Preserving vacation memories: Hawaii, An 8 year old, and the Fuji Instax SHARE SP-1 Printer

DSCF6012(Click to view photos larger and at higher quality)

In February I wrote an article about the Fuji Instax SHARE SP-1 Printer called “A photograph needs to be real:  The beauty of the Fuji Instax printer“.

In that article I shared my thoughts about “growing up” in the era of digital photography and how, recently, I had come to realize the value of the printed photograph.  I discussed the impact an amazing printed photograph has on me, and also my desire to print more often.

While thinking about some upcoming photography projects I was planning, and a photography trip I was about to take,  I realized how valuable the Fuji Instax SHARE SP-1 printer would be.  Thankfully it worked out that I could receive one before I left for my trip.

I have to admit that I was like the little kid on Christmas day waiting for the courier to deliver the printer.  I will always be the guy who nerds out on new gear, but this time it had special meaning to me:

My daughter is a visual child.  She loves creating imagery, drawing, sharing creations on the iPad, etc.  We were about to embark on a family vacation to Hawaii (you can read about that trip and view images of that beautiful place HERE) and I had a plan:  I secretly packed the printer and some film in my bag, and each day I planned on sitting down with my daughter to print out her favourite images from the trip.  My wife and I brought along an empty photo album which, by the end of the trip, would be full of prints that would be hers to keep and share with her friends.

THE SETUP

Let’s start with the “how to”:

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Setting up and using the printer could not be easier.  Above you see just about everything you need, namely the printer and some film!

First, the printer takes two CR2 batteries.  These are definitely not the cheapest batteries around, but the printer does come with a set so you are ready to go out of the box:

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Once the batteries are in, the next step is to load the film.  Fuji Instax film comes in cartridges of 10 frames.  The cartridge is literally plug and play:  Just open the compartment, slide it in, and close the lid!

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When you turn the printer on, the cover from the cartridge is automatically ejected and you are good to go. The interface of the printer is easy to understand.  A set of 3 green lights indicates how much battery life you have left.  A set of 10 green lights indicates the number of frames left in the cartridge.  Simplicity at its finest!

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If you look at the picture of the battery compartment (posted above) Fuji has also included a re-print button to make it easier to share images if you are giving out the same photograph to multiple people.

PRINTING

Once the printer is up and running you have two options:

  1. Print from your device (in my case an iPhone and/or iPad) using the free Instax Share App, or…
  2. Print directly from your camera (tested in this article with the Fuji X-T1 and Fuji X100T, I cannot comment on other models).

To print from your iDevice (it is probably the same for Android; however, I have no personal experience there) it is simply a matter of turning on the printer.  Once it is on, you then go into Settings on your device and select the printer’s WIFI network:

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When you initially do this you will need to pair the printer to your device with a password. Once you have connected, open the Fuji Instax Share App:

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Here you will see a variety of options, including taking a photograph using your device’s camera and printing it directly, choosing a photograph from your library, etc. Once you have selected a photograph it will look like this:

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Notice in the top right corner of the screen there is an Edit button.  When selected you can apply a template, crop or zoom, adjust the photo’s position in the frame, or apply a filter to the picture (e.g. black and white, sepia, etc). Once you have it the way you like it, simply select “Connect and print”.  In about 10-15 seconds you will have the picture in hand, and then the fun begins!

Printing directly from the camera follows a similar process:

  1. Turn on the printer.
  2. Select the picture you want to print on your camera.
  3. Hit the Menu button to go to the PLAYBACK MENU.  In the second set of menus select “Instax PRINTER PRINT”.  The camera will connect to the printer.
  4. Press OK to transmit the photo to the printer.

NOTE:  The camera can only transmit JPG to the printer, not RAW.  If you have a RAW photo to print edit it first in camera (hit the Q button while viewing the picture to bring up the RAW CONVERSION screen), then follow the instructions above.

IMAGE QUALITY

Let’s get back to our story, shall we?

When I was a kid, my father had a polaroid camera.  I remember sitting there waiting in awe as the photograph developed in front of my eyes.  It is was…. at that time in my life… magic. The funny thing is I don’t think that feeling goes away.  I have printed frames for kids and adults alike and that look of excitement as the photograph develops in front of their eyes is always the same!

The first time I used the printer on our trip was while we were at the airport waiting to board our flight.  I took a photo of my daughter while she was kicking back and printed it for her.  It was a magic moment, and one that set the tone for the trip ahead: INSTAXComparison2

The images produced by the Fuji Instax SHARE SP-1 printer are small polaroid “esque” prints…. perhaps about the size of a business card.    They are charming.  They are conversation pieces.  They are a moment captured in time that can be printed right then.  On the spot.

Are they perfect prints by today’s pixel peeping standards?  Of course not, they aren’t being printed in an expensive lab, on expensive equipment.  Then again, what does perfect mean?  More and more I am coming to the belief that pixel peeping is killing a part of photography.  Some people definitely need to focus more on the moment that has been captured, and less on the pixels.

For comparison’s sake here is one of our vacation photographs from Hawaii, with an Instax print beside it:

INSTAX Comparison

A little less clarity, a little more saturation, but most important of all a beautiful photo and memory in the hands of an 8 year old that she can share with her friends.  Nothing wrong with that at all.

If I had anything I could put on the wishlist for this printer it would be that I think it overexposes slightly.  Here is another example of two Instax prints.  Both images had good histograms with correct exposure.  The one on the top was printed as it was taken, while the one below it was brought down by about 1/2 stop before printing:

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A slight adjustment in exposure makes for a much better print in my opinion.  This slight exposure adjustment can easily be done in camera, or on your iDevice, before printing.  It has just become a part of my routine when I am using the Instax printer.

THE RESULTS

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The results of having the Fuji Instax SHARE SP-1 printer with me go far beyond just the photographs you see in the picture above.  Sure, my daughter has physical images in hand that she can share with friends and look at to remember a fabulous vacation. What we both have, however, are the memories of taking photographs together, reviewing them together, and printing them together.  These personal moments, this sharing of Instax prints, is truly where the beauty of this printer lies.

Today’s technology is amazing.  I have two beautiful cameras (The Fuji X100T and the Fuji X-T1), and now a tiny little printer that slides into my camera bag.  They all have built in WIFI and, with the click of a few buttons, I can print a photograph mere minutes after it was taken and give somebody a copy of that moment.  I say this often, but photography means “to write with light”.  It is a language, and a language is a means of communicating with others.  To be able to give somebody a print, in the moment, is amazing to me.

IS THE FUJI INSTAX SHARE SP-1 FOR YOU?

If the things that appeal to you are similar to what I have described above then I would say most assuredly yes!

If you are an obsessive pixel peeper who enlarges every image to 400% to see if the photograph is sharp at that level then no, probably not.  Keep going with whatever makes you happy.  🙂

The only other thing to mention is the cost.  As of the writing of this article, the Fuji Instax SHARE SP-1 printer retails for $188 Canadian on Amazon (about $144 USD).  Cost for the film is about 75 cents per frame.   Only you can decide if those prices are worth it to you or not. I shoot a lot of portraits, a lot of street photography, and love interacting with people more than almost anything when I am shooting.  For me, and for the memories and interactions this printer gives me, the cost is totally worthwhile.

CONCLUSION

I’d like to thank Fuji for making a product like this, and for reminding us that a photograph is not just a collection of digital 1’s and 0’s.   I have future projects lined up where this printer will be used extensively, sharing memories with my portrait subjects.

I’d like to leave you with a final image from this past Hawaii trip.  This was taken on the last evening there and the sky was as clear as clear could be.  I got to sit along the shoreline and watch the sun go down below the horizon line.  It was a beautiful thing.  I’ll be printing a large copy of this photograph for the wall at home.

My daughter?  She has had her own Instax print of it in her album since the night I took it.  🙂

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3 thoughts on “Preserving vacation memories: Hawaii, An 8 year old, and the Fuji Instax SHARE SP-1 Printer

  1. KTamas says:

    I’m a… recovering pixel peeper, always bothered by the quality of the SP-1, but at the same time, always reminding myself that nobody else actually cares about it. Which is kind of the point, because I don’t usually keep any of the prints I make, I print to give it away to others (typical use case: take picture of the kids, print it, give it to parents, watch their happy faces).

  2. Ian Docherty (@Plodicus335) says:

    You’re certainly right about “pixel peeping killing part of photography”…….after all, think of all the iconic (and I mean iconic) pictures taken throughout history. Well, believe it or not the vast majority of them were taken by ‘iconic’ photographers with equipment which was far inferior to the cameras and lenses us mere photographic ‘mortals’ have at home today.

    It really isn’t about the equipment in the vast majority of circumstances.

    Now, when is the X-Pro2 due out I wonder? 🙂

  3. Ian says:

    I love tack sharp photographs as much as the next person, without a doubt. The quality produced by today’s gear is amazing and, for a commercial job, you absolutely need that.

    It’s all about the purpose of the print though. I’ve handed Instax prints to people who were so happy to have a memory of the moment. They would never sit beside me, zoom in on the computer screen, etc. They will, however, show their friends and family that little picture again and again and that is the point. It’s an amazing thing!

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