Instant photo printers are sort of the quieter, less-cool sibling of instant cameras, but they’re arguably more practical. They don’t quite tap into the nostalgia-fueled fun of pulling out an Instax camera at a party, but they’re a more versatile means of getting to the final product: a real, live photo print you can touch and feel. In an age where virtually all of our photos live in digital storage on our devices or on social media feeds, a physical print is kind of magic.
There are plenty of ways to turn the photos on your phone into physical prints, but most of them involve waiting for shipping or finding a kiosk in a brick-and-mortar store, both of which are terrible prospects. Mobile photo printers eliminate the wait — they’re small enough to be carried in a purse or a bag so they can go where you go.
Our top pick, the Polaroid Hi-Print, isn’t exactly the most portable, but it produces the best color and print quality by far. It’s still small enough to fit into a larger purse or bag, but refill cartridges are on the bigger side and are definitely not going to fit into an evening clutch. For better portability and fun social event-friendly features, we like the Canon Ivy.
We tested instant printers that produce 2 x 3-inch photos, which is about the size of a credit card. There are compact printers that work with bigger 4 x 6-inch photo paper that’s better suited to hanging on your wall and other small size formats, like Fujifilm’s wide Instax, but for the purposes of this guide, only 2 x 3 options were considered. All of our picks come with free iOS and Android apps that you’ll need to download in order to use them, and they all worked without problems on both platforms.