A Bad Day With A Camera

Kodak’s back. Sort of.

Kodak tried to rip off Polaroid decades back and produced their own line of instant cameras, which were admittedly pretty cool. Polaroid was naturally upset and sued the ass off of Kodak in a patent lawsuit, which Kodak lost spectacularly. Maybe it wasn’t the one thing that killed the company, but it was not so much a nail in their coffin as a railroad spike.

Many decades later Kodak (or whatever is left of it) has released a line of mini-printers and some of them have incredibly crappy digital cameras embedded into them. I managed to find an open box special at a price that was almost in “it fell off a truck” territory, so I figured I wouldn’t be too upset if it turned out to be a complete pile of poop. It’s not a complete pile of poop if you ignore the built-in camera, but more on that in a bit.

Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro

My new toy showed up today so I had a chance to unpack it and point it at a subject. Say hello to the Kodak Mini Shot Retro 3. It’s a not-quite pocket-sized, four-pass dye sublimation printer with something of a rubbish digital camera rolled into it. The controls are the most basic you’ll ever see on a digicam. Hell, this is the second camera I’ve owned in my life lacking a tripod mount on the bottom. If Kodak were to release the No. 2 Brownie (which also lacks a tripod mount and was the first camera I owned) as an instant printing camera, it would be this camera. It’s that spartan and clunky to use. Not to mention somewhat outdated. Why does my new camera have a micro-USB charging port in 2024 when everyone is doing USB-C? Hello!

I think Kodak’s one nod to the modern age was trying to make the unit useful for selfies. Notice the tiny selfie mirror on the front by the lens. There is also a selfie mode in the menu system, but I’m arsed if I know what it does. I’ll be honest that the odds are slim to none I’ll take a selfie on this thing.

The main reason to own this unit is that it’s a small, battery-powered Bluetooth printer that kicks out okay-ish small prints fast enough and it does it from images in your phone library through an app that is not horrible.

Native camera image (left) vs. mobile phone camera image (right)

I took two pictures of my wife’s African Violet in not-great lighting. The one on the left is captured using the unit’s native camera and is dark where it shouldn’t be and, well, just dark and super grainy. The image on the right was captured on my Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra and printed on the Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro via Kodak’s Photo Printer app. Much better, as you can see. This thing may do okay in decent lighting, but I don’t have that right now. I can tell from the poor quality of the sensor evident in the left-hand image that the native camera will not handle contrasty lighting at all.

African Violets, Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print, Strathmore, Alberta, 2024-02-08

The above is a scan of the good print of my wife’s African Violet. It’s 3×3 inches, but with a border because I find borders kind of adorable on instant prints. The colour was pretty accurate and I think the print quality is good enough for this price point. Need a quick momento shot then and there? This little Kodak printer works but works best with an image from your phone.

Some things to be aware of… It takes about a minute to print. The printer works in four passes. Yellow. Magenta. Cyan. The overcoat is applied last. The overcoat is intended to prevent fingerprints and I do have to say it works like a damn. I handled the print hard for over a minute and no prints at all. Amazing.

Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print producing a hard copy

The print goes in and out of the camera with each pass. This means you can’t use the camera quickly for a second shot while the first one is printing. You also can’t seem to store shots and print them later. Your choice after taking a photo is to print or cancel. The camera certainly isn’t saving your images for you to download to a computer later – Kodak wants you to print it and then buy another print cartridge when this one runs out. It is worth pointing out that you don’t want to save the images anyhow. I did mention that the built-in camera is shit, right?

Since the image shoots in and out of the camera during printing it means you also have to be careful how you hold the camera or you’ll block the paper slot. Once the printing is done the print sort of falls out, so if you’re outside and not careful, it will fall on the ground and get stepped on or get taken away by a wind gust. Finally, you’ll notice the prints above look like Polaroids. There’s a paper tab on the bottom of each print you can tear off once the printing is done — it is what the internal printer grabs onto for the printing process. The prints are square.

Perfunctory unboxing pr0n:

I have heard that some photographers find unboxing images and videos to be somewhat salacious. While I assure you that I am not to be found in that crowd of pixelated perverts, I am willing to cater to them for clicks. Therefore, I present the following for your edification.

Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print,
Unboxing 01
Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print,
Unboxing 02
Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print,
Unboxing 03
Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print,
Unboxing 04
Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print,
Unboxing 05
Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro Print,
Unboxing 06

Are we good now, you bunch of freaks?

Environmental concerns:

I’m too tired to take pictures of just the refill cartridges this evening, but I can tell at a glance that they are about 90% plastic and 10% paper. That 90% doesn’t look easily recycled, which means that you’re tossing a shitload of crap into your local landfill. Think of the Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro as the bastard offspring of a photo booth and a Keurig. You don’t want to own this thing if you like to lecture others about climate change or you’ll come off as an ever bigger hypocrite than Greta, which is goddamn hard to do.

Why I bought it and what I think so far:

I’d really like to run prints through my Polaroids, but the image quality ain’t that much better than the Kodak Mini. Also, Polaroid print packs can only be used for Polaroid photos from the camera itself. I can print to the Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro from my phone and get a nice little print quickly, which makes it more useful than investing in Polaroid. I can even use the native camera in the Kodak Mini Shot 3 Retro in the event I’m riding Calgary Transit and someone is threatening me with a knife.

I will also say that Kodak’s chonky black and yellow camera design practically screams, “I’m here, bitchez!” Nothing beats a pimp entrance when doing street photography.

I have a couple of fun projects in mind for these mini prints that I will announce soon enough but I do have a hint: sofobomo. (Some of us still believe.) I’ll offer more thoughts on the unit as time progresses. But for now, I’m chuffed. I think this will be a fun little toy. Perhaps even using the native camera.

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© 2024 Sean D. McCormick

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