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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A photograph needs to be real: The beauty of the Fuji Instax Printer

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I’d like to deviate from my normal blog posts that highlight recent photoshoots and talk for a bit about the value of a printed photograph.

I started in photography around 2007, a product of the digital era.  I’ve never taken a roll into a camera shop, I’ve never developed film myself.  Digital photography was a natural extension of my love of Apple computers, web design, etc.  I love the process of creating a photograph, importing it into Lightroom, editing it, and making it true to my vision.

Recently, however, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been missing something.  A photograph isn’t just a series of digital 1s and 0s.  It is something real.  It is tangible.

There is a restaurant my wife and I go to occasionally when we want to enjoy a quality meal.  When you walk in the door there is a large portrait of a blues musician from another era.  The eyes are piercing, and every time I see it I find myself lost in the photograph.  One of my favourite expressions is “a portrait should tell a story about the subject”, and this photograph does that every.  damn.  time.    Although my wife has printed a few of my images and they hang on various walls around the house, I am yet to print many of the 10,000 images sitting on my hard drive.

As a lover of Fuji’s X camera series I follow their product development, and recently they  launched an Instax printer (the Fujifilm Instax SP-1) that is portable and can print wirelessly straight from your camera or phone:

http://www.fujifilm.ca/products/instax/share_sp-1/img/index/pic_01.jpg

(Photo from Fujifilm.ca)

Think small polaroids.  The image quality isn’t what we would consider “high quality” by today’s digital standards, but anyone who focuses on that is missing the mark.

I should add that while this article was inspired by the Fuji Instax printer, it really is about holding a photograph in your hands.

My first exposure to the Fuji Instax printer came via one of my favourite photographers, a gentleman named Zack Arias.  He is a prolific photographer, educator, and blogger who isn’t afraid to share his opinions and stories.  Zack wrote about an experience using the Instax printer on the street:

http://dedpxl.com/the-girl-on-a-bridge-the-instax-sp-1/

 If you aren’t a gear nerd ignore the technical stuff in the article, that isn’t really what this is about anyway.  It’s about the moments.   It’s about having a memory that doesn’t just live on a hard drive, on an iPhone, in an instagram account.

Watch this six minute video.  Heck, if you’re in a rush just watch from around 4:05.  Watch the reaction of the bride and groom when they get the pictures in their hands during their wedding reception:

Ok, it’s a promotional product video.  I get that.  Watch the reactions and the emotions though.  That’s what counts.

You see the same reaction when Bert Stephani used the Instax printer while shooting street portraits in his Fuji X100T review.  You can see it in this video here starting around 13:52:

Watch the look on those children’s faces when the photographs develop.  They get to hold them in their hands and look at them as often as they want.  Those photographs will exist even after their iPad runs out of battery power.

Will I get a Fuji Instax Printer?  I’ll admit it, I want one badly.  Part of it is that I am a boy, and we love our toys.  The other part though is that I am an artist, and artists both create and share.

Realistically, would I use it that often?  I’m not sure if I would, or if that money should go toward other gear.

What that little Fuji Instax printer has done at the least though is to inspire me to make my favourite photographs real.  They deserve a better place than the spot they currently occupy on my hard drive.

See that photo at the top of this blog post?  That is my all time favourite photograph of my daughter.  I need to print that.

I spend a lot of time making large panoramas like this one:

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I need to print that too.  Large.  For the wall.

I am an occasional contributor to a website that focuses on mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X series.  The website is called:

http://mirrorlessminutes.com

Recently, on Twitter, we had a discussion that centred around the point that gear can inspire you.  It’s true.  I totally want a Fuji Instax printer.  I may or may not get one in the future, but that little printer has reminded me of the true value of a photograph.  A real photograph, not just a copy of a photo that lives on my phone.

That is all kinds of awesome.

Cheers,

Ian