The information in this post has now been superseded.
For both the SP-2 and the SP-1 printers, to see the latest information, you should click this link –
At the beginning of 2014, Fujifilm launched an instant printer for smartphones, the Instax SHARE SP-1. This printer utilised the already available Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film.
While some may consider that the Instax Mini film is not a serious photographic output target, but just a fun product intended for youngsters (and perhaps this was the developers intention), still many professional photographers have recognised innovative and serious applications for this little product. (I will cover some of these uses in an upcoming post.)
In this article I would like to show how to get the best out of this very high resolution instant film by use of the Instax SP-1 printer, and external image processing.
The typical use of the Instax printer involves either printing straight from a mobile device such as a phone or tablet, or printing straight from the camera (if you happen to have an Instax capable Fuji X-series camera, such as the X-T1, X100T, or the X30). This direct method of usage emphasises the immediacy of instant printing. However, when time-frames allow, it is also possible to use your normal computer based post-capture processing software to prepare images before sending them to the Instax printer. This way you can use more powerful software to achieve exactly the look you want, and also ensure that the image is prepared to exactly fit the physical format of the Instax Mini film.
For immediate use, Fuji has provided the Instax SHARE app with an “Intelligence Filter”, which is intended to optimise your images for printing on the SP-1, and this may be a very useful function in a printing on-the-run situation. However it is a bit of a one-size-fits-all approach since this type of on/off filter is unable to account for the end-user’s preferences. (For example, I find that the tone-curves delivered by this filter, are not to my own liking; others may differ in their assessment). Fortunately, you can make your own adjustments in your preferred image processing software, and then leave the Intelligence Filter off when printing on the SP-1. Many people use smartphone based image processing apps such as Snapseed.
Another problem that you may not be aware of, is that the SHARE app will prepare your images in such a way that a small amount of the edges of the image are lost when printed (this will be explained below). The following procedures will help you to prevent this from happening. These steps are executed on you computer or laptop, using software such as Photoshop.
Apply exposure, tonal and colour adjustments.
Many people have had the experience of Instax prints looking a little “washed out” – slightly over-exposed, and a little lacking in contrast and colour. So, you may want to reduce brightness (maybe a 1/2 stop or more), increase contrast slightly, and increase saturation slightly. Expect the images to look slightly underexposed on the monitor; they should print up a bit brighter. When you find (by experimentation) the combination of settings that give the best results with your photographic set-up, then ideally you might wish to save them as a preset in your processing software. If you are happy with the way prints come out without any adjustments, you can of course skip this step. By the way, if you are shooting in Raw + Jpg, you may be able to set up the appropriate contrast and saturation adjustments on your camera – they will only affect the jpg and the raw preview, but not the raw data itself. With this method, the photometrics of the images are already adjusted for Instax printing. You may be able to save a custom profile specifically for images intended for Instax printing.
Crop your image to a 4:3 aspect ratio.
This way, you (rather than the SHARE app) can determine which parts are cropped out. If you are using a DSLR, you will be converting from a 3:2 aspect ratio, and you will have to crop from either or both sides, keeping in mind the effects upon composition. If your images were taken on a micro-four-thirds camera, cropping won’t be necessary because 4:3 is the native aspect ratio of these cameras.
Convert the colour space to sRGB.
If your program gives you the option to select the rendering intent (the default may be “perceptual”), I would recommend choosing “saturation” to help retain any “pop” in the colours (rather than striving to maintain strict colour accuracy).
Resize the image to 62 x 46 mm image size at a resolution of 254 dpi.
(The SHARE app will automatically resize any jpg images for you, but the advantage of doing it yourself is that you can select the resizing algorithm yourself.). The printer has a resolution of 10 dots per mm, and the film itself, a resolving power of 12 lines per mm, meaning that the film is fully capable of rendering at the printer’s full resolution. But, how did we arrive at 254 dpi? Well, there are 25.4 mm in an inch, and ten dots to one mm, which gives 254 dots per inch. This is plenty of resolution. Without using a magnifier, you will be hard pressed to differentiate between something printed at 254 dpi and the same image printed at 300 dpi. If you follow these instructions and still find that your rendered image has poor resolution under close inspection, it will be due to some inadequacy in either capture or post-processing, but not with the printer or the film. Now that the image has been resized, sharpening can be done. I find deconvolution sharpening works well, if your software offers it.
Increase the canvas size to 64 x 48 mm.
In other words, apply a 1 mm border all around. This is because the Instax film is exposed through its “back”, and the image produced by migration of pigments to the “front” is 64 x 48 mm in size. However the white paper-like frame at the front of the film has dimensions of 62 x 46 mm, so that it overlaps the image by 1 mm all around, and that 1 mm all around of the exposure is not visible. This is why the canvas is extended slightly, to avoid losing any of the intended image. If you don’t do this step, the SHARE app will automatically resize your image to 64 x 48, and you will have that 1 mm of the image’s edge covered and not visible. Remember that 1 mm on the edge of an Instax Mini print is the equivalent of losing more than 4 mm per side on an A4 print. An alternative to extending the canvas with blank space, is to (if your program allows it) add a 1 mm gallery wrap to the image, which avoids the possibility of getting a tiny bit of blank image showing if the front white frame happened to be a little off centre or off size. (My experience, however, is that the dimension are very consistent and exact; – the film is, after all, made in Japan.)
Save your 640 x 480 pix, 254 dpi resolution, sRGB image as a jpg file.
You can use the highest quality jpg setting because, given the small size of the image, the file will tend to be small anyway. It can then be transferred to your mobile device which has the Fujifilm Instax SHARE app (which is available both as an iPhone and an Android app). The SP-1 is a wi-fi only device, and currently, use of the SHARE app is the only way to send images to the printer. Finally, select your image, (Intelligence Filter – off), and send it to the printer.
Ideally, these steps can be incorporated into one or two presets, so that your preparation of Instax prints can be done in an automated way. For example, I am using onOne Software’s Perfect Photo Suite 9, and I have set up an Instax preset which resizes to the correct resolution, adds the gallery wrap, and sharpens by simply selecting that preset.
As I have already said, the Instax Mini film has excellent resolution, but that resolution is applied to a quite small physical format, so a lot of detail may be lost in the resizing process. Don’t confuse dpi resolution (local detail) with the total amount of detail information contained in the final print (global detail). Or, don’t expect the Mini film to be more than it is. If you have realistic expectations, you will be better able to select and prepare appropriate images for Instax Mini output.
Because of the small format, the Mini film has to achieve its visual impact through relatively large and clear shape, line and form elements which are expressed through contrasting areas of light and dark tones. Not so suitable are very busy images and images which rely upon a wealth of fine detail and globally subtle variations in tone (think some landscapes). This however depends on your skills and artistry.
For a better understanding of the Instax Mini film I would recommend downloading the Fujifilm Data Sheet AF3-076E (instax mini datasheet.pdf). You will find that if images are prepared in a professional way, the Instax SP-1 can deliver prints that meet professional standards, within the limitations of its format size. If you are prepared to think in an open, innovative and creative way, you will find the Instax printer a valuable tool to add to the professional’s equipment set. I recommend the Instax SP-1 to you, and sincerely hope that you enjoy using it.
The Fuji Instax SP-1 printer: Tips for Pros