The Instax Square Link is an instant printer that allows you to transfer edits to friends and family and harness the power of AR to decorate your photos, though I’d simply recommend buying the Square Link to anyone looking to print large, bright images on square film.
- In-app editing tools give saturation and contrast a boost
- Only Instax Link printer to use square film
- AR Print and Instax Connect aren’t available on other printers
- Limited editing tools
- QR codes are too big
- Film development takes slightly longer than advertised
- Smartphone printerWorks alongside the Square Link app
- 6.2 x 6.2cm imagesUses Instax Square Instant Film
- 15 second print timeAnd 90 seconds for film development
- Two new featuresAR Print and Instax Connect
Up until recently, Fujifilm’s Instax Link series included printers for the brand’s mini film and wide film. Now, a square option has joined the line-up.
The Instax Square Link isn’t the only instant printer to support the Instax Square Instant Film.
The brand previously launched the Share SP-3, a printer that shared the same 86 x 72mm film, but was supported by the Instax Share app. However, the SP-3 had a slightly larger, angular design and lacked many of the more unique features available through the Square Link app.
But, is the Square Link worth your money? Read on to learn more about my experience with the latest instant printer.
- The Square Link comes in two neutral colours
- It’s small but quite chunky
- The Square film works out at around 85p a print
The Instax Square Link is an instant printer that shares the same bulbous, rectangular design and rounded corners as the Instax Mini 9 and Mini 11 but in two comparatively neutral colours: Ash White and Midnight Green.
The printer has a chunky, pillow-like shape to it and, at 127.5mm in height and 105mm across, is similar in size to a UK passport, albeit a little wider and significantly thicker.
The size of the printer makes it portable, though I do wish it were a little slimmer. I was able to take it out to the theatre without feeling like I was lugging around much extra weight, but it isn’t quite small enough that I could see myself keeping it in my bag 24/7 on the off-chance I decide to print some spontaneous pictures.
Rather, I’d be more likely to reach for the printer when I know I’m going to see friends or heading somewhere scenic that I think would make for some nice photos to print then and there.
That said, one of the perks of buying an instant printer over an instant camera is that you don’t necessarily have to take it out with you everywhere you go, so the chunky size doesn’t feel like a dealbreaker.
The Square Link has a bumpy, corrugated texture and features a matte finish. On top of the printer is a lighter-coloured metallic slot where the prints come out. There’s also a matching ring in the centre of the device where the on/off switch can be found. This is emblazoned with the ‘Instax’ logo that lights up when the printer is charging or in use.
The only other physical control is the function button, which sits in the top left corner of the printer and makes it easy to print duplicates of the same image for distribution amongst friends and family.
Finally, there’s a small switch on the back that opens up the film door. The Square Link takes Instax’s Square Instant Film, making it the only Link printer to do so as the Mini Link uses mini film and the Link Wide supports wide film.
Instax makes the whole refilling process foolproof by leaving a yellow sticker within the printer to use as a guide, which I can appreciate considering the film isn’t cheap. The company sells two packs of 10 for £16.99, which works out at 85p per print, which I don’t think is unreasonable. However, open the film door before the pack is done and you risk exposing the whole ten, meaning the film can no longer be used and you’ll have wasted £8.50 on the pack.
- The basic editing options are great for boosting saturation and contrast
- The QR codes in the AR Prints are too big
- The Square Link charges via USB-C
As I’ve mentioned, one of the biggest perks of using an instant printer over an instant camera is that you don’t need to print every single photo you snap.
While you could argue that this takes the spontaneity out of instant photography, it also means that you don’t need to remember to take the camera everywhere you go and that you can be picky about what you print to avoid wasting unnecessary film.
Whether you opt for an instant camera or an instant printer will come down to personal preference in this regard, but I did enjoy that I was able to print photos I took weeks or months before the Square Link came in for review.
Another benefit to opting for a printer over a camera is that it gives you space to get creative with your prints, both inside and outside of the Square Link app.
You can choose to edit your images in your favourite photo editing app beforehand, or you can use one of the four features in the Square Link app. These include Simple Prints and Editable Prints, as well as the newer AR Prints and Instax Connect features.
The Simple Print mode allows you to print your images untouched or make basic changes to them, like zooming and rotating, adjusting the brightness, contrast and saturation and adding simple text and stickers. I particularly liked the Correction options as I was able to pump up the colours and contrast to ensure they didn’t lose too much vibrancy when they came out of the printer.
You can also choose to add a filter to your image, though these are limited to just three options – Monochrome, Sepia and Auto, the latter of which I found to be too harsh in many cases. It’s a shame there aren’t more options here, as Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras, like the X-T5 and the X-H2S, come with some fantastic film simulation modes.
However, there’s no reason you can’t use an external editing app to apply more in-depth adjustments before importing the images into the Square Link app.
Then there are Editable Prints. These are similar to Simple Prints, but with the option to add gaudy frames or create collages of up to nine photos.
I didn’t find myself reaching for the collage option often as the prints are already quite small, but I can see it being a good way to get more photos from a small amount of film – especially if you can’t choose between multiple shots from the same occasion.
AR Print is a new feature that allows you to decorate your images with augmented effects, text, doodles, images and backgrounds. Your image prints out as a regular instant photo but with a QR in the bottom right corner, allowing others to scan the print to view the dynamic AR effects on their own smartphones.
While I think this is a neat way to slip a hidden message, such as an engagement announcement, into an image, I do wish the QR code was smaller or a lighter colour so that it might obstruct less of the image. You have the option to move the QR code around, but it remains large and noticeable no matter where it sits, taking up space in the print and making me feel less inclined to reach for the feature.
The other new feature debuting on the Square Link is Instax Connect. Connect allows you to upload and decorate an image on the app, before sending it to anyone you know with a Square Link printer, regardless of how far away they live.
You don’t need to own an Instax printer yourself to use the feature and you can save important dates as reminders using the calendar to ensure you don’t miss any important occasions, which I thought was a nice addition.
On the other end, users are required to click through and accept incoming prints, so you needn’t worry about any overenthusiastic friends sending multiple images and using up your film.
Of course, there are a handful of tools that aren’t available on the Square Link with every Instax printer carrying its own set of unique features.
These include the InstaxAir drawing feature on the Mini Link, which lets you use the LED light on the printer to sketch in the air, and the QR-coded links, locations and sound recordings on the Link Wide. If you like the sound of either of these features, you may want to read up on the other two Link printers Instax has to offer before adding the Square Link to your cart.
The Square Link is charged via USB-C. I didn’t find it took more than a couple of hours to reach 100% and the LED indicator switches off when the Square Link is fully charged, which I thought was a nice feature as it allowed me to be sure I was taking the printer out on full battery without having to open up the app and connect the two devices to see the percentage.
Performance and image quality
- The printer is incredibly easy to set up and use
- The developing time is closer to four minutes than 90 seconds
- Prints are bright and detailed but skin tones can appear washed out
The Instax Square Link uses Bluetooth to connect to the Square Link app on your phone. It’s easy to set up and there’s virtually no learning curve to printing images as all the steps are laid out in the app.
According to Instax, the print time is 15 seconds, while the developing time is approximately 90 seconds. I timed both of these instances and found the 15-second print time to be accurate, but, in my experience, it took closer to three or even four minutes for a print to develop fully.
I didn’t find this to be much of an issue. Once the image is done printing, it’s simply a case of leaving the photo to develop, meaning there’s no need to monitor the print or leave the app open. Four minutes goes by quickly enough, but it’s something to be aware of if you plan on printing lots of images in one sitting.
I found that the resulting prints were about what you’d expect from a good instant camera. There’s a decent amount of detail to be found in the images and the results are bright and eye-catching.
Skin tones have a tendency to appear a bit washed out, with my cream cardigan beginning to blend into my chest in the image above. There’s also little warmth to be found in the skin, meaning I found myself taking advantage of the saturation slider in the Square Link app to give skin tones a bit more colour.
The bright, slightly desaturated colours do help give the images a uniform appearance and help capture the retro, instant camera feel. However, I found I preferred to pump up the saturation and contrast a little before hitting print to help the images retain some of their original depth and vibrancy, as you can see in the images below.
I actually really liked the effect the Monochrome filter gave and found I could play around with the black and grey tones using the brightness and contrast sliders to emphasise and conceal different details, such as the clouds in the sky.
I feared the bright nature of the images would cause the night sky to appear faded in darker shots, but was pleasantly surprised by the amount of contrast the printer retained in the image above. While the corners of the print aren’t pitch black, they nevertheless came out dark and the colours in the centre of the image pop in contrast.
Should you buy it?
You want to print square images: The Square Link is the only Link printer in the Instax family to use square film, which is enough of a reason to pick up the printer in my opinion.
You prefer the spontaneity of an instant camera: While you can take the printer out-and-about to print photos on a whim, it doesn’t quite match the spontaneity of a proper instant camera.
The Instax Square Link is a nifty instant printer with an attractive design and a handful of exclusive features.
Images are bright with a decent amount of detail and the basic editing tools in the app offer a quick way to boost the contrast and ensure the colours pop in print.
The filters and adjustment options are limited, but there’s no reason you can’t use another app to do more in-depth editing if you prefer. It’s an extra step and takes some of the spontaneity out of instant photography, but then this flexibility is probably why you opted for a printer over an Instax camera in the first place.
The AR Print and Connect features are also a nice addition, but I can’t see myself using them near as often as I would the standard Simple Print and Editable Print functions. The ability to print bright, square images is easily the number one reason to pick up this printer.
How we test
Every printer we review goes through a series of uniform checks designed to gauge key things including print quality, speed and cost.
We’ll also compare the features with other printers at the same price point to see if you’re getting good value for your money.
Explored the different filters and photo editing options
Timed how long the printer took to print an image, along with how long that image took to develop
Tested the AR Print feature
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The Square Link comes in two colours: Midnight Green and Ash White.
The Square Link supports Instax’s Square Instant Film, which has a picture size of 8.2 x 7.2cm and an image size of 6.2 x 6.2cm.
To print images on the Square Link, you’ll need to download the Square Link app. There’s a QR code on the box or you can find it in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.