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Best Smartphone Portable Mini Photo Printers
Note: All printers work through Bluetooth with apps only on Android/iOS mobile devices. They will not print from computers.
What’s Zink Printing?
Zink printing (Zero Ink Printing Technology), used in most mini photo printers, is a handy alternative to inkjet and other printing methods. It’s extremely compact and can be contained in much smaller form factors because there are no ink cartridges involved. Instead, the color comes from tiny clear crystals contained in the sheets of multi-layered thermal photo paper itself. The printer applies varying degrees of heat to the paper, melting the crystals until they achieve the desired color.
Zink allows for instant printing over a single pass, but this is always at the expense of quality. Zink prints are also less durable than regular ink, and tend to fade over time. However, one of the greatest benefits to Zink-based photo printers is that they can be stored and used anywhere, anytime, without having to worry about cleaning or replacing old ink. Zink photo paper is also more expensive apiece than inkjet or dye-sublimation prints.
1. Fujifilm Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer – Most Popular
Cost per frame: $0.50–$1.20.
Photo size: 1.8 x 2.44″
Fujifilm Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer
The Instax Mini Link weighs in at a sleek 200g and comes in Ash White, Dusky Pink, Beige Gold, and Dark Denim. It’s smaller, lighter, faster, and cheaper than Fujifilm’s older Share SP-2 mobile printer. A full charge cranks out up to 100 photos, putting it ahead of the competition, although in quality it falls behind similarly priced printers.
The Instax’s primary focus on the “fun factor” is its redeeming grace and why it’s outselling all of its competitors at the moment. (Many also prefer its vintage Polaroid-y vibes more than accurate color reproduction.)
The accompanying app offers tons of print customization such as filters and stickers, text, drawings, and memes (iOS 10.0/Android 5.0 or later required.) Its unique features include a Fun Mode (special customization), Surprise Mode (create a multi-patched photo together with friends), and a Match Test, which can test friends’ compatibility.
Instax photo frames come in a variety of cute patterns including Macaron, Confetti, Candy Pop, and Mermaid Tail. Unlike most mobile photo printers, which use Zink paper, the Mini Link prints on actual film.
Due to Instax film’s extreme light sensitivity and deep darks, users are reporting best results with low-brightness photos, and the app provides plenty of control over settings such as brightness, contrast and saturation.
2. Lifeprint Hyperphoto – Best Android and iPhone Budget Portable Photo Printer
Cost per frame: $0.50
Photo size: 2 x 3″
Lifeprint Hyperphoto Printer
We’ve settled on this one as the cheapest yet reliable mini photo printer on today’s market. Despite its low price tag, this budget photo printer has a special feature: AR “hyperphotos.” By printing a freeze-frame and linking it to a video (or Apple Live Photo on iPhone), you can scan the photo and watch the video play back in AR through the phone, superimposed onto the printout. It almost feels like a magical way to print videos, although you can only watch them through the Lifeprint app. Note that some users report the Lifeprint app is prone to crashing, and may be a bit hard to navigate at first.
(It would be super cool if they came out with AR glasses through which to watch our photos come to life, but unfortunately, it’s not a thing yet.)
As for quality, it isn’t anything to write home about. Photos can appear slightly faded, and can fade further if exposed to sunlight. Zink photos’ longevity is the lowest of all printing methods, but that’s the price to pay for unbeatable convenience, portability, and the fun factor.
The photos cover the entire Zink photo sheets, without leaving a white frame around the edges.
3. Canon Ivy – Best Quality Zink Portable Printer (1/2)
Cost per frame: $0.48–$0.50
Photo size: 2 x 3″
This is truly one of the best-quality Zink photo printers on the market, along with the HP Sprocket (below). At that size, you simply can’t do better in terms of consistent color reproduction (the Sprocket adds a slight sepia hue to its prints). Darker solid colors do tend to band together and lose a bit of definition, but mid-to lights come out beautifully detailed.
The Canon Ivy prints better portraits than any other Zink printer, adding just the right amount of softness to details.
The battery life isn’t exactly the best compared to others, as a full charge produces 10-20 prints out of it. The printer can only fit 10 photo sheets at a time, too, so if you’re planning to print in bulk, it may be slow going. But it doesn’t take long to recharge, and if you’re only printing a few at a time, it should more than suffice.
4. HP Sprocket Select – Best Quality Zink Portable Printer (2/2)
Photo size: 2.3 x 3.4
This is considered a direct competitor to the Canon Ivy in terms of quality (see comparison photo above), and well above other Zink-based photo printers. With differences between the two being minimal, it comes down to personal taste. A professional photographer reviewing it on Amazon demonstrated that the HP Sprocket is significantly better at showing subtle gradations between colors. Its images also come out in slightly higher resolutions.
The device comes in two slim marble-like designs: Eclipse and Sea Mist. Sprocket prints are water-resistant and tear-resistant, and the device can connect to multiple Bluetooth devices at once—making it ideal to bring to parties. Its battery life is decent, good for up to 35 photos per charge
Like the Lifeprint, The HP Sprocket Select has a “Reveal” augmented reality feature. In the same way, videos linked to printed photos can be viewed through the app, superimposed onto reality.
5. HP Sprocket Studio – 4×6″ Overall Best Quality Instant Photo Printer
Cost per frame: $0.44
Photo size: 4 x 6″
Like the Kodak, the Sprocket Studio uses dye sublimation, hence its relative bulkiness (a small price to pay for near-studio grade quality). It runs on AC power or a power bank (bought separately), and can be taken around to parties, where multiple people can connect at once via Bluetooth. (If you’re going to take the printer anywhere, we recommend buying a handy travel case on Amazon.)
The Sprocket Studio also has the “Reveal” AR feature, where scanning a print with the app plays AR videos, animations, or Live Photos associated with that photo.
Unlike the Sprocket Select, the larger Studio prints don’t have adhesive peel-‘n-stick backs.
6. Lifeprint Hyperphoto Printer – “Harry Potter” Special Edition
Cost per frame: $0.50
Photo size: 2 x 3″
We simply couldn’t resist throwing this one in here. While its base functionality is identical to the Lifeprint Hyperphoto, with this version, you’re bringing the magic to life double time. Designed specifically for Harry Potter fans, this beautiful device comes with a few exciting extra features. For one, you can swap out the gold Hogwarts House medallion on top to match your own, whether it’s Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin. Wizards represent!
AR face filters straight out of the wizarding world are another addition: you can turn yourself into Harry Potter, “Mad-Eye” Moody, or even play with Luna Lovegood’s magical spectrespecs. The Lifeprint app also provides wizard-themed stickers alongside the photo-editing suite, for an extra magical flair.
What’s more, the app allows you to meet other people from your Hogwarts House and connect with them, as well as share photos directly to each other’s printers. All wands at the ready, wizards!
You can buy this special little printer in both white-gold and black-gold on Amazon.