With modern smartphones, it’s easier than ever to preserve memorable moments, requiring you to simply pick up your phone and press the shutter. And while your phone does have storage limits, the presence of fast and convenient cloud storage allows you to keep a nearly limitless trove of those memories on tap. Can you imagine keeping tens of thousands of photos back when people still used film? That would be an absolute headache, not to mention extremely expensive.
Despite the convenience of digital formats, photo prints do have a certain charm that feels special in this day and age. Having a few choice photos in a form that you can pin up on the wall, show off on a frame, or even just keep in your pocket just makes for a nice break from all that staring on rectangular screens that we do all day. Plus, it’s nice taking a cruise through memory lane without getting interrupted by text messages, video calls, or a half-dozen app alerts.
Traditionally, if you want printed photographs, you can go to a commercial photo lab or buy a reasonably-priced home photo printer. In recent years, though, instant photo printers have offered a third option. Designed to bring the Polaroid experience to modern consumers, these portable printers let you print any photo from your smartphone on the fly, allowing you to instantly immortalize a precious moment and even give copies to your family and friends.
These are the best instant photo printers available today.
Kodak Step Wireless Mobile Photo Printer
A good load of instant photo printers out there use Zink paper for good reason – it’s incredibly cost-effective, making it a highly-economical option for folks who produce a whole lot of photo prints. Among the devices in the category, this has to be one of our favorites, as it delivers an unbeatable combination of attractive prints and economical purchase price. Sure, the prints are not as pretty as the dye-sublimation printers in the list, but it should work well enough for all but the most discerning photo nerds. It prints standard Zink sheets measuring 2 x 3 inches, with the built-in tray able to hold up to 20 of those sheets at a time. Features include a print time of well under a minute, Bluetooth and NFC connectivity, and a companion app (iOS and Android only)>
Of course, Polaroid has a portable photo printer. It’s a good one, too, as it uses dye-sublimation, which is the same tech you will find in most home-grade photo printers, ensuring you get high-quality prints with a protective coating that will help preserve your prints for a long time. Photo paper size is 2 x 3 inches and it can print on the entire thing from edge to edge, so you can get its high-quality, richly-colorful prints in both landscape and portrait alike. It prints by applying red, yellow, and cyan layers in separate passes, so you can see the paper slide in and out multiple times, making for an interesting watch. Well… at first, at least, then it gets boring watching the same thing over and over. Unlike other printers, you don’t just put photo paper inside this device’s tray. Instead, it uses cartridges that contain 10 sheets each and when they run out, you swap in another cartridge in its place. The consumables are proprietary, by the way, so you can’t use photo paper from other brands.
While Fujifilm already had one of the better instant photo printers with the Link, they decided to update it sometime last year with this new model. For the most part, print quality remains just as excellent as the previous version, as it uses the same photochemical prints, which allow to recreate it that Polaroid experience from back in the day (minus shaking it in the air). This time, though, it comes with a Rich print mode that pumps the saturation and reins in highlights, making it a better option for really bright images. Do note, you’ll have to dive into the menu to activate the setting, which is kind of annoying, but it’s a really good feature upgrade that we find incredibly useful. As always, the app is a strong point for this printer, as it allows for a ton of modifications you can do to the images before printing, putting a full range of creative options at your fingertips, including the ability to draw objects into your pictures using various gestures.
If you find 2 x 3 photos a bit too small for your tastes, maybe you’ll like this wide-profile printer a bit more. Designed to produce prints measuring 3 x 5 inches, the device lets you enjoy bigger pictures with clearer details, so you don’t have to spend any time squinting to find small details in the scenes. Despite producing bigger pictures, it works fast, finishing the print in just 12 seconds, although you’ll have to wait 90 seconds for the full picture to finish, as is the case with the outfit’s smaller prints. While the app isn’t as rich as the one for Mini Link 2, it does offer a bunch of editable templates, thousands of in-app stickers, and few other editing options.
Because it produces wider prints, it’s bigger than your standard instant photo printer, coming in at dimensions resembling portable CD players from back in the day. It also uses wide profile sheets that are pricier than standard 2 x 3 sheets, so the cost for this can definitely add up over time.
If you’re a fan of photos with that Instagram-style square aspect ratio, then you’ll love this photo printer, which produces prints measuring 2.7 x 2.7 inches with Polaroid-style border around the edges, allowing you to jot down notes under the image. It uses the outfit’s dye-sublimation photo paper, which produces really good-looking prints that are quick-drying, water-resistant, and rated to last for a century, while having an adhesive backing, so you can use it like any regular sticker. Do note, it requires the use Canon’s Selphy Photo Layout app, which is only available on iOS and Android, so while you can use this to print any photo from your phone, there’s no available way to use it with a PC. Features include an integrated paper tray sized to hold 10 sheets, a print time of 43 seconds, and a size that’s small enough to fit in the back pockets of many pants.