October 25, 2017
Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3
By Jim Fisher
Editors’ Rating: EXCELLENT
Prints square format analog film. Compact. Battery powered. Works with Android and iOS. Wi-Fi.
High cost per print.
- BOTTOM LINE
The Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 prints digital images on square-format instant film. It’s a lot of fun, but film costs can add up.
When we reviewed the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 last year we had one big complaint: print size. The wireless printer, which uses the Instax Mini format, does a great job converting digital images to instant prints, but Instax Mini is, well, mini. The SP-3 ($199.95) leverages the new, larger Instax Square film format, isn’t that much bigger than the SP-2, and is priced the same as the SP-2 was at its introduction. The only real downside to moving to the larger format is that the film itself is more expensive. If you don’t mind paying about $1.50 per image, the the SP-3 is a solid choice for printing your favorite shots.
The SP-3 looks like the SP-2, just slightly larger all around. It measures 5.1 by 4.6 by 1.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 11.1 ounces. It’s certainly not pocketable, but will fit into a small bag without a problem. It’s also battery powered, with a micro USB port for charging, so you can take it anywhere you want to print photos on demand—it should be a hit at parties, family gatherings, and other social functions.
The battery is a higher capacity than the one in the SP-2. It’s the same rechargeable NP-50 that you get with the company’s square format hybrid digital/instant SQ10 camera. The SQ10 is supposed to be able to print images shot with other cameras from a microSD memory card, which overlaps some of the SP-3’s functionality, but in testing we found that it only worked sporadically.
The SP-3 is rated for 160 prints per charge. I only received two packs of film to test, so I wasn’t able to able to run it down completely. As long as you remember to top off the battery before going to an event, you’ll be fine. And if you forget, because it charges via USB, you can always juice it up with a portable power bank.
You can buy the SP-3 in a black or white finish. I received the black version for review. Its finish is matte, with bronze accents, including the top plate, from which film ejects. LED indicators show the number of prints left in a film pack. The printer retains the angular design of the SP-2. The Power button is at the top, occidental to the film eject slot. A Reprint button sits to the slot’s right.
Film loads in the rear. It’s easy to install a pack—just make sure the yellow line on the cartridge lines up with the line in the compartment and close the door. Instax Square film retails for about $15 and includes 10 shots in a pack. That’s $1.50 an image, about double the price of Instax Mini.
For the extra money you get an image that’s a lot bigger. The Mini format is 1.8 by 2.4 inches in size, not counting the border that surrounds prints. Instax Square is 2.4 by 2.4 inches, which means it has about 33 percent more surface area. The larger size gives images more impact, and the square format offers a big nostalgia factor—it’s the same that you got with the Polaroid film that many of us grew up with, complete with a glossy finish.
You can still get film for your old Polaroid camera, from Polaroid Originals (formerly Impossible Project) film. But it’s more expensive, closer to $2.75 per image. Impossible’s take on the instant printer, the Instant Lab Universal, is a lot different. It prints optically from your smartphone’s screen, so it’s more of a hands-on process, with voice instructions provided by Werner Herzog. Fujifilm doesn’t have an iconoclast German auteur in its app, but it wins on ease of use, cost, and portability.
Wi-Fi and App
The SP-3 relies on a smartphone to send images for printing—it doesn’t have a card slot and it doesn’t connect to your laptop as a USB printer. It works with Android and iOS devices, using the Instax Share app. The printer broadcasts its own Wi-Fi network, which you can connect to without a password. The app does require a four-digit pin to connect, the default is 1111, to ensure that passersby can’t connect to your printer and use up your film.
Printing individual photos is easy. Anything that’s stored on your smartphone is available. You can also pull images from your own Instagram or Facebook account, but I found that both were a little slow to load, even on a fast Wi-Fi connection.
The app includes some basic filters. You can add what Fujifilm cals an Intelligence filter, or apply a sepia or black-and-white monochrome look. But that’s it. If you want to edit your images more heavily, download another app. VSCO is a popular option.
The Intelligence filter doesn’t make major changes to images. What it does is make the print output closer to what you see on your phone’s screen. Images printed using the filter tend to be slightly cooler in tone, with a bit more contrast. But they are closer to what I see on a calibrated display than you get without the filter applied, so I recommend using it.
Other print options include a Collage mode, which allows you to put multiple photos on one print, and Split, which spreads images across multiple prints. Both support filters and basic image editing—cropping and rotation. My only real complaint about the interface is that accessing the editing tools isn’t entirely intuitive. There’s a big green plus icon to change the photo, but you’ll need to lock in all images and hit OK before being able choose the portion of a photo to print or apply rotation.
There are also template features to add text, time stamps, or location data to prints. If you’re an experienced Snapchatter and enjoy adding some text commentary, you can use these. I’m a bit old school, however. If I want to write on an instant print, I’ll use a Sharpie to mark up the bottom border.
A feature new to the app is #Tag print, which combs Instagram for a specific hashtag and allows you to pick an image to print. Fujifilm says this is for printing photos from events—if your upcoming nuptials have a hashtag, you can cull Instagram shots from your reception and print on demand. While that’s a fine use, it does open the door to copyright infringement. I was able to pull up images with the #D850 hashtag from within the app and gain quick access to a number of photos shot by professional photographers and shared on the service. I’m not at all within my legal rights to make a print of another photographer’s work—but the app makes it easy to do just that.
If you’re a fan of instant prints, and are underwhelmed by the small image area delivered by Instax Mini film, the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-3 is a solid alternative. It works with the same app, so functionality is the same, but the print size is bigger, and square. You’ll have to pay, of course, not just for the printer itself, but for film. Instax Square currently sells for about $1.50 a shot, about twice as much as the Mini format. But if you don’t mind the cost, the SP-3 will reward you with real, physical images that you can hand to friends and post on the fridge.