When was the last time you printed a photo? If you’re like most people, it’s been quite a while. Many of us take hundreds of photos every year, but very few of them get to escape the digital prison that is our smart phones.
There are now mini photo printers on the market. These pocket-sized photo printers are very portable and easy to use meaning it’s now very convenient to print photos.
This time I’m reviewing the Polaroid Zip mini printer.
The Zip is a very small dedicated photo printer that comes in several colours. It prints small 3″ x 2″ colour prints that require no developing time. The printer does not use ink cartridges either, because the ink is built right into the Zink photo paper.
While you might think of ‘Polaroid’ prints as being kind of vintage looking and having that distinctive papery border frame, know that the Zip printer uses different paper. The Zip prints edge-to-edge photos, but you can add a special effect which will allow you to create a faux Polaroid border. (Curious about why Polaroid printers don’t use Polaroid film, and Fujifilm DOES? I was too, so I asked both companies. Read my explanation here.)
Setting up the Polaroid Zip is not very intuitive. It helps if you have some knowledge of how to set up Bluetooth devices, because the app won’t walk you through it.
You’ll first need to download the Polaroid SnapTouch or Zip app.
Once you load the app however, it will give you the option to “connect to device” or “connect later”. Clicking Connect will do nothing, and you’ll get an error message saying “No device found. Make sure your Bluetooth is enabled and your device is connected,” but it won’t tell you how to do that. Here’s how you do it:
- Go to your phone’s Bluetooth settings.
- Turn on the Zip printer, then go to your Bluetooth menu and watch for the printer to appear.
- When it does, click on it and wait for the connection to complete, then you can return to the app. You should now see the printer appear as one of your selections inside the app.
If you still don’t see your device, hit the back button to return to the main menu, then click the “connect printer” button at the top. You should now see your device appear in a list. Go ahead and connect and you should be good to go.
Constant re-connection to Bluetooth
It’s worth taking note that each time the printer powers off, it loses the connection to Bluetooth, and each time you need to reconnect via your smartphone’s settings menu. That was annoying, but not an uncommon problem in other similar printers I’ve been testing, like the Fujifilm Instax Share SP2 printer. (Read that review to see which of these photo printers comes out on top.)
One of the things I like about Polaroid’s Zink paper is that it’s versatile. You can use it as a regular photo, but the backing of every paper peels off and you can turn the photos into cute custom stickers.
When picking a photo from the camera roll, I noticed the Polaroid app frequently zooms in the photos by quite a bit. The app asks you to pinch to adjust the zoom, but it won’t actually let you do it. Weird.
Every time I tried to print from my phone, the app did that weird zoom thing. Finally, I found that by adjusting the orientation of the film on the camera screen I could disable the zoom effect (Watch my YouTube video to see how it’s done). By the time I’d reverted the photo from upside down back to right side up, it had snapped back to normal size without the zoom. Also weird.
Photo quality of Polaroid Zip printer
I was really, really unhappy with the overall photo quality of the Polaroid prints. The colours were not accurate, the prints more often than not looked washed out, and on some of the photos I printed, I was left with odd lines across the print.
If you take a look at my YouTube video, you’ll also see a comparison I did where I took a photo on my iPhone, then printed it on the Zip, and on a FujiFilm Instax Share printer. You’ll see there’s a big difference in the quality of the images and the original photo. (Photo below)
I had a chance to test an older version of the Zip printer several years ago. (Read that review here) When I last tested the Zip, the Zink film was of much lesser quality. The prints tended to have a reddish hue, and otherwise printed out quite inaccurately when it came to color. I’m pleased to report that the colours somewhat improved since that last test, but I don’t think they’re top quality or true to life. While some photos I printed did look good, I felt the consistency of prints was very sporadic and I didn’t know if I was going to get a great print or a mediocre one.
Print speed of the Polaroid Zip
While it takes a second or two from the time you hit the print button for the process to begin, the printing of the image takes an awfully long time; almost 30 seconds. With that said, if you compare this Polaroid printer to a device like the Fujifilm Instax Share printer, the overall wait times might be quite similar.
The Polaroid printer takes about 30 seconds to spit out the print, but when it’s done, the print is fully ready and rendered in color. With the Instax Share, it may print the photo much faster, but you’ll still need to wait a couple minutes or so for the image to develop on the paper. I did run into some problems where I’d hit the print button, only to have nothing happen. The app would not advance to the next screen, it would just sit there. Other times, the app would advance, but hitting the print button would still do nothing. I needed to close out of the app and reconnect in order to get it to work. This problem cropped up quite frequently.
Price and film cost
Replacement packs of Zink film are available in 10 packs. Buying in bulk is often cheaper, and prices vary wildly, but the average cost per print is between 0.70 and $1.50 per sheet.
Price for the printer is about $175CAD. I definitely feel that for the price of the device and the film cost, the prints should be much better and the app much more reliable.
Overall review of the Polaroid Zip mini photo printer
Of the two Polaroid gadgets I tested, I preferred this one. That’s mainly because the Zip is a dedicated photo printer, and that’s all I wanted from it. (The SnapTouch camera plus printer was more technology than I needed, and I didn’t feel like it took good photos or printed high-quality photos, which you can find out more about by reading the Polaroid SnapTouch camera & printer review.)
I didn’t like how buggy the app was. It was just not consistently easy to print a picture. I did like the compact size and cord free operation of the Zip, but I wasn’t as impressed by the overall quality of the Polaroid photo prints. I found them to be generally washed out and rather drab in terms of color.
As far as I am concerned, since this device’s only job is to print photos, the fact that the quality of those prints can only be characterized as “OK” means it’s not a good buy. I would pass on buying one of these for myself.