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Hands-on review: Instax Mini Link is the smartphone printer for social polaroid lovers

By Kai Ping Lew
Mon 9 Dec 2019
FYI, this story is more than a year old

There’s something endearing and permanent about photographs printed out.

It’s why polaroids continue to enjoy their popularity, long after film cameras have become a niche pastime and digital cameras reside on every smartphone.

Polaroid cameras are incredibly fun and spontaneous, but polaroid films aren’t cheap and sometimes getting the right angle, light, or frame can be a little bit of a pricy experiment.

Enter the smartphone printers aiming to fill this gap, letting users take photos with their superior camera phones and only print the images they’re perfectly satisfied with onto film.

Fujifilm has just released the Instax Mini Link, a smartphone camera printer that prints with the same film used in its ubiquitous Instax cameras.

We take a look at how it measures up.

What it did well

At the heart of it, the printer is a simple device with two buttons. The first opens the compartment with the printer cartridge, and the second is the on/ off button. The colour of the LED light of the main button is used to signal different statuses of the printer ie ready, low battery, etc.

I liked that the printer is really easy to set up and straightforward to use, as long as it’s been charged to full battery prior to use. Those familiar with Instax cameras will be no stranger to inserting the films into the printer.

I found the app easily in the Apple app store and had no issues connecting it to my smartphone via Bluetooth. Once they’re paired, the printer is pretty responsive to the app.

In a time where gigabytes of images are hoarded on phones, taking up space in the cloud, but never viewed again unless they’re printed, there’s something sentimental about being able to quickly and easily print out the images that matter to you. I went to town printing out images of my nearest and dearest, and creating a wall collage for my room – there is plenty of inspiration for DIY projects like that online.

With the Instax mini link, Fujifilm has realised that polaroids are a social endeavour and made an effort to reflect this in the print modes available in the app. Aside from being able to just print photos taken on your phone that you like, there are other modes that either add fun to the images by allowing you to add frames, or inject a social element by allowing you to compose an image with several friends, keeping the actual finished image a secret until the image develops on the film.

While these can be slightly gimmicky, it speaks to how Fujifilm understands its customers and how its products are being used; and saw the app as a way to add value by providing an experience for the users beyond just the printer’s hardware functionality.

The printer also has a gyroscope, allowing it to perform different functions depending on how you flip it horizontally or vertically or turn it, giving the experience a more tactile aspect.

What it could have done better

An obvious constraint of the cameras is that the image quality it produces is limited by the quality of the film. Personally, I felt that the photos captured from an Instax camera came out with better quality, whereas photos printed out from my phone had slightly flat colours and highlights and shadows that were a touch overblown - even though both were printed onto Fujifilm Instax film.

However, the images were still recognisable for what they were and the colour qualities did not detract from my overall experience from using the printer – I just took it as another one of the quirks of having polaroid images.

Verdict

The Instax Mini Link is a smartphone printer that does the job, and then some. At $169, it’s on the pricy end, so I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t sentimental enough to want their photos on display or doesn’t care about sharing the polaroid experience at social gatherings.

However, if you love the sentimentality of physical photos, the satisfaction of printing them out, and the gratification of immortalising moments that matter with those you care about, you’ll love the Instax Mini Link.

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