SnapJet Portable Instant Film Printer Fri, 01 May 2015 02:03:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 So how good is Instant Film exactly? Wed, 08 Oct 2014 00:48:34 +0000


When Polaroid/Instant Film is mentioned, people think “vintage” or old-school-cool. While all of that is totally valid, let’s look a little closer and see what’s actually going on in the above photo.


As you can see, the instantĀ film has absolutely stunning resolution. In fact, it’s actually much higher resolution than Apple’s Retina display.

Instax / Polaroid 300 film made up of a silver halide emulsion. When light hits the crystals, the silver halide breaks down and a dye cloud forms. The crystals are only 1-2 microns wide, and the resulting dye cloud is just 10-15 microns. To put that in perspective, Apple’s retina display pixels are approximately 80 microns wide (326 ppi). Instant film prints can reach theoretical 1200 to 1600 ppi, nearly 4-5 times that of the Retina display.

In fact, this picture is blurry only because my DSLR can’t focus properly. I will get a better magnification lense and post an updated photo to this blog! Nonetheless, if we zoom in, you can literally count the blinds on the window adjacent to my pointer.


We think it’s pretty clear that Instant film is the absolute gold standard for imaging, not because it is iconic, but because it objectively trounces most other print media in terms of color vibrancy, resolution, and clarity. The only trick is to have an optical system that can realize the potential of the film. Most instant film products come with mediocre lenses or other mechanism that send badly focused, or off-color light to the film.

That’s why we think we’ve nailed it with SnapJet.

This glossy, artistic Instax print is exactly what SnapJet is able to produce. We can’t wait to get it into your hands.

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The picture that started SnapJet Tue, 07 Oct 2014 23:58:37 +0000

Snapjet turns any smartphone into an instant film printer. Just place your phone on top and press a button. It’s that simple.

How did we decide to make SnapJet? It all comes down to this picture. See the little dark blur next to the red arrow? Can you guess what that is?


My brother Isaac and I struggled for a few minutes to figure out what it was. But as soon as we did, SnapJet was born.

Answer: It’s my ring finger. This is what happens when you go into a dark area, and flash your phone on and off quickly on top of a fresh Polaroid or Instax photo. You can try this at home!


This photo was taken in September 2013. I had recently left my position as a trading desk developer to apply to grad schools and try some entrepreneurial ventures.

My brother and I had been talking about how cool it would be to have a slim, portable printer to go with our iPhones. Something like this imaginative design by Mac Funamizu:


We ruled out ink cartridges because they were too bulky for a portable printer – we wanted a solution where the ink was part of the paper.

We also wanted something that was ultra-high resolution – like a printed version of Apple’s Retina display. Everything out there seemed to just do the bare minimum, producing washed out, fuzzy, grainy images. These products also took forever to print, or were super-clunky to set up.

Polaroid film immediately came up in the conversation. So, on a hunch, we decided to run a few tests…


We set up a laughable “darkroom” in my bathroom, using an iPhone with the screen displaying all red. (Naturally it didn’t work, so we resorted to working in complete darkness.)

What we did was:

  1. Turn off the lights
  2. Place an iphone on top of an undeveloped polaroid photo
  3. Turn the iPhone on and off as quickly as possible.
  4. Use a rolling pin to burst the photo’s pouch and spread the development agents

The image that developed looked indiscernible at first, but then viola, I could see my fingers gripping the screen of the iPhone. Another test revealed that colors were also registering:


At this point, we were pretty excited. We kept tinkering with the process, and finally got a blurry face to show up four days later.


Now things were rolling! At this rate, I thought it would just be a few more days before we got a perfect image … Boy was I wrong. It would be months of repeated tests and literally hundreds of exposures before we got it just right.


Lesson learned: Igorance can be advantageous

In the beginning we had no idea what other products were out there. Strangely, that initial ignorance actually worked to our advantage: When we finally got more serious about market research, we realized that we had already solved many of the problems current products were suffering from. Paul Graham outlines this phenomenon of ignorance quite well in his “Student’s Guide to Start-ups.”

We went out and created new materials to focus light in a tiny space of 1mm, completely eliminating all lenses from our setup. This made our print mechanism slimmer than anything else on the market. We also designed our printer to work without any apps, which massively improved our user interface.

SnapJet is the only portable printer that works with a single button press, produces stunning quality images, and is only an inch thick. We’ve made something visual artists, creative designers, and photographers would consider amazing. So how good is our resolution exactly? Click here to find out!


We can’t wait to share it with you!


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Making Buttons! Tue, 05 Aug 2014 19:06:00 +0000

A lathe is a pretty essential metal working tool for making any cylindrical parts. We needed to make some aluminum buttons for the latest SnapJet prototype. So we fixed up an old desktop-lathe with some cleaning, greasing, and adding 3D printed parts. Here’s a video of the aluminum buttons being cut out (or turned as a machinist would say) on our lathe:


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Drastically increase your energy, lifespan, and fitness with a $22 trip to IKEA. Mon, 14 Jul 2014 03:00:00 +0000


Here at SnapJet, we work hard all day and late into the night. Whether we’re soldering circuit boards, writing code, or posting to our blog, there is always one thing in common:

We are sitting (or more accurately, slouching) at our desks. I always knew this wasn’t the best way to work, but I recently saw this LifeHack article which spurred me to take action:

One thing that always stopped me from trying out a standing desk was how expensive the fancy ergonomic standing desks were. I was also turned off by the huge risk of getting a brand new desk, only to find out that standing all day wasn’t really for me.


Then, thanks to this awesome IKEA hack by Colin Nederkoorn and Ryan Witt, I found a way to get a totally risk-free solution for $22:

The advantages are:

1) Twenty two dollars, come on!! With IKEA’s 90 day return policy, it’s also risk free.

2) You keep your old desk, and just put this hutch on top. This is great if you work at a bigger company where it takes forever to get furniture purchases approved etc

3) Since it’s a DIY solution, you get to customize it exactly for your height and arm length. Really it’s just about adjusting two shelf brackets into a side table at a height that you like:


4) Last but not least, your desk space is now nearly doubled!!


I now have space for twice the amount of desk clutter. Woohoo!!

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DIY Electric Burr Grinder Thu, 10 Jul 2014 23:44:00 +0000


We drink a lot of coffee here at SnapJet headquarters, so we brought in a hand-burr grinder to help us make our java:

I know what you’re thinking. “That grinder isn’t nearly loud or dangerous enough!!”

And we couldn’t agree more.


We decided to add some horsepower to our good-old-fashioned (boring) coffee mill. This is a 6-speed AC motor we pulled from a blender. First we machined out an aluminum couple. Then we built a mount out of some ABS pipe. Finally, we added power. Here’s the result:

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How to create amazing product shots for under $50 bucks Sat, 28 Jun 2014 08:09:00 +0000


You’ve definitely seen it before. An apple iPhone or Macbook floating in a white cloud, with a diagonal reflective line down the center.

Recently we needed to take a few shots of SnapJet and I couldn’t help but wonder if we could snag that effect for our printer. We decided to experiment a little and…


It turns out the effect is really easy (almost too easy!). You can also do it with your smartphone for under $50 bucks in less than a day. Here’s how:

1) Get a (cheap) light tent. ($17)

The “floating on a white cloud” effect is cake using a light tent. This is a wire-box with stretchy nylon or polyester fabric on each face. It diffuses incoming light to eliminate shadows and specular reflections. I can’t see any reason to spend more than 20 bucks on this, unless you need a giant one. We picked up a “Neewer 24x24x24″ tent for $17.45 on Amazon: 

If you really want to go cheaper than that, you build the tent using this excellent guide: 

Personally, I didn’t want to spend a day running around for parts and putting this whole thing together just to save $17. I also wanted something I could collapse and put away. Here’s our setup:


2) Get 2 full spectrum bulbs. ($14 or $24). Lights are probably the most important part of the setup. We chose $12 dollar 65 watt bulbs just to be on the safe side, but I’m pretty sure you can go lower if you don’t want to spend that. You’ll want full spectrum fluorescent bulbs. Here are two options: 
or slightly higher wattage:


3) Get 2 clamp lights ($14)

Don’t need to get fancy here, just plain old sockets from Home Depot with clamps will do. There is some issue with dimmer switches to be aware of, but any sockets will do. These are $7 a piece:

*note* if you don’t want to hassle with DIY lighting and are willing spend $40, you might want to consider a lighting kit like this instead of getting bulbs and clamps separately:

We clamped ours to some high chairs, but as long as they face the sides of the light tent you can place them however you like.


4) Put aluminum foil around the bulbs. Yes, aluminum foil. This is a DIY reflector to guide all the light onto the face of the tent. Our shots certainly didn’t need any expensive reflectors, foil works wonderfully. Yes it looks a little tacky, but who cares since its not in the shot? You can also fiddle with the shape if you want a narrower or wider beam.

5) Cut out 1-2 rectangular black cards

This is the secret to those cool diagonal reflective lines. Got this gem from a good friend at the USC film school. Basically you tape strings or wire to each end of the any old oaktag or construction paper. Then adhere them to the top of the light tent. You can now position the cards so that they selectively block out a square of light on your product.


I found the very best way to adhere the wire to the tent is to use two small magnets on either side of the fabric that clip together. This way you can move the cards in all directions until you position it precisely where you want it. (Taping makes it hard to move around, and you’ll probably do a little shuffling before you get it right.) I also put a knot in each wire that I can pull on to raise or lower a card.



Poof, that’s it. You now have everything you need to get those sleek Apple-like product photos.

We used a table vise like this to steady the iPhone while we shot some spinning movies:

But that’s optional. For still images you’ll get great shots with just a phone camera.



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Motorized Photo testing rig Sat, 28 Jun 2014 03:02:00 +0000

We’ve completed our motorized testing rig! It allows us to easily try out many different methods and materials to get the best possible prints for our SnapJet instant film printer.

SnapJet uses a rolling shutter to expose the iPhone screen onto the film, which this rig simulates. We can change the speed, number of passes and aperture size for our exposures with this rig. Check it out:

The long piece that slides over the print medium holds the optics. Normally we do all of this in a dark room, but we decided to keep the lights on to make this demo video a little more interesting.

We’re pretty excited about the quality of these prints! Once our tweaks are complete, we expect to blow away all other portable printers in quality, sharpness, and color fidelity. Here’s an early shot of something we recently exposed. You can already begin to see how vibrant and detailed the photos are coming out:


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Launched! Thu, 26 Jun 2014 04:15:00 +0000

Hi everyone, we’ve just finished our first introductory video of the SnapJet! View it at Please stay tuned for more on instant film photography, crowdsourcing, and hardware design.

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