Do you need the Instax Square Link in your life? Probably not. You might want it, but you'd better have enough disposable income to buy the consumable film you'll need to let this portable photo printer fill that void in your life.
It’s entirely possible that, with our review of the Fujifilm Instax Square Link, we’ve officially completed the set. Previously, we’ve encountered the Instax Mini Link 2 and the Link Wide. The Square brings us full circle (yes, we see how that could be confusing), rounding out the different instant film categories available from the Instax brand. Just, you know, without the camera.
What nobody tells you where you look at one of these in a store is how hard it is to design a portable photo printer that stands out from other portable photo printers. Fuji has tried here and it’s managed to do something a little unique. But sadly, the new feature is easily copied and even easily included in older versions of the hardware. That doesn’t exactly make the Instax Square Link a compelling buy.
Solid as ever
The design of the Instax Square Link has loads in common with the other devices in the series. As with most tech, there isn’t really much room for flamboyancy. Every smartphone looks like a smartphone. And every portable photo printer looks like… well… this. It’s a sturdy plastic rectangle, with a single physical button front and centre. That button is used to power on and set it up for connection to the mobile app.
Up top is the slot where your images slide out and the rear panel is a massive door for loading in your photo packs. There’s no other way to interact with it, save by charging. Here is where the one design change is present. Fuji’s included a USB-C port for charging, so now you can have it back up to full even faster than ever. Since it’ll print about 100 images on a charge, that’s a lot of consumable spend flowing into the company’s coffers. But you’re not supposed to think about it in those terms.
Nothing (really) new
In operation, Fuji’s Instax Square Link operates almost entirely the same way as the other products in the lineup do. It’s an instant camera without the camera. You’ll spend time picking the best images on your camera roll and wirelessly sending them for printing, ensuring that every shot is perfect. Or maybe you’re weird and will print the blurred images that you wouldn’t post online. You know, for the authenticity. Hipsters gotta hipster, but the main draw here is that every one of your fridge photos will look as perfect as instant film can make it.
As such, you’re more concerned with the app than the actual hardware. Fuji’s got the hardware locked up. The popularity of the brand’s Instax cameras alone proves that. The app for using its portable photo printer, though, looks like every bit of photo editing software released since about 1994. You know the type. Overly simplistic menus, large and obvious iconography, and ease-of-use aimed at the lowest common denominator. Whatever that is. Setting up and printing images, whether you’re editing, adding graphics or text, or making tiny collages and printing those, is as easy as it gets. Even if it’s not exactly slick.
Reality sets in
There’s one brand new feature, enabled by the Instax Square Link’s software — meaning this ‘feature’ can also be applied retroactively. If only it was worth getting excited over. Augmented reality (AR) would seem like the ideal addition to an instant photo but Fuji’s execution is a bit lacking.
It works like this — you can assign various AR effects to your image, which is then printed out with a tiny little QR code on it. Rather than simply letting users access the digital version of the image (which is hosted by Fuji until it decides not to do that any more) with a simple scan, anyone trying out this fancy new feature has to download the same app used to create said fancy image.
The photo itself isn’t anything remarkable. The AR feature is just a link to open a tweaked version of it in a mobile app that you aren’t going to need otherwise. It feels like an addition dropped in to justify another product rather than something that’s actually useful. It lets you put the term ‘augmented reality’ on the box, after all…
Fujifilm Instax Square Link verdict
Fuji’s compact printer tries something new but it suffers from the same drawbacks as the other models in the series — it’s very expensive for what you’re getting, it relies entirely on similarly pricey film packs to function, and you’ll spend about as much on film as you did on the printer itself before you run the fully-charged battery down the first time.
It’s a money pit. A potentially awesome one, depending on how you use it, but you’ll need a serious taste for retro in order to stick this product in your home-based Pile’o’Tech™. At R2,500 — the Instax Square Link’s current price and down from the R2,900 RRP — you could just snag the Instax Square SQ1 kit and experience instant photography the way it was always supposed to be. Rough, dirty, and just a little bit more fun.