Fujifilm’s newest mobile photo printer is a compact battery-powered gadget with one job: to turn your smartphone shots into little physical photos on instant camera film. It’s kind of like an instant camera — which Fujifilm makes plenty of — but you print images from your phone, and you get to pick which ones to print.
The Instax Square Link is the third printer in the “Link” series, which offer more social-oriented features than the straitlaced Instax Share SP-3. These features are sometimes charming but more often baffling. But for $139.95 (available November 16th), the Instax Square Link is a well-priced little photo printer that uses the classic Polaroid-esque square format for lots of nostalgic fun.
Fujifilm sells four different instant printers that use three different formats of Instax film. The Mini Link 2 makes credit card-size prints. The Link Wide’s prints are about twice as wide, and the Link Square’s 62 x 62mm (2.4 x 2.4 inches) prints sit in between. Instax printers use the same film cartridges as its instant cameras, so your image slowly appears as it exposes over the course of a few minutes after printing. It’s good nostalgic fun.
This Instax film paper is expensive; it works out to about 90 cents per print. You can get the thrill of instant printing for cheaper, though, by looking at Zink instant printers like the Canon Ivy, which average around 50 cents per print. But Instax print quality is better, with rich blacks that Zink can’t quite match with its glorified receipt printer technology.
I love this square format for instant prints. It offers about one and a half times the printable area of an Instax Mini print, even though the printer itself isn’t much bigger. It’s also instantly recognizable — it’s a bit smaller than the typical 3 x 3 inch Polaroid, but it’s the right shape. The Instax Wide Link is worth considering if you print more landscapes, but the square format feels like a great multipurpose format.
I also like using the Square Link more than the Mini Link 2, which is just stuffed with extra features I didn’t find very useful, like the ability to change the print mode by turning the printer on its side. And the less said about the LED light painting mode, the better. The Square also charges over USB-C rather than Micro USB, so that’s one less cable to keep around. There’s a cable included but no charging brick — no worries, Fujifilm’s user manual says you can just use the AC adapter “supplied with your smartphone.” Oh, sweet summer child.
You’ll need to download the Instax Square Link app to get started. From the app’s basic Simple Print mode, you can access your phone’s camera roll and pick the photo to print. You can add text and stickers to prints, and there’s the usual suite of tools to rotate, reposition, and scale the image to fit the frame. You can also tweak color and brightness or add a filter — though since they’re already on your phone, you can also edit your photos in any old app first.
To get fancier, you can add a frame or create a collage in the “Editable Print” mode, which is also straightforward. I didn’t think I was a cutesy photo frame kind of person, but then I printed a photo of my kid in a Halloween costume with a spooky bats / spider web / jack-o’-lantern frame. It’s stupidly cute, and I think I’m a convert.
Then there are other features, and they are weird. With Instax Connect, you can send a digital version of an Instant photo to your contacts, complete with the white border frame and a customizable speech bubble for comic effect. I sent one to my sister with the boilerplate text intact, and she responded with “is this a phishing attempt?” I think I’ll stick to sending digital photos the regular way.
It’s fun once
AR Print lets you add a doodle, text, or some animated flair on or around your photo. The image prints with a QR code on top of one of the photo’s corners (you can pick which one), and when it’s scanned, the recipient will see your work come to life courtesy of their phone’s camera. It’s fun once. It also requires the viewer to download the Instax Square Link app, which sucks. You can’t add multiple effects to a single image, either. I can’t add text and a fart doodle to a picture of my sleeping cat? Count me out.
Believe it or not, there are actually fewer gimmicky features than the Mini Link 2 includes, and the Square Link feels restrained by comparison. And anyway, it’s easy enough to ignore the extra stuff you won’t use. The core feature of producing fun instant prints works and works well. The pricier Share SP-3 does the same basic job, but it can also connect directly to certain Fujifilm camera models to print right from your camera. Unless you definitely need that feature, you’re better off just transferring photos to your phone and going with the Square Link. The SP-3 is five years old at this point and seems unlikely to stick around much longer.
In any case, the Square Link’s print quality is very good. There are two color profile modes: bold and natural. Bold is the default, and I think that’s an excellent choice. It can look a little too saturated at times, but natural looks way too washed out to me.
Plain and simple, the Square Link provides everything you need to get printing with very little fuss. The stickers, social features, and other extras aren’t that great; I’d recommend the Canon Ivy instead if you’re looking to embellish photos. But for good nostalgic fun at a relatively affordable price, the Square Link is the way to go.
Photography by Allison Johnson / The Verge