Kodak Smile Instant digital printer
“The Kodak Smile Instant offers simplicity, affordability, and portability – with just enough extras to add that cool factor.”
Compact, pull-out design
Simple user interface
Comparable print quality with other zinc printers
At 5 megapixels, the camera option is missing
Colors don’t print perfectly
The printer app is not as robust as some editing apps
With the Kodak Smile instant digital printer, which closes the gap between Instagram and the real world, you can print photos from your phone, while the Smile instant digital camera lets you take, share, and print photos, so you can have both a digital file as well as get an instant print you can stick on your fridge.
The Kodak Smile Instant Printer spits out 2 x 3-inch zinc photos from a phone connected to Bluetooth. While portable instant printers are easy to find, thanks to augmented reality, Smile goes one step further and allows you to embed a video in a still image that plays on your phone when you scan the printout like a QR code. The Kodak Instant Smile digital camera is essentially the same printer, but with a 5 megapixel camera hidden inside. However, the instant smile camera lacks the ability to connect to a smart device – and thus the AR video function.
But every budget-friendly camera or printer like this raises the question: is it affordable or just cheap?
Simple and elegant
The Kodak Smile Instant Printer has a boxy but slim design with a textured handle and rounded corners. It is shorter than a standard size smartphone, but two to three times thicker, which means that it doesn’t fit exactly in the pocket, but easily fits into a small camera bag or purse. Pushing out the structured control panel turns the printer on and opens to expose the paper exit slot. The printer has no other physical controls except for a cover on the opposite side that pops out to load the zinc paper.
A light at the end of the printer flashes when the Bluetooth is turned on, and then stays on when the printer’s Bluetooth is ready to connect. The light also blinks blue when the printer receives a photo and prepares to print.
Hillary Grigonis / Digital Trends
For its part, the Smile Instant Camera looks incredibly similar and doesn’t look much bigger. By pulling on the structured side, the camera is opened and pushed out to expose the lens hidden underneath. The same pull-out action turns on the camera and shows the camera controls on the back, a set of five buttons. The camera also has a microSD card slot that is not found (or needed) in the printer.
The plastic material feels surprisingly sturdy for a $ 100 camera, but the LCD screen on the back offers it as an inexpensive option. The screen is less than one and a half inches wide, which, combined with a low resolution, makes it difficult to determine many details. The screen is also difficult to see from an angle and looks best when held straight. It’s not great, but it’s pretty normal when it comes to instant digital cameras. The Smile Instant Printer does not have a screen because it is based solely on your phone.
The camera isn’t really meant for people who already have another camera, but its simple design makes it ideal for children.
The camera isn’t really meant for people who already have another camera, but its simple design makes it ideal for children. I had no problem handing it over to my 6 year old who quickly figured out how to turn it on, take a picture, edit and print it. You can probably leave the manual closed.
The only thing that is not intuitive is the loading of the zinc paper. However, there is a diagram in the camera and printer showing which side is facing up.
In addition to simplicity, the built-in battery is also an advantage, which enables charging via USB instead of constantly replacing disposable batteries. The camera also has internal memory in case you forget a microSD card.
Despite the lack of a camera function, the instant smile printer feels like the product with the more extensive functions. The Kodak Smile app guides you through the process of connecting the printer to your phone or tablet via Bluetooth. This is fairly straightforward and should get the printer up and running in no more than a minute or two. After the first connection, the printer automatically reconnects each time it is switched on.
Once connected, you can take a photo directly in the app, access the camera roll to print out a photo you’ve already taken, or log in to Instagram, Facebook or Google Photos to print images directly from your social media accounts. The app includes more than two dozen filters, as well as tools for cropping, rotating, adjusting the exposure and more. Style tools integrate text, stickers, frames, and doodles. You can use the Share button to share the same changes with social media before printing. This goes far beyond the simpler editing tools of the Smile Instant Camera.
However, it’s not the best photo editing option, and there are many better apps out there. For example, brightening an image has also significantly reduced contrast, while apps like VSCO do a much better job here. Some other functions can only be used to a limited extent, e.g. For example, the collage option that tries to compress multiple images onto a 2 x 3-inch print.
As soon as you tap the Print button, the app will ask you how many copies to make. The printer can then work. It takes approximately 30 seconds to create a zinc print. This is certainly longer than the competition printers that use Fujifilm Instax films. The advantage, however, is that you don’t have to wait for zinc pressure to develop. However, trying to queue a series of photos for quick printing can be a little annoying. The app suggests waiting for a second photo to be sent until printing is complete. Once or twice, the printer did not respond to the first attempt.
However, the printer goes beyond typical still images. With an augmented reality function, you can virtually embed videos and face filters in the printouts. AR-enabled prints take a few minutes to send to the printer – long enough to ask us if printing would work – and are printed with a video icon in the corner to indicate that a linked file is present. Unfortunately, the icon is not shown in the preview, so you just have to remember not to add any important details in the lower corner.
When you watch the video on your phone screen, it will play over your refrigerator, table, or anywhere the print is in space.
After printing, the same Kodak Smile app can “scan” the printout with your phone’s camera and play the video in augmented reality. When you watch the video on your phone screen, it will play over your refrigerator, table, or anywhere the print is in space. Anyone you give the physical expression to must have the Kodak Smile app installed to view the hidden video. As long as you provide these instructions, this can be a fun way to share more than just a still picture in things like wedding invitations or family vacation cards.
However, the magic is not perfect. It took a few tries to properly align the image, and the app can be thrown off due to different backgrounds or if the print edges start to curve. Sometimes the scan was immediately successful, sometimes it took a few minutes for the print to be perfectly aligned so that it could be finally scanned.
Compared to the printer, the Smile Instant Camera offers only a few editing options that are even more minimalistic than the camera itself. There are only four filters: normal, monochrome, vintage (or sepia) and aqua (which gives photos a blue tint). The only other option is to print with a border or not.
There are a few more options on the menu, including a photo booth mode that lets you take two photos side by side, and the flash settings. An automatic print option automatically prints each photo instead of asking for permission first. Choosing which photos to print is one of the advantages of instant cameras over instant cameras.
Image and print quality
If you already have a phone, find the printer above the camera. Images taken with the camera are lackluster – and that’s nice. While the camera announces 10 megapixels, the fine print says that the sensor has only 5 megapixels and that additional resolution is generated by interpolation. This is a fancy term to increase resolution by extracting information from the surrounding pixels and guessing what these new pixels should contain. It is certainly not the same thing as starting with a 10MP sensor. This is not a real problem when making zinc prints since the paper is so small, but it means that you cannot do much more with the digital files.
The pictures absorb some noise indoors, which leads to a considerable loss of detail. Indoor photos were also likely to have a soft, fuzzy quality – probably because the lens and sensor are not big enough to collect enough light for a fast shutter speed to freeze motion.
Outdoors, the images perform a little better, if not much, with reasonably decent colors and less noise and blurring. The edges of the frame are pretty soft and even the middle is not crazy sharp. The brightest areas of the image were also somewhat overexposed.
While it’s easy to tear the pictures apart on a computer screen, the camera is really meant to make small 2 x 3 inch prints. Some of the grain and blurring goes into the small prints, and the color on the paper is not quite as good as on the screen. With the smaller size, however, some of these image quality errors are more difficult to notice.
If you pair almost any smartphone with the Kodak Smile Instant Printer, the image quality will be improved. Even an older iPhone 7 outperformed the Smile Instant Camera with higher resolution, better colors and less noise in low light conditions. You can also technically print from any camera to the Smile printer by simply transferring the photo to your phone first. So if you want instant printing from your DSLR or mirrorless camera, you can do so.
The pictures from the Kodak smile camera are poor – and that’s nice.
Of course, nobody said that zinc prints were of particularly high quality. The Smile printer is consistent with other zinc printers – so regardless of the quality of the digital file you started with, it’s not particularly good. When it comes to details, a photo from a 45-megapixel Nikon D850 DSLR didn’t look any better than an iPhone picture, but there are some creative advantages, from lens selection to depth of field, that such a “real camera.” “Can make out” Photos are also noticeable on the small zinc prints. And how much detail do you need for a 2×3 inch photo?
The colors are a little more striking. The colors in the print tended towards magenta and yellow, which was clearer in some prints than in others. The shadows also tended to be printed darker than in the digital file, which attenuated the colors in the shadows even more. However, other zinc printers tend to have the same color shift, so the error is not in this particular product, but in the medium itself.
Zinc paper – which can be used in any zinc printer regardless of the brand – is thick, glossy and has a sticker. The glossy surface resists stains and fingerprints quite well, but the less you deal with it, the better.
If the Kodak Smile Instant Printer were a high-end printer that spits out 8 x 10 seconds, the colors and the limited details would be a definite deal breaker. But for a $ 2 x 3-inch printer, it does exactly what we would expect it to do – spit out fridge-worthy prints that you can distribute to friends and relatives at parties or in the mail. Augmented reality video playback is fun, if a little fussy at times.
Is there a better alternative?
Mobile zinc printers are nothing new, which means that the Kodak Smile instant printer has competition. The Polaroid Zip has a similar functionality and price and has some more editing options in the app, but does not include the AR video option. The Fujifilm Instax Share SP-2 is available at a lower price and prints on Instax film instead of zinc paper, but also omits the AR option. The Canon Ivy has a similar price and can also print collages.
How long it will take?
The Kodak Smile Instant Printer is a $ 100 product and is not built to be spanked. However, the design felt more stable than we originally expected. It should take at least a few years, which would be enough to make your money.
Should you buy it
The Kodak Smile Instant Printer is a good buy for anyone looking for an affordable, portable printer. It’s a round, if not outstanding, mobile printer. However, stay away from the smile instant camera unless you are looking for a children’s camera. Even then, the Polaroid Snap Touch or Fujifilm Instax camera may be the better option.