With more people relying on phones and tablets than laptops and PCs as their everyday computers, printers are becoming less common in the average family home. You've probably uploaded your favourite digital photos to Facebook and Instagram, but physical photo albums and frames still have their place. We look at five instant photo printers that let you print directly from your phone.
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(By Scott Carey)
The market leader in the printer market was sure to produce a consumer-friendly mobile photo printing device, and HP duly came out with the Sprocket in September 2016.
The Sprocket printer is among the cheapest on this list at a penny under £120, with 20 sheets of 2x3in sticky-backed photo paper costing £10 a pack.
The device is simple, you plug it in via micro USB to charge and it connects via Bluetooth 3.0 to Android and iOS devices via the Sprocket app. You can link the app to social media accounts to grab well-filtered Instagram pictures or from cloud storage like Google Photos.
You load the ZINK zero-ink sticky-backed printer paper into the back of the device and it takes around 40 seconds to print a picture so it is not the fastest.
The printouts are quite small at 2x3in, but the quality is akin to a polaroid, perfect for pinning up around the house or at the office. The Sprocket itself is very small and portable at 23x75x116mm and weighs only 172g.
Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2
Fujifilm's Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-2 is one of the better-known instant printers that let you bypass a PC and print Polaroid-style images directly from your smartphone. You simply connect to it using Wi-Fi as if it were a wireless router.
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The Instax Share is available from Amazon UK, or you can buy it in a bundle with 10 shots. When the photo paper runs out, current Amazon UK pricing is under £20 each for all variations. You can choose from a variety of templates, from standard White to Candy Pop, Comic, Rainbow, Shiny Star, Stained Glass and Airmail.
As with the original Polaroid cameras on which the idea is based, this means each photo is reasonably expensive - your cheapest option (the 20x Wide) works out at about 70p per photo. At least with these type of instant printers you get to choose only your favourite pictures, rather than snapping away and hoping the results are decent.
As we'll discover, there are cheaper instant printers. However, what we particularly like about the Instax Share is the various templates that let you add captions with a seasonal message (such as happy birthday) or the time and date, weather or even an Instagram or Facebook status.
Printing from your smartphone with the Instax Share printer is easy - you simply download the free app from Google Play or the Apple App Store, choose an image from your photo gallery or social media, add a template and edit as required, then hit print!
The Instax Share is easily portable at 89.5x40x131.8mm and 249g. It comes with a rechargeable battery that should be good for around 100 shots when fully charged, and you can top it up with the included USB cable. LEDs at the front let you see at a glance when you're running low on power or paper.
Polaroid Zip Instant Photoprinter
What better company to revolutionise the Polaroid camera concept than Polaroid itself? Polaroid's Zip Instant Photoprinter is a similar setup to the Instax Share from Polaroid, connecting to your phone via Bluetooth (NFC is available for faster pairing) to print your favourite photos on-demand.
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The Zip printer itself is cheaper than the Instax Share, at £104.99 from Amazon UK (in black, blue, white, or red), and photo paper is slightly cheaper too. You can get a pack of 50 2x3in sheets from Amazon UK for £24.99, which means each shot works out at 50p - 20p cheaper than with the Instax.
This photo paper is known as ZINK, which is short for zero ink. Polaroid says its photo paper produces photo-quality, full-colour output that won't smudge. Plus, it has a sticky back so you won't need sellotape to pin your favourite selfies to your mirror.
Where the Polaroid Zip falls down against the Instax Share is in its lack of customisation options. Whereas with the Share you can edit images, add templates and choose from a variety of custom photo papers, with the Zip what you see is what you print. But that may be all you need.
The Zip is smaller and more easily portable than the Instax Share at 23x74x120mm and 186g, although both are pretty mini as printers go. Its rechargeable battery should be good for around 25 shots.
The Prynt Case is a slightly different approach to the instant smartphone printer, and acts as a case into which you slot your smartphone to produce a photo in under 30 seconds. This does mean, however, that it's not available for all phones - Prynt currently lists white, blue and black models for the Samsung Galaxy S5 iPhone SE/5S/5, 6S Plus/6 Plus and 6S/6.
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You have a couple options for purchasing the Prynt Case. Every model is available through the Prynt website for €149.99, but you can also buy the black and white iPhone cases from Amazon UK, as Prynt is part of the Amazon Launchpad scheme - the prices are similar, but you have the benefit of paying in GBP, and enjoying cheaper and quicker shipping. Either way, you have to pay additionally for sticker paper to print on.
Like the Instax Share, it has a companion app that lets you add frames, filters, stickers and text, and every time you take a photo the app records a short video and uploads it to the cloud. After the photo has been printed your friends can use the Prynt app to see the story behind the photo.
And like the Polaroid Zip it uses Zink (zero ink) technology to produce high-quality, smudge-resistant photo prints.
If you have a compatible phone the Prynt Case is probably the most portable solution here, and it has an internal battery that handily charges over Micro-USB.
Canon Selphy CP1200
The Canon Selphy CP1200 is a proper compact photo printer rather than something designed simply for printing from your phone, and as such it can print photos directly from an SD card, USB memory stick or camera via Pictbridge, a PC or laptop via USB, and it can wirelessly connect to your phone over the Canon Easy-PhotoPrint app (also supports AirPrint for Apple phones).
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It's cheaper than the dedicated smartphone printers, with larger prints (available in around 27 seconds) that should last 100 years and lower running costs, but it's also bulkier at 181x136x63mm and 862g - you're unlikely to sling this one in a handbag. A battery pack, which lasts around 54 prints, is optional, but an AC power supply is included.
The Canon Selphy is currently just over £100 at Amazon UK. An ink and paper set with 108 sheets of 6x4in photo paper costs around £25 (also from Amazon), which means photos work out at about 22p each. You can also buy photo paper for credit card- and passport photo-sized prints.
Unlike the other compact photo printers here a 2.7in colour LCD screen is built-in, making it easier to browse to and select your images to print. The Canon uses a dye sublimation thermal transfer printing system, and produces prints at 300dpi.
Impossible Instant Lab Universal Photo Printer
Urban Outfitters sells this monolithic-looking printer from Impossible. Impossible is a company that acquired all of Polaroid’s old factory equipment when the latter ended production of its film in 2008. So it’s the closest you can get to a traditional Polaroid these days.
The printer itself is £149 from Urban Outfitters, but it’s not strictly a printer. You download the Impossible Project App, and use the device – which is sort of a camera – to expose the image you’ve taken on your phone onto instant film via photographic process, a bit like a darkroom.
It’s pretty nifty, and a cool way to marry new tech with traditional methods – if a little pricey.