A Guide to Selecting a Mini-Photo Printer
Despite so many options for capturing photos nowadays and storing them in digital form, there are still instances where you want a hard copy of a photograph. (Also, if we’d be honest with ourselves, we probably all have way more digital photos that we never bother to look at because they’re “somewhere” on a hard disk or in the cloud!) There are full-size photo printers that use ink cartridges or toner and are intended for printing large volumes of photos. There are also instant cameras, such as Polaroid cameras, which take pictures and print them as well. But there is also a wide variety of mini-photo printers available nowadays that can print wirelessly from your laptop, smartphone, or tablet computer.
We’ll see that these printers employ a special photo paper that uses the method of dye sublimation or thermal printing, which saves you the trouble of having to replace expensive ink or toner cartridges all the time. Some print out a photo for you in a few seconds, and you watch the photo develop before your very eyes. Others take a bit longer to print, but you see the final image immediately. And all of these printers are compact enough to fit in a purse or tote bag, so that you can take a picture and get a printout in minutes, without having to go to a photo developing shop. You’ll also be amazed at the photo quality that they can produce!
Types of Mini Photo Printers
Going through the Best Review Guide list of mini photo printers, we see that they don’t require ink cartridges or toner like you’d expect with a desktop inkjet or laser printer. Instead, they employ dye sublimation or work on the same principle as instant camera film. Here are some of the options:
Zink technology dye sublimation printing: “Zink” is a contraction of the words “Zero Ink”. Zink printing paper has layers of dye crystals embedded in the photo paper. The printer applies pressure to the paper to produce the desired colors. An example of a printer that uses Zink technology is the HP Sprocket Select Portable Instant Photo Printer.
HP Sprocket Select Portable Instant Photo Printer
Polaroid-type printing: There are mini-photo printers that produce a photo in as little as 12 seconds, but then you have to wait around 90 seconds for the picture to develop, much like with a Polaroid camera. An example is the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer.
Fujifilm Instax Mini Link Smartphone Printer
4Pass technology: There are also dye sublimation printers that require the photo to go through the printer 4 times: one time for each of the colors yellow, magenta, and cyan, and then a fourth time to apply a lamination that protects your photo. The process takes about 60 seconds to produce a photo. An example is the Kodak Mini 3 Square Photo Printer.
Kodak Mini 3 Square Photo Printer
What reviewers say
Here are some impressions of people who bought the mini-photo printers featured in the Best Reviews Guide list:
Great for making a photo journal: There are definite advantages to creating hard copies of your dearest photos. Also, printing them on paper with a sticky backing can expand your creativity. For example, you can print out your experiences from a particular occasion, and collate the best photos in a photo journal. Or you can leave the prints without using the sticky backing, and keep them in a photo album. That way, you have much better chances of being able to retrieve old memories!
Make visual labels: One customer used her mini-photo printer to make labels for the children in her nursery. The children haven’t learned to read yet, but making visual labels for them helped them organize their classroom perfectly!
Fits in a purse: The portability is a big plus with many of these mini-photo printers. They can typically fit inside your purse, allowing you to print almost anywhere that you take your smartphone.
Able to print while charging: Some of these printers allow you to print as many as 25 prints on a single charge. However, you must charge up the printer before using it. They usually charge up by means of a USB cable.
Here are some features and pieces of advice when choosing a mini-photo printer:
Connectivity: Take note that some of these mini-printers only have Bluetooth or Near field connectivity (= NFC), while others support Bluetooth and WiFi. WiFi capability will allow you to connect to many more devices. Also, there are printers that can connect to several devices at once. So you and your friends can all print pictures from their individual phones!
App features: Each printer will have its own smartphone app. The app will typically allow you to add filters to your pictures, add a border to the picture, or print the photo in black and white. Some, like the HP Sprocket Instant Photo Printer, will allow for “Augmented Reality”, where you can put all sorts of animations into your pictures!
Loading the photo paper: Typically the photo paper will come in cartridges that you place inside your printer. Some customers complain about an occasional paper jam. But typically unloading and reloading the photo paper will correct that.
Selecting pictures to print: One customer said that it’s best to look through your phone and place the pictures that you want to print into an individual folder. This is because every time you want to print, the app will go to your most recent photographs, and you’ll have to search each time for the pictures you want to print. Keeping your favorite pictures in a folder simplifies that.
Must use the correct photo paper: Printers will specify which type of paper they require. If you get a printer that uses Zink technology, there are also generic Zink sheets, which can allow you to print for cheaper. However, in order to use them, you must keep the blue Zink page that comes with the official Zink sample sheets. Once it reads that blue sample sheet, it should be able to print on the generic papers. Also, note that dye sublimation printers may look like they can take Zink sheets, but they won’t be compatible!
Resolution: The resolution of the Canon IVY Mini Photo Printer is around 314 x 400 dpi. That’s actually quite typical for a desktop printer. The quality of the photos is reasonable and should satisfy your needs for personalizing items or preparing a scrapbook or thank-you notes.
We saw a bit of the fun that you can have with a mini-photo printer. They typically run from between $69 to $110, so they won’t break the bank. The photo-editing app that comes with the printer can allow you to add all sorts of fun stickers or text to your pictures, and share them with friends. All told, a mini-photo printer is a wonderful gift idea to share your favorite photos!