This Instax Mini Printer Brings Me The Joy Of Instant Photography Without The Pain
Every couple of months I find myself on Amazon.com agonizing over the pros and cons of buying an instant camera.
My latest instant camera fantasies revolve around the Polaroid Now+, one of the best instant cameras we’ve reviewed. Its iconic design makes it look like a modern take on a retro snapper, and it comes with modern amenities like a smartphone app that opens up new creative possibilities for your photos. But at $150/£139 for the camera and around $2/£2 per shot, it’s just not a purchase I think I can justify.
So I close the tab and spend several weeks before inevitably starting the cycle again. But now that cycle might finally be coming to an end, and it’s all thanks to the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link 2 printer.
My love of instant cameras developed during my childhood. Sometime between the ages of three and five, I was given a Polaroid P600, the very first gadget that seemed to be mine.
It wasn’t the Sega Mega Drive my parents installed and then put away when my playing time was up; nor was it the personal computer that I had trouble running without assistance. It was my camera, and it was simple to use, and it looked beautiful covered in stickers.
So when I search in vain for an instant camera today, what I’m really looking for is that bit of nostalgia, that thing that will take me back to the early 2000s. The problem is that I’m not a kid anymore , and over time I became aware of instant camera issues that I had never noticed before.
Trembling like a polaroid picture
For me, at age four, every photo I printed with my Polaroid P600 was a masterpiece. I kept them all in one binder (actually three binders as the first two filled up) and proudly showed my work to everyone I could – whether they wanted to see it or not.
But I wasn’t a good photographer, and even now I’m not sure I have the skills to properly wield an instant camera.
For some people, this flash and print mechanism – the one that shot to fame – is what elevates instant cameras to even the best mirrorless or DSLR cameras. But, as my young self demonstrated, if you’re not careful, your entire roll of film can be wasted on blurry photo after blurry photo.
And as a child, you don’t care. You burn the shots you have and then one day a new film magically arrives and you can naively walk away. But now, as an adult who has to pay for every picture myself, I don’t want to see my income wasted because of my artistic incompetence.
(Here I would insert some of the photos I took when I was younger, poorly lit haunted houses, half-eaten cupcakes and my pet dog, but my mom and dad couldn’t find my photo album. hobbies)
To that end, I much prefer the spray and pray method using my Google Pixel 6. Ask me to take a picture of you and then you’ll find 10-100 new snaps in your phone’s camera roll, each being a subtly different version of the one photo you wanted. That way, a poorly timed blink or a clumsy camera shot won’t ruin the day – somewhere in the mass of images you’ll find perfection.
But when you’re using a smartphone, your shots are only digital, and you can’t enjoy the magic of watching the film sheet appear blank and slowly develop into your masterpiece.
Hybrid instant cameras like the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo have tried to bridge the gap between digital and instant snappers, but the quality of digital images isn’t great compared to what most smartphones can achieve. Plus, with the Mini Evo, you have to print the photo before you can share it on your smartphone, making keeping the images you like but dislike more complicated than necessary.
A better solution is Fujifilm’s Instax Mini Link 2.
This is a smartphone bluetooth printer that you can connect to your smartphone to print images from your camera roll using instant film. Just like with an instant camera, you can watch the film develop in minutes, and your photos will look like they used a Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 – or other retro-style camera.
You can also print your images as they are or, using a grayscale or sepia filter, you can use the printer’s LED to draw in the air and make words and pictures appear in your snaps (or use your finger and the phone app for the same effect). You can even print a video which comes as a still image along with a QR code, which you can scan to bring the image to life.
On top of that, the printer only costs you $99 / £114 / AU$179, and although the film costs around $1 / £0.75 per sheet (which can add up), you have plenty more control over the composition of your image. Because you choose what to print (and what not to print), you never feel like you lost a photo, making the costs more justified.
The only downside is that the prints are smaller than I would like. It’s a fairly easy fix though – I just need to swap the Instax Mini Link 2 for the Instax Wide printer, or another alternative that uses larger film (which is only slightly more expensive ).
So if you’re considering getting an instant camera like I’ve considered, I highly suggest looking at a smartphone printer that uses instant film instead. If your artistic integrity gets you over the fact that this isn’t a real polaroid photo, then I’m sure you’ll love the results.
If you have a smartphone printer, you might want to browse our picks for the best camera phones so that the photos you print are as impressive as possible.