A few months ago (already!), Fuji launched the new X-T1. As part of the “press” I was invited to join the launch event that was to take place in the Canadian Headquarters.
It was a really fun event with great food, great people, and all the gear you can droll over. Fuji sure knows how to throw a party.
Tucked away in the corner of the showroom, was the Instax table. The Instax Mini 8 and Mini 90 were there, available to play with and snap away. I had always been intrigued by instant cameras. Print quality isn't where they shine — more on that later — they are more social then anything else.
Because I tend to interact with the subjects I photograph in the streets, I always thought that an Instax camera would be something amazing to carry around. Something that I could use to “give back” to the people I photograph.
Lights Out. The press conference is about to begin.
Greg and Billy, aka the FujiGuys, talk about what Fuji has accomplished over the last year (hats off to them) and what new products they are introducing in 2014.
We talk about the X-T1, the X-Trans sensor, the art of color reproduction in Fujifilm cameras, and all other very cool stuff.
The Instax family is still in the back of my mind. Low and behold, Fuji talks about the Instax Share SP-1 Printer and Billy even gives us a quick demo.
“Wow, this thing is lightning fast” I remember thinking.
When the conference is over, I voice my interest to Fuji around the Instax line and I get to leave with an Instax camera and some film.
I have been using the Mini 90 over the past few months and have absolutely fallen in love with it. It’s small, light, and most of all, it’s fun!
So far, I’ve taken it with me on trips to Brazil, to the US, and to just about every party I’ve attended since. I’ve even used it on portrait assignments to provide the client with a token they get to take home with them.
It’s a conversation piece for everyone. The kids love it because they are instantly gratified, and the parents shed a tear of reminiscence. It makes everyone smile!
But the thing I’ve noticed with it is that once you take the shot, that’s it. Unless you take another one within a split second, that moment is gone forever and only one recording of it will ever exist. There is something pure about that, something that film shooters will appreciate. However, when you are asked if you can “print another one like that” you are left hoping.
Enters the Instax Share SP-1 Printer. SP-1, for short.
Let’s talk about looks, since that is the first thing you experience. The SP-1 is very sleek, very ergonomic, yet very futuristic. A real departure from the X series cameras (and the Instax Mini 90) most of us are now accustomed to.
It’s white, glossy, and has rounded edges galore. It does look good however, don’t take me wrong. It reminds me of a plain white canvas, a medium for your art.
Something I like very much is that the SP-1 takes a very minimal approach to physical user interaction.
On the front you see a power button as well as the film release slot, simple enough. The top of the unit shows you a battery indicator as well as an indicator for the amount of exposures left (a very handy feature that the Instax cameras have as well).
On the right side of the unit, you will see two things, a DC power plug, and a Reprint button.
I call it “The Party Side”.
Picture this, you are at an event taking photographs of people. The SP-1 by your side on a table nearby plugged in to power (edit: it runs off batteries as well). You take a wonderful group shot of some friends. With the Instax cameras, they would have to share the one exposure or pose as many times as needed.
But not with the SP-1! You can use the Reprint button to spit out exact copies of the last exposure. With one button, Fuji has solved the biggest gripe I had with the Instax family. Bravo!
Alongside the CR2 battery compartment (x2), the back side holds typical FCC, and serial number information. Nothing to the left.
The bottom of the device is where you will load your film. If you are familiar with Instax cameras, you will find yourself right at home. Just rip open the film packet, insert the cartridge, close the SP-1 door and you're in business!
So you’ve now shot a few images with your phone or your camera. What’s next?
The SP-1 printer connects to your phone or tablet (iOS and Android devices) via the instax SHARE app and you can print any image saved to that device.
I've been using the Wi-Fi functionality of the X-T1 to save images to my iPhone and print them that way.
Where the Instax Cameras will only spit out an image based on what you’ve shot, the SP-1 printer gives you quite a bit of control over what is actually printing.
I won't go over all the different options, that is yours to discover, but I will highlight my favorites and the ones that I think could use a bit more work.
Printing from photos saved on your device is obviously the biggest thing about the SP-1.
Let me give you an example. I shot this photograph of this gentleman smoking in the streets of Toronto with an X-E2. We had a nice chat and he said he loved the image I captured.
Instead of giving him my business card for him to go and find said image, I could’ve provided him with this:
A print of that image, for him to keep. Look how nice and rich those blacks are!
The app even lets you add text to the print using the various templates it provides, if thats not a way to market yourself in the streets I don’t know what is.
One thing that I hope Fuji adds to the app is custom templates. A way for it to remember text, or even add a small watermark to your shot. As it stands, you have to edit your prints every time.
Speaking of edits, the app offers basic editing functionality. It allows you to zoom in/out of the frame, rotate the image, and apply Sepia or B&W Filters. The app also lets you connect to Social Networks such as Facebook and Instagram to retrieve images. Definitely part of the party mode I was describing earlier.
I mentioned earlier that the print quality itself was never the bread and butter of the Instax family. Don’t take me wrong, the images printed are clear and you will never have a hard time making out what is in that strip. It even has a vintage look to it that a lot of people use filters to simulate in the digital world.
Where I was disappointed however, is that even the text printed via the in-app templates, follows suit. It’s not clear nor consistent and makes it look like the printer is running low on ink.
As you can see, in the second sentence, the A is much clearer than the h at the end.
Maybe this is something that Fuji can address via an app update by making those templates a little bolder. As you can see above, thin text doesn't show very well on the prints.
So do I recommend the SP-1? Absolutely. Whether you are a street photographer, an event photographer, or even a wedding photographer (as Kevin points out very well in his review of the SP-1), this little printer is a joy to use.
I really don't want to send this back to Fuji as it means that I’ll have to buy my own…
The SP-1 is scheduled to hit the streets very soon, and I have a feeling that it’ll sell very well.
PS: Fuji, I hear you will be adding Instax Share to the X-M1 and X-A1 cameras, can you please update the entire family so I can print directly from my X-T1? Please and thank you :)
As always, all products mentioned above are available for purchase from the lovely people over at Aden Camera.