular film does. It has the same layers of light-sensitive material as traditional film, all arranged on a plastic sheet. The film also has several additional layers. These layers contain all the necessary chemicals for the development process.
History of Fujifilm and Instax
Introduced in 1998, the Instax instant camera allowed users to take and produce photos on the spot. Friends could take and exchange photos, and it was a great way to enhance communication in a group. The product was extremely popular, especially among teenage girls.
In 2008 when the Polaroid Corporation exited the instant camera and film business, it marked a turning point in the history of Fujifilm and instant photography, as they started producing a new line of camera and printer, called Instax.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer
The Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer is a fun, compact, interactive wireless printer that lets users print photos instantly on Instax mini film, from any smartphone or tablet. With a motion sensor, the printer is intuitive and seamlessly connects with the app through Bluetooth.
So much more than just a printer! The Mini Link app includes a variety of fun features. Using Sketch and Edit mode, users can use any handwriting, artwork, or photography to create unique transparent overlays for their prints. For more fun, upload a photo of you along with a photo of a friend—or even celebrity—to test your compatibility! A variety of filters and frames are also available for customizing each photo before printing.
“The mini Link is available in 3 trendy colours: Ash White, Dark Denim, and Dusky Pink.”
The printer comes in a regular box that’s nothing fancy. However, the box is made of heavy material to keep the printer safe. The design is pretty clever, as you know exactly what’s inside it, how it works, and what color.
The content of the box is nothing fancy, either. You will find the following:
- USB charging cable
- Warranty instructions
- User manual
I was hoping that Fujifilm would include a printer cover or case with the printer itself.
Fujifilm nailed the design of this printer, which has a smooth, minimalistic design. It measures 12.5cm in height, 8.9cm in width, and only 2.5cm in thickness. Additionally, it has only one button in the front, and a place for charging. At the back of the printer is a door in which to insert your film. This brings the total weight of the printer to only 210 grams.
It feels a bit bulky in the hand—and I’m saying this as someone with big hands. Because of its smooth design, it feels comfortable, but I can’t imagine someone carrying this for a couple of hours while moving around, taking pictures, and printing them. That’s why a case or bag comes in handy.
Once you unpack the box, the first step is to load the film from the back of the printer. This is a straightforward step. Next, you will need to start the installation process. Mine came fully charged, so I skipped the “charging” step.
The first step of the installation is to download the app from either the Apple App Store or the Google Play store.
Once the app is installed, it will ask for permission for your camera, photos, and Bluetooth. Then it will ask you to start your printer. Once it has been started, you will find a Bluetooth connection showing you the printer name, which is usually “Instax-XXXX”.
The app then takes you into a series of instructions that shows you the features of the printer: “Mode Change”, “Print Mode”, “Fun Mode”, “Swipe to Transfer”, and “Reprint”. When you click on “I Understand”, you are ready to have some fun.
Honestly, I was impressed with some of the cool features of this little printer, especially the orientation change of the app. When you change the orientation of the printer from vertical to horizontal, and when you turn the printer upside down, it will reprint the last photo you printed. The only downside to those features is that if you were working on adjusting a photo on the app and you placed the printer on a table, automatically the app would change the orientation of what you were doing because now the printer is lying horizontally. Or, if you accidentally pressed the power button while the printer was upside down, it would start printing the last photo again.
Overall, the installation was pretty easy. It took me 7 minutes from the unpacking until I printed my first photo, including installing the app and reading the instructions.
Instax Mini Link App
This is a very well-designed app. From the interface to the functionality, this app is filled with surprises. Fujifilm has added five new features exclusive to the Mini Link app.
Basically, the app has two main modes. First is the Print Mode, which allows you to simply print from your gallery, print a frame from a video, or use the Instax camera to take a photo and then print it directly.
Only when you switch to Fun Mode will you start to see why I love this app. The Fun Mode gives you access to “Sketch, edit & print”, which allows you to add sketches or text to your photos and then print them. Then comes Party Mode, which allows you to invite up to five friends to connect to the printer and share a photo. The app will combine the photos to print one photo that includes parts of all the shared photos. Another mode is Match Mode, which is sure to be fun for everyone! Simply take a photo of yourself and a friend, then answer a few questions to test your compatibility or let the app automatically do it for you! Then comes the Frame Print, which allows you to add cool frames to your photos. Lastly, the Collage Print gives your prints a more stylish look and combines all your favorite photos together!
How Easy Is It to Use?
The printer itself is very easy to use, with a one-button design and motion control. The app was very easy and fun to use, as well as pretty much straightforward, without any complications. The film was easy to install; simply align the yellow strap from the film to the one on the printer; once you start the printer, it will automatically eject the film cover.
It was very easy to print photos from the app; it takes only 12 seconds to fully print a photo.
It is too bulky to be carried around in a park unless you have a backpack. I don’t think it would fit in your pants unless you have very large pockets.
The printer quality is very good, and it doesn’t look cheap. However, it is built entirely from plastic, so I’m not feeling confident about dropping it.
The instant prints can’t compare to professional prints, but overall, the photos were exceptionally rich in color. Brown hair or dark blue skies may look black, but overall the color balance is consistent. Because the Mini Link process is all digital, the film develops pretty true to the original image
Lastly, when we talk about quality, we need to mention one very important thing: colors. The colors will be a bit off if you didn’t adjust them in the app knowing the result, that you will get in the actual print, but they definitely remind me of photos from the early ‘80s.
Fujifilm advertises that this printer can print up to 100 photos per charge. However, I printed 60 photos and the charge is still at 80%, so I believe it will last longer than advertised. The only reason why I can’t test this now is that I got only 60 exposures. I did order more but it will take a couple of days for them to arrive.
What Do People Think of It?
“I’m impressed. I have an old instax camera that I don’t use often because I have a hard time gauging the exposure, leading to over or under exposure. The app is simple to use, photos come out good, and no wasted film. I still think film is way too pricy, which makes me more cautious printing photos. Besides that, I like it.”Amazon Reviewer
“Super easy to use, I printed 60 photos in one sitting and it didn’t get hot, barely got warm. Charged battery to 100% before using and it only dropped to 68%. I love it!”Amazon Reviewer
“Easy to use, a snap to connect and you can use it to print a frame of a video file.”Amazon Reviewer
What Are My Other Alternatives?
Kodak Mini 2 Instant Photo Printer
EASY PRINT TECHNOLOGY – Mini Smartphone Printer Lets You Print 2.1 X 3.4” Photos Direct From Android or iOS Device; No Cables or Buttons Necessary. WIRELESS CONVENIENCE – NFC One Touch for Android Launches Kodak App to Print in Seconds; Also Compatible With iOS/Android Via Bluetooth
Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 Mobile Printer
Select the best shots from your smartphone and get Instax prints just by transferring the shots from the app to SP-3 via a Wi-Fi connection. You can also print images to your Instagram, Facebook, Google Photos, Flickr, and Dropbox accounts.
Polaroid ZIP Instant Photo Printer
SMARTPHONE MEMORIES MADE REAL – Using the Polaroid ZIP is fast and easy! Just connect a smart phone or tablet via Wi-Fi and watch your portraits, selfies, and social media photos transform from digital images to physical pictures in an instant. ZINK ZERO INK printing technology eliminates the need for film, ink, toners, cartridges, and ribbons. The premium 2×3ʺ sticky peel-back paper prints are not only colorful, bold, and lifelike, but also water-resistant, tear-resistant, smudge-proof, and dry to the touch.
HP Sprocket Photo Printer
A PHOTO PRINTER FOR ON-THE-GO FUN – Print and share 2×3-inch snapshots or stickers from your iOS or Android devices with a simple tap. PERFECTLY PORTABLE – About the size of a smartphone, this lightweight, portable photo printer easily fits into a pocket or backpack.
Canon Selphy CP1300
With Canon’s dye sublimation printing process, the CP1300 produces outstanding 4×6” in less than a minute at a crystal-clear 300×300 dpi resolution. The CP1300 features Wi-Fi connectivity for printing from a computer or mobile device, plus prints directly with Apple’s AirPrint, PicBridge, or Canon PRINT.
Should I Get One?
The short answer is YES. If you are looking for an instant printer to have fun with and for sharing photos with friends, this printer, with its app, will keep you entertained for a long time.