Review: Fujifilm Instax Share is fun, but printing your photos comes at a price

Portable printer churns out retro-themed photographs

Product name: Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3

Price: €199.0

Where to buy: www.connscameras.ie

Website: www.fujifilm.eu/ie/products/instax/p/instax-share-sp-3

Thu, Jan 11, 2018, 06:00

   

It’s a curious quirk. We spend years investing in the development of new and better technology. Then we use it to pay homage to the old days.

Take the popularity of Instagram, for example, or Hipstagram before that. Your smartphone probably has a better camera than your first digital camera did, and yet there you are slapping filters on perfectly good photographs – and some not so perfectly good – to make them look like old prints.

But when was the last time you printed a photograph? I’ll wait. For most people, physical photographs are a thing of the past, a relic of a bygone era before Insta-likes and Snapchat.

That’s essentially what the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 represents. The portable photo printer churns out retro-themed square prints wherever you are. It has a rechargeable battery and connects to your smartphone with an app, allowing you to choose and edit your photos before bringing them into the real world.

The best thing about it? It’s fun.

The printer itself is compact. It’s not so small that you’d shove it in your pocket and forget about it, but it can be tucked into a fairly small bag with no issues. It has a quirky style; it’s not quite the boring beige box, with unexpected angular features. At one end is the slot from which your prints emerge, along with some LED lights to tell you how much paper is left in the cartridge; on the side are power and reprint buttons.

It uses Instax’s square film format, which is about 8cm x 7xm with a white Polaroid-style border.

Prints are churned out in under 10 seconds. But they’re blank; like the old Polaroid days, you have to wait for it to develop. Two minutes later you will have a perfectly retro-themed print to look at or share. It seems to take ages (scientific test: shaking it made absolutely zero difference) for the details to slowly form on the paper. But the end result is surprisingly good. The 318 dots per inch on these photographs won’t worry the higher end of the photo printing market – the SP-3 particularly struggles with lighter tones – but they are more than good enough to share a few memories.

Setting it up is a simple process, with the app – Instax Share – doing a bit of hand holding for you. You can also pull in your Instagram and Facebook photographs. It will produce a perfect replica of your Instagram shots, including the time and date stamp, your profile picture, and the number of likes it got originally. The one flaw is you can’t remove that information – only the caption can be edited.

As far as photo sharing goes, the Instax Share SP-3 makes things more fun. Sure, it lacks the interactivity of online platforms - you’d have to express your approval in person.

The one thing that would make you stop and think is the consumables that go along with the printer. With a full size printer, you can refill ink cartridges or buy generic photo paper. It’s not what the manufacturer recommends but unless you’re going for lab quality photos, who really notices the difference? And even in that case, you’d probably just suck it up and pay for the prints to be done professionally.

But with the Instax range, you are stuck with the official paper and that cost can add up. Once a cartridge is done, that’s it; the plastic cartridge goes in the bin. Also, be sure not to accidentally open the film compartment once the cartridge is loaded; it will spit out a blank sheet that you can’t put back in, meaning you’ve wasted a shot. At €11 for a pack of 10 – the cheapest I found in a bricks and mortar store – you’ll want to make the most of that.

The good:

Prints are good quality, provided you don’t favour too-bright conditions. They’re produced reasonably quickly, though the developing time is an exercise in patience. Linking up to social media accounts opens up the possibilities for the device too.

The not so good:

The cost. Not only will this printer set you back €199, the film is pricy too. Each plastic cartridge costs a minimum of €11, and there are only 10 prints. When it’s put beside the HP Sprocket, which costs €50 less and offers cheaper film, you have to weigh up if the fancy border and retro style are worth paying extra for.

The rest:

You can connect your Dropbox and Google Photos accounts to the Instax Share app, and with Flickr included too that covers the bases for most people.