Which is the best Portable Printer? We review the Fuji Instax vs. Polaroid Hi-Print
In 2020 I did a review of three portable printers; the Fuji Instax, the Polaroid Zip, and the HP Sprocket. Knowing what portable printer to use in my travel journal is one of my most commonly asked questions from my customers. And if you're not want to click back and read I'll just tell you now that my favorite of the three, hands-down, is the Fuji Instax.
I should preface that I am a Mac user and have an iPhone therefore I am judging this review solely based off of iOS capabilities.
I love everything about my Instax from the print quality, the ease of the app, the speed of the printing, and most of all the nostalgic feel of the Instax photo. I still use my original Instax printer that I got in 2018 and have had zero problems with it . My initial thoughts from my review over two years ago still stands. The only reason I got a new printer is because so many people found my original blog post and have emailed me that they can't find that exact printer anymore. So I figured, why not get a new one? This is also a really good reason for me to try the new Polaroid Hi-Print and do a side-by-side comparison.
Why use a portable printer?
I love being able to print directly from my camera roll without having to worry about getting a full size printer with photo paper or taking my files to a photo center in a drug store- That sounds barbaric now a days. Since I do so much journaling in my Wanderlust Passport, I wanted some thing that was compact and that made small prints for me to put into my journal.
Which Printer is Best?
Just like the first time, I am going to outline some parameters for judging each of these printers. Since I take it on the road when I travel, I need the printer to be easy to use and have the film readily available. But the main criteria for which I will assess each printer will be the following:
- print quality
- app interface
- print speed
- film- price and availability
You can watch the full video below but you'll see that I did side-by-side comparisons of the printers and prints using the same images for each printer.
Review of the Instax Portable Printer
Don't get it twisted, this is not the same as a Fuji Instax camera. The Instax camera, while cute and adorable, it's actually really bad at taking photos. There's the flash that does nothing but blow out your photos and give you glowing eyes, and there's no way to focus or actually see what your image is going to look like before you hit that shutter button. However, printed from your camera roll using the printer, the print quality is pretty remarkable.
If you scour the Internet there's a lot of different versions of this printer. The one that I got happened to be a collaboration with Nintendo. Frankly it was the only one that was in stock on Amazon and not $200. I have a feeling that supply chain issues have really increased the price during this period and that costs might go down as supply meets demand (and if you're reading this in the far future just note we are still in the throes of the pandemic at the time of this post). Even though this one is a collaboration with Nintendo, the actual printer is the same. The app is a little bit different but apparently you can also operate this particular printer from your Nintendo switch if you have one.
Pros of the Fuji Instax Printer
There are a lot of thigns I love about this printer. Let's start with...
PRINT QUALITY. The print quality is fantastic. I think one of my favorite things about the Instax printer is its consistency. You consistently get that perfect vintage look without compromising the color quality of the image. And it looks great if you're printing a photo of a landscape or a selfie. Printing 10 photos back to back back? Coolio, because the first print is going to look as good as the 10th. The print quality does not degreed if you print in volumes.
APP INTERFACE. Even though this printer /the app is a collaboration with Nintendo and has a lot of other weird bells and whistles, the actual printing part of the app is really easy to use. You've got editing functions cropping, zoom, filters, and even stickers.
PRINT SPEED. Just like the original, it prints these pictures out so fast. I actually think it takes longer for the film to develop than it does to turn the printer on, pair it with the app, and actually print your picture.
FILM AVAILABILITY. This is still one of the reasons that I will always go back to the Instax when I am traveling. You can get this film anywhere. And I'm not just saying on Amazon. If you are on the road traveling and you need a refill, you can't necessarily order it online. But you can go into any drugstore, Target, Walmart, Costco, etc, and find this film. And if you buy it in large quantities, store them in a cool dry place, they will last forever and you'll save quite a bit ordering it in bulk.
HONORABLE MENTION: One final upgrade that really lands on the hardware update is that this printer is synced via bluetooth, as where the original synced to your phone via the printer's own wifi signal. This is a massive improvement because if you were trying to print an old photo on your camera roll that was in your iCloud, you would have to unpair the printer's wifi, download the photo onto your phone locally, repair the printer, and then reprint it. But now that it's running through Bluetooth it's not interrupting your Wi-Fi signal to do any background downloading of images from iCloud.
CONS of the Fuji Instax Printer
I don't really have any. I just love these. But for the sake of argument, I'll share some aspects that might seem unfavorable. The physical photos themselves are a bit bulky compared to the Polaroid, The photos are smaller, and have that white border around it. You also need to carry tape or glue with you when you travel, because you’ll need to find a way to adhere the photos to your travel journal pages. But these are hardly deal breakers by any stretch.
Another issue might be supply. There was a window where these printers were going for $179 and up. I think that was your classic price gouging as it was getting hard to find them due to supply chain woes.
Where to get the Fuji Instax Printer
Price for the printer $99-$170 Depending on model and the film bundle.
Film- $13 for 20 prints (.65 each. Can be far less when buying in bulk)
Review of the Polaroid Hi-Print
My friend Peggy of the Pigeon Letters reached out to me one day and asked me if I had heard or tried the Polaroid Hi-Print. It wasn't on my radar as I was still incredibly happy with my Instax. She had wonderful things to say about it so I figured I would give it a go and do a full review in comparison. There are a lot of things I really love about this printer and there are things that I'm not super thrilled about, so let's dig in.
Pros of the Polaroid Hi-Print
PRINT QUALITY- I was really pleased with the sharpness in the print quality of each of these photos. Like the former Polaroid ZIP printer, the Hi-Print uses a "zero ink" paper (aka ZINK) paper. For the Polaroid Zip and HP Sprocket, this resulted in a very orange tint in all the photos. I'm happy to report that I don't see any of that with this printer. This one almost prints in a classic CMYK as it prints in colored layers. Im not a printing expert so im sure that makes no sense, but you'll see below how it spits the photo out and sucks it back in adding the color to the paper in layers
I also like that it's a peelable sticker so you don't have to carry any tape or glue if you plan on using it in your journals and notebooks, so the ease of having a sticker photo is really cool.
The photo is a big bigger than the Instax measuring at 2"x3.5". It sort of reminds me of a wallet size photo. Remember those?
APP INTERFACE- The app is super easy to use and really intuitive. From a design perspective I loved how modern it looked while at the same time kind of vintage retro.
Cons of the Polaroid Hi-Print
PRINT SPEED- Because of how this printer prints it takes quite a bit of time to get one image out which is a little bit inconvenient. It took 1min and 20 seconds from the time I hit print till the final image was done. That's all but a lifetime compared to the Instax. I noticed that the printer got quite hot after one print and I am unsure of how it will hold up trying to print multiple photos at once. With the other zinc based printers I tried, the print quality degraded as you made multiple prints. But at $1 per photo, I wasn't too keen on testing this out.
FILM- The film regrettably is why this printer is sort of a dealbreaker for me. There is a lot of excess packaging., Like a lot. And when you're done you're left with this large bulky plastic thing. I know the Instax has residual waste but it's far less in terms of size, volume, and leftovers compared to the Polaroid.
The film is quiet expensive and I also don't know where I can find it in a retail store as I've only been able to find it online .
Where to Get the Polaroid Hi-Print
I think it's pretty obvious if you read this far down that the Instax is still, hands-down, my favorite. While I love to print quality of the Polaroid, it came with far too many strings to achieve a final product that ended up pretty close to the Instax.
If you want the trusty steed, workhorse photo printer that will last and be easy to use- go with the Instax.
If time and money or no object to you, then the Polaroid might be your jam!
Do you use a portable printer? Does this article help you with your next journaling adventure? Drop a comment and let me know your thoughts!
I've also posted a video on my Youtube channel and my IGTV where you can watch my review of these printers.
Which Will You Pick?
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