As spring turns to summer and the sun makes its long-awaited appearance, you may be tempted to go exploring in the great outdoors. For those of us who love photography, there is an equal temptation to capture the landscapes we discover.
Nature makes a beautiful subject, particularly when wildflower meadows and green mountains are lit by sunset skies. The art of landscape photography is all about framing these sights. It sounds easy, but the best landscape photos are carefully crafted.
To help you find your inner Ansel Adams, we’ve put together this epic guide to landscape photography composition tips – smartphone style.
Find a focal point
In most genres of photography, the subject of your image is blatantly obvious. Portraits focus on people, wildlife images centre on animals, and architecture photographers try to highlight specific buildings.
Landscape photography is different. Even if you have a stunning vista to work with, it is often necessary to define your subject. Many photographers mistake a beautiful view for a great image; as a result, their landscape photos lack a compelling focal point.
In some cases, spotting your subject can be like seeing the wood for the trees. When you’re presented with a beautiful view, try breaking down the landscape into small sections. You can do this through your camera app, or by using your hands to create a frame. When you come to take your photo, make sure your chosen subject is well lit. If necessary, move closer or use a clip-on lens (as discussed later in this article) to make your subject more dominant in the frame.
Shoot in good light
In many cases, light will dictate your subject. In the right light, a lone tree can become an eye-catching focal point. Conversely, even the tallest of mountains can seem ordinary in poor light.
So, what exactly is good light and bad light? The former generally refers to the “golden hours” – an hour after sunrise and an hour before sunset. These periods of the day are blessed with warm hues, and oblique light that creates stunning contrast.
Conversely, the middle of the day is a bad time to take pictures. With the sun directly overhead, few potential subjects will be sympathetically lit. In summer, the sun is also very intense during the late morning and early afternoon. As a result, glare can cause problems for photographers.
If you want to shoot great landscape photography, plan to get up early, and spend many evenings watching the sun go down.
Embrace the weather
Weather and light are inextricably linked. But more than this, meteorological conditions can add real interest to your landscape photography.
Embracing all types of weather is important. While blue skies are certainly attractive, storm clouds can be just as pleasing – albeit in a more dramatic fashion. Similarly, foggy conditions can add an air of mystery or perhaps some artistic style.
Rain is probably the most difficult type of weather to work with. It tends to arrive in an unappealing blanket of cloud, and the falling droplets can easily soak your phone. That said, you only need a break in the clouds for a rainbow to form.
Have foreground interest
While the sky plays its part, the lower part of any landscape picture also plays a vital role. Just as the first chapter of a novel helps to set up the story, the foreground of your shot provides an essential introduction to the scene. You want to entice the viewer into your shot, while still leaving the main plot twist for somewhere nearer the middle of the frame.
Foreground interest comes in many forms. You could choose ripples left by the retreating tide on a sandy beach, or a weather-beaten gate on farmland. You could just as easily frame an icy waterfall beneath a towering mountain, or pair a wildflower meadow with a magnificent oak. In fact, there are countless options.
As a rule of thumb, the best foreground elements are complementary to the main subject. In other words, try to ensure your foreground does not outshine your focal point. While bright colors and large objects may distract the viewer, elemental textures and small details will set the scene.
Photo by Mariko Klug
Look for leading lines
As mentioned, an interesting foreground helps to draw the viewer into the image. While any aesthetically pleasing object will do, leading lines offer a more powerful introduction to your photo.
For the uninitiated, leading lines are visual paths that extend from the camera into the middle of the composition. Examples include groynes that fade into the sea, and wooden fences that continue into the distance.
They help to lead the eye into the frame, and can direct your viewer towards the main attraction.
Not every location is blessed with endless leading lines. However, various features of any landscape can perform this role. Footpaths and roads can wiggle their way towards mountains, and lines of planted crops may set the scene for a rural image. A leading line is one of the most valuable tools in your compositional toolbox – so keep looking for anything that could work in this way.
Use the Rule of Thirds
Pick up any photography book, and you are almost guaranteed to find something about the Rule of Thirds. This guideline is so popular that it even has its own Wikipedia entry.
The “rule” works on the premise that subjects should be placed off centre, about one third of the way into the frame. Similarly, horizons should be placed either one third from the bottom of the frame or one third from the top. This technique adds a pleasing asymmetry to your photos. In other scenarios, when there are multiple elements in your composition, the Rule of Thirds helps to “balance” things.
That said, it is important to use the rule with discretion. Placing every single subject on a grid line makes for an exceedingly dull Instagram profile. Think of it more as the Guideline of Thirds rather than the Rule.
Look for symmetry
Symmetry is a good reason to ignore the Rule of Thirds. Nature is inherently chaotic, so any opportunity to frame perfect order within a landscape should be grasped with both hands.
Probably the most common form of natural symmetry is between calm water and the sky. On calm days, you may also be able to capture the mirror image of mountain peaks on the surface of an alpine lake. It can be fun to turn such compositions sideways or upside down, just to keep the viewer guessing.
Man-made parts of the landscape are often vertically symmetrical. Bridges, piers and roads offer the perfect opportunity to split your image down the middle. These scenes are more technically challenging to capture, though, because vertical misalignment is easier to spot. When framing your shot, be very careful to stand dead centre, and enable grid lines in your camera app as a visual guide.
Photo by Alice1280
Use Negative Space
Some of the most arresting landscape images are filled with very little. Instead of being bombarded with visual information, the viewer can focus their attention on one, exquisite subject. The unfilled area is known as negative space.
The use of negative space goes against the grain in landscape photography. We are usually told to add more interest to our images, rather than subtract. But negative space offers an important contrast with your primary subject. For instance – while a single tree may get lost in a forest photo, a lone tree on a blue-sky horizon will stand out.
The easiest way to employ negative space in your photography is to look upwards. Keep your main subject in the frame, but fill the rest of your composition with sky. Alternatively, look for plain backdrops within the landscape – still lakes and areas of shadow within a forest can work.
Add a sense of scale
Including negative space in your image can also add a sense of scale. This is important, because it helps the viewer to imagine themselves in the scene. For example – a large area of sky replicates the feeling of standing on a wide-open beach.
Snow-topped mountains speak for themselves, but it is possible to supplement even these giants by adding a human presence. One reason why many popular Instagrammers include themselves in photos is for a sense of scale.
To evoke a sense of scale in any environment, get a friend to stand somewhere in your photo, or find a human-scale object to include in the frame.
Photo by Andy Bakk
Make use of accessories
If you’re serious about taking your landscape photography to the next level, it is worth investing in some kit. Add-on lenses allow you to go wider or pick out distant details. A small tripod will stop the shakes in low light, and filters allow you to take long exposures.
We love Moment lenses for their build quality and crisp optics – but there are many add-on lenses to choose from. In addition, Moment makes a smartphone adapter that works with 62mm filters. For better stability, we would recommend something like Joby’s GorillaPod.
So there we have it – the full guide to landscape photography with your phone. We’d love to see what you do with these tips – be sure to tag us @Mobiography on Instagram.
It’s often said that gear doesn’t matter in photography. Great artists will produce great work, no matter their equipment. If the legendary landscape photographer, Ansel Adams, were around today, he would probably take captivating photos with his smartphone. But given a choice, he would also equip himself with some add-on iPhone lenses.
As most phones only have a fixed focal length, additional glass can make a huge difference to your mobile photography. Wide-angle lenses allow the photographer to take sweeping vistas and captivating cityscapes. Macro lenses reveal hidden detail in flowers and insects, while fisheye lenses offer a whacky, warped perspective. Meanwhile, sports and wildlife enthusiasts can use telephoto lenses for a closer look.
There are literally hundreds of these lenses to choose from nowadays. To help you choose wisely, we have searched high and low for the best iPhone lenses that money can buy.
When deciding on which smartphone lens to buy, there are several matters to consider.
First of all, not all lenses work with every smartphone. While iPhone owners are well catered for, other mobile photographers may have to select a “universal” lens kit.
Build quality is also very important. Cheap imports have a nasty habit of falling apart under pressure. Worse still, some designs are capable of scratching the lens of your smartphone — the stuff of nightmares, indeed.
Mounts are often just as important as the lenses. Some systems require you to purchase a case, while others come with their own stick-on or snap-on mounts. While the former option often provides better image quality and a sturdier hold, removable mounts make it easier to use your smartphone as a smartphone.
Perhaps the biggest decision, however, is whether to pay for glass optics or opt for plastic lenses and save some money. This roundup is filled with glass for good reason — it produces crisp images that are largely free from unwanted defects.
So, with these key ingredients in mind, let’s take a look at the top contenders.
When quality is the foremost consideration, Moment lenses are difficult to beat. Machined from metal, with multiple glass elements, they feel like tiny DSLR lenses from the “pro” range. The lenses attach to your phone via a protective case. The lineup includes a wide-angle lens, a macro lens, a 2x telephoto lens, and the “Superfish” fisheye lens. Sharpness is excellent, and image defects are virtually non-existent.
With every major phone that is released, the lenses are updated to match the new specifications. This means the glass is calibrated perfectly, but it does restrict the lifespan of each lens. Furthermore, you will need to own an Apple iPhone or Google Pixel device in order to use these lenses at all.
Another option for iPhone owners is the ExoLens range. Developed in partnership with ZEISS, these lenses match those of Moment stride for stride, save for a little lens flare.
There are three lenses in the ExoLens range — wide-angle, telephoto and macro-zoom. All three lenses are resistant to dust and spray. You also have three different mounts to choose from, ranging from the aluminium ExoLens Bracket to the see-through ExoLens case.
Striking the perfect balance between image quality, price and versatility is Olloclip’s 4-in-1 Lens. Available for older iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones, these kits include a mount that covers both the rear– and front-facing cameras on your device.
As the name suggests, there are four lenses in each kit: fisheye, 10x macro, 15x macro, and wide-angle. Image quality is excellent, although the wide-angle lens does suffer from some optical aberration towards the corners. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that Olloclip’s lenses are relatively small, and remarkably light considering their metal construction.
The Core Lens set offers a very similar setup on the latest iPhones, albeit with the removal of the 10x macro lens.
Although the iPro Lens System has officially been discontinued, the lenses are still available to purchase — and they offer incredible bang for your buck on older iPhones and Samsung Galaxy models.
The range includes a macro lens, two wide-angle options, and a fisheye lens. Each lens is made from aluminium and high-quality Schneider glass. The image quality cannot quite compete with that of more expensive lenses — distortion being the most notable problem. However, the iPro lenses still deliver crisp photos.
You will need to acquire an iPro case to mount your lenses.
Made exclusively for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Inmacus HD Lenses are great for landscape shooters. The 18mm wide-angle lens expands the iPhone’s field of view by 50 per cent, while still retaining remarkable sharpness. As an added bonus, this lens even accepts 30mm screw-in filters. Vignetting is a slight concern, but virtually unavoidable on a lens which is this wide.
Speaking of filters, the Wide-Angle kit includes a circular polarizer for reducing glare and adding colour, along with a close-focusing lens. The lenses screw into the supplied plastic mount.
Strictly speaking, the DxO One is much more than a lens. In fact, this iPhone add-on is more of an add-on camera. The device syncs with your phone via Wi-Fi or a wired Lightning connection, and allows you to use the screen for compositional purposes.
The one-inch, 20MP sensor blows the iPhone camera out of the water. The f/1.8 lens equates to about 32mm, which hits the sweetspot for general shooting. The whole thing is pretty cumbersome and eye-wateringly expensive, but it takes incredible photos.
Four lenses, a mini tripod, two cases, a universal phone mount, a velvet storage bag and a cleaning cloth. Sounds too good to be true, right? The answer is yes and no.
For photographers who will only accept pin-sharp results, these lenses are best avoided. But those who enjoy playing with softness and the toy camera look can embrace CamKix. The pack includes wide-angle, fisheye and macro lenses, along with a monstrous 12x telephoto lens.
Each has its own optical deficiencies, with distortion and chromatic aberration being the recurring themes. But keep your subject in the centre, and these kits offer a fun first foray into the world of smartphone lenses. Plus, they work with numerous phones.
Optically speaking, AUKEY lenses are far from perfect, but they come with two major advantages.
Firstly, the lenses work with most smartphones. Only larger phablets will cause problems. In addition, the AUKEY lenses require no separate mount. Each lens snaps on like a clothes peg, providing a sure if somewhat imprecise footing.
There are several sets to choose from, including 3-in-1 lens kits and standalone wide-angle, macro, telephoto, and fisheye lenses. The image quality won’t impress serious photographers, but the AUKEY lenses are perfectly good for creative snaps.
Having looked at what each iPhone lens offers, the choice seems much clearer than when we started.
Mobile photographers who have the budget to demand perfect optical quality should probably invest in Moment glass, the Exolens Pro by ZEISS or splash out on the DxO One. In the mid-range, Olloclip delivers very good optics and several different looks at a reasonable price. And at the budget end, iPro offers exceptional value for money…while stocks last. In the longer run, AUKEY will fill the void.
Do you own any of these lenses? Is your favourite lens missing from the list? Tell us in the comments!
Perhaps one of the greatest difficulties when it comes to photography, is that our cameras and smartphones are not made for the water. While some more recent models are waterproof, few can dive far beneath the waves.
This is a great shame, because underwater photography can be amazing — even in a swimming pool. Just diffuse sunlight streaming through the air bubbles makes an interesting picture. You may also want to capture family fun, or discover a vibrant world just off shore. As the legendary ocean explorer and scientist, Jacques Cousteau, once wrote: “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder for ever.”
To help you make the most of watery environments — and keep shooting in the rain — we have compiled a list of the best waterproof phone cases known to man.
The Case for Underwater Photography
When it comes to equipment, choosing the right waterproof case is essential. Some are designed to survive white-water rafting, but nothing deeper. Others are made specifically for exploring the ocean floor.
Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to determine what each case can handle. The International Protection Marking code classifies the products by their ability to resist the elements. Along with dust, sand and other intrusions, the code covers waterproofing. When you examine the specifications of any case, look for something like this: IP68.
The “IP” part simply refers to the International Protection code. All the useful information can be found in the digits. The first number relates to physical intrusions; the second tells you how waterproof the product is. So in the example above, the product would rate 6 for dust, and 8 for waterproofing.
Higher numbers are generally better, and the scale goes up to IPX9 for water. Only cases with IPX7 or better can safely be immersed — and even this rating only guarantees water resistance down to one metre. Note, however, that most cases exceed their rating. Consequently, few IPX7 cases will flood when taken a millimetre beyond their range.
In addition to liquid resistance, many waterproof cases offer other forms of protection. A wet smartphone is not easy to grip, so textured surfaces and impact absorption are welcome features.
The other key consideration is image quality. Many cases that protect your phone from water are not specifically designed for photography. While they may not obscure the camera, the plastic might scratch easily or distort your photos. But fear not — we have tried to avoid such products in this roundup.
With these considerations lodged firmly at the front of our minds, it’s time to meet the contenders.
Pelican Marine Case
Available for: iPhone 6, 6s, 7
The folks at Pelican have been making rough, tough cases for military and medical equipment since the 1980s. Nowadays, they also offer protection for regular smartphones. The Marine case is surprisingly slim, given that it allows your iPhone to dive two metres (6.6 feet) beneath the surface. In fact, this IP68 case can shrug off water, snow, dust and dirt.
Inside the rigid polycarbonate shell, impact absorbing elastomer helps to cushion blows. Even the clumsiest iPhone owner would struggle to break their device with this case installed. In spite of all this armour, the Pelican case causes no great degradation of image quality. The only downsides are a slightly stiff headphone port, and the high price.
Available for: iPhone 6/6s, 7, 7 Plus; Samsung Galaxy S6
On paper, Dog and Bone has matched Pelican stride for stride with the Wetsuit Impact case. It offers the same IP68 protection, meaning you can safely dive to two metres (6.6 feet). It also offers military-standard drop protection. Silicone, polycarbonate and rubber are the defensive materials in this instance. Furthermore, the Wetsuit does not inhibit your photography.
What makes this case stand out are the small details. The main bumper is grippy and comfortable to hold. The screen protector is made from 9H flexible glass — the best currently available for impact protection. You even get 12 months’ free insurance against water damage. The only recurring complaint among owners is sound quality during calls.
Despite being rated at IP68, the Catalyst case can comfortably withstand depths of 10 metres (33 feet). This takes you out of the shallows, and into snorkelling range. The case is actually designed specifically to endure the harshness of seawater.
As with its competitors in the same class, the Catalyst can easily withstand snow and dust. The polycarbonate case survives military drop tests, while offering good access for your charging cable. The case is largely clear, apart from the grippy bumper that wraps around the edges of your device.
While the catalyst is relatively pricey, you get what you pay for. In terms of photography and protection, this case gets the job done.
The Vansky costs less than a takeaway pizza and offers no drop protection, but it outperforms all the cases mentioned above when it comes to waterproofing. Made from premium grade TPU, this bag can safely descend to 30 metres (100 feet) beneath the surface. In addition, the Vansky floats, so your phone cannot sink to the ocean floor. Along with water, the IPX8 dry bag can handle snow and dust.
The clear sides of this case are good for photography, and it works with any smartphone with a screen size of 5.7 inches or less. You can easily use the touchscreen and iPhone Touch ID. Meanwhile, the supplied arm band is useful when you need your hands free.
It would be more accurate to describe the Watershot Pro as a photography kit, rather than merely a case. It adds considerable bulk to your iPhone, but the housing is made for serious depth. You can dive to 60m (195 feet) with the Watershot and take beautiful photos through the optical-grade glass window. The ergonomic grip is particularly useful when you’re diving in gloves.
Additionally, Watershot makes several accessories that can be attached to your Pro case. The wide-angle lens lets you capture undersea vistas, while the pistol grip and lighting tray are great for videographers.
In contrast with all this positivity, the Watershot comes with one major downside: the walls are thick enough to prevent normal touchscreen usage. You actually have to download an app and use the integrated buttons to operate your phone. This is a necessary evil for scuba diving, but annoying at shallower depths.
Available for: iPhone 6/6s, 6/6s Plus, 7, 7 Plus; Samsung Galaxy S7, S8, S8+; Google Pixel, Pixel XL
If you could choose only one case for every environment, the Lifeproof Fr? would rank highly amongst the options. The reviews of this well-made case are glowing with praise.
The acclaim cannot be attributed to outstanding specs. The Fr? survives underwater at a depth of two metres (6.6 feet) for one hour. The shock-proof design can handle falls from adult head height, and it keeps out the dirt and snow. Decent all-round protection, then — but nothing that can’t be found elsewhere.
What makes LifeProof special is the build quality of these cases. The Fr? hugs your phone like underarmour, and the anti-reflective optical glass camera window ensures crisp images. As a general use case that can come swimming, the Fr? impresses.
There are two things that will instantly strike anyone who picks up the Hitcase Pro. Firstly, this thing is rugged. It has an anodized aluminum frame that can protect your phone from drops of five metres (16 feet). The case is rated at IP68, but it can withstand 10-metre dives (33 feet).
The other very notable feature is a prominent lens. Rather than merely allowing the light to pass through, this case actively enhances your photographic experience. The case comes with macro and super-wide glass lenses, and you can purchase a regular wide-angle lens separately. Furthermore, this case is compatible with eight different mounts, including a floating rig.
This is just about the maximum protection a case can offer, while leaving your phone’s touchscreen open for use.
In comparison with the other cases on this list, ImpactStrong’s contribution is remarkably inexpensive. The abilities of this case match those of rivals costing twice as much.
For instance, the ImpactStrong case can happily stay submerged at two metres (6.6 feet) for one hour. It also offers 360-degree drop protection from head height. The anti-reflective glass camera window guarantees good photos, while secure ports provide access to the physical controls on your phone. Apart from the inevitable grumbles about slightly muffled sound and incompatibility with third-party cables, this case seems to be a hit with owners. For the occasional pool photographer, you can’t go wrong for $20.
All of the cases mentioned above will provide your phone with some protection from H2O. The choice, therefore, comes down to each mobile photographer’s individual needs.
For shooting in the rain, the ImpactStrong or LifeProof Fr? cases should suffice. The difference in quality doesn’t seem to match the difference in price between these two options, although the LifeProof is universally revered.
Note, however, that the latest iPhone and Samsung Galaxy models come with some water resistance. They should cope with the occasional splash — so these cases are more about protection than waterproofing.
The Dog and Bone Wetsuit Impact and Pelican Marine cases would be wise choices for regular swimmers. They are slim enough for everyday use, and they can happily sink to the bottom of most human-made pools. In open water, you can safely dive deeper with the Catalyst Waterproof case.
If you don’t care about other forms of protection, grabbing the Vansky dry bag is a no-brainer. While your images may suffer from some distortion, this case is around $10 and can dive further than most.
Finally, there are the two specialist options. Scuba divers and watersports enthusiasts would be well advised to invest in the Watershot Pro or Hitcase Pro. The former provides the greatest range; the latter is easier to use, and probably a fraction better for photography.
Do Go Chasing Waterfalls
For too long, photographers have lived in fear of water. By equipping our phones with waterproof cases, we can record every dramatic storm and capture the beauty of crashing ocean waves. For any mobile photographer, they make a wise purchase.
*All product prices came from Amazon or the manufacturer and were correct at the time of writing.
The advent of mobile photography has given many more people the chance to take many more images. Something like 1.8 billion photos are uploaded to social networks and other online sites every day. Countless more are taken and stored on camera rolls. Yet even on the most high-resolution screens, pixels never seem to make the same impact as ink on paper. This is where iPhone photo printers can make all the difference.
Thanks to inkless printing technology, iPhone photo printers are much easier to use than their office counterparts. What you sacrifice in paper size, you gain in portability and connectivity. Instead of having to transfer images to your computer, you can simply beam them straight from your phone. You can even create stickers, ID photos, and collages with ease.
As smartphone photography has grown in popularity, so have these mobile-friendly printers. There are now many to choose from, each offering something slightly different. To help you make sense of it all, we have compiled the ultimate guide to iPhone photo printers.
Simply the Best
What makes a great printer? Quality and economy are probably the two most important considerations. With compact printers, both print size and weight should also feature highly in your calculations. Each printer has its own app to wrangle with, as well.
Instead of creating an arbitrary ranking system for these printers, we have chosen to list nine models worth your attention. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, which are described below.
HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer
HP is a relative latecomer to this printing niche, but the Sprocket is a solid first outing. It weighs just six ounces, and the dimensions are smaller than those of most smartphones. The Sprocket produces wallet-size prints (2 x 3 inches) in around 40 seconds. That’s quite a wait if you are printing a batch, but most battery-powered printers work at a relaxed speed.
On the plus side, the Sprocket is almost silent. It also uses the inkless ZINK system, which means you don’t need to mess about with ink cartridges. The quality is not spectacular, but perfectly decent for fun snaps. Most notably, the HP Sprocket app makes it really easy to prepare your images for printing.
In contrast to HP, Polaroid was one of the first to market. You might expect the former king of instant photography to dominate the portable printer niche. But two years after launch, the ZIP printer is slightly starting to show its age.
It produces 2 x 3-inch prints using the ZINK system, and prints arrive in around 40 seconds. They come out very punchy and vibrant, although this effect is sometimes overly intense. All things considered, the print quality of the ZIP is slightly inferior to that of the HP.
That said, the ZIP is very compact and it comes with NFC connectivity. Along with your smartphone, you can use it with Polaroid’s popular Cube action camera. Just be aware that the ZIP app on iOS has received plenty of criticism.
If you are happy to make a slight compromise on portability, the SP-2 from Fujifilm will reward you with improved image quality. Nostalgia nerds will also love the fact that the Fuji prints slowly reveal their true identity, like instant photos of old.
In fact, prints from the SP-2 even have a traditional white border. This makes them easy to handle, but the actual image measures just 2.4 x 1.8 inches. The prints are remarkably expensive, as well. However, this printer delivers on features. The SHARE app offers a nice selection of filters, and you can even print straight from your social profiles. Best of all, the SP-2 produces prints in 10 seconds flat.
When the SP-2 arrived in late 2016, it looked like the end of the road for the model it replaced. But the SP-1 is still available and still a great printer. It is slightly chubbier than the sleek SP-2 and marginally slower to print, but these Fuji siblings share many good traits.
In fact, the SP-1 uses the same paper and the same app, with very similar results. Prints take around 16 seconds to emerge, and the quality is excellent. It shapes up well with the competition from other manufacturers. However, the newer SP-2 offers significantly higher resolution prints and better colors for a very small price increase.
The compact Prynt case puts a new spin on smartphone photo printing. It actually turns your iPhone into an instant camera, complete with dedicated shutter button. It also offers to “print” video. The companion app grabs a still frame from your footage and puts the image onto paper. You then point your camera at the image to see an on-screen replay of the full video, thanks to the wonders of augmented reality.
It must be said, these innovative features come at the expense of image quality. In addition, you will have to remove the case for regular iPhone use. Still, this printer offers a nice throwback to the instant photography workflow.
If you prefer your prints to be bigger than a credit card, you should check out Canon’s Selphy range. These printers aren’t that portable — a battery pack is only an optional extra — but they produce lab quality 6 x 4-inch prints. In terms of up-front cost, the CP1200 is very competitive.
While you do have to wait 47 seconds for each print to emerge, Canon guarantees your pictures for 100 years. This printer uses dye-sublimation technology, but thankfully the ink cartridge is supplied with the paper.
In addition, the Selphy can connect to your home Wi-Fi network. This means you can print from your iPhone via Apple AirPrint. You can also select from multiple print layouts via the built-in LCD display.
Somewhere between Canon’s professionalism and Polaroid’s party animal lies the Kodak Mini. As with the Canon Selphy, it uses dye sublimation to provide excellent print quality. Like the Polaroid Zip, the compact Mini produces credit card-sized prints.
More precisely, the Kodak prints borderless images onto paper that measures 2.1 x 3.4 inches. In other words, these prints are slightly bigger than those from ZINK systems. Kodak also guarantees your pictures for 10 years, thanks to a special “photo preservation overcoat layer.”
The Mini connects to your phone via Wi-Fi (or NFC on Android devices), and the companion app lets you play with several filters, frames and templates.
If you’re willing to part with a little more money and sacrifice some portability, the Kodak Dock printer is a worthwhile upgrade. Using the same dye printing and preservation system, it churns out beautiful 6 x 4-inch prints. In most cases, this little printer will outdo your full-size inkjet.
As the name suggests, this printer doubles as a charging dock for your phone. After the initial setup process, you can place your iPhone on the Kodak and start printing with one tap. The prints are guaranteed for years and the iOS app offers plenty of options. The only issue is that each photo takes about one minute to print.
As an Apple Store exclusive, you would expect the LifePrint to work seamlessly with your iPhone. That it does, producing 2 x 3-inch borderless prints using ZINK technology. In addition, this printer can perform augmented reality tricks with videos, gifs, Snapchat messages, and Apple’s “living photos.”
If you happen to know someone else who owns one of these printers, you can even send them an image to print. It’s like a fax machine for the Instagram generation.
The downsides? The print quality is nothing to shout about, and you have to charge the battery after every 20 prints. In other words, you should buy this printer for its digital trickery, not its printing prowess.
Having seen the options, it’s now time to return to our original checklist.
When it comes to quality, the dye-based printers listed above win every time — that is, the Canon Selphy and the two Kodaks.
The Fujifilm printers are next in line, delivering prints that will please all but the most discerning eyes. All the other printers listed here are based on ZINK technology, which is visibly inferior. It’s fine for party snaps, but expect overblown contrast and saturation, with a few colour casts.
In terms of economy, the Canon Selphy offers by far the best value for money at $0.26 per print. If you are happy to buy paper in bulk, the Kodak Dock ($0.33) and LifePrint ($0.45) fill the other podium places. For smaller quantities, these printers become more expensive to use than the Polaroid ($0.50).
At the top end, the Kodak Mini ($0.60) and Fujifilm ($0.80) papers start to look painfully expensive. But then, you may choose to take that hit in the name of print quality. Note that these calculations are based on the lowest prices we could find at reputable retailers at the time of writing.
The choice then comes down to your own priorities. For instance, the Fujifilm SP-2 is speedy at 10 seconds per page, but the ZINK paper has a peel-off sticky back. Meanwhile, the Prynt and LifePrint offer those augmented reality circus tricks.
You could be attracted by the quality and economy of the Canon and the Kodak Dock. However, these printers fall behind on portability. For printing on the move, you should look at the Polaroid, the Kodak Mini, the Prynt, the Fujifilms, or the LifePrint.
The printing process turns digital files into treasured possessions. Like a soldier carrying a picture of his sweetheart, you can hold and share the memories that these printers reproduce. Whether you want to decorate your home or fill your wallet with photos, we hope this little guide will help you get started.