With its built-in instant film printer, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo is a beautiful fit for photographers seeking a new creative outlet, but it might be challenging to use if you’re used to pro cameras.
- Sleek vintage design
- Digital filter effects that are entertaining
- Allows you to print only what you need.
- Chemical film prints with digital capture
- Smartphone app with Bluetooth link
- LCD display quality is poor.
- Controls that are cumbersome
- There are no editing options available in-camera.
- Only printed images can be sent to a smartphone.
- A 5MP sensor isn’t particularly impressive
FUJIFILM INSTAX MINI EVO SPECS
|Dimensions||3.4 by 4.8 by 1.4 inches|
|Sensor Resolution||5 MP|
|Memory Card Slots||1|
|Memory Card Format||microSD, microSDHC|
|35mm Equivalent (Wide)||28 mm|
|Display Size||3 inches|
|Display Resolution||460000 dots|
|Connectivity||Bluetooth, micro USB|
|Maximum Waterproof Depth||0 feet|
The Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo ($199.95) blends old instant photography with modern digital technology in a single box, using a digital sensor to capture photographs while allowing you to print them on Instax Mini film. The camera combines the allure of modern analogs like the Instax Mini 11 with the conveniences of digital imaging, including filter effects and color styles, as well as the flexibility to print only the photographs you want. It’s a great idea, and it might help point-and-shoot cameras become more relevant in the age of smartphones. However, the camera can be a little tough to use—for example, the rear LCD is disappointing, and the controls aren’t straightforward. Despite this, it’s possible to fall in love with the Instax Mini Evo and its retro-chic style to the point where you’ll ignore any flaws.
With Retro Style, a Mix of New and Old
The aesthetics of the Instax Mini Evo are vintage. The Evo’s build is as plastic as it gets, yet the silver and black faux leatherette combination gives it a vintage film camera aesthetic. Nobody will mistake it for a high-end Leica, but when you put it next to a chrome rangefinder, it’s clear to understand where the aesthetics originated from.
With dimensions of 3.4 by 4.8 by 1.4 inches (HWD), the Evo is a little large for some pockets, but it comfortably fits into jackets. It weighs roughly 10 ounces without film and another ounce or two with a pack of 10 Instax Mini prints. The Evo is around the same size as the Instax Mini LiPlay, its spiritual progenitor. It is still available for purchase if you prefer LiPlay’s design, which foregoes classic styling and tactile controls in favor of a more streamlined point-and-shoot approach.
The Mini Evo relies more on tactile controls than the LiPlay, built for one-button operation. It also uses retro aesthetics, with a control ring around the lens switching between different lens filter effects and a dial on the top plate switching between other color profiles. It even has a printing lever modeled after the film advance lever of an analog camera.
Filters and color look play an essential role in the game. You can use retro, mirrored, double exposure, soft focus, fish-eye, and other creative lenses to add variety to your images. The light leak filter is my favorite; it adds a splash of color and resembles the look of a camera that isn’t wholly light-proof. You get ten color options and ten filters in all, which you may mix and match for up to 100 different creative looks in-camera.
Experimenting with the many options is entertaining, but there is one catch: you must lock them in before taking a picture. The in-camera editing features of the square size SQ10 and SQ20 are no longer available. That’s a shame because post-production photo editing is sound, especially for images that will be printed.
The Mini Evo’s 1/5-inch CMOS sensor matches up with inexpensive smartphones, not flagships; therefore, image quality isn’t excellent. It takes 5MP images, sufficient for Mini prints and social media sharing, but not much else. The cameras on recent Samsung Galaxy phones and iPhones are far more powerful. However, designers will appreciate the filters and color profiles, and wifi connectivity allows you to print photographs from your phone’s camera roll.
The camera is powered by an internal battery that can be recharged through micro USB. We’re a little bummed to find an older connection type on a new camera, but the box comes with a charging cable, so we can’t complain.
You receive a small amount of internal memory (around 45 photos), but you’ll need to add a microSD or microSDHC memory card to save more—approximately 850 pictures per gigabyte. Although memory cards are affordable, a larger quantity of internal memory would have been preferable.
In the Hands of an Instax Mini Evo
Photographing with the Instax Mini Evo is a simple push-button affair despite the dials. The camera has two shutter releases: one on the top for landscape orientation and one on the front for portraits or selfies when held vertically. Self-portraits are easier to frame with a mirror adjacent to the lens. The controls are a tad tight, but they do the job.
The rear directional pad isn’t my favorite because it’s so tiny that you have to be careful to press it in the right way. You may use it to modify the white balance and set several manual exposure parameters (tuning exposure, as well as toggling the flash and macro focus) via an on-screen menu. You may also use the d-pad to switch through photographs in playback (by pressing the left or right buttons) and activate an in-camera crop, allowing you to frame your prints (up and down buttons).
The wide-angle lens is suitable for portraits of one or two individuals; it’s 28mm angle is slightly narrower than the primary lens on most smartphones. It’s also reasonably bright with a fixed f/2 aperture, but the Evo still uses its built-in flash for shots in average home settings. Because of its fresnel surface finish, the second is an LED, similar to smartphones, but it provides a bit soft diffusion and better reach than bare smartphone lenses.
The rear display is a stumbling block. The 3-inch screen isn’t particularly sharp, with a resolution of only 460k dots, but this isn’t a high-quality camera. A more significant issue is viewing angles and screen brightness. You have to stare at the screen dead-on if you don’t want it to look washed out. It’s difficult to cut through the glare even when seeing it directly in bright light. It’s challenging to use the Evo outside, especially on a sunny winter day. In bright, glare-inducing situations, you can still get a feel of the frame, but it isn’t easy to see what’s going on. As a result, you must trust Evo to concentrate on the ethical issue. I discovered that it does an excellent job—only a few times did it misfocus. Another approach is to use a cold shoe optical viewfinder attachment. You may use any optical accessory finder with 28mm frame lines, trust the autofocus completely, and frame photographs just like you would with a natural analog alternative. These add-ons can cost up to $200 new (almost as much as the camera), but you can find older (and less expensive) counterparts on eBay and other virtual flea markets. This path is likely to be pursued by more photo enthusiasts than casual snappers.
Bluetooth Printing from Your Phone
The Mini Evo is a camera and an Instax film printer, with Bluetooth 4.2+LE connectivity for convenient smartphone connections. I used an iPhone to test the Instax Mini Evo companion app.
The app can be used for various purposes: It allows you to print images from your phone, manage the camera remotely, and transfer photos from the camera to your phone for easier social sharing. The view is a little choppy because the live broadcast is transmitted through Bluetooth rather than wifi. Because the live view only takes up a small fraction of your phone’s screen, it might be challenging to use efficiently. Additionally, while using the remote camera controls, none of Evo’s creative filters or colors are available—it’s the functional but unimpressive approach.
Printing photographs from your phone to the Mini Evo is quick and straightforward; it takes about five seconds to transfer and begin printing a photo. To acquire the style you want, you can use any editing program on your phone.
It’s a little more challenging to transfer images from the Evo to your phone. It’s not so much about the process—transfers are painless—as it is about what you can share. For some reason, the Evo can only send photographs to your phone that have already been printed. The program also adds a virtual film border around the photo that mimics the look of Instax film and a color background for the framed shot—by default, it’s white, but you can change it to a custom color or make it transparent.
The limitation on what images you can transfer is perplexing, and it is hostile to the end-user—what if you want to edit specific photos on your phone before printing them? It also wastes money and harms the environment. Publishing images you might not desire results in extra film packs in landfills, as well as additional costs. The Instax Mini film costs around $0.65 for each frame to give you an idea.
You get a print on photographic film for your money. Instax photos are developed using chemistry rather than thermal paper, as with competing format Zink. The outcome is a wallet-sized image (1.8 by 2.4 inches of the image area). On the other hand, Zink prints struggle to exhibit some tones, mainly pinks and magentas, and suffer from significant dithering throughout.
Is the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo the Right Digital Instant Camera for You?
Your reactions to the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo may reveal more about you as a photographer than it does about the camera. Casual photographers are more likely to overlook the awkward controls; however, photographers who regularly use high-quality interchangeable lens cameras may have a more challenging time. We’d want to see a more refined version of this design with a larger display and an optical viewfinder integrated.
The Mini Evo’s creative filters and built-in printer set it apart from smartphones, mostly replacing small point-and-shoot cameras. However, the camera doesn’t carry them all the way home—for example, you can only apply filters before taking a picture, not afterward.
Smartphone integration is also lacking. When you use it as a remote control, you lose access to any creative looks. The software restricts you to only transferring photographs that have already been printed, which is hostile to the user and completely unneeded. Publishing images from your phone, on the other hand, works perfectly.
When you put it all together, you get an unusual mix of features in an instant camera. The camera’s antique looks are sure to entice shutterbugs, but it’s a bit of a pain to operate in practice. It’s a better bet for people searching for a print-on-demand instant photography solution, with filters and film types that analog cameras like the Instax Mini 11 don’t have. Professionals might pick it up, scratch their brains for a moment, and then return to more capable photographic equipment. Newcomers accustomed to smartphone photography will undoubtedly miss the flagships’ high-end computational capabilities, but tactile Instax prints and imaginative in-camera filter effects may be enough to sway them. Take our comments with a grain of salt because everything about the Evo screams, “love it or loathe it.”
Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo
With its built-in instant film printer, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo is a wonderful fit for photographers searching for a new creative outlet, but it might be challenging to use if you’re used to professional cameras.
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