MyFirst Insta Wi
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The ability to double up as a label and instant photo printer means the Insta Wi will have a useful life into their teenage years and beyond. Sure, the photo prints aren't nearly as good as a Polaroid, but they're a hundred times cheaper at around one cent per print.
- Brand: MyFirst / Oaxis
- Film Type: Thermal paper rolls
- Battery: 1500mAh (~5 hours)
- Weight: 0.5lb
- Incredibly cheap prints
- Variety of print materials including stickers and color rolls
- Perfect build for kids
- Generic print rolls available
- Doubles as a label or instant smartphone photo printer
- Cameras are unimpressive
- Video mode is worse, with choppy recording in AVI format
- Built-in graphic element selection is very limited
MyFirst Insta Wi Other
We all want to nurture creativity in our children. I remember my first camera, and all the terrible photos I took with it—which then cost a bomb to develop. Thankfully things are digital nowadays, and of course, every family probably has multiple devices like old smartphones and tablets that are capable of taking digital photos. But sometimes you want something simpler and more kid-friendly, by which I mean something that doesn’t include a web browser or the YouTube app.
The MyFirst Insta Wi camera from Oaxis is exactly that. Oh, and it prints the photos, too. And stickers. And labels.
On second thoughts, perhaps I'll be keeping this for myself.
Kickstarter Disclaimer, Sort Of
The MyFirst Insta Wi is in crowdfunding now. You can pick one up for less than $100 (plus shipping), though this will rise to $130 RRP after the campaign ends. In the box you'll find five rolls of printing material to get started with.
While we would normally include a Kickstarter disclaimer to say that your money is at risk with any crowdfunding campaign, we think this one is safe. Oaxis isn’t a new company—we’ve reviewed its products before. The product I received for review is fully functional and arrived in final production packaging, so everything would indicate that promised shipping dates are likely to be met.
How Does It Print?
The MyFirst Insta Wi camera doesn't contain any revolutionary new technology; quite the opposite, in fact. It uses thermal printing, which you'll be familiar with if you've ever been to a shop and received a receipt for your purchase. The roll of paper contains chemicals that develop when heat is applied. It's black and white, sure, but it's also quick, and durable. More importantly for our purposes, the rolls you can print onto are so common as to be basically free. You can get about 100 prints from a roll costing as little as $1. Compared to Polaroid type instant printing, which costs around $1 per print, that's 100 times cheaper.
Although you can buy more rolls directly from Oaxis, you'll also find generic versions on Amazon. It should be 57mm wide, and no greater than 26mm diameter. You'll get varying quality of prints if you buy from elsewhere of course, and while they'll always be in monochrome, you can also find colored paper rolls, transparent sticker sheets, or different color inks, for a little variety.
The other benefit of thermal printing is that you can use it to print labels and stickers, too. More on that later, though I will briefly mention that the quality of prints you get on the sticker sheets isn't quite as good as the standard non-sticker roll.
The Insta Wi Hardware
The Insta Wi camera is big and bulky, measuring just under six inches across and four inches high, but lightweight (less than 1/2 lb)—perfect for little hands. As you'd expect at this price point, it's entirely made of plastic and rubber.
Internally, you'll find a 12MP front camera and 6MP rear camera, though neither are particularly great, and nor would you expect them to be. While it is capable of recording 1080p/720p videos, it saves in AVI format, and the output can be quite choppy. Be sure to watch the full review video above for a demo. This won't be your child's first Vlogging camera, that's for certain.
For storage, a 16GB card is included, which you can upgrade to a maximum of 32GB. You'll also find a MicroSD USB reader for convenience.
A 1500mAh battery provides up to five hours usage and takes about two hours to fully recharge.
The box includes a handy lanyard, and a curious cradle which looks like it should be a charging stand, but isn't. Despite the presence of two buttons on the rear, the cradle is literally just a chunk of plastic, and some magnets that lightly grab the camera.
When sat in the cradle, the buttons push through to the rear of the camera. There are no electronics contained within the cradle, and it feels like a slightly meaningless addition, given that it adds no functionality other than extra bulk. The Wi-Fi connectivity for use as a label printer functions whether it's in the cradle or not, and charging is done via the Micro USB port on the side of the camera.
Using the Insta Wi
As you'd expect for a kid's camera, using the device to print or take photos is incredibly easy. You'll find a series of buttons around the rear to power on, swap between selfie and front cameras, browse the photo library, and print.
When taking a picture, you can either just save the picture to memory, or save and instantly print it. Printing takes about five to ten seconds, during which you should be careful not to shake the device, or the print quality will degrade. You don't need to be perfectly still, but no sudden movements or wildly swinging around, as toddlers are wont to do.
There's only one option when it comes to print quality: low, medium, or high density. If you find the print is too dark or too light on a particular brand of paper, adjust the density to brighten or darken the output.
The print emerges from the front, where you then can tear it off, and stick it in your homework journal, collage board, or hand it to your little friends or family. Of course, you can also reprint any photo from memory, so there'll be no more playground squabbles about who can take the print home. Everyone can!
If you run out of paper, simply pull open the flap at the front, put in a new roll, and feed the paper a little through the hole.
Another button on the camera cycles through "purikura" style graphical element overlays, such as horns or bunny ears. This was perhaps the most disappointing part of the device, as you can't resize these, and the selection is extremely limited (around ten different graphics are included). Hopefully, the range can be expanded or customized through the app at a later date.
The Insta Wi App
Yes, there is an app too (only available for Android at the time of review), though it's not needed for the core features of taking a picture, and printing it.
The app allows you to turn the camera in a generic thermal printer, either for photos from your smartphone, or as a label printer. Simply hold down the Wi-Fi button to broadcast an ad-hoc network, then connect to that from your smartphone and open the app.
The app includes a number of print templates as well as iconography for jazzing up your labels. You can print onto one, two, three, or four-line sticker rolls. That said, the interface leaves a little to be desired, and adult supervision will almost certainly be needed. Even on the largest font size available, I felt a lot of space was wasted on the label, as you can see below. Thankfully, it'll be trivial for MyFirst to add some extra options here before the final launch.
Should MyFirst Insta Wi Be Your Child's First Camera?
As a first camera for toddlers and young children—the sort of age where you don't want them to have a smartphone yet—the MyFirst Insta Wi camera represents great value for money. As well as the instant printing capabilities which they’ll love, the fact it does label printing too means the whole family can make use of it. This gives it a useful life even when they've grown out of the childish design, into their teenage years and beyond.
The prints might be black and white, but they’re ultra-cheap, and while the eco-credentials of thermal printing chemicals are somewhat questionable (the ones provided are BPA-free at least), I think the creative possibilities for kids outweigh that.