There’s one thing that people in general are really poor at doing. Making photo prints from the images they’ve made on smartphones or tablets. The images get posted to Facebook, Instagram, or Flickr, but nobody makes a print to keep. The solution is a portable photo printer. Not only can you print and share your images from anywhere, but engage yourself with others in a true social environment. Photo creation, sharing, and socializing face-to-face can be an incredible experience.
After seeing the SP-1 on display at Acme Camera in Salt Lake City, I was intrigued and wanted to try it for myself. I had a family party coming up and thought it would be fun for everyone to get in on the action and print some photos. I rented the SP-1 from Acme, purchased some Instax Mini Film cartridges and spent the weekend printing images from my iPhone.
The Instax Share SP-1 is the perfect size to toss in a coat pocket, camera bag or purse. It weighs 11 ounces, stands a little over 4 ½ inches tall, and operates on two 3-volt batteries. The printer only has two buttons. One to power the unit on/off and another to re-print the last image. Ten LED lights on the top indicate how many prints remain in the cartridge. Three additional LED lights indicate the battery level.
The Instax Share SP-1 uses Wi-Fi Direct, acting as a short-range wireless access point. To connect to the printer, you disconnect from local Wi-Fi, (if you’re connected) and re-connect to the Instax SP-1. Sending an image to the printer requires you to use the Instax Share app. The app is easy to navigate and is available for iOS and Android operating systems. During my family party, we had kids and adults printing from three Android tablets, one Andorid phone, two iPhones and one iPod simultaneously. With the app you can take a photo, select a photo from your device, or select an image from Facebook or Instagram. For the average user, the app has some very basic photo editing features like rotating the image, zoom in/out, and applying filters. It also allows you to print your photo with a pre-designed template that have holiday themes. For an advanced users, the app editing features are very limited. For example, I prefer to open my images in Google+ Snapseed, perform my edits, save the photo, then print with the Instax Share app.
Instax Mini cartridges contain ten prints. Each photo is 2 x 3.5 inches with the print area at 1.8 x 2.4 inches. Keep in mind, if one of the pre-designed templates is used, then the actual photo area becomes even smaller. After using the SP-1, I really wish it used the Instax Wide Film. Fuji also makes the Polaroid 300 film and the Polaroid PIC-300 Instant Camera, but brands it with the Polaroid name. The Instax Mini Film and Polaroid 300 Film can be used in these cameras: Fuji Instax, Lomo Instant and Polaroid PIC-300. One of my local camera stores was out of Instax Mini Film, so I purchase the branded Polaroid film. There is absolutely no difference in quality. However, I did find a difference in price. At a local camera store, the Polaroid branded film was $3 cheaper for a 20-pack than the Instax Mini Film. I found it exactly the opposite when shopping online. Again, no difference in the film or the quality because both are made by Fujifilm. However, a three dollar difference from a physical retailer to online store. Overall, each print costs between $.75 – 1.00 USD.
The technology inside the SP-1 is very interesting. It has something in common with a flatbed scanner. When you send a photo to the SP-1, a light bar much like the scanning light in a flatbed scanner, with 3 LED lights (red, green, and blue) moves across the reverse (dark) side of the film and exposes it with light. Exposing through the reverse side of the film is the same method that Kodak developed for their instant cameras prior to being successfully sued by Polaroid.
What are my thoughts after renting for the weekend? I bought one. Between my kids, my nephew and nieces, we had fun printing our favorite photos. I decided it would be a fun investment. Note that I said it would be a “fun investment.” The SP-1 certainly has some limitations with the size of the prints and some of the software features. Where it lacks in a few features, it makes up for in fun. Like those miniature candy bars, the Instax SP-1 Share is a “fun size” printer that makes “fun size” photos.
- Small and lightweight. The SP-1 is easy to pack around and setup. Setting up a phone or tablet the first time requires you to enter the default password.
- One button re-print. When someone in the group wants a copy of a photo, it’s not necessary to send it again from your phone or tablet.
- Easy to load film. Clicks in and pops out easy.
- Easy to use app for iOS and Android. A Windows phone app is not currently available.
- New firmware for the Fuji X-series of cameras enables them to print directly to the Instax Share SP-1.
- Instant fun. Instant sharing.
- Instax Mini Film size. The prints aren’t anything you would put in a family photo album or scrapbook. However, they are something you’d hang on the fridge, cubical wall, or give to grandma.
- Extra photo editing needed to get an accurate print. As I mentioned above, I found I had better results when I used another photo editing app. I used Google+ Snapseed to add some saturation and sharpening.
- Overall cost. The price of the printer is about the same as other mobile instant printers. The cost of prints is high, but not as high as Impossible Film for the Impossible Lab.
- Sleep mode. To save the batteries, the SP-1 goes to sleep after a few minutes. I find this a little annoying since it usually takes a few minutes to select a photo and make some edits or apply a template. By the time I’m ready to print, the SP-1 has shut off and I have to re-connect my iPhone.
Acme Camera Company – Utah:
Pictureline – Utah
Other Portable Instant Photo Printers: