photo prints from different snapshots

Mobile photo printers – the instant camera of today

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Mobile photo printers – the instant camera of today

Nowadays it is hard to imagine everyday life without a smartphone. Listening to music, making phone calls and social media are among the popular functions of the mobile phone. Now, however, the most important thing for most users is the smartphone camera. Whether on city breaks, events or just in between – the mobile phone camera is ideal for spontaneous snapshots. However, the photos often remain on the memory card and are forgotten. Instead of having the photos viewed and developed, comfort often wins out.

A new innovation can help. A mobile photo printer can turn your smartphone into an instant camera, allowing you to print your favourite photos on the go. This article tells you everything you need to know about mobile mini printers and what to look out for when buying them. In addition, we would like to present some models.

Properties of mobile photo printers

An important aspect of the mini printers is the weight of the device and the size of the printouts. The mobile photo printer should above all be handy, small and light. Some models fit in your pocket, while others need to be stored in your handbag or backpack. But also the size of the prints can vary. Although many of the devices only print very small image formats due to their compact design, there are also some mini printers that print in 10 x 15 cm format.

In most cases, WLAN or Bluetooth is used for the connection between the mini printer and the smartphone. There are also models that connect with a USB cable. All connections usually require an app, which is typically free. The functional frame of each app can vary from sorting and selecting images to designing and editing them.

Mobile photo printers are usually equipped with zinc printing technology. With this technology, no ink is used and a special paper and colour crystals are used instead. The image format is up to 7.62 x 10.16 cm. This is mainly about the fun factor and not superficially about the image quality, which is why the mini printers are mainly marketed as trendy lifestyle printers.

The second printing method is the thermosublimation process, in which released colour pigments of a special colour wax are combined with a photographic paper by evaporation. In contrast to zinc printing technology, printing up to 10 x 15 cm is possible. A further advantage is that these prints are particularly light-insensitive.

Another printing method is inkjet printing, which is often found in conventional printers. However, this printing technique requires a rather large ink tank and is therefore less suitable for mobile photo printers.

Canon Selphy CP1300

In addition to the option of a direct connection via WLAN, the camera and smartphone can also be connected via USB port or SD card port with this mini printer. The photo printer’s display makes it easy to select the desired images. The photos can be selected from the internal memory and printed. For the connection via WLAN a free app is necessary. The Apple Air Print and the Canon Print App are available for selection.

However, the model is less handy than other models. With a weight of 862 grams and a size of 186 x 136 x 63 mm, this mini printer only fits into a larger handbag or backpack. For the printouts the thermosublimation printing process is used. With this mini printer, the process is slightly modified so that three different layers of colour (cyan, magenta and yellow) are applied to the photo paper one after the other. Finally, the colour is fixed with a transparent layer. During the printing process, the photo paper is pulled through the printer several times. Special attention should be paid to a dust-free environment.

A photo printout of the Canon Selphy CP1300 takes about one minute. Due to the thermal sublimation printing process, the prints are of high quality and have a good image quality. The size of the photo prints resembles a postcard format with 10 x 15 cm. Especially advantageous is the low price per print of about CHF 0.30, which results from the required photo paper and the ink cartridges.

Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3

A printout of the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 is only possible via WLAN connection. This requires an INSTAX Share app, which is easy to use and allows the images to be edited before printing. In addition, access to external social networks such as Instagram and Facebook is also possible. Even some Fujifilm photo cameras are compatible with this mobile photo printer. With a weight of 312 grams, the model is handy and fits in any handbag. The total size of the photo printer is 116 x 130.5 x 44.4 mm.

The mini printer does not actually print out photos, but only exposes them. When the photos are moved out, the image information is brought onto the paper with the help of an Oled bar. Similar to an analogue camera, the flap must not be opened during this process so that the images are not accidentally exposed. In addition, the photo has a transparent plastic layer that protects it from environmental influences and moisture. The results are reminiscent of an instant camera printout. At the beginning, the printout is black and only after a few minutes does the actual photo appear. However, one should not shake or pan the photos as with the usual instant image, as this can have negative effects on the image quality.

Polaroid Zip

The Polaroid Zip focuses on mobility. This mini printer enables spontaneous printing without a WLAN connection. Connectivity is via Bluetooth and NFC. As with the other models, this also requires a free app for printing. According to some user opinions, the app is still in need of improvement due to frequent crashes and inaccurate print previews.

The mobile photo printer uses the zinc technology mentioned above. Photo printing takes about 30 to 40 seconds. Particularly darker pictures and hard contrasts are better represented by the zinc technology. For this model a self-adhesive and a glossy coated photo paper is used. The images can be printed without borders as well as with borders in Polaroid style. The format is 5 x 7.6 cm in both versions. A print costs approximately 0.60 CHF.

Due to its handy size, the model is particularly practical for on the go. With a weight of 186 grams and a size of 74 x 119 x 23 mm the Polaroid Zip fits in your pocket.

Comparing the presented mobile photo printers

The presented mini printers have their strengths and weaknesses. Printing via the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 can be difficult compared to the other two models due to the assumed WLAN connection on the go. In addition, the battery of the model unfortunately only holds about 10 photos, while the Polaroid Zip can print about 20 photos and the Canon Selphy CP1300 even between 30 and 40 photos with one battery charge. In contrast to the other models, the prints of the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 are protected from moisture and environmental influences.

Below is an overview of all the important features of the mobile photo printers:
All features of mobile photo printers at a glance


Ultimately, the choice of the mobile photo printer depends on the application. The mini printers are ideal for private use at events or for fun pictures. Due to its size, the mobile photo printer fits in your handbag and can be used at any time. Also the quality of the photos resembles prints from the drugstore market. However one should keep the relatively high costs both for the acquisition and for each individual print in mind.

We think mobile photo printers are a great invention for capturing, printing and giving away special moments on the spot or using them for creative DIY ideas. As a normal photo print or in instant print style, the prints will also be the highlight at any party!