Dye sublimation technology produces colorfast, fade-resistant photographs with an additional layer of protective lamination. Produces social media-style 3 x 3 inch square photos. Connects via Bluetooth to most devices.
Cartridges don't last very long. Only prints 3 x 3-inch photos.
Produces impressive quality prints due to unique dye transfer method. No complaints about color distortion, compared to competing brands. Compact and lightweight. Uses Bluetooth to print several feet away from your iPhone. Also connects through WiFi, and can even print on an airplane. Loved for how easy it is to use. Comes in a variety of colors.
Difficult to find refill cartridges online, but consumers were able to order them from local photo shops.
Runs from ZINK printing technology. Fun to have the option to create stickers out of your photo prints. Printer body is small enough to fit inside a large pocket or purse. Works with a multitude of mobile devices that can make use of Bluetooth connectivity.
Limited to 2 x 3-inch print sizes. Some print quality issues, including dark images.
Very easy to connect this printer to a WiFi network, which makes it easy to print from a smartphone or tablet. Fast performance for small photo prints vs. some other portable printer options. Able to print at multiple paper sizes, unlike most portable printers.
Struggles to maintain a steady connection with some mobile device models.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
Although physical media like DVDs, cassettes, and even books are quickly being replaced by their digital counterparts, there’s one medium that doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon: printed photos. Even though millions of users upload their personal pictures to social media every day, there’s still nothing quite like holding a photograph in your hand and relishing a memory.
Last century, Polaroid had a monopoly on instant photo printing, so much so that most people referred to all instant cameras as “Polaroids.” Now, our smartphones are our default cameras, and instant photo printers are here to marry the technological benefits of the present – like social media and photo filters – with the fun of yesteryear.
Instant photo printers are designed to take your personal photos on your phone and print them instantly to physical photographs you can share and treasure. They print in standard photo sizes and often include apps for editing photos, so each print comes out perfect.
If you’re ready to get in on the fun of instant photo printers – or you’re ready to give your modern tech a healthy dose of nostalgia – you’re in the right place.
Before you start shopping, take a moment to consider what you’ll be using your instant photo printer for and what features are most important to you. We recommend you start by asking these questions.
How much does replacement photo paper cost? This is the most important consideration of all because a bargain photo printer stops being a bargain if replacement photo paper is overpriced. Look for a photo printer or instant camera that takes replacement cartridges with 30 to 50 photos each, and expect to pay between $20 and $40 per cartridge. If you see a model with replacement photo paper that’s more expensive than that, find one that’s more affordable.
What apps work with the printer? Some instant photo printers can work directly with your social media apps, while others require you to use the manufacturer’s proprietary apps. If you plan on printing a lot of photos from sources other than your smartphone camera, make a list of the apps you want to print from and make sure that the model you buy is compatible. (Often, you can save photos from apps to your personal camera roll for printing, but that’s not always the case, and it’s a cumbersome process.)
What size photos does the printer produce? Many instant photo printers print standard sizes like 4 x 6 and 5 x 7 inches, but some print to unique sizes like 2 x 3 inches. Think about what size photos you want and buy a photo printer that can print to those sizes.
Will the printer work with my smartphone? All instant photo printers can work with your smartphone, but in some cases, it’s unnecessarily complicated. For example, some instant photo printers work best using near-field communication (NFC) to transfer photos, a feature only found on Android phones. Similarly, some instant photo printers are built to physically attach to specific smartphones like the iPhone. Before you make your final purchase, be certain the model you want to buy is completely compatible with your smartphone, and check user reviews for feedback on what the experience is like.
How portable does your instant photo printer need to be? Many instant photo printers have built-in batteries, so you can take one with you and print images without having to be connected to a power outlet. If you want to print on the go, make sure to buy one with a built-in battery. If you don’t, save some money and buy a printer that’s intended to stay plugged in all the time.
As you’re shopping for an instant photo printer, you’ll see a lot of new innovations, as well as some useless “features.” Here are the things that matter most when you’re buying one.
Wireless connectivity: You’ll need to transmit your photos from your smartphone to your instant photo printer, and it’s a lot easier to do it wirelessly than it is with a cable. Avoid instant photo printers that require you to use a USB cable to connect your phone. The headache isn’t really worth it, and wireless models cost roughly the same as their wired equivalents.
Custom apps: Most instant photo printers come with proprietary smartphone apps for printing your photos, but those apps aren’t always amazing, and in some cases, you’re forced to only use those apps to print. On the other hand, some included apps are outstanding and make it easy to customize your photos with image-editing tools and fun templates. Once you’ve narrowed down your search to one or two models, look for online reviews of the apps themselves so you can get a preview of how the app for each model functions.
Stickers: One of our favorite innovations in instant photo printers is the ability to make your own stickers. Many models work with self-adhesive photos, so you can decide to make a fun sticker out of any of your photos any time you want. Don’t knock it until you try it – check user reviews to see examples of stickers that others have made, and then start dreaming up your own!
If you’re looking for a basic instant photo printer, or you need one for a specific use, like a vacation or wedding, you can find a decent model for anywhere between $30 and $75. Instant photo printers in this price range don’t offer a lot of bells and whistles, so expect to be limited to models that only print photos in a single size. In general, it’s best to stay away from the cheapest instant photo printers because they often have the most expensive replacement photo paper.
The best values in instant photo printers can be found on models that cost between $75 and $100. Instant photo printers in this price range typically include custom apps that make it easy to edit your photos and add filters before printing. Not every deal in this price range is a bargain, however, so pay close attention to the quality of photos each model prints, as well as how expensive the replacement photo paper is.
If you need the absolute best instant photo printer available, you’ll need to spend a lot more. Instant photo printers in the $100 to $200 range include a laundry list of features like the ability to print in multiple sizes. If you need professional-quality prints, or you simply want the most versatile portable printer you can get, you’ll need to spend at least this much.
Buy plenty of extra photo paper ahead of time. Make sure you never run out of photo paper for new pictures, and stock up when you buy your instant photo printer. By keeping extra around, you’re also protecting yourself against potential future problems (like if the manufacturer discontinues it or it becomes hard to find).
Research to see if third-party photo paper is available at a discount. In some cases, you can find compatible photo paper from a different vendor and save a lot of money, so do your homework ahead of time to see which models work with third-party photo paper. (And don’t forget to check user reviews of any third-party photo paper because they’re not always great.)
Print original photos for better quality. Photos from social media will be compressed and won’t look as good. A lot of instant photo printers can connect directly with your social media accounts, so you can instantly print photos. That’s an incredibly convenient feature, but there’s a catch: when you upload a photo to a social network, it gets compressed and slightly degraded (so that image file sizes on social media can stay small), so when you print photos from social media sites, they can sometimes look blurry or pixelated. Whenever possible, print directly from original photos for the best quality.
Q. How long does it take for a picture to print on an instant photo printer?
A. Most instant photo printers truly are instant and can develop a photo in seconds, much like a vintage Polaroid camera. Some models may take as long as a few minutes, depending on if they have additional features, like printing photos that are also stickers.
Q. Are instant photo printers noisy?
A. No. Instant photo printers have moving parts, but they’re tiny, so there isn’t a lot of noise when they are in use.
Q. Can I print images from a video on my phone with an instant photo printer?
A. Yes. While instant photo printers can’t print directly from a video, they can print from a still image from a video. Some instant photo printer models include software to help you pick images from the videos on your phone, but the easiest way to get a specific image from a video is to pause the video at the desired moment and take a screenshot, then print the screenshot.