Why I love Fujifilm’s Instax Printer

It’s not just me—everybody loves them

Key Takeaways

  • Fujifilm’s Instax printers use real film.
  • You can print wirelessly from phones, or directly from Fujifilm cameras.
  • Prints cost around $1 each, and film comes in color and B&W.
B&W photo of a basket resting on top of Fujifilm’s Instax printer

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

If you want to make yourself happy today, try taking a photo of some kid you know, printing it, and handing it to them. 

Kids are more than used to seeing themselves on phone screens, but they may never have seen themselves on a paper photograph. They’ll be fascinated. They’ll think you’re amazing. And the best tool for the job is Fujifilm’s Instax printer

Of course, these little Instax photos are great for all kinds of things. For me, they bring much of what I love about film cameras, only without all the hassle. 

Instax vs the World

There are several ways to get instant, or semi-instant, photo prints. One is a printer like Canon’s excellent Selphy range, but those are slow, require space, are vulnerable to dust, and require a separate battery pack or wall outlet. They’re great, but not portable. 

Or you can go the other way and use a Polaroid. These are also great, but modern Polaroid film is slow to develop, and less predictable than the original stuff. You’re also limited to using old or cheap cameras. 

"I L-O-V-E my Instax Square, and if I ever go on vacation again, it’s the first thing I’ll pack after my toothbrush."

For me, Instax is the best option. You can take a photo with any camera (or phone), printing is fast (instant, really), and the image is printed on real photographic film/paper, just like a Polaroid. The printers use the same 10-shot film packs as Fujifilm’s Instax cameras. The only downside is cost. Prints from the Selphy are around $0.30 each, whereas Instax is a buck a print.

Real Photos

Film photography has many appealing aspects—the cool old cameras and their limitations, the grain, the great colors, and the fact that you have to think before you shoot. And, of course, there’s the final product, which was almost always a print. 

These days, a film image will probably end up as a scanned JPG, but this goes the other way, too. With Instax, you can get a beautiful print from any of your digital photos.

The results are, shall we say, full of character. You might get inky shadows and unexpected glitches, but if you want perfect prints from digital, you’re in the wrong place. Instax is, like Polaroid and early Instagram, all about those glitches. The photo isn’t just a record of a moment. It becomes a part of the memory of that moment.

B&W photos of a dog and basket printed using Fujifilm’s Instax printer

Lifewire / Charlie Sorrel

And it’s not just for snapshots, either. A documentary photographer could quite easily deliver their project on Instax (and maybe scan the prints for enlarging or publishing).

In fact, there’s a good argument that a documentary photographer should carry an Instax, even if they never plan to use it in their work.

Photographer Zack Arias makes a great case for carrying an Instax. In the video below, you can see him on a trip to Havana. He’s taking photos of people in the streets, and sometimes, in return, he prints an Instax for them to take.

Crowds quickly gather when he does this, leading not only to more photos, but to further adventures, and even dinner invitations. 

How about visiting friends or family? You can make a few prints while you’re there, and I’ll bet they’ll be more valued, more viewed, and better remembered than anything that ends up with the 100,000 other snaps in your phone’s photo library. 

How Does It Work?

You can print from anything that can connect via Wi-Fi. Fujifilm makes phone apps, which give you quite a bit of control, but I prefer connecting straight to the camera. Recent Fujifilm cameras have Wi-Fi and connecting to the printer is easy after the initial setup.

Afterwards, you just pick a photo, send it to the printer, and it prints. A bank of LEDs make a kind of reverse-scan to expose the film, and the printer spits out the print with a motor.

"For me, they bring much of what I love about film cameras, only without all the hassle."

All you do is wait for the image to fade into existence, and maybe shake it like a Polaroid picture, if that’s your thing. 

A couple of tips, though:

  • First, if you use Instax Square, the camera lets you move that square to crop out a selection from rectangular images. 
  • Second, the printer prefers light over dark images. Experiment until you get what you want. 

I L-O-V-E my Instax Square, and if I ever go on vacation again, it’s the first thing I’ll pack after my toothbrush.

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