With the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link 2 Smartphone Printer, Fujifilm corrects a problem that a lot of us didn’t even realize we were having. Your average person has their smartphone within reach all day long, but the same isn’t true for their instant camera or digital SLR.
When was the last time you wanted to take and print a high-quality photo, only to be disappointed that you only had your smartphone on you? With the Link 2 Smartphone Printer, that isn’t an issue anymore. You can capture moments on your smartphone whenever they come up, then keep them in physical copy when it’s convenient to do so.
What’s included with the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link 2?
Not included: This printer works with Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Film, which I recommend purchasing in packs of 20 to get the best price. Like my French counterpart, I found the charging cable of the Link 2 to be too short; if you don’t have a perfectly placed power source available, you may want to purchase a longer micro USB charging cable as well. The Instax Mini Link 2 can print about 100 photos on a single charge, though, so my guess is that the shorter cord will be okay for most users.
What can the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link 2 do?
The Instax Mini Link 2 is a really funky little printer. It’s portable, wireless, and rechargeable, and it gives you the ability to create Polaroid-like instant photos, but… with less urgency.
The printing is instant, of course. But you don’t have to instantly print in the moment with the Link 2. Instead, you use your smartphone to snap photos as they happen, then pair it wirelessly with your Link 2 when it’s convenient. From there, you can print, filter, edit, and even draw on your photos. The result is a printer that lets you create beautiful, physical photos with an analog feel while keeping you in the moment with no extra devices.
Unlike other Instax Mini cameras, the Mini Link 2 has a video function. Like a lot of Instax products, it’s a mix of digital and analog technologies. With the Link 2’s video function, you can print photos with a QR code that takes viewers to that photo’s video. I think it’s mostly intended to help users capture entire moments, but I think it’ll be wonderful for things like birthday wishes and congratulations sent in a card or in the mail. Your recipient can receive a card and photo to put up on their wall, plus a little video with audio to watch when they miss you the most.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Link 2 prints 2.4″ x 1.8″ photos in 318 dpi. On a full charge, it can print about 100 photos. It connects to your phone using Bluetooth and has an auto-off feature, as well as others features like vibration on/off, LED customization, and a motion sensor.
How instax AiR works
Wait, you may be saying to yourself. A motion sensor?!
With the Link 2, Fujifilm introduces something that it calls instaxAiR. It’s touted as a real-time AR function, and it’s very unique. Taking cues from photographic light painting, AiR lets you use your Instax Mini Link 2 in combination with your smartphone camera to draw on top of a photo in real time! It took me a few tries to figure out how to best use AiR, but once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. Face the green LED light on the Mini 2 toward your camera, then press or half-press the device’s trigger button to “draw.” Fully draw your shape and snap your photo. If you don’t draw your shape with the Mini Link 2 before snapping your photo, you can still use your fingertip on your smartphone screen to draw with the same effects post-shutter-release.
Your drawing will appear on top of your photo in a pre-selected paintbrush. Some of the brushes, like the typical paintbrush and glow brush, remain static on the image. Others, like the bubbles and petals brushes, float toward the bottom of the image and can be used in videos as well.
How useful is Fujifilm instax AiR?
Honestly? I didn’t love AiR, personally. I think it’s cool that Fujifilm included it, and I think you could get some pretty cool effects with it if you’re patient and you have someone to take the photo for you from a significant distance. However, like most AR, it felt clunky to me in what is otherwise a very responsive app.
Like any other digital form of writing, AiR technology makes natural shakiness and jerkiness obvious. You’ve probably experienced something similar. You know how, when you sign your signature with a pen, it looks smooth and even—but when you sign on one of those slippery signature tablets using a stylus (or, worse, with your fingertip on a tablet screen), it looks like your signature was somehow electrocuted? That’s the same thing that happens to the AiR. It’s a cool, unique technology to see in a printer; it’s just not super smooth.
I do think that Fujifilm uses some amount of line smoothing in their mini Link app, and I am grateful for that. However, especially at close range, I still find that I need to try a few times to draw a shape before I’m happy with it. It’s not something that I think I’ll get a lot of use out of, but if you have steady hands, maybe you’ll enjoy it more than I did. (And if you don’t, but you still really want to try this AR AiR feature, the dynamic bubble, glitter, and petal brushes completely disguise any shakiness!)
Why the Mini Link 2 is a more versatile printer choice
I’m not sure what Fujifilm changed in its software between the Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 Instant Photo Printer and the Mini Link 2, but I feel like something changed. My photos come out brighter with the Link than I remember them being with the Share, and they lose some of that classic, creamy Fujifilm magic. It could be something on my end, like that I’m editing my photos to be brighter, perhaps, or that I’m viewing them on a dimmer screen—but I’m using the same apps now as I was in 2018. I still have the same phone, and camera, and photographic style. My best guess is that, on top of creating a lighter, smaller printer with a more responsive app, Fujifilm did actually make a software change to how they process images. And I think I know what that change is.
If you go into the settings of the Fujifilm Mini Link 2, you’ll see a little button that says “Print Mode Options.” When it’s toggled to “instax-Natural Mode,” photos come out like a brighter, washed-out version of what you see on your smartphone screen. Colours come out like what you’d expect from any other photo printer, not an Instax. When toggled to “instax-Rich Mode,” however, the Link 2 prints photos with a very similar style to a Fujifilm Instax Mini Instant Camera. Their colours are saturated and vibrant; the photos look punchy, creamy, and eye-catching.
Unlike other instant photo printers, you can have it both ways with the Link 2. It prints the over-saturated photos that you’ve come to love from instant printers and the precise pixels you rely on your smartphone for.
How to create an Instax Mini-like feel with the Mini Link 2
Fujifilm certainly added the two colour customization options because consumers wanted a more natural look in their photos, but I have to say: I’m sticking with the well-loved Instax aesthetic. If you, too, love the bold, vintage aesthetic of instant cameras, I recommend turning on Rich Mode. I tested a lot of photos two ways for this review, and here’s what I found was the best way to create an Instax Mini-like feel with the Mini Link 2:
- Turn on instax Rich Mode
- White balance your photo, either in your camera roll or in the mini Link app
- Manually turn down each photo’s brightness and contrast (I turned each down about 20%)
- For even more of an analog photo feel, skip the Instax effects. Instead, add blur or increase your photo’s noise reduction before selecting it in the mini Link app.
Should you buy an Instax Mini Link 2?
Going camping but don’t want to pack an extra device? No problem, you can print those photos when you get home. Headed to a party but don’t have space in your purse for a camera or printer? No worries, just drop your best pics in the group chat and you and your friends can pick your favourites in the morning. The Instax Mini Link 2 gives you the results of a high-quality instant photo printer with the flexibility of going digital, and it adds in video and augmented reality capabilities while it’s at it. It’s a great purchase for creating keepsakes, both digital and physical.
Shop the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link 2 Smartphone Printer online at Best Buy today.