Our smartphones have quickly become our “go-to” device to capture memories, but many of us rarely print those “Kodak moments” to share with family and friends. Here lies the beauty of portable photo printers. They'll create instant photos from your phone on the go!
Unlike a desktop or mobile printer, these devices are small enough to stuff in a coat pocket or purse, require very little setup, and make it possible to print out hi-quality, physical copies of photos taken with your smartphone, anywhere you go. It's almost like carrying around an old-school instant camera with you, everywhere you go.
After spending extensive time researching and testing six different portable photo printers, our top pick is Polaroid Hi-Print(available at Amazon for $77.40). It creates crisp, colorful prints and comes with an easy-to-use app that makes using it a joy.
Here are the best portable photo printers we tested ranked, in order:
With its playful, sturdy design, and above-average print quality, the Polaroid Hi-Print is the most well-rounded portable printer of all the models we tested.
At 6.0 x 3.0 x 1.0 inches in size, the Hi-Print has roughly the same dimensions as a large-screened smartphone, albeit a bit thicker. Its glossy white finish is accented by a rainbow of colors that wrap around one end of the printer, so you’ll never have to deal with being unable to find it in your bag or backpack.
Connecting it to a smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth was simple, as was installing the combination paper/ink cartridge that the Hi-Print uses to create 2x3-inch prints of your photos. Step-by-step instructions are included in the Hi-Print’s companion app. Within minutes, we had the printer set up and ready to start printing pictures. During testing, we never felt the need to pick up the product's instruction manual or jump online for assistance.
In addition to allowing your phone to communicate with the Hi-Print, the companion app provides a number of basic editing tools that allow you to change the framing of the shot you’re about to print, alter it with a filter, or deck it out with colorful digital stickers. While there are a lot of more powerful paid and free image editing apps out there, having these options built into the app is a nice touch. You can even use the app to capture new photos, using the app, without the need to switch over to your smartphone’s camera interface.
The Hi-Print wasn’t the fastest printer that we tested for this guide. However, it isn’t so slow to deliver printed photos that one might consider it irritating, either.
Although the Hi-Print didn’t offer the best image quality of all the models we tested for this guide, its prints were still crisp and largely true to the digital photos we used during testing. We noted a tendency for this printer to tone down some of the brighter colors captured in our test photos. However, this is an issue that can be sidestepped by tweaking the color saturation of an image before sending it to the printer. All things considered, a bit of color desaturation is a small price to pay for how pleasurable the Hi-Print is to use.
Canon has worked very hard to make its Ivy portable printer scream that it’s supposed to be fun. Small in size, available in a number of color options, and equipped with wrist strap eyelets that allow you to take it anywhere you go, it could be the perfect accessory for a ‘tween shutterbug.
The Ivy uses 2x3-inch Zink photo paper with a peelable backing, allowing users to turn their photos into stickers. During testing, I found that this printer’s Bluetooth connectivity was reliable, making for a smooth printing process. Many images I sent to Ivy finished printing within 50 seconds. That being said, I found colors to be slightly muted, looking less vibrant than they had on my smartphone. Many of the photos I printed during testing took on a slight blueish hue, turning pinks into dull purples. Skin tones often suffered from this same issue.
As with many of the other portable printers I tested, the battery life is lackluster. While you can easily print more than a dozen photos on a single charge, a charging cable is necessary when traveling to ensure continuous printing.
With a footprint of only 4.5 x 3.0 x 1.0-inch, the sleek, lightweight design of the Kodak Step makes it easy to slip into a small purse, backpack, or even a pocket.
Setting up the Step was easy. Its companion app (available for iOS and Android)walks you through the process, connecting your phone to the portable printer via Bluetooth. During testing, the printer appeared immediately in the app. I was ready to print photos within a few minutes of unboxing the device.
Kodak has vastly improved its editing app in the time since the original version of this guide was written. The app’s user interface is easy to navigate and offers a wealth of editing choices. There is a wide selection of stickers, filters, and frames to choose from. A collage feature will let you assemble your favorite photos into a single print.
The Step prints photos on 2x3 -inch Zink photo paper which, as we explain in our What Your Should Know section, means you don’t have to worry about replacing ink cartridges. Printing a photo takes no time at all. A single can be printed in as little as 40 seconds. The Step can churn out 20 photos before it needs to be charged again.
Once printed, photos appeared crisp with a surprising amount of detail. However, the colors reproduced in the photo were not always accurate. Photos printed with the Kodak Step tend to take on a reddish hue. Skin tones often appeared too warm and printing black and white photos proved difficult as there was always a faint pink or red hue in brighter areas of the image captured.
As one of the smallest models we tested, the Fujifilm Instax is perfect for on-the-go fun. Not only does the app allow you to fully customize prints by applying filters and adding fun captions, but you can also buy photo paper with designs already printed on it, to add even more character.
This printer stood out as it was the only model where photos developed after they were spat out of the printer, making it feel like your smartphone has been transformed into a classic Polaroid camera. Blow on the photo, shake it, wait—it was a pleasure to watch the photos the Instax produced slowly come to life. That said, impatient photographers might find this charming bit of photographic nostalgia to be a dealbreaker.
Each photo can take up to five minutes before all the colors in the print finish processing. You should know that this pokey method of printing speeds things up in another area. Because the photo develops after leaving the printer, there’s no need to wait for one photo to finish printing before another can be produced. A number of photos can be printed in quick succession, making it possible to share them, quickly, with friends.
We loved that the Instax provides a digital count of how many shots it can print—a feature no other device in this guide offered—before you’ll have to install a new pack of paper. Thanks to this feature, shutterbugs will never be surprised when their printer can no longer be used to print when they’re out and about.
At 4.5 x 3.0 x 1.0 inches, the LifePrint 2x3 Hyperprint was by far the smallest we tested and the lightest at 7 ounces. It was also, by far, the fastest, with photos taking around 30 seconds to print. Some of this speed comes from the fact that LifePrint uses Zink (Zero-Ink) technology to print its photos. Since the ink is incorporated into the sheets of paper, you don’t have to worry about loading a bulky two-in-one paper/ink cartridge. You simply have to load paper.
But the resulting 2x3 photographs were the worst of any portable photo printer we tested for this guide. The images were very soft, lacking any crisp detail. We noticed subtle artifacts in areas of solid color. The colors were also muted compared to the other printers.
On the positive side, the LifePrint app did have a lot of customization options, including the unique ability to turn a still photo into a short video through augmented reality. While using the app, you can hover your camera over a photo and it will magically come to life for a few seconds. It’s extremely gimmicky, but it is kind of neat the first few times you try it out. This printer also has its own social network to share videos and images.
Looking at some of the features, it’s clear LifePrint is aiming at a younger audience and one that may prioritize fun over actual print quality.
The Victure PT320 was the wildcard in our test group. While we hadn’t heard much about this company’s hardware, the Victure continued to pop up, with glowing reviews on several e-commerce sites. So, we decided to give it a go.
Unfortunately, the Victure started getting sketchy, as soon as we started setting it up for testing.
While setting up the printer using a Bluetooth connection, it appeared on our smartphones as a Kodak printer. This conflicted with the Victure’s instructions, which state that the device will appear in a smartphone’s Bluetooth pairing list as a “photo printer”. As there was already a Kodak printer in our test group, it took quite some time to sort this issue out. We also noticed the printer’s companion app looked strangely familiar: it was an almost identical clone of the app used by the Kodak Mini 3 Retro. The only distinguishable difference is that it was missing the Kodak logo.
We reached out to Victure to have them address our concerns. The company responded, telling us it uses the same manufacturer as Kodak for its portable printer. It’s certainly not unheard of in the tech world for two different companies to use the same manufacturer, but they typically offer different features and app interfaces to differentiate them from one another.
Despite figuring out the name of the printer in our Bluetooth settings, the problems continued. We had nothing but issues trying to connect this portable photo printer to our Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra. While the app would see the printer and tell us it was connected, it constantly produced an error when we tried to print a photo, telling us no printer was connected.
After four hours of playing with the Victure’s settings, we gave up and contacted customer service. Victure doesn’t offer a telephone helpline, so we had to send an email. Their response was to send us a link to a YouTube video, illustrating how to connect the printer to your smartphone. Nothing resembling troubleshooting was offered. Attempting to connect the Victure to our iPhone 12 Pro Max, and an iPhone X yielded identical results.
My name is Mike Yawney. I have been reviewing tech products for over 15 years, with most of that time spent in front of the camera, talking tech, and reviewing everything from smartphones to video games on one of Canada's most popular national morning television programs. When I’m not standing in front of the bright lights, you can find me trying to find a nice quiet spot to talk tech on the radio. I also post video reviews and how-to guides to my personal YouTube channel.
I always have their latest smartphone in hand, a new laptop on my desk, and a game installed on my console, ready to review.
To see how easy each of the products in our test group were to set up and whether or not they were compatible with iOS and Android devices, we connected them to a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, and an iPhone 12 Pro Max.
We then used both smartphones to snap a large variety of photos to test with our lineup of portable printers. On the Galaxy S21 Ultra, we relied on photos taken with the 108MP wide-angle camera, along with the 10MP telephoto lens. On the iPhone 12 Pro Max, we tested shots taken with the phone’s 12MP camera system. Once the shooting was complete, we selected an image from each of the following groups:
A full-color photo of decorative succulents
A black and white portrait of a young girl
A full-color landscape photo of downtown Calgary, Canada with a filter applied
A full-color photo of the Nova Scotia coastline
*A Black and white photo of an old chest
Next, using each printer’s companion app, we applied an image filter to our photos. We then printed the altered photo, to see how the images compared.
Finally. In addition to assessing print quality, we looked at how easy each of the printers was to set up, their overall useability, companion app functionality, battery life, durability, and the overall user experience.
What You Should Know About Buying Portable Photo Printers
There are a few factors you should consider.
Print Methods: The devices we tested a variety of different printing techniques. Three of the printers used dye sublimation, which uses heat to transfer ink from film sheets to photo paper. This process takes time, as each sheet of photo paper must pass through the printer four times to lay down each layer of color before a final print is revealed. One printer used Zink technology where paper is embedded with dye crystals, which change color once heat is applied. Finally, the Fujifilm Instax uses the classic “Polaroid” technique: developer fluid is stored within the edges of the photo paper. Once a photo leaves the printer, the developer fluid saturates the photo and begins to produce an image.
Consumables: You should consider the way the printer prints your photos. Do you want a simple two-in-one style cartridge with paper and ink together like the Polaroid Hi-Print, Kodak Mini 3 Retro, and Victure use? Maybe the simplicity, convenience, and speed that Zink provides are more important to you than the quality of the photos that can be printed. If you’re feeling nostalgic, seeing a photo slowly develop in front of your eyes, with classic Polaroid-style film, might be more to your liking. Taking the time to think about how, where, and what you expect from a photo printer, before buying one will help to ensure your satisfaction. You should know that no matter which system you choose, photo paper is not cheap. Single prints can set you back anywhere between 50 cents and one dollar. So, you must shop around for your refill ink and paper. There are deals to be found online, and you can save money if you buy in bulk, purchasing multiple packs at the same time.
Photo Format: Portable photo printers, typically, tend to print a single size of photo: 3x3, 2.7x2.7, and 2x3-inch prints. While the larger 3x3 sizes work well for portraits and selfies, the wider 2x3 format is more appropriate for landscape photography. If what you want to print isn’t well sized to the paper in your printer, keep in mind you can always crop your photos using apps on your smartphone, including the companion app for your photo printer.
Battery Life: None of the printers we tested offered exceptional battery life, with most proving capable of printing between eight and 12 photos before needing to be recharged. If you want to print additional photos on the go, you will need to carry a charging cable and power brick, or [external battery pack]( with you.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.