I bought the very first Fujifilm Instax hybrid camera they came out with a few years ago and I did not get it. I didn't really quite understand what the "hybrid" part meant, and the object itself was sort of joyless: Clunky, blobby, fussy. If I wanted to take images that were not as good as I could take with a nicer camera, and if all I was doing was printing images taken with an inferior digital camera, I could have just used my phone along with the Instax printer I already owned.
When their next hybrid camera came along I just avoided it. Didn’t care for the aesthetics (more verve than the original hybrid for sure, but not my thing), and the hybrid thing still didn’t make a ton of sense to me.
When Fujifilm announced the Instax mini Evo I hesitated for a second, but found the whole riff on the industrial design of their X-series cameras (which are themselves a riff on a hodgepodge of old film cameras of varying sorts) charming. So I preordered it, thinking maybe handling would make the difference and if it didn’t, well, B&H has a return policy.
I waited a few months for it to arrive, waffling back and forth on whether or not to just cancel the order before it could even ship, but a few things happened along the way. I had a lot of fun with a weird little toy lens on a regular camera, and I realized that with Omicron came a reduction in my wandering radius, which meant photography was feeling a little stale to me again.
Now that it is here and I’ve taken the obligatory first selfie, recreated another recent image, and captured a brass monkey on a shelf, I can say a few things about it right away:
Handling really does make a difference. The faux-analog control rings are sort of fun and help you bypass menus. I’d love an exposure compensation knob, which does live in a menu, but maybe next time.
The in-camera effects and simulated “lenses” can be used to make interesting images. I’m looking forward to the double exposure mode and see a few other interesting effects I can imagine uses for.
It feels a little better in the hand than the earlier hybrid sitting on the shelf. Less blobby and clunky, and it takes up about the same volume as my Fujifilm X100V. It’s still made of plastic, but has a nubbly faux-leather texture and a nice release button. I’m going to pop a few Peak Design anchor points on it and use it with a thin strap for walking around.
It does take fine pictures for being super low resolution. There was a boom in small-sensor, hyper-portable cameras in the early aughts. They were shaped like a chunky thumb drive and could hang from a lanyard. This outperforms those by quite a bit, but evokes a similar aesthetic. I’m looking forward to bright days and contrasty shadows, and appreciate that there’s a crop option, so if the relatively wide 28mm lens is hard to fill, you can just tap a few buttons to fix it in-camera.
Face detection for autofocus, exposure adjustment, and a macro mode … okay!
You can print to it from a phone or Fujifilm camera, which is pretty neat.
It has enough onboard storage to hold a bunch of images, and you can add a microSD card for more storage (and easier bulk import into a computer or tablet).
The one genuine annoyance I feel toward it (actually Fujifilm, Inc.) is that you cannot transfer unprinted images to your phone via the accompanying app. It’s not like you can’t get at them other ways, but it adds some resistance to the process that Fujifilm will happily collect ~$0.60 per exposure to remove. I kinda feel like if you’re the sort of person to see the point in an underpowered digital camera printing Instax film, you’re likely to want to fiddle with the image in-app, then round-trip it back out to the camera for a print. Not holding my breath they’ll “fix” this in an update, because some MBA somewhere in the bowels of Fujifilm, Inc. most definitely does not consider this arrangement “broken.”
I also wish the battery were removable. You can charge it up via a micro-USB port, so it’s no big thing to have a pocket charger along on a trip, but it’d be better yet to be able to buy a few replacement batteries and keep them in your pocket. The mini Classic 90 has a replaceable battery. A built-in battery means the camera itself is on a planned obsolescence timer it really did not need to be on.
Al and I had a recent conversation after I brought home a film camera from Blue Moon. I was a little sheepish about it – the camera count is sort of high around here – and she said “you know, what’s the one thing you’ve been doing for years, that you always come back to, and that always brings you joy? I think this is okay.”
This one seems like a pretty fun addition to the collection, so I’m happy to apply that principle.