Tiny Polaroid ZIP is a selfie printer for your smartphone

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The Polaroid ZIP printer instantly makes prints from your smartphone or tablet.
The Polaroid ZIP printer instantly makes prints from your smartphone or tablet.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

If the fear of loss doesn’t persuade you to print the pictures on your smartphone, perhaps your curiosity about cool gadgets will. In this case, consider the Polaroid ZIP photo printer.

It is a tiny ink-free printer slightly bigger than a deck of cards that, with an easy-to-use app, lets you make small prints from your phone or tablet. The photos are the size of a business card, adding charm and fun to the photo sharing experience.

The legendary Polaroid company, makers of cameras that produce instant prints, nearly died after it failed to grasp the digital photography revolution. However, Polaroid is reinventing itself with a line of products that provides ways for people to share their pictures on social media, while at the same time, give them tangible prints.

Its newest camera, the Polaroid Snap, is a 10-megapixel camera that stores pictures on a memory card and make a small print on the spot. Polaroid will make this camera available in time for Christmas.

But if the smartphone is your go-to camera, the ZIP printer excels at delivering instant gratification just like the Polaroid cameras of old (sadly, though, no shaking to watch the image develop).

The ZiP connects with your phone via Bluetooth. Once you’ve downloaded the app, use it to select a picture from your camera roll. Use your thumb and forefinger to crop or expand the borders to the edge of the paper, hit the print icon and less than a minute later, the ZIP spits out a picture.

I tested the printer using my iPad.
I tested the printer using my iPad.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac
The printer app allowed me to select from my camera roll and edit quickly.
The printer app allowed me to select from my camera roll and edit quickly.
Photo: David Pierini/Cult of Mac

These are not museum-quality prints and if the chosen image lacks good contrast, the prints can come out a little muddy. But when I tested it, I didn’t care. The little picture kind of tickled me and when I showed it to my brother Mike, who used to fix printers and computers for a living, he said, “Wow, that’s pretty neat.” The app will also let you add fun things to your print, like cutesy borders.

To avoid the urge of pulling it apart, my brother happily took to the internet to understand the technology and is responsible for this part of the article: The ZIP printer and the new Polaroid products uses ZINK paper, paper that is layered with color-forming molecules that take shape on your image when heated.

For a more technical explanation on ZINK technology, check out this site my brother found while I was making more little pictures.

The printer, which comes in black or white, runs $129.99 and paper comes in packs of 10. Three packs run $14.99. If you shoot a lot and are inclined to print everything, you can get 100 packs for just under $50.

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  • nwcs

    The Fuji SP-1 is also an option. It’s what the Polaroid is imitating.