Instagram is great and all that, but there’s nothing quite like holding a physical, printed copy of a beloved photo in your hands. Until recent years this required a bulky desktop printer and a tangle of unwieldy wires. Times have changed though, and one of my favorite developments is the birth of the portable photo printer!
Physical prints are coming back into fashion too. Just look at the rebirth of the Polaroid camera. The world is finally tuning in to the fact that viewing life through a 6-inch screen might not be overly great for your mental well being, so start bringing your photos back to life!
Portable photo printers aren’t just for printing off your own little keepsakes either. They’re also a fantastic way to set yourself apart as a wedding or portrait photographer, offering the client a few sneak previews in print form as you shoot.
Admittedly, portable photo printers are never going to produce the highest quality or the biggest prints. For that you will need one of those desktop behemoths. However, some of the best portable photo printers actually produce surprisingly good quality photos.
And that’s what this article is all about – The best portable photo printers for your money:
Best Portable Photo Printer – Overall Winner
Canon Selphy CP1300
- Not only will your photos be instantly dry, but they will also look great for up to 100 Years5 and are even water resistant!
- Enjoy the simplicity of connecting your smartphone and tablet with ease, through the Canon Print App3. You can even Print directly from USB, or your camera's memory Card2.
Your favorite may vary depending on your specific wants, but my top spot goes to the wonderfully versatile Canon Selphy CP1300.
Why? Because it offers stunning print quality (300dpi) and has a larger than average maximum print size of 4×6 inches. The result is that the Selphy CP1300 offers bigger prints at better quality than the majority of other portable photo printers out there.
Of course, there are some sacrifices. Its portability is harmed (although it’s still only 7.1 inches long and under 2lb in weight), and the standard version requires a power supply. The version above is the printer + battery bundle, but you can find the standalone version here.
- Optional battery pack offers up to 54 prints per charge.
- 3.2-inch tilting color LCD screen.
- Prints from smartphone or tablet (wirelessly or via USB) and SD card.
- Prints using thermal dye sublimation, resulting in high quality, water resistant prints.
- Extra features such as photo booth mode (creates two strips of four images) and Party Shuffle (collaborative collage images).
Best Portable Photo Printers – Close Contenders
HP Sprocket (2nd Edition)
- INSTANT PHOTOS ON THE GO – Easily print your favorite adventures on 2x3 inches sticky-backed photo paper with this luna pearl smartphone-sized photo printer that's designed to easily slip into your pocket, purse, or backpack
- GET THE PRINT PARTY STARTED – Now you can connect multiple devices so you and your friends can print at the same time – plus the personalized LED light shows you whose photo is printing. Power consumption- Idle- 0.55 W, Printing max- 31-32 W, Average- 16 W
A close contender to the Canon Selphy CP1300, the only thing keeping the HP Sprocket from the top spot is the comparatively small prints on offer. The HP Sprocket prints at 2×3 inches on custom made sticky backed paper(although the HP Sprocket Plus ups that to 2.3×3.4 inches).
That being said, the print quality from these miniature photos is excellent, displaying good contrast and vibrant colors.
The small print size does increase portability as well, with it coming in about the same size as a modern smartphone. And while we’re on the subject of smartphones, it prints via Bluetooth on Android 4.4+ and iOS 8.0+ and has an app that can pull in your social media galleries as well as the gallery on your phone.
The Sprocket app also allows basic editing and cropping functionality and the addition of filters, borders and other similar gimmicks. It also allows multiple users to connect and print at the same time. However, you can’t print via any other method such as SD cards or USB drives.
Back to the printing aspect, the HP Sprocket, like many of the top portable photo printers, uses Zero Ink (ZINK) technology. What does that mean? Well, all the inks are contained in the paper itself, and are revealed by some magic technology inside the printer.
You don’t need to know all the details. All you need to know is that the paper costs more (~$0.50 per sheet), but on the plus side there are no ink cartridges to worry about.
- ZINK technology means no ink cartridges to replace.
- 2×3 inch sticky back prints at 313x400dpi.
- Extra features allows the addition of borders, filters and other.
- Rechargeable battery lasts for up to 35 prints.
Polaroid Zip Mobile Printer
- SMARTPHONE MEMORIES MADE REAL : Using the Polaroid ZIP is fast and easy! Just connect a smart phone or tablet via WiFi and watch your portraits, selfies, and social media photos transform from digital images to physical pictures in an instant
- STUNNINGLY VIBRANT PRINTS : ZINK ZERO INK printing technology eliminates the need for film, ink, toners, cartridges, and ribbons. The premium 2x3 Inches sticky peel back paper prints are not only colorful, bold, and lifelike, but are also water-resistant, tear-resistant, smudge proof, and dry to the touch
Unsurprisingly, the company that brought us the very first instant printer makes our list of the best portable photo printers.
The Polaroid Zip is almost exactly the same as the HP Sprocket. Both use ZINK technology, both print 2×3 inch sticky-back prints, and both look almost identical.
There are a few differences though. Firstly, the battery life of the Polaroid Zip is slightly lower than the HP Sprocket at 25 prints per charge, and while the app is relatively easy to use it doesn’t include many of the features of the HP Sprocket.
What’s more, the print quality actually seemed inferior to the Sprocket. It might have simply been a sample issue, but the prints looked flatter and lacking in vibrancy compared to the Sprocket and the Canon Selphy CP1300.
- ZINK technology means no ink cartridge concerns.
- 2×3 inch sticky back prints.
- Up to 25 prints per battery charge.
- Prints via Bluetooth and NFC from smartphone or tablet.
Kodak Mini 2
- Easy print technology – mini smartphone printer lets you print 2. 1 x 3. 4” photos direct from Android or iOS device; No cables or buttons necessary
- Wireless connectivity – NFC one touch for Android Launches Kodak app to print in seconds; also compatible with iOS/Android via Bluetooth
We (briefly) move away from the ZINK portable printers now and head to the realms of higher quality prints, although that does come at a price.
The Kodak Mini 2 utilizes their all-in-one ink and paper cartridges and prints using thermal dye sublimation, much like the Canon Selphy CP1300. The result is unparalleled print quality and a claim that they hold their quality for up to 10 years, but there are some tradoffs.
For example, it seems to take an age to complete the 2.1×3.4 inch prints. The included Android app, while excellent at times (it allows ultra fast NFC connectivity and has tons of editing options), can be very unreliable as well. Battery life is rather mediocre at 20 prints per charge too.
If all else fails Android and iOS users can revert back to Bluetooth printing though, and at 8.3 ounces it’s very portable.
Overall this is a top quality portable photo printer that produces some of the best prints around, but it’s held back by the dodgy included app.
- NFC one touch for Android app lets you send photos to print in seconds.
- Thermal dye sublimation printing results in better image quality.
- Produces 2.1×3.4 inch prints.
- Uses Kodak’s all-in-one paper and ink cartidges.
Fujifilm Instax Share Smartphone Printer SP-3
The Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 is a follow on from their very similar SP-2 model, although this new version prints 2.4×2.4 inch square prints rather than the SP-2’s 2.4×1.8 inch format.
Prints are still produced using the ZINK technology and the SP-3 has a lightning fast print time of 13 seconds at 318dpi. The prints themselves are very good quality, although I did encounter some issues with prints being overexposed unless I toned down the exposure prior to printing. Overall, not quite on the same level as the Kodak Mini 2 or the Canon Selphy CP1300.
This is all done via the instax Share app on Android or iOS, which lets you add a couple of filters such as black and white or sepia to your image. The gimmicky side of it isn’t quite as well developed as other portable printers though, but that’s not an issue for me personally. However, what is an issue is that everything is done over the printer’s own dedicated WiFi network, meaning you can’t do anything else online while you’re printing.
That being said, they do claw back some bonus points with a very useful feature for Fujifilm shooters like me. The Instax Share SP-3 allows you to print images directly from your (compatible) Fujifilm digital camera, so it’s not just a smartphone printer!
- 2.4×2.4 inch square prints at 318dpi.
- Prints using ZINK technology to avoid the need for ink cartridges.
- Ultra fast printing time of 13 seconds.
- Print via WiFi on Android or iOS app or compatible Fujifilm devices.
- Turn your iPhone into an instant camera ½ the size of the original Prynt Case, with an easy-to-remove paper cartridge
- Print photos from your phone (even Instagram), or take new ones- printed in 30 seconds
The Prynt Pocket, quite literally, won’t be for everyone. In fact, it’s aimed solely at iPhone users, but if you sit on the Apple side of the smartphone fence is definitely worth taking a close look at.
Basically, it’s an iPhone case come printer, with an Android version reportedly being developed.
The Prynt Pocket uses ZINK sticker paper, like many other portable photo printers, and prints at 1.89×3 inches. Print quality is good, if not spectacular, but the main selling point is the fantastic functionality with iPhone’s.
Unsurprisingly, a Prynt app is included which brings with it a heap of the usual functionality, plus a HP Sprocket-esque feature that allows you to embed videos within the photo. These are unveiled when a user scans a print. It’s a gimmick, but a pretty nifty one I must say.
- 1.89×3 inch prints using ZINK technology.
- iPhone case come printer, although it is iPhone only.
- Feature-rich Prynt app.
Which Portable Photo Printer is the Best?
This all depends on your wants and needs from a portable printer.
If you want bigger prints and excellent quality, but don’t mind stumping up extra for the optional battery (or don’t mind using mains power), then the Canon Selphy CP1300 is fantastic.
However, if you prefer to be a little more portable something like the HP Sprocket, the Kodak Mini 2, the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 or the Polaroid Zip is probably more up your street.
Finally, if you’re an iPhone user I’d definitely recommend taking a look at the Prynt Pocket. It’s a fantastic design and delivers print quality that is more than acceptable.
Alex is the owner and lead writer for Click and Learn Photography. An avid landscape, equine, and pet photographer living and working in the beautiful Lake District, UK, Alex has had his work featured in a number of high profile publications, including the Take a View Landscape Photographer of the Year, Outdoor Photographer of the Year, and Amateur Photographer Magazine.