Trevor Tan rounds up four mobile photo printers

Canon Selphy CP1200
Canon Selphy CP1200PHOTOS: CANON, FUJIFILM, HP, POLAROID

Canon Selphy CP1200

Price: $199

Connectivity: Wi-Fi, USB, SD Card

Weight: 860g

Available in white, pink and black (the version tested), the Canon Selphy CP1200 is a mobile photo printer that is able to print up to postcard-size (4 x 6 inches) prints. Measuring 18cm by 6.3cm by 13.6cm, it is the biggest and heaviest mobile photo printer in this round-up. But it is by no means gigantic.

It can still fit comfortably into a backpack. But you do need to take along the paper cassette and power cord, as it needs to be plugged into a power socket to work. There is an optional battery pack, though.

The CP1200 not only prints wirelessly from your smartphone via the Canon Print app (available for Android and iOS), it can also print from Windows and Mac computers, SD cards and USB thumb drives.

Before printing, make sure you have installed the ink ribbon into the right side of the printer. Also, load the paper (glossy side up) into the paper cassette (up to 18 sheets of photo paper).

You need to leave some room (around 10cm) behind the printer, as the paper will move back and forth during the printing process.

For this review, I used my smartphone to print using the app with a direct Wi-Fi connection to the printer. It took 1min 21sec to print a postcard-sized photo, from the moment I tapped on Print in the app.

While it might take the longest time to print in this round-up, the print quality is superb. The prints are sharp and colours look almost identical to the photos in my smartphone.

Furthermore, it is the most economical here. Canon sells a package comprising 108 sheets of 4R-size paper and two colour ink ribbons for only $39.90.

• Verdict: The Canon Selphy CP1200 is a superb value-for-money mobile photo printer that delivers great prints. A pity about its size and the need for a power socket.


Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2

Price: $309

Connectivity: Wi-Fi

Weight: 250g (without battery and film pack)

The Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 prints 800 x 600-dot photos using your smartphone via Wi-Fi. It is available in silver (the version tested) and gold.

This printer is more bulky than the HP Sprocket and Polaroid ZIP. But it is much smaller and lighter than the Canon Selphy CP1200. It has a rectangular design with a tapered top. The top has a long slot through which the instant prints emerge. A line of dots indicates how many prints are left.

On one of the shorter sides of the tapered top, there is a diamond-shaped power button. On this side, there is a Reprint button in the middle, and a micro-USB charging port at the bottom.

A full charge should be good for 10 packs of Fujifilm's Instax paper (a pack comprises 10 prints and costs from $13.90).

There is no ink involved. Just load a pack of Instax paper by opening the film compartment. To print, you need to use the Instax Share app (available for Android and iOS). This app also lets you customise and edit the photos. You can even print directly from your Facebook or Instagram account.

Once connected to SP-2's Wi-Fi, it takes only 10sec from the time you press the Print button on the app to get an instant print. It is the fastest to do so in this round-up.

The prints are not as sharp as the original digital photos displayed on the smartphone. But they have that analogue and nostalgic "Polaroid" feel. The prints also look sharper than the Zink ones of the Sprocket and ZIP.

• Verdict: At $309, the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 might be the most expensive printer in this round-up. But it strikes the best balance between portability and "Polaroid" print quality.


HP Sprocket

Price: $199

Connectivity: Bluetooth, Near Field Communication

Weight: 172g

The HP Sprocket is a palm-sized printer that prints colour photos (2 x 3 inches) directly from your smartphone via Bluetooth.

Its design is minimal and sleek. It comes in a smooth rectangular plastic slab - available in black (the version tested) and white - that is only 23mm thick. It is also the lightest in this round-up.

On its top edge, there is a micro-USB port for charging and an LED indicator. It has a power button on its left side.

The Sprocket uses Zink print technology, which does not require any ink cartridge. But it is recommended to use the HP Zink Sticky-Backed Photo Paper ($15.90 per pack of 20). It can hold only 10 pieces of photo paper. To load the paper, slide the top cover forward slightly to release the lid and lift it off to reveal the photo-paper compartment.

The HP Sprocket app (available for iOS and Android) allows you to print the photos from your phone's camera roll and albums, as well as photos from your social media accounts. But it does not keep count of the paper in the printer.

It took 57sec to print a photo after I tapped print on the app - not exactly fast. The prints lacked the contrast and details of the actual photos. I also found the colours to be on the warm side or looked yellowish. There was visible banding at times.

For parties and gatherings, these photos are good enough. The photo paper has a sticky back that lets you paste it anywhere, say, on your shirt.

The printer's battery level dropped to 20 per cent after I finished printing 10 photos. You probably want to charge it soon after that.

• Verdict: The HP Sprocket is a compact and easy-to-use photo printer for smartphone users.


Polaroid ZIP

Price: $196

Connectivity: Bluetooth, Near Field Communication

Weight: 186g

The Polaroid ZIP bears a striking resemblance to the HP Sprocket, as it also comes in a rectangular plastic slab and is just a hair thinner at 22mm thick.

It prints colour photos (2 x 3 inches) directly from your smartphone via Bluetooth.

Available in red (the version tested), black and white, the ZIP uses the same Zink print technology as the Sprocket. It is also around the same size as the Sprocket, fitting easily into your pocket.

Like the Sprocket, the ZIP has a micro-USB port for charging and an LED indicator on its top edge.

But I think the ZIP's design is more sleek and streamlined, thanks to its symmetrical design and the iconic Polaroid rainbow stripes.

Photo-paper loading is similar to the Sprocket's too. Slide the top cover forward slightly to release the lid and lift it off to reveal the photo paper compartment.

It is recommended to use the Polaroid Premium Zink Paper. Cathay Photo sells a pack of 30 sheets at $29 and a pack of 50 sheets at $44.

The Polaroid ZIP app (available for iOS and Android) allows you to print the photos from your phone's camera roll and albums, as well as photos from your social media accounts. But it does not keep count of paper in the printer.

The ZIP took only 45sec to print a photo after I pressed the Print button on the app. However, like the Sprocket, the Zink prints lacked the contrast and details of the actual photos. I also found the prints to be slightly soft with visible banding at times.

But the ZIP has better battery life than the Sprocket. After printing 10 test prints, I found that the ZIP still had 50 per cent battery left.

• Verdict: If you want a cheap and compact photo printer to print for fun, the Polaroid ZIP is a great option.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2017, with the headline 'Trevor Tan rounds up four mobile photo printers.'. Print Edition | Subscribe