Instant cameras and printers using Zink (zero ink) technology have continued to grow in popularity over the past few years. Zink printers from numerous manufactures were a leading photography tech trend at CES 2019 and included printers from HP, Canon, Polaroid and, of course, Kodak.
Zink printers are particularly popular among general consumers, enabling quick prints from smartphones thanks to wireless connectivity and relatively affordable prints and compact hardware. The second generation HP Sprocket was particularly popular this past holiday season and was a product Amazon couldn’t keep in stock in the lead up to Christmas 2018.
A 20-pack of Zink photo paper typically costs around $10, which works out to around 50 cents per print. For something that easily fits into a purse or coat pocket, that’s a fair deal in my opinion. For comparison, the leading Fuji Instax instant film ranges from 60-ish cents per print up to $1 per print.
Kodak showed off three new Zink instant print products as part of a new SMILE line, including a 10MP compact camera (above) and a printer (below) with the standard 2″ x 3″ Zink print sizes. Each of these smaller print products deliver up to 40 prints per charge and will retail for about $100 when they ship later this year.
Additionally, Kodak introduced its new SMILE Classic Instant Print Digital Camera, which offers 3.51″ x 4.25″ prints, delivers 35 prints per charge and sports 16MP images. It will retail for $150 and also ship later this year.
Both cameras feature a fixed focus lens, automatic flash and a 10-second timer. Captured images are stored on a MicroSD card in JPEG format. The SMILE Classic features a pop-up optical viewfinder.
The cameras also double as wireless printers with the use of the Kodak Instant Print Companion app. In practice, this app works well and is very intuitive to use.
I was able to easily transfer photos from my iPhone to the demo iPhone using AirDrop and print photos, which I had previously imported from the Canon EOS R.
In deciding which SMILE device best fits your needs, I think you’ll need to decide (1) whether you’ll use a camera apart from your phone and (2) whether the larger print size of the SMILE Classic justifies the increased size and expense. At first glance, I’m pretty impressed with how nice the Zink images look. I also appreciate the throwback format and increased image size of the Classic model.
In addition to the new SMILE instant cameras and printer, Kodak also had an upcoming compact dye-sublimination printer on display at its CES booth. The printer is slightly larger than the compact Zink printer and uses replacement cartridges that include 12 sheets of photo paper and sufficient ink for those 12 prints.
The dye-sub printer will retail for $99 and should ship later this year. The key difference you’ll see is slightly larger printers with improved dynamic range and overall better quality compared to the standard Zink printers.
The downside is that you’ll have to wait for three passes as each layer of ink is printed on the paper, which you can see in the image sequence below. (The entire process still takes less than one minute per print.)
All said, this is the best outing I’ve seen from a Kodak-branded line-up in quite some time. There’s a solid line of consumer-oriented scanning devices, along with these instant printing cameras and the compact printers. The roots of the Kodak brand look stronger than last year when we saw that weird bitcoin mining scheme, which is now dead.
Keep it up Kodak. This is where the brand belongs – delivering convenient photo products in the hands of the general photography consumer (aka now the iPhone user).