By Peter Covino
Remember when picture-taking used to be fun?
We’re talking about those good old days before digital and that magic feeling we all got as we waited the 60 seconds or whatever it was for that Polaroid picture to develop slowly in front of our eyes.
The magic in photo photography is back in a small gadget from Polaroid (who else) that puts the fun in parties and other gatherings.
This mini-printer, which is about the size of a cell phone, only thicker, won’t replace anything serious if top quality and frameable photography are all that you are after. But if you are looking for a little bit of instant happiness to share with old friends or someone new you just might want to be friendly with, the Polaroid Zip Photo Printer is literally made to order.
Really amazing for its size, the Zip looks like a portable hard drive. It can easily fit into a pants pocket, but since this doesn’t have the durability of the average cell phone, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Everything you need (including 10 sheets of film), is included in a familiar-looking Polaroid-logo box. Other than the printer itself, the box includes a quick start-up guide and micro-USB cable for charging into a laptop or compatible AC units.
You install the Polaroid instant mobile printer app (free in the Google Play store and iTunes store) onto your phone or tablet and connect it via Bluetooth.
The printer will need a charge before you can start having fun (I think it will work so long as it is in printing mode), but I charged it via the connection cord for a few hours before getting started.
Your phone or tablet should find that Bluetooth connection without any problem, and hopefully in under a minute. And you are set to go, once you load the printer with the 2 x 3-inch Polaroid Zink Paper.
One thing I really like about this printer is there is never any toner or any other kind of cartridge to buy or replace. The Zink paper is embedded with cyan, yellow and magenta dye crystals. I don’t understand this magical process fully, but the crystals on the paper start off colorless, but as the print is being made, heat activates them, and in just about 60 seconds, just like those good ol Polaroids, you have a photo to share.
Unlike some of the instant Polaroid cameras of days-gone-by, you don’t quite get to see the magic happen right in your hands. The printer spits out your color print, slowly, and it is already processed, unlike the Polaroid prints that would develop in your hand, while you watched.
Remember, this is a small print. It’s 2×3 format is pretty much what you would put in a wallet “window.”
But the print quality is fairly decent. Again, this is not professional printing, or even as sharp as what you would get at a print-it-yourself kiosk at Walgreen’s. But you can’t take a Walgreen’s kiosk to a party or on vacation. It’s very small size and all-in-one feature is what makes it a winner.
Once you have your app loaded on the phone or tablet and it is synched, you are ready to go. Open the app and you will find several printing choices. With Quick Print you can either take a new photo with your phone and simply print it or with Edit Print you can take an existing photo in your photo gallery and tweak it with a number of editing filter tools available in the application. Either way, you can size your photo to take up all of that 2 x 3 space or leave a little room all around to create a classic Polaroid border if you desire.
In the edit mode, you can also add other fun frames and borders as well as icons and emoji.
The Zink paper peels away on the backside to reveal a sticky surface so you can stick your photo creations pretty much anyplace you want to.
Hit the Collage “button” for something that is really kind of fun. You can keep adding photos to a variety of pre-assigned layouts, so you can show off your photos in a themed arrangement. The mini-size of these photos can make it somewhat impractical, but you can at least get creative if you so choose.
Name Card in that gallery of choices seems maybe even less practical, but it gives you at least one more printing choice. It is pretty much as the name implies, a way to create your own business card. There are template choices so you can select a photo, size it to a small space and follow that template guide to include information like name, phone number and email.
You can switch around styles and colors too. It is another fun, creative process, and is another way to show off just what your Zip can do.
I haven’t fully explored Secret View mode that adds a unique QR code to the print that only reveals the image when viewed with the app.
The Zip printer does a lot for such a tiny package. I haven’t exhausted the battery in one charge, but it looks like you can probably print somewhere between 25 to 30 prints on a charge. And that should get you through most parties I would imagine.
The Polaroid Zip printer is available at Best Buy and Target and many online retailers for $129.99.
A box of 2 x 3 Zink paper will cost you about $15.99 or so, for about 30 prints, which is about 53 cents a print.