Every couple of months I find myself on Amazon.com debating the pros and cons of purchasing an instant camera.
My latest instant camera fantasies revolved around Polaroid Now+one of best instant cameras we reviewed. Its iconic design makes it look like a modern version of a retro lacuna, and it comes with cool cons like a smartphone app that opens up new creative possibilities for your photos. But at $150 / £139 for the camera and roughly $2 / £2 per shot, I can’t justify this purchase.
Read more about landscape canvas wall art
So I close the tab and move on for a few weeks before inevitably starting the cycle all over again. But now that cycle can finally end, and it’s all thanks to you Fujifilm Instax Mini Link 2 printer.
My love for instant cameras started as a child. At some point between the ages of three and five, I was given a Polaroid P600, the first ever gadget that felt like my own.
It wasn’t that Sega Mega Drive that my parents would set up and then put away when my playtime was over; and it wasn’t a home computer that I struggled to operate without assistance. It was my camera, it was easy to use and it looked nice covered in stickers.
So when I’m looking for an instant camera today, I’m really looking for that bit of nostalgia, something that will take me back to the early 2000s. The problem is, I’m not a kid anymore, and over time I’ve learned about problems with the instant camera that I didn’t notice before.
Shaky, like a Polaroid picture
To four-year-old me, every picture I printed on my Polaroid P600 was a masterpiece. I kept each one in a binder (three binders, actually, since the first two were full) and proudly showed off my work to everyone I could, whether they wanted to see it or not.
But I wasn’t a good photographer, and even now I’m not sure I have the skill to handle an instant camera properly.
For some people, that flash-and-print mechanism is their one shot at fame—it’s what elevates instant cameras above even the best mirrorless or DSLR cameras. But as my younger self demonstrated, if you’re not careful, your entire roll of film can be wasted on blurry photo after blurry photo.
And in childhood you don’t care. You burn through the footage you have, and then one day, as if by magic, a new roll of film arrives and you can naively grab it again. But now, as a grown man who has to pay for each painting myself, I don’t want my income to be squandered because of my artistic incompetence.
(I’d like to insert some photos of me when I was younger, poorly lit haunted houses, half-eaten cupcakes, and my pet dog here, but Mom and Dad couldn’t find my photo album. So enjoy this vacation instead)
To that end, I prefer the spray and pray method using mine Google Pixel 6. Ask me to take a picture of you, and then you’ll find 10 to 100 new pictures in your phone’s photo album, each one different from the picture you wanted. That way, a bad blink or an awkward camera hold won’t ruin your day – somewhere in the mass of shots you’ll find perfection.
But when you use a smartphone, your pictures are only digital, and you don’t get to enjoy the magic of how a sheet of film goes blank and slowly transforms into your masterpiece.
Hybrid instant cameras such as Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo tried to bridge the gap between digital and instant photos, but the quality of digital photos is not very high compared to what most smartphones can do. Plus, with the Mini Evo, you’ll need to print a photo before you can transfer it to your smartphone, which makes saving images you like but don’t like more of a hassle than it needs to be.
The best solution is Fujifilm’s Instax Mini Link 2.
It’s a Bluetooth smartphone printer that can be connected to your smartphone to print images from your camera using instant film. Just like with an instant camera, you can watch the film develop for a few minutes and your pictures will look like you used Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 – or another retro-style camera.
You can also print the images as they are, or, using a grayscale or sepia filter, you can use the printer’s LED to draw in the air and have the words and images appear on your pictures (or use your finger and a phone app to same effect). You can even print a video that comes out as a still image with a QR code that you can scan to bring the image to life.
To top it all off, the printer only costs you $99 / £114 / AU$179, and while the film costs around $1 / £0.75 per sheet (which could be more), you have a lot more control over your composition image. Because you choose what to print (and what not to print), you never feel like you’ve wasted your time, which makes the cost more worthwhile.
The only drawback is that the prints are smaller than we would like. It’s a pretty easy fix though – I just need to replace the Instax Mini Link 2 with an Instax Wide printer or another alternative that uses larger film (which is a bit more expensive).
So, if you’re thinking about getting an instant camera, like I was considering, I’d strongly suggest looking at a smartphone printer that uses instant film instead. If your artistic integrity can get you past the fact that this isn’t a real Polaroid shot, I’m sure you’ll love the result.
If you have a smartphone printer, you might want to check out our picks for best camera phones to make the printed images look as impressive as possible.