If you're looking for a great grad gift or a charming way to share your favorite memories with friends and relatives, it's hard to beat the pint-sized Instax Mini Link photo printer.
Sure, there's not a ton of reasons to keep albums of photographs around, especially when services like iCloud allow you to store high-quality digital photos to the cloud for free. Still, there's something to be said for physical photos.
We still enjoy holding photos, hanging them on our walls, and slipping them into our wallets.
That's why we're looking at the Instax Mini Link printer. It utilizes the same film as the popular Instax Mini cameras, but allows you to shoot and print directly from your iPhone.
Choosing a instant-photo printer over an instant-photo camera
The Mini Link is another offering in Fujifilm's mini instant film line, dubbed "Instax." If you weren't aware, FujiFilm has done a successful job of reviving instant-print photography, especially in the under-35 crowd.
The most popular products in the range are their Instax Mini line, a line of instant-print, popular with Instagram influencers, hobbyist photographers, and college undergrads.
While the Instax Mini has been around in some form since 1998, it saw increasing popularity after 2014. In 2019, FujiFilm released the Instax Mini Link, a standalone printer that utilizes the same 2.1-inch by 3.4-inch film.
You may be asking yourself, "why would I choose an Instax Mini Link over one of Fujifilm's Instax Mini Cameras?"
That's easy: options.
An Instax Mini camera doesn't allow you to snap pictures with the ease that your iPhone does. It doesn't allow you to easily edit photos the same way your iPhone does. It certainly doesn't fit in your pocket as easily as your iPhone does, and it probably wouldn't be on hand the same way your iPhone is.
The Mini Link gives you options. Sure, it's small enough to toss in a bag and take with you whenever you want to print on the go, but it can also stay home, allowing you to print pictures on your own time.
If you're an iPhone photographer or even someone who just likes the novelty of instant-print film, we feel like the choice is clear.
Instax Mini Link: a decent — but not perfect — design
The Mini Link is a relatively small, unassuming rectangle that features a large button on the front. We received a version in a dark denim color, but it's also available in dusky pink, ash white, and a limited edition beige gold.
On the side, there's a charging port, and at the front, there's a large slot where the photos print out.
The bottom of the device allows you to load the film cartridge, which is easy thanks to the included directions. All you'll need to do is open the foil film bag and align the yellow dot on the plastic film case with the printer's yellow dot. Upon first print, the device will remove the protective plastic on the film cartridge.
We would like to point out that many third-party retailers sell various protective cases for the Mini Link printer, and that it would be wise to pick one up. This would prevent the printer from debris entering the printer, as well as prevent it from accidentally turning on while in tow.
If we had one gripe — and we do — it's that the device still uses micro-USB to charge, rather than USB-C. While it's fortunate that they included a micro-USB cable, it's short, which makes it difficult to find a place to charge without leaving it on the floor next to an outlet, or taking up desk space while attached to our dock.
Using the Instax Mini Link app
To print your pictures, you'll need to snag the Instax Mini Link app from the App Store, which allows you to link the printer with the camera and tell it which pictures to print. The app is easy to use, and we had no issues connecting the printer with our iPhone 11.
Printing a single photo from your iPhone camera library is very easy to do, and we found that we were able to print photos without any trouble.
There's also the option to print a single frame from a video, which we thought was a great addition. This is especially useful for natural-looking shots or printing pictures from footage taken of your kids and pets.
Shooting images in the Instax app
Of course, you can shoot images from within the Instax app as well. It's got a built-in camera that crops your images to the correct size for the Instax Mini film.
It also includes the ability to shoot selfies while physically tilting the printer to zoom in or out. We did not like this feature and found it a bit fickle to work with.
While it's a nice idea, it doesn't feel terribly practical.
Instead, we suggest that you shoot via your iPhone's camera app and edit the photos in your favorite photo editing app, rather than via the Instax app's built-in camera. The Instax app camera does not feature any image controls, such as brightness or white balance, producing a less desirable product. We like to shoot with our iPhone's camera app and edit with VSCO.
According to Fujifilm, the Instax picture resolution is 46mm by 62 mm (1.8 inches by 2.4 inches), which means the aspect ratio is just about 1:1.35. We found that shooting in 3:4 aspect ratios — the default on our iPhone 11 — worked well and led to minimal cropping.
The additional "Fun Mode"
The Instax Mini Link comes with a mode dubbed "Fun Mode," which feels like it's geared toward younger users, but a few features stand out to us.
The additional collage print mode is also welcomed. There are 14 different collage styles to choose from and three "split styles," allowing you to split a large photo into multiple frames. This seems especially handy for those pictures that don't scale well to the small size.
The Instax Mini Link also allows you to apply filters and frames to your pictures, should you want to. These include silly hats, text snippets, rainbows, geometric shapes, and more.
While we aren't the target audience for the frames, we could easily see them adorning photos hung on a college freshman's wall.
We were entirely baffled by a mode called "Party Print," which allows you to capture different facial elements and combine them into a singular face. There's also the "Match Test" mode, which prints out a "compatibility rating" on the photo itself.
At nearly $0.70 per print, these gimmicks felt too expensive for us to justify using.
Print quality and steps to ensure great prints
The print quality of the Instax pictures is excellent, and even though the images are small, we appreciate the amount of detail that can be packed into a small space. If you've used instant-print film before, you already know what to expect.
Of course, you may be wondering why someone would want photographs that are so small in the first place, and as such, the Instax Mini Link likely wouldn't be for you. However, the small photos fit perfectly in wallets, in scrapbooks, clipped to string lights, tucked in birthday cards, and more.
It also makes an exceptional gift for high school and college dorm dwellers.
While not for everyone, the Instax Mini Link is an excellent instant-film printer. We don't love every feature packed into the app, but it still excels as a printer.
Those who are interested in snagging their own can head to Amazon, where an Instax Mini Link printer retails for $99.95. Additional packs of film vary based on color and quantity, but a 50-pack of standard film can be purchased for $34.75, with free shipping for Amazon Prime members.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
- Easy to print photos from the companion app
- Film is widely available, subject to regular discounts
- Small size makes it travel friendly
- Instax app is cluttered with gimmicky features
- Charges via microUSB, included charging cable is small
- Device could be prone to damage if not protected with a case