Fujifilm’s Instax line of instant cameras and mobile printers have been dominating the instant photography market. Today, they’re unveiling their brand new Instax Mini Link smartphone Instax printer. Instant cameras have seen a massive resurgence in popularity in recent years thanks to their ability to capture moments instantly and spontaneously. One thing that sometimes leaves people wanting more with instant cameras is that most of them tend to have plastic lenses. Plastic lenses result in less than stellar image quality. With most smartphones capable of capturing photos with excellent images quality these days, smartphone printers give you the best of both worlds. We had a chance to test out the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link before it’s official launch. Head on after the jump to see whether or not it’s worth the upgrade.
Pros and Cons
- uses Bluetooth rather than wifi like previous Instax printers
- much easier to connect to your smartphone, and the Mini Link automatically reconnects to your phone when powered on
- intuitive mobile app
- the rechargeable battery is non-removable
We tested the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link with Fujifilm Instax film, naturally.
In terms of industrial design, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link is clean and minimalist. See that lit up Instax logo in the photo above? That’s the only button you’ll find on the Mini Link. It serves as the smartphone printer’s On/Off button, and doubles as a reprint button if you turn the Mini Link upside down (more on this later).
Flipping the Mini Link over to the back, you’ll find the spring-loaded cover to the Instax film cartridge compartment. The release latch is located up top. The Instax Mini Link uses credit-card-sized Instax Mini film cartridges, with each cartridge holding 10 sheets of instant film.
The slot up top is where Instax mini prints come out.
The battery for the Instax Mini Link is rechargeable but unfortunately non-removable. Charging can be done via the micro USB port tucked away beneath a small flap on the side of the printer.
Although the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link’s exterior is constructed of plastic, it feels solid enough and is reasonably lightweight. The ridges on the mobile printer’s exterior help give it a better grip and feel less slippery than older Instax printers. While the Instax Mini Link is about an inch thick, I was able to fit it into the back pocket of my pants without issue. Due to its plasticky construction, you’re going to want to take care not to drop the Mini Link. We can’t imagine that plastic exterior withstanding too many chest-height drops onto concrete. It’s also not weather-sealed, so keep it away from the elements.
Ease of Use
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Link is the company’s easiest to use smartphone printer yet. This is thanks to the Mini Link’s much-improved companion mobile app and the fact that it now connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth rather than wifi. With Fujifilm’s older Instax mobile printers, connecting them to your smartphone was always a bit of a chore. After turning the printer on, you would have to manually connect to it from your phone via wifi. You also had to do this every time you turned the printer on (particularly annoying if you happened to be in a location with no cell coverage and have to rely on wifi). If the image you’re trying to print was in an email attachment or on Facebook, you’d have to disconnect from the printer, connect to an available wifi network to download the image, then reconnect to the printer before you can start making Instax prints. With the Instax Mini Link, that’s thankfully a thing of the past as it now uses Bluetooth to connect to smartphones. After connecting the Instax Mini Link to your phone for the first time via the companion app, it will now re-establish the connection automatically whenever you turn the printer on. This is a vast improvement in terms of usability!
The Instax Mini Link has a new companion app that’s very easy to use. It feels much more intuitive than the companion apps for Fujifilm’s older Instax printers. The Instax Mini Link app has two “modes,” called “Print Mode” and “Fun Mode.” The two modes are tied to the orientation that the Instax Mini Link mobile printer is in. Depending on the printer’s orientation, the gyroscope within the printer will tell the app to switch between the two modes. When the printer is vertical, the app goes into Print Mode. When you lay the printer down horizontally, the app switches to Fun Mode. Both modes are functionally identical, but they’re more of a visual gimmick than anything. Functionalities of both modes are accessible regardless of the mode that the app is in. The only main difference between the two modes is that the icons for functions tied to their respective mode appear larger within the app’s interface when said mode is active. Note that the app we were using for this review was a pre-release version provided by Fujifilm. There may be changes made to the app when the Inxtas Mini Link launches officially. The app gives you several different print options.
- Simple Print
- This option is the one that you’ll probably use most often, allowing you to print a photo onto a sheet of Instax Mini film. You can preview the image before printing, during which you can zoom in and out of an image as well as apply filters and adjustments. Simply press the print button or swipe up on the image and the Instax Mini Link will create a print for you.
- Video Print
- This option allows you to pull still images by scrubbing through video clips taken on your phone and printing said stills. We found this function works best with clips that are shorter than 30 seconds in length, as the app needs to scrub through the entire clip before you can “cut out” the still image that you want to print.
- Instax Camera
- This option captures an image using your smartphone’s camera and creates an Instax Mini print on the fly.
- Frame Print
- This option lets you add frames and overlays to your image before printing.
- Collage Print
- This option allows you to print multiple images on the same sheet of Instax Mini film using various layouts. You can also split an image onto two sheets of Instax Mini film.
- Match Test
- This option creates a print of you and a friend that has compatibility statistics printed on it. You can answer a short quiz about the two of you, or “leave it to fate” and let the app decide how compatible you and your friend are. Gimmicky? For sure. Awkward? Potentially. Use this option at your own discretion.
- Party Print
- This option allows you to create unique collage prints with up to five other people. This requires them to also have the app installed to send you their photos via Bluetooth. We weren’t able to test this particular feature as the printer and app were under NDA when we were reviewing the Instax Mini Link.
Sometimes, small refinements make all the difference. Such is the case with Fujifilm’s Instax Mini Link changing the communications protocol from wifi to Bluetooth. Instead of having to futz around with jumping between different wifi networks, all you have to do is fire up the app, turn on the Instax Mini Link, and you’re off to the races. For anyone who has used older Instax printers, this is a game-changer. While some of the printing options lean towards the gimmicky side, the most important thing is that when it comes to creating Instax prints easily and quickly, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link just works. If you’ve already got an older Instax printer but use it only once in a blue moon, the Instax Mini Link may not be worth the upgrade for you. If you love creating Instax prints and regularly, the usability improvements alone are worth the price of admission.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Link earns five out of five stars. It’s only $99.95