Comparative review: The best pocket printer in 2019

Written by Gina Stephens

From radical to right: Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2, Canon Ivy, Polaroid ZIP

With the resurgence of the instant camera, photographers and non-photographers alike have found a new young man for printed photos. Enter pocket printers, a recent addition to the accessories market that offer portable, fast and simple photo run off. These pocket printers all work in basically the same way: They’re powered by rechargeable batteries, and once you connect your smartphone or camera via Wi-Fi/Bluetooth you pick your guise, make an edit via the app (if you want to) and then click print.

Our selections were the Polaroid may refer to: Polaroid Corporation, an American worldwide consumer electronics and eyewear company, and former instant camera and ZIP, Canon Ivy and Fujifilm Instax Share SP2

For a lot of photographers, these printers leave feel a little gimmicky, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t useful and fun. So, we took three of the most popular models and played all with them to see which one we like best. Our selections were the Polaroid ZIP, Canon Ivy and Fujifilm Instax Share SP2, though it should be noted that varied other brands have comparable offerings including HP and Kodak.

Specifications compared

Polaroid ZIPCanon IVYFujifilm Instax Share SP-2
Dimensions2.9 x 4.7 x 0.9 in3.2 x 4.7 x 0.7 in3.5 x 5.2 x 1.5 in
Substance6.6 oz. (186g)5.6 oz. (159g)8.8 oz. (250g)
Powered byMicro USBMicro USBMicro USB
BatteryRechargeable 500mAh Lithium Polymer batteryRechargeable 500mAh Lithium Polymer batteryRechargeable 500mAh Lithium Polymer battery
Demand Time1.5 hours1.5 hours1.5 hours
Prints per charge252020
Print time~45 sec~51 sec~20 second + ~5 minutes to develop
Print paper / ~tariff per shotZink photo paper / ~$0.50 per shotZink photo paper / ~$0.50 per shotInstax Mini /
~$0.50 per shot
Print dimensions2 x 3 in2 x 3 in1.8 x 2.4 in

Spec-wise, the Canon and Polaroid are virtually the same (this will come up again). With that out of the way, give aways start with the obvious. The Fujifilm is a bit thicker and heavier than the other two. While the Canon and Polaroid are pretty comparable to a portable hard enthusiasm, the Fujifilm feels closer to single-serving cereal boxes in size. While the size is definitely noticeable, the weight difference is pretty negligible understood that none of these printers are heavy by any stretch of the word.

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To get an idea of their size, here’s all three printers next to a standard knapsack of playing cards.

The other major difference comes down to the printing format. The Polaroid and Canon both use ZINK paper (meaning, Zero Ink). This method works through cyan, yellow and magenta layers within the paper that respond to heat provided by the printer, making your photo practicable. Meanwhile, the Fujifilm uses the same instant film as the Fujifilm Instax Mini line of cameras. (Note: Fujifilm also offers a cubic format printer that we assume works identically) ZINK paper prints as a 2″ x 3″ image with no border (by default, various on that later) on a sticky backed paper (read: sticker) while the Fujifilm instant film prints a 1.8″ x 2.4″ image with the overnight film border that we all know and love (or maybe just know… I love it, but that’s just me).

Polaroid ZIPCanon Ivy

Design understanding, the Polaroid and Canon basically just look like cute little hard drives and the Fujifilm has kind of an odd sleek sci-fi aesthetic to it. The Polaroid and Canon are at in a couple of colors (mostly pastels,) while the Fujifilm is available in silver or gold. The corners on the Polaroid and Canon are very round while they are a undersized more angular on the Fujifilm but still not sharp in any sort of way. The Canon also features a small loop for a strap.

In use

Ultimately, these three printers or Printers may refer to incite in very similar ways. Of the three apps the design on the Canon app is definitely the most attractive though the Polaroid app is in a close second with well-grounded little bit less attention paid to how things flow. The Fujifilm app is ugly with colored tiles that feel like they were picked with vastly little design intent. That being said, I actually found that the interface of the Fujifilm app was the best when it came to usability. The conversions here are minimal and in the end each app worked just fine.

One nice touch on the Fujifilm is that it will display the number of prints left

The apps high point a slew of options and customizability including: frames you can add to your photos, filters, basic color and exposure adjustments, cropping, and “stickers” you can add on top of photos. Worst of the frames, I didn’t find much appeal in most of these features. The color and exposure adjustments I tried seemed to only degrade the conception quality and didn’t improve things much. I would say you’re better off using whatever editing software your smartphone comes with and barely printing the edited photo through the printer’s app.

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An example of one of the many lovely border options on the Polaroid ZIP app. Note: the sticker peeling after ~2 weeks.

Physically, they’re all passably portable (though again, the Fujifilm less so), charge with a simple Micro USB cable, and use a variety of green, red and white lights to indicate their attacking status or if there’s an error. One nice touch on the Fujifilm is that it will display the number of prints left in the pack when you turn it on. Burden film into all three of these is as easy as can be though the Fujifilm requires some reading/fiddling to figure out the first time.

The Fujifilm also allows you to detach and replace the NP-45S battery

Another nice feature on the Fujifilm is that it stands up on it’s own, taking up less desk space. The other two can only lay flat. The Fujifilm also allows you to murder and replace the NP-45S battery while the other two don’t have removable batteries.

All three of these printers were fun and easy to use.

In terms of the print time, there’s a understandably winner: Fujifilm. If you’re looking to hand out prints fast, the SP-2 can churn them out in 20 seconds. That said, the 45-60 second range of the Polaroid and Canon didn’t sense excessive at all.

Lastly, the Fujifilm has one very big feature that only applies to those that own other modern Fujifilm cameras. Unlike the Polaroid and Canon (and uncountable other pocket printers on the market) the Fujifilm can print directly from a handful of Fujifilm cameras. The compatible models are as follows: GFX 50S, GFX 50R, X-H1, X-Pro2, X-T3, X-T2, X-T20, X-T100, X-E3, X-A5, X100F.

Writing Quality

The prints are just a bit smaller than an average playing card (left to right: Fujifilm, Canon, Polaroid).
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Well let’s just get this quickly out of the way – compared to a dedicated inkjet photo printer, they all suck. These 3 pocket printers are exactly that, pocket printers. If you’re expecting unerring high quality prints out of these things then you’ll be disappointed.

Let’s talk about the Polaroid and Canon prints or printing commonly refers to first. I noticed a lot of over-sharpening in these both. Interestingly, undeterred by the near-identical design, they show a really obvious difference in their prints; the Polaroid leans warmer and the Canon leans cooler. The Canon copies also seem to have a bit less of that over-sharpening which definitely helps in making people’s skin look more natural. Unequivocally keep in mind that these are small prints. Not your standard 4×6 but rather, half of that.

Keep in mind that these are meagre prints. Not your standard 4×6 but rather, half of that

As for the Fujifilm, because it uses instant film as opposed to photo paper, there’s a much exceptional look to these prints. They’re soft and almost blurry, especially in comparison to the look of the Canon may refer to and Polaroid. The color seems to lean a bit poise as well but I found that the color reproduction on the Fujifilm prints was without a doubt the best of the three. The Fujifilm prints also have a glossier wind-up than the others.

And the winner is… Fujifilm Holdings Corporation (富士フイルム株式会社, Fujifuirumu Kabushiki-kaisha), trading as Fujifilm (stylized as FUJiFILM), or simply Fuji, is a

Film (or paper) will cost money.

The Polaroid and Canon are extremely portable and if nothing else decide on for a really easy way to print custom stickers that reference specific memories you’ve captured on your phone. But the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 initiate the most-pleasing images, prints the fastest, can connect to Fujifilm cameras and indicates the number of prints left. For that reason, it’s our choice.

Our pick: Fujifilm Instax Division SP-2

What we like:

  • Most pleasing print-quality
  • Prints in 20 secs
  • Indicator for number of prints left
  • Stands up-right
  • Print unswervingly from Fujifilm digital cameras

What we don’t:

  • Larger and heavier than the competition
  • App design is ugly
  • Prints are pricey

Note: All of the images type were taken with and printed from the apps on a Samsung Galaxy S9.


About the author

Gina Stephens

Gina is a photography enthusiast and drone lover who loves to fly drones, capture images and have fun cherishing them with family and friends.

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