Almost every one of us now carries an amazing digital camera around in our pockets every day – but most of those photos never end up anywhere other than Instagram.
Portable or instant printers aim to change that. These handy, pocket-sized devices will let you take your best phone photos and print them out wherever you are, while throwing on effects, filters, and other fun additions in the process.
If you want something a little more retro, you can also buy a camera that prints photos as you shoot them, just like an old-fashioned Polaroid. Take a look at our round-up of the best instant cameras to see if any take your fancy.
1. Polaroid Hi-Print – Best Portable Printer
The Polaroid Hi-Print is a simple, no-nonsense digital printer that costs less than most rivals while delivering superior print quality – though pricey paper means it’ll cost you in the long run.
Printing is slightly slower than most rivals at around 50 seconds – but this is due to it being a dye-sublimation printer, which means that the print ejects in and out at least four times to add each layer of colour, plus a protective film.
The wait is worth it, as print quality is overall extremely high and more detailed, vivid, and striking than you would get from a quicker digital instant printer.
The accompanying app is simple and user-friendly, with options to customise photos with frames, filters, aspect ratio changes, text, and stickers – but few unnecessary frills to over-complicate things.
It also syncs with any image folders on your phone, plus images from WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
The only real downside is that paper is more expensive than the Zink prints used in most rival products, so running costs over time will add up – but we think the trade-off is worth it given the far superior print quality.
Read our full Polaroid Hi-Print review
2. Instax Mini Link – Best Instax Printer
The Instax Mini Link is the latest portable printer from Fujifilm, and uses Fujifilm’s Instax Mini film. The Mini Link looks great, with funky colour options and a young and fresh feel.
It connects to your phone through the Mini Link app and Bluetooth, and also supports Fujifilm X Series cameras. It can’t connect to social media networks however, so you can only print photos from your device.
From the app you can access your image library and choose frames and options including split prints (separating one photo into two prints) and collages.
You can edit photos within the app, with colour filters and dials to change the brightness, contrast and saturation.
The printer has a speed of around 12 seconds per print, supports continuous printing and can print up to 100 photos on a single charge.
Photos come out clear, crisp and vibrant on the Mini film, and after printing there’s a handy button to get a second copy instantly.
Fun options include a ‘match test’ that prints out a photo with a compatibility score between two people, and the ‘party print’ mode that allows users to add photos from up to five phones to create one Instax print.
You can even use the printer as a remote control for your smartphone camera, tilting the printer back and forth to zoom in and out – though it’s a little laggy and occasionally doesn’t work at all.
Read our full Instax Mini Link review
3. HP Sprocket Select – Best for Zink
The HP Sprocket Select is the third-gen iteration of the Sprocket 200 (below). It boasts Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, which allows multiple phones to connect via the straightforward Sprocket app (free on Android and iOS).
A more significant improvement is that the Select prints larger images at 2.3 x 3.4in instead of 2 x 3in – which is roughly the size of a credit card.
Like past Sprockets the Sprocket Select prints on Zink, or “zero ink”, paper, which is cheaper than film in the long run – but at the cost of slightly washed colour tones.
Given that Zink images can be slightly dull to begin with, the Sprocket Select trumped expectations with a fair amount of detail and contrast. The colours still appeared slightly washed out, but were much more vibrant than on other Zink printers we’ve tested, particularly the reds.
Read our full HP Sprocket Select review
4. Instax Share SP-3 – Best for Square Prints
There are cheaper instant printers than the Instax Share SP-3. However, what we particularly like about the SP-3 is the format: it’s currently the only dedicated portable printer that uses square prints.
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.
As you’d expect there are also 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.
Despite the larger prints the Instax Share is still portable at 312g, and comes with a rechargeable battery that should be good for around 160 shots when fully charged, and you can top it up with the included Micro-USB cable. LEDs at the front let you see at a glance when you’re running low on power or paper.
If you prefer the classic mini format, the Instax Share SP-2 offers similar functionality, but prints in the smaller Instax Mini format – though the more recent Instax Mini Link is probably the better choice.
5. Kodak Smile Instant – Best for Portability
The Kodak Smile printer is a simple bit of kit, but it gets the job done. The design is similar to that of the HP Sprocket 200, and actually almost identical in size, but you get more colour options here with Blue, Red, White, Green and Black. As with that Sprocket it’s a sleek device that is rectangular in shape with rounded corners.
Like the Sprockets it uses Zink prints – they aren’t the highest quality, but they’re a great way to get your favourite photos off your phone and into a real print or sticker. The Kodak fares well on print quality, with fairly true-to-life colours, but smaller details are lost. For scenic shots and portraits it does the job.
The Smile app (iOS and Android) has a decent array of editing options, from exposure adjustment to frames and stickers, and it lets you pull photos from your phone itself or off your social media. You can use the app to embed a video into prints, which you can scan using your phone to watch back.
You might notice that Kodak also makes a Smile Instant Camera, which doubles as a printer for the same price. That might make the camera model seem like better value, but bear in mind that it only prints photos transferred over MicroSD, rather than wirelessly, and has more limited editing options. If your focus is printing from your phone, the dedicated Smile printer is a better bet.
Read our full Kodak Smile Instant Digital Printer review
6. Polaroid Mint – Best for Simplicity
Polaroid’s Mint Pocket Printer is similarly priced to the HP Sprocket, and like that it uses Zink paper.
The Mint also has a variety of customisation options. You can edit images – cropping, zooming, saturation, contrast, and more – before applying filters, borders, text, and stickers.
The Mint is smaller and more easily portable than most rivals at 25x76x130mm and 204g, and can handle up to 50 prints before needing to be charged again.
If you’d rather have the prints without the printer, Polaroid also offers a remote printing service, Super Snaps – you just upload your photos and the company will ship retro-style Polaroid prints directly to you.
7. Kodak Smile Instant Camera – Best Hybrid Camera
Kodak’s Smile Instant Print Digital Camera is half instant printer, half instant camera. It can (in theory) print photos you’ve already taken using a different camera and then transferred onto a MicroSD card, but it also has a built-in camera that means you can use it to capture photos on the device itself and print those too.
This may sound great, but the downside is that we found it doesn’t do either thing as well as its rivals.
It’s really tricky to rate the Kodak Smile Instant Print Digital Camera. On the one hand, it’s a compact device that has almost every feature we could ask for in an instant camera/printer hybrid. A decent screen, a microSD card slot, a flash, good battery life, speedy printing, editing capabilities and an affordable price tag.
On the other hand, the editing capabilities are limited, the microSD card slot seems to have trouble finding images not taken on the Smile itself, and the prints are low quality when they arrive.
Read our full Kodak Smile Instant Print Digital Camera review
8. Lifeprint Harry Potter – Best for Fans
The Harry Potter Photo and Video Printer from Lifeprint lets you print your videos. Let’s break that down.
It’s a compact Bluetooth printer that uses Zink zero ink paper and works with the Lifeprint app (Android and iOS), which also doubles as a social media sharing hub and community.
In fact, the app is where most of the magic happens.
You simply choose a video that you want to print, connect to Bluetooth and send it off. What prints is a photo – simply scan that with the Hyperphoto Viewer on the app and watch your video come to life on the screen. In theory.
The Harry Potter Lifeprint printer is fantastic – when it works. We wanted to love it.
In our experience, the app was slow and crashed a couple of times (though it could have been the phone we used, which was an HTC 10 on Android). When we printed our videos, the scanner didn’t always recognise the images, so we were not able to see them come to life as effortlessly as the tutorials showed.
The prints themselves aren’t incredibly high quality either, and have a bluish tinge. This is common to Zink paper though, so it would not be fair to fault the printer here.
The printer in itself looks great, though, especially with the Harry Potter branding. You can even add a metallic Hogwarts House crest (provided) to truly show off your dedication to the franchise.
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