Instant cameras have been around now for close to half a century. Riding a recent wave of nostalgia, prompted in no small part by modern apps like Instagram, these aging devices have staged a popular comeback. Fujifilm in particular has had great success with their Instax mini series, which runs on none other than the classic polaroid. But this is of course the age of smartphones, and novelty alone wasn’t going to keep the instant camera alive. With great insight, Fujifilm married smart functionalities seamlessly with instant camera capabilities in what would be the Instax Share SP-1. The acronym “SP” stands for smartphone printer. Don’t be fooled by the SP-1’s somewhat silly design though –this is one Polaroid film printer that easily lives up to its name.
The Fujifilm Share SP-1 was purchased for the purposes of this review. I am neither a paid affiliate nor an employee of Fujifilm. In addition, I do reserve the rights to the media used in the review, so do contact me if you wish to reproduce any part of the writing or photography seen here. Apart from that, hope that y’all enjoy the review.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The SP-1 is a smooth curved cuboid. It looks unassuming, and in fact even a little comical. A power button and an opening for printed film reside on the top arc. The white plastic chassis has a subtle glitter that is nice –but also slightly out of place. On the back panel is a ledge for removing and replacing the printing film cartridge. Located on the bottom face is the battery compartment. On the left side are a power port and an extremely thoughtful button allowing for easy reprinting. Well-placed forward facing LED lights also let users gauge film capacity and battery charge easily. The SP-1 isn’t small though, and won’t easily go inside a modern pocket (cargo pants aren’t fashionable these days folks).
The SP-1 uses specialty CR2 batteries. I would’ve preferred the conventional AA or AAA batteries for convenience but the CR2 is needed for the higher voltage printing application. Unfortunately, the stock batteries are not rechargeable through the power port and have to be replaced every once in a while. Fujifilm has stated that the camera can print a hundred films before ever needing a swap. Based on my personal usage, I found battery life to be fairly good and swaps infrequent. The power port provides an alternative power supply for the SP-1 and can be used with a USB charger that supplies at least 5W of power. This can help cut down the use of batteries, but is overall a fairly impractical solution (not to mention that the cable is sold separately). In this sense a rechargeable battery would’ve worked far better.
Setting up and using the SP-1 is hassle free. It acts as its own access point when you turn it on. To use the SP-1, first download the Instax Share application on either the Play store or the App Store. The application automatically detects the printer and the UI is straightforward. From the home page, you can open your camera roll to select which photo you want to print. Basic photo editing can be done when you select the picture to print; easily add birthday and holiday templates, text, and even filters! The default password for the SP-1 is ‘1111’ but this can be changed through the settings, in order to prevent strangers from connecting and using the SP-1. For those who don’t care for the security, the password can also be completely removed.
The camera uses the credit card size Polaroid film popularized by Fujifilm. The actual image is not large as there are thick borders surrounding the film, but its overall small size means it can be placed in transparent phone cases and wallets. Also, no ink is needed to print; instead, it is chemically developed, which is why it takes a couple of minutes for the image to mature. You save on printer ink, but the film prices aren’t exactly cheap at around $11-12USD on amazon for a pack of twenty.
Moving on to picture quality, this is no professional photo printer, so temper your expectations with these prints. With a supported resolution of only 640 by 480 pixels, printed Polaroid films are a far cry from today’s modern smartphone photos. Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of the Instax Share is its color production, which is fairly evident given that the colors are less vibrant than the original image. The result is an atmospheric but nonetheless faded look.
COMPARISON WITH THE INSTAX MINI
The SP-1 is essentially an alternative to Instax Mini for producing the iconic mini portrait Polaroid picture, albeit at more than twice the price. The SP-1’s advantages however, are numerous compared to its instant camera counterpart. With the SP-1, the convenience of a smartphone is can be tapped with a simple app. The ability to do pre-printing editing is immensely helpful. Most importantly, the reprint function makes it easy for everyone to have a copy of the photo.
Polaroid pictures are fun and appealing and the SP-1 no doubt makes it painless to take them. There are cheaper alternatives to the SP-1 but the ubiquity of the classic white bordered film means that it is both easily recognizable and replaced. While not as affordable as the Mini series, the benefits of the SP-1 easily justify price difference. If you have set your mind on an instant camera, the SP-1 would be our sure recommendation.