Most people choose to share their images on social media platforms. From the professional photographers through to the humble family shots taken by adoring parents or grandparents. If you take photos of your family and can be bothered to keep photo albums, then typically at some point you are heading off to the local photo kiosk to print images. Those that run photographic services and do weddings and portraits and events may print for a client. But for the enthusiast or hobby photographer we rarely print our own work. We may take dozens or hundreds of photos a week and very few of those may actually ever see the light (pardon the pun). Printing is expensive. Online is virtually free.
Earlier this year I did a job for a friend where I shot her son’s 21st Birthday party. It was a young crowd that lived in the moment. The kind that love selfies. So I decided to also take with me my Fujifilm Instax camera. At the event I would take images of couples, groups or the Birthday Boy with his guests and print them instantly. Then I would hand the photo to the guest and direct them to the table set up with a blank paged book, glue tape and pens so they could stick the photo into the book and write a Birthday message. It was a fun little way to capture immediate moments and put them to instant use. That way the Birthday Boy, who was a little hammered, could look back at the night and piece together what his hazy memory could not.
But as fun as it was, it was a little clumsy carrying around my normal camera with a flash and also juggling the Instax camera. I wished to still have the option for immediate printing but without the hassle of carrying a second camera. Then I learned about the Fujifilm Instax Share (Smartphone Printer) SP-2. This product is clearly marketed towards a younger demographic – the Selfie crowd. Just looking at the box will tell you that. And interestingly it is targeted as being a smart phone printer. Yes you can print directly to the printer from you Selfie-Gadget. Ah, but it goes so much further than that!
The SP-2 works in the much the same way as an Instax camera. It takes the same cartridge of 10 prints and loads the film exactly as experienced with the camera. It is of a solid build quality and takes a minimalist design approach. The one I purchased is labelled as ‘Gold” with gold sides and top and white front and back panels. Very well made indeed. On one side at the top of the body there is a power button and on the other side at the bottom is a pull away panel for the USB charger cord that charges the battery. The cable and the battery are included in the box. Half way up the side is a single button for ‘reprint’. Pretty self-explanatory. At the very top, like a toaster, is a single slot for the film to eject. On the front is a battery indicator and ten tiny dots that light up to let you see how many prints are left in the cartridge. The final feature is a battery cover open button on the back panel.
Despite this being marketed as a smart phone share printer, and there being an accompanying app that allows you to prepare images for print, you can actually use this printer with wi-fi ready cameras. My Fujifilm cameras – the Fujifilm X-T2 and the Fujifilm X70 allow for images to be wirelessly transferred to a smart phone. The same technology allows for images from either of those cameras to be transferred directly to the Instax SP-2. Not RAW files though. Only JPEG. The set up process is very quick and simple and is stored in the camera for future use. So at any point I can choose to print an image directly to the SP-2. In the Connection Setting menu on both cameras there is even an options labelled ‘Instax Printer Connection Setting’. Handy.
This is a fantastic option that allows for event photographers to use this little printer to immediately print images on the job. Or for the casual photographer to use it in other scenarios. I have used it at family get togethers (yes I am that annoying family member always pointing a camera at everyone) where I am taking photos of say a Birthday celebration and can send JPEG images directly to the printer to give to family members to enjoy. My mum has a few of these prints stuck to her fridge from recent family get togethers. The size and weight of the SP-2 is perfect for fitting into a camera bag and whilst I have not measured it the battery life seems to be great. I could see a street photographer who is doing street portraits handing out immediate prints to the people being photographed.
The image quality is wonderful. Obviously with images being sent from either a smart phone or quality digital camera, you are going to get a nice clean image. The detail level is great even at a small-scale. I have noticed that the images can be darker than what you see on the screen of your device and the contrast level is higher. So with this in mind it is always best to drop contrast level and increase brightness of an image before sending it to print. You can take an image and have a quality print in your hands in under a minute. Nice.
In Australia the Instax SP-2 retails for around $300. Some may consider that cost to be an immediate turn off. And I hesitated and waited for a sale to get it much cheaper myself. But when you consider the portability of the printer and the benefits if you can apply a practical purpose for it, then it is not too bad. The real challenge is the cost of the film. The Fujifilm Instax Instant Film comes in packs of ten. Depending on where you shop, at retail you can pay anywhere from $15.00 to $25.00 Aus dollars for a pack. You can get bigger bundles such as 2 or 5 packs of 10 and this can drop the price a little. As this film is universal, you can of course look for bulk lots at online stores from anywhere in the world. But shipping is always a part of the equation. I generally wait for a sale or talk to my local camera store about a discount for a bigger purchase.
Fujifilm have been very creative with the Instant Films and you can actually buy these in a number of colours and even themed frames. So aside from the standard white frame around the edge of the print, you can get black, a pastel blue, pastel pink and a huge range of character frames from Disney and Hello Kitty franchises. When I was in Japan last year I was amazed at the huge range of Fujifilm Instax prints and accessories for things like scrapbooks and display. Only recently Fujifilm released a new Instant Film that prints only in Monochrome. And of course on the horizon is a brand new Fujifilm Instax Instant Camera that shoots and prints onto a new square film.
I distinctly recall being amazed when I was young and a family friend brought a Polaroid camera to a get together. The fact that it could print an image immediately and that by simply waving the print in the air, an image would form, was like magic. Perhaps I am a little nostalgic but I like seeing the wonder on people’s faces when I produce an instant print for them in much the same way. Sure the technology has advanced significantly, but the joy of the experience is still alive and well. Happy shooting.