In the age of smartphones and social media, many have lost the desire for a printed photo. But, they still have their place, and mobile printers are rising in popularity. Looking at photos on our phones is great. But, there’s something special about a picture we can hold, show friends and family, and stick to the walls. And if you want a more personal experience than just viewing photos on a screen, it’s time to start printing again.
Few people would consider bringing along a printer on their next trip. Thankfully, the typical bulky printers of the past have scrunched in size, now to only the size of a palm. And it’s easier than ever to turn your phone into an instant camera to share your favorite memories, giving your traditional pictures new life.
Sure, portable printers tend to be more expensive than your average accessory for smartphones. But, they’re worth the investment. Yet, several types of printers are available on the market, all offering different capabilities and features. And some are better than others. So it’s important to have an idea in mind beforehand. With that, we’ve summarized the top ten best printers today. And we’ve also created an in-depth guide so you’ll know how to access the various options as you’re shopping around.
10 – Canon SELPHY QX10
Canon’s QX10 is their latest pocket-size printer aimed squarely at socialites looking to document their experiences. Released in 2020, it prints 2.7 x 2.7-inch square photos using dye-sublimation technology for fast-drying detailed prints. The printer holds a total of 10 sheets, and each has an adhesive backing, perfect for your next craft project.
The prints are both tear and water-resistant. And with proper storage, they can last up to 100 years. The printer connects using Canon’s SELPHY Photo Layout app to add templates, filters, stickers, and more. And this app supports both iOS and Android. Overall, Canon’s QX10 is a compact printer that makes getting high-quality prints easy and super accessible. A while a bit costly, it delivers long-lasting results.
9 – Polaroid Original Polaroid Lab
The Polaroid Lab is the ideal solution to turn your smartphone images into original polaroids. Released in 2019, it works with i-Type or 600 film, through a three-lens system that converts images into authentic polaroids. It connects to both iOS and Android devices using the Polaroid Originals app.
And the app supports various picture formats, collages, or an augmented reality feature to bring your photos to life. And through its unique film chemistry process, your images will be distinct and authentic. Overall, Polaroid’s Lab is the contemporary darkroom for those wanting real Polaroid’s instantly, in a modern age. And it brings 80 years of film innovation into a streamlined process for timeless memories.
8 – Lifeprint Instant Print Camera
Lifeprint’s printer turns your iPhone into a real instant camera. Released in 2019, it prints 2×3-inch adhesive backed and smudge-proof photos using Zink. And it connects to an iPhone using Bluetooth through the LifePrint Photos app. Besides adding filters, text, or printing live photos from social media, you can also add augmented reality animations to your images.
And the printer embeds video thumbnails into the paper, which you can playback through the app. Lifeprint also has its own social media platform to see and share photos from fellow users. And you can easily connect to a friend’s printer and print wirelessly anywhere in the world. Overall, Lifeprints instant camera is the ideal way to get an instant camera without purchasing one. And it offers a far more unique approach with a sleek, seamless design.
7 – Kodak Smile
Kodak’s Smile produces the best images around. Released in 2019, it prints 2×3-inch photos using Zink, which are waterproof and have a sticky adhesive backing. The printer supports both Android and iOS devices. And it connects via Bluetooth using the Kodak Smile app, where you can add filters or effects.
You can also add an augmented reality overlay to create animated images, a nice touch. The printer uses a trendy pop-up design for protection. But, the design remains both sleek and easy to use. Overall, Kodak’s Smile is an attractive and highly portable option. And it makes editing and sharing pictures easier than ever.
6 – Prynt Pocket
Prynt’s Pocket is the original instant printer for iOS devices and a case that doubles to print high-quality photos. Released in 2017, it prints 2×3-inch images using Zink paper, which is also sticky backed. It attaches directly to the phone, and it supports all iPhones from the 5th generation on up. The benefit of a direct connection is increased speed; in this case, it prints in as little as 20 seconds.
The Prynt app also brings fantastic functionality and is quite feature-rich. It connects using Bluetooth, and you can edit, apply effects, and embed videos using AR. Overall, Prynt’s Pocket is another option to look at if you’re an iPhone user wanting a palm-sized instant camera. And if portability and speed are your priority, it’s one of the best options around.
5 – Kodak Mini 2
Kodak’s Mini 2 focuses on generating higher quality prints. Released in 2017, it prints 2.1×3.4-inch photos using Kodak’s combined paper ink cartridges with dye sublimation. And this combination provides ten years of long-lasting quality. The photographs are also smudge-proof and use quick-drying ink to dry instantly. The printer connects to Android and iOS devices through the Kodak Mini Shot App.
And it’s one of a few printers to offer One Touch NFC pairing, for hassle-free connections, in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. With the app, you can easily crop, edit, and add filters to your photos. And it brings the same high-level performance as its predecessor, in a significantly smaller package. Overall, Kodak’s Mini 2 offers quality over speed. And it’s a superb printer that produces excellent images with a more affordable price tag than rivals.
4 – Canon Ivy
Canon’s Ivy is a premium mini photo printer with the design to prove it. Released in 2018, it prints 2×3-inch adhesive-backed ZINK photos, which are water-resistant and tear-proof. It connects using Bluetooth to both Android and iOS devices using the Canon Mini Print app. And the app offers a full suite of powerful tools to add filters, effects, text, emoji’s, collages, and much more.
The app also supports augmented reality effects to add live filters to your images to shake things up with fun filters. Overall, Canon’s Ivy is a stylish printer that produces brilliant photos in extraordinary resolution.
3 – Canon SELPHY CP1300
Canon’s SELPHY CP1300 trades portability for larger than average print sizes with better quality. Released in 2017, it shoots up to 4×6-inch water-resistant prints using dye sublimation. It supports both Android and iOS devices via the Canon Print app. And it prints either wirelessly or through a direct USB or SD card connection.
This printer offers niche extras such as a photo booth option and the collage maker for unique ways to share images. And it uses a design that incorporates all of the traditional aspects of a home printer, just in a smaller form factor. Overall, Canon’s CP1300 offers both larger prints with better quality than most of its portable rivals. And while not truly pocketable, the slight trade-off in size is worthwhile given its quality. If you don’t mind the larger size, it offers a feature set mostly unmatched in this class with stellar quality to compliment.
2 – Fujifilm INSTAX Share SP-3
Fujifilm’s Instax SP-3 is the follow-up to the highly popular SP-2, with updated printing formats. Released in 2017, it now prints 2.4×2.4-inch square photos using instant film at 318 dpi resolution, a much higher resolution than traditional Zink paper alone. It’s also lightning fast, and it’s laser exposure system quickly prints in as little as 13 seconds, making it the quickest option.
It connects to smartphones wirelessly via Fujifilm’s Instax Share app. And it supports both Android, iOS, and direct printing from compatible Fujifilm cameras. Plus, you can even mimic several film socks, besides just adding standard effects and filters. Or use the Intelligence Filter, which optimizes each image for the highest quality. Overall, Fujifilm’s SP-3 is a modern and sleek printer that’s unorthodox in design but classic in performance. And it’s the ideal choice if you prefer square, evenly sized prints.
1 – HP Sprocket 2nd Edition
The HP Sprocket 2nd edition is the follow-up to the highly acclaimed Sprocket and Sprocket Select. Released in 2018, it prints 2×3-inch sticky-backed photos using Zink technology. The result is photos that are far superior in quality over the original models.
It connects via Bluetooth to Android and iOS devices using the HP Sprocket app. And the app allows you to edit, crop, add filters, stickers, and borders to your photos. You can also print directly from social media or have multiple people print sequentially.
With print times of 30 seconds and prices of 50 cents per print, it hits a sweet spot between speed and efficiency. And, overall, HP’s Sprocket is easy to use, attractive and designed with simplicity in mind. And it strikes a beautiful balance between portability, quality, and price.
What to look for in a portable printer?
Let’s cover a few things you’ll want to consider when looking at a portable photo printer. Although they seem deceptively simple, there is quite a lot to consider beforehand. And, in total, you’ll want to weigh eight factors before picking the best option. Let’s cover these now.
Size & Portability
Portability is one of the main reasons for buying these kinds of printers. But, for some, a slight trade-off in size for added quality could be a worthwhile trade. Otherwise, if you want maximum portability, you’ll have to give a little in print size and quality. Nevertheless, the size and form factor is a crucial area to consider. Pocketable options exist, but so do miniature desk printers. And each has its pros and cons.
Paper, Dye, and Inkless vs. Print Cartridges
Most printers will ship with 10-20 sheets of paper so you can start printing immediately. But, after that, it’ll be on you to maintain the refills. Smaller printers use the 2×3-inch size paper. Though, not always. Occasionally, the photo size will range from 2×2, or smaller, and as large as 4×6. And the prices will vary based on the size of the paper needed for the printer. But, in general, the larger the paper, the more expensive a replacement set is.
Another consideration here is the type of dye used. Today, most printers use Zink or Zero Ink, that embedded the dye crystal into the paper. Zink saves money in the long-run but is slightly worse in print resolution, dynamic range, and black reproduction.
Others can work like traditional printers with dedicated cartridges and use dye sublimation, instead, to apply color. With these, you’ll have to buy both paper and replacement dye, increasing the price. But, they almost always provide better results. So there’s a trade-off here.
Most printers will have a rated print speed that varies between 10-15 seconds to upwards of a minute. If you plan on printing countless photos, the longer print times will slow your workflow. It won’t matter much if you plan on only printing single photos for fun. But, for high volume printing, it’s something to consider as well.
Most printers use rechargeable batteries, which charge over USB. However, the drawback is that their battery life isn’t great. Expect somewhere between 10-40 prints before they’ll need to recharge. Other printers use wall connections, increasing their power, but they’re usually not as portable. So there’s another trade-off here, and something to consider if you plan on printing a lot.
You can connect to a printer in several ways, and each printer uses different methods of connectivity. Some printers use faster direct connections or docks; others Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Most printers will also support both Android and iOS devices, but not all of them. So consider the devices you’d like to use with the printer, especially if you plan to use tablets. And double-check the compatibility before making a purchase.
Most printers have a companion app, where you import and edit photos before printing. Some offer only basic editing functionality, like cropping or adjusting brightness or color. Others have more advanced features like filters, text, emojis, to give you more customization. If this level of customization is essential to you, it’ll help narrow down your selection process.
Most printers range between $60-100. But this price only covers the printer and the first round of papers (and ink, if applicable). So, it’s worth looking at the costs of paper and the price per print beforehand. Most printers also use proprietary brands of paper, and not all accept generic brands. But know this: the cost for a print ranges from 50 cents to $1.
Some printers offer niche extras like photo booths, augment videos, or printing from supported cameras, for example. If these extras are vital to you, they’ll help narrow options.