As much as I love to take a ton of photos, I also find myself trying to find the most convenient way of printing my favorite shots without having to go to a photo printing facility or drop by to a local drugstore. These could take some time especially if there are long lines at the counter or if there are printing instructions to figure out, and worst, having to deal with a malfunctioned computer. I experimented on two popular portable photo printers which are from HP and Canon. I also own a Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic which develops photos instantly within minutes of taking a picture, but I have yet to see the photo quality of its portable photo printer which is called Instax Share. So for now, I would like to review and compare the two portable picture printers I mostly use: the HP Sprocket Plus ($149.95) and the Canon Ivy ($99).
Not only are these two portable printers convenient to use, but they also provide for a fun-filled activity since they’re perfect as keepsakes for family and friends, and they’re also great to use for mood boards or for any room decor inspiration. There is a lot of usage with these instant portable printers and all you need to do is to buy the refill paper and you’re good to go. Take note that both HP Sprocket and Canon Ivy uses Zink technology or Zink paper which does not require ink cartridges in order to print. However, there’s still a huge difference with their photo quality compared to when using the standard photo paper. Also, even though both Canon and HP uses Zink paper and can be charged via the standard USB cord, their final prints are definitely not alike, not to mention their respective hardware.
I first had the HP Sprocket Plus which I preferred over the standard size HP Sprocket because of its larger dimension. If I could find a portable photo printer that could print in 4×6, I would definitely go for that, but for now, the largest I have is the HP Sprocket Plus which is 2.3×3.4. The usual HP Sprocket has more or less the same size as the Fujifilm Instax, as well as the Canon Ivy. The HP Sprocket Plus and the Canon Ivy require apps to be downloaded first before you can start printing the photos. These devices connect to your phone via Bluetooth.
Let’s take a closer look at the similarities and differences between these two.
HP Sprocket/Sprocket Plus
This printer charges fast and it uses its own Zink paper in orange smartsheet which calibrates the device for a specific paper pack. The app is easy to figure out and it’s quite intuitive. It has what it calls “AR” or “Reveal” function which allows you to scan the printed photos to reveal more contents about it. I don’t really use that feature much, but it’s good to know that HP has it. Additionally, the app has several filters to choose from and it also features frames and other photo special effects. The hardware prints fast and it doesn’t run out of power so soon. However, the final print takes on a more cyanotype tone, which is basically bluish and can look a bit gloomy. Depending on the photo, some may look a bit depressing. Also, for most 80% of the photos, there seem to appear a weird stripe that is kind of annoying, especially if you take a closer look at the prints. The refill paper for the Sprocket Plus is $10.39 for 20 sheets and for the Sprocket it’s $24.99 for 50 sheets or $4.99 for 20 sheets which are all sticker-backed.
This device which has a blue smartsheet has a pretty confusing app and it’s definitely not as intuitive as the HP Sprocket. It does have several filters and photo effects to choose from but the device itself gets hot and its power seems to drain easily. Printing is slow, a bit lagging, and also a bit noisier than the HP. The photo quality is in sepia tone, which is warmer and closer to the natural skin tone. I like that because it makes portrait photos appear alive, more natural, and realistic. It’s also brighter and quite similar to the photos on the phone but still not quite exactly. Sometimes some of the photos could get way too bright, but it’s not so bad. Though the prints may be small in size, it’s still clearer than my HP Sprocket Plus and there are no stripes! It’s also less expensive than the HP Sprocket ($129.95) and the HP Sprocket Plus. The refill paper price is $9.98 for 20 sticky-back sheets or $24.99 for 50 sheets.
All photos compared here are unadjusted. You can tell the difference in the photo quality between these two printers.
I have not tried replacing the HP Zink paper with the Canon ones or vice versa. But I have seen a youtube video where you can use the HP paper for the Canon Ivy, as long as you retain Canon’s orange smartsheet to calibrate the printer. FYI: when refilling the paper, always load with the smartsheet first with its barcode facing down.
Overall, I think I prefer the Canon Ivy’s photo quality more than the HP Sprocket or the HP Sprocket Plus, but I do love the size of the Sprocket Plus just because it’s a bit larger than the others. Although, it’s a little challenging to find the right frame or album that could store the HP Sprocket Plus’ photos since it’s not the standard size. I don’t seem to like the app of the Canon Ivy, but I also hate the stripes of the HP Sprocket which distorts the photo, and it makes it look grainy. It may not appear all the time in all the photos, but when it does, it can be really obvious. If Canon will make a large size of the Ivy like the Sprocket Plus, I would definitely purchase that.
Final thoughts, the photo quality of these portable photo printers are never going to be the same as the ones printed in photo paper or not even quite exactly the same as the photos in your phone, but these win for convenience and for the instant gratification of being able to print our most precious memorable shots, because after all, we still love to see our work printed and placed inside an album or framed somewhere in our homes.
The HP Sprocket and the Sprocket Plus is currently available HERE and HERE
The Canon Ivy can be purchased HERE
I will be testing the Fujifilm Instax Share printer pretty soon, so stay tuned…
Have you used these printers before? What are your favorite portable photo printers?