Fujifilm’s latest entry-level instant camera offers simple controls and well-framed photos
- Foolproof controls
- Wallet-sized photos
- Can’t turn flash off
- Little creative control
- Automatic exposure needs improvement
Fujifilm’s latest entry-level instant camera, the Instax Mini 12, is a compact, easy-to-use camera that instantly prints wallet-sized photos to keep and share with friends. While it can’t capture its subjects in high definition, every photo offers a charming retro feel.
This fun concept is nothing new. Instant cameras have been around since the 1940s but faded in popularity as digital photography became more practical. However, now that everyone can take high-quality pictures on their smartphones, people lose out on the satisfaction of having physical photographs. This is perhaps why instant cameras have had a resurgence in recent years; alongside vinyl records, instant cameras have a nostalgic, social feel to them that can’t be easily replicated in a digital format.
Despite the imprecise automatic settings on the new Instax Mini 12, the simplicity of the camera is unbeatable and so it looks like these fun-loving instant cameras are here to stay.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 review: What do you get for the money?
Fujifilm currently produces three lines of Instax cameras: Mini, Square and Wide. Each spits out different-sized photos, with the Mini line producing credit card-sized photos. As the most affordable model in Fujifilm’s current Instax Mini lineup, the Mini 12 incorporates a basic but easy-to-use set of controls.
The camera itself has a fairly sturdy build. Made entirely from plastic, it weighs just 306g (not including the film), making it light enough to toss in your bag and carry around on your travels. The curved, bubble-like shape fits comfortably in the hand and there’s also an optional wrist strap for a little extra security. To add to its fun aesthetic, it’s also available in five pastel colours: pastel blue, mint green, blossom pink, lilac purple and clay white.
As with most Instax Mini cameras, the Mini 12 uses a 60mm lens with a preset focus that should cover everything from around 0.5m to infinity. There’s also a close-up mode that drops the focus range to an arm’s length (between 0.3m and 0.5m) and a handy mirror for selfies while in front of the camera.
A twist of the collar around the camera’s lens powers it up. Turning the collar one click enters the standard shooting mode, while turning it two clicks engages the close-up mode. In addition to reducing the minimum focusing distance, the close-up mode also corrects for parallax error in the camera’s viewfinder – this allows for more accurate framing while shooting close-up subjects.
The viewfinder itself is a relatively simple window positioned beside the lens and next to the flash. Once you’ve framed up your shot you simply need to press the button on the front of the camera, being careful not to cover the flash or light meter.
In terms of operation, the camera is fully automatic, with a programmed electronic shutter that can vary the shutter speed between 1/2 and 1/250 of a second depending on the ambient light levels. There’s also an always-on flash that should prevent you from snapping underexposed shots in low light.
As it’s an instant camera, you’ll need to load it with instant film in order to produce pictures. The film comes in easy-to-use cartridges that simply need dropping into the back of the camera. Each cartridge contains ten shots (they cost around £15 for a double pack on Amazon) and a handy counter on the rear of the camera helps you keep track of how many shots you have left.
Unlike Fujifilm’s more premium Instax cameras, the Mini 12 uses standard AA batteries rather than a rechargeable cell. Two AAs should last around ten cartridges, or 100 shots, so you shouldn’t need to change the batteries too often.
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Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 review: What’s new?
The most obvious difference between the Instax Mini 12 and its predecessor, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11, is the bubble-like body. The new shape has a fun aesthetic and is arguably a little friendlier looking than the previous model. It does, however, have a slightly less defined grip, which you may find leaves it feeling less secure in the hand.
Fufjifilm has also done away with the pop-out button for extending the lens, replacing it with a rotating lens collar that powers up the camera and can be used to access the close-up mode. With only the lens collar and shutter button for controls, the Mini 12 really couldn’t be much simpler to use.
Perhaps the most important update, however, is the viewfinder parallax correction. The Mini 12, like all analogue Instax cameras, uses a simple optical viewfinder mounted next to the lens. While this gives you a fairly good approximation of your framing at longer distances, it can become increasingly inaccurate as you frame closer to the lens. The inclusion of parallax correction enables the camera to slightly shift the framing within the viewfinder while in the close-up mode to give you a more accurate representation of what will be in the resulting photo.
Another, more minor, change is the new shutter button. While the previous Mini 11 had the option to add silicone toppers to the button, adding both some tactile feedback and the ability to customise the camera’s look, the Mini 12’s shutter release is round, flat and almost flush with the camera.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 12: What do we like?
One of the main selling points of the Instax Mini 12 is its simplicity. Just pop in a pair of AA batteries, load up a canister of film and you’re ready to point and shoot. The camera should be easy to master for adults and kids alike, with the whole thing being very intuitive.
While some instant cameras can rely on guesswork and a little luck to line up correctly, the optical viewfinder in the Instax Mini 12 is refreshingly true to life. The handy guides within the viewfinder give a clear indication as to where the centre of your shot needs to be and the parallax correction – although only small – is really useful for framing close-ups.
The printed photos also pack plenty of retro charm. If you’re in the instant camera game for the joy of a nostalgic print, then the Instax Mini 12 shouldn’t disappoint. With a hint of grain and just enough detail squeezed into the credit card-sized prints, the Mini 12 captures memories in an authentic, albeit hazy, style.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 12: How could it be improved?
While the simple controls on the Fujifilm make it a fantastic option for beginners, it can be a bit of a double-edged sword as the automatic settings still aren’t as clever as we’d like.
Like all of Fujifilm’s entry-level Instax cameras, the Mini 12 features an always-on flash. While this works brilliantly for ensuring well-lit exposures while indoors and in shadier spots, our test photos taken on a bright, overcast day – normally ideal stable conditions for portrait photography – were washed out and overexposed. Having the ability to toggle the flash off when it’s not needed would be a big improvement, though you could always just cover it with your finger.
I’m also not completely sold on the redesigned shape. While it looks cuter and more cuddly than before, its rounded design makes it a little more difficult to grip, especially in larger hands. The included wrist strap adds some comfort but it would be nice if there was a neck strap option, too.
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Fujifilm Instax Mini 12: Should you buy it?
The Fujifilm Instax Mini 12 is a great entry-level instant film camera. At a price of just £80, it offers heaps of fun, a cool aesthetic and a set of intuitive controls that will set even the biggest instant camera newbie at ease.
If you’re a stickler for details and consistency, however, you may wish to look elsewhere. Despite Fujifilm’s automatic exposure tweaks, there’s still an unpredictability that’s pretty difficult to overcome. If you’re after more control – and your budget can stretch to it – you may wish to consider the Instax Mini 90 or the hybrid Instax Mini Evo.