Fuji has enjoyed major success with its Instax range of cameras these past few years, arguably doing more to bring instant print photography back to the masses than the original and resurgent Polaroid brand. It’s no surprise therefore we’re seeing more Instax cameras in differing sizes and operational configurations hitting the market. After all, being able to take a photo and get an instant print of it to share is something our smartphones as yet cannot do. Though of course there are apps available to link our phones to a standalone printer, and indeed a camera.
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Offering the latter two devices in one compelling package and bridging the gap between the analogue and digital worlds is the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo. Yes, it’s an ‘evolution’ of the original instant print idea, one could say. This is a digital camera with a back screen that allows us to compose and review shots and then only print the ones we’re happy with via the self-same camera, rather than pointing and shooting and then praying what we’ve got is good before it materializes on the credit card-sized film sheets provided.
Instant print photography purists can of course argue that being able to review your shot before printing it takes some of the magic away. After all, the growing anticipation of what our picture looks like as our image slowly reveals itself over a minute-and-a-half– and the fact that, ironically, it is not quite truly instant – is part of the ‘fun’ of the instant print process.
However there are many alternative models in Fuji’s range that don’t feature a back screen, including the otherwise similarly retro styled Instax Mini 90, so we’d wager this one is for the more practically minded who want the best of both worlds; and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Instax Mini Evo: Specifications
Sensor: 2560x1920 pixels, 1/5-inch CMOS
Sensitivity range: ISO100 to ISO1600
Lens: 28mm equivalent in 35mm terms, f/2.0
Monitor: 3-inch LCD, 460,000 dots
Battery life: Up to 100 shots
The hybrid approach here and inclusion of a 3-inch back screen has ensured that the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo camera can offer a bit more than the standard analogue instant print point-and-shooter. Not only can certain images be selected for print after reviewing first; an amount of image editing can also be undertaken and effects added in-camera. In fact, 10 integrated lens modes and 10 film modes can provide up to 100 different effects when combined, going some way to both ape and combat the image editing apps on our smartphones, should we want to.
As well as an image capture device, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo can also act as a standalone mini printer, connectable to our smartphones via Bluetooth, meaning that photos transmitted from our phone’s camera roll can be output as hard copies. It also means that shots can be transferred the other way from the Mini Evo to our smartphone for sharing on social media or with friends and family. Truly its maker seems to be attempting to cover all bases and user requests with this one.
On top of this the camera-come-printer claims to deliver the highest print quality of its manufacturer’s line-up so far at 600 dpi; when prints are made directly from the camera itself that is. Battery life is a claimed 100 shots, or 10 packs of Instant Mini film, which is modest compared to most digicams. Fortunately then its built-in power cell is readily rechargeable via provided USB lead and an (optional) USB compatible mains plug, or simply by sticking its USB lead into a spare port on our laptop or desktop.
Charging takes up to three hours. Also not supplied here is a microSD card for the storage of images, for which a slot is provided adjacent to that for the USB lead at the camera’s base. But then we don’t get a memory card provided when we buy a dedicated camera or phone anyway, so it’s hardly a deal breaker. As it is, the camera boasts an internal storage capacity for up to 45 images to get us going out of the box.
At the heart of this camera is a half-inch CMOS sensor producing 4.9 megapixel images, coupled with a fairly bright f/2.0 aperture, 28mm equivalent wide-angle lens in 35mm film terms. In tandem with an automatically switchable ISO range stretching between ISO100 and ISO1600, this suggests a device capable of doing the job in most lighting conditions. In more challenging scenarios there is also the ability to fall back on the built-in flash.
Yes Polaroid is still going as a brand name and like Fujifilm has an ever evolving range of products which all essentially do the same thing: capture and nigh instantly output hard copy prints. At the same time Fujifilm’s own Instax range is increasingly broad and offers a range of alternative instant print cameras to suit both purpose and pocket (money). It’s also able to bring its film expertise and heritage to bear in offering a variety of different film types, sizes and borders for its prints, with the latest at the time of writing being a Stone Gray instant film which provides a contemporary grey border.
On top of this, photo stalwart Canon has attempted to grab a slice of the instant print camera ‘pie’ with its own Zoemini S2. This is the second generation of its own pocket-sized instant-camera-and-printer-in-one, which produces credit card sized prints and stickers. This one is not only pocket-friendly in size but also in weight at a mere 188g, and works in tandem with the smartphone friendly Canon Mini Print app. Unlike the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo hybrid camera we don’t get a screen on the device itself, however. Less impressive still is that the camera battery only lasts long enough to output 25 prints, though perhaps this is less of an issue than it might seem, as users may well have got over the initial novelty by then.
With its faux leather surfaces set against plastic-y silver surround, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo camera manages to look sufficiently retro to evoke pangs of nostalgia in prospective purchasers, while at the same time not overly confusing or fussy – which might otherwise perplex the smartphone generation expected to load analogue film for the first time.
That said, in activating the camera for the first time via the commendably tactile on/off lever on the faceplate, we’re met with an almost overwhelming array of on-screen options, which meant that it took us a couple of minutes to work out how we could cut through all that and simply capture and output a photo. It should, after all, be as simple as pointing and shooting, as on competing purely analogue models from Fuji and others.
There are more external buttons than the average instant camera too. Not only do we get a shutter release button on the top plate, but also a second one on the faceplate, next to a built-in mirror for the selfie obsessed and a small lozenge shaped window housing an integral flash.
Also on the top plate we find a large ridged metal dial set flush to the body which is unmarked, but which a glance at the booklet in the box reveals is a ‘film dial’ for selecting the 10 different film effects promised up front. It then makes sense that turning the ridged lens dial surrounding the lens itself runs through the 10 different lens settings.
A further smaller, likewise unmarked, top plate button is a ‘reset’ button, for returning any lens and film effects to normal if it all gets a bit much.
Though a neck strap is handily provided in the box, what might also have been useful is a lens cap of any description to protect that element when the camera is being transported.
While credit card sized prints are at the heart of what the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo camera delivers, the central picture portion is even smaller than that, due to the surrounding border. Colour wise, we get a selectable in-camera choice of standard natural or rich mode when it comes to prints – we chose the latter as we were looking for maximum impact and aware that instant prints can sometimes look a bit flat and lacking on contrast.
Taking a picture involves a squeeze of the shutter release button, at which point the captured shot appears briefly on screen as we’d expect; yet printing it out isn’t an instant process and involves a bit of theatre – namely cranking the dedicated print lever on the top right hand side of the camera – if viewed from the back – while the image you want to print is displayed on screen at the same time. If we don’t have the image on screen then flipping the lever – as if to wind forward a roll of film in the old days – said action will achieve nothing. We did admire the fact that the on-screen image becomes animated and shifts left of screen as the print starts emerging however; it’s a nice visual touch.
In terms of performance, light sensitivity here ranges from a standard ISO100 to ISO1600 and is fully automatic, meaning that we can’t tweak the settings ourselves. If we’ve a gripe it’s that while the provided LCD screen is a decent size at the standard 3-inches, visibility inevitably suffers in sunlight, despite the decent 460,000-dot resolution.
Instax Mini Evo: Verdict
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo camera is an interesting hybrid product for a fair price that seeks to expand on the self-imposed limitations of an instant print camera that only outputs credit card sized prints.
Yes, we can do that here, but we can also use it like a regular digital camera, and/or as an extension of our smartphone or mobile device. In other words Fuji has attempted to deliver one device that does it all, and one that has gifting potential with it. On top of this, all the extras over and above a ‘standard’ instant print camera should ensure that users don’t get bored of the novelty of it all as quickly as they may with a more basic, frill-free model. If you’re seeking ‘one instant print camera to rule them all’, look no further.
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