The Fujifilm Instax mini EVO is a combination digital camera, traditional Instax printer, and photo printer for smartphone photos, all in one.
Author’s Note: While Fujifilm loaned Petapixel this camera for review, this story is not sponsored and reflects my opinions about the camera with no Fujifilm intervention. In addition to this review, my above video contains more thoughts about this camera and its unique features.
A Triple Threat
The primary function of the mini EVO is to print images of the company’s Instax mini film. You can think of the camera as an Instax printer in disguise or as an Instax camera that has stepped into the digital world.
The Fujifilm Instax mini EVO shares a lot of resemblance to the company’s X100 lineup; in fact, it looks quite a bit like a mashup between the X100 and a Fisher Price camera. Made of plastic, the camera is lightweight but just a bit too big to fit in most pockets; it barely fits in one of my pairs of jeans that happens to be a bit stretchy but fits nicely in a jacket pocket. A camera strap is included, but this doesn’t feel like the type of camera to hang around your neck.
The camera costs $200, and you get a creative device where the whole is better than the sum of its parts. The digital camera features are limited in their resolution, the prints are to the smaller Instax mini format, and printing images from a smartphone is output at a lower resolution than photos taken on the camera.
However, having all these features available in a single, attractive, and fun camera body resulted in me taking hundreds of photos with it and even leaving my smartphone at home on some trips around town to play with this camera more.
Inside the mini, EVO is a Type 1/5 5-megapixel CMOS sensor that, by design, is not particularly high-resolution but at the same time it doesn’t feel like the camera is a toy. The Instax mini EVO is a nice combination of creativity and versatility. The lens is a fixed-aperture 35mm with an f/2.8 aperture. Both the shutter speed and ISO are set automatically, and the camera performs, as one would expect, much better in bright light than in low light.
There are 10 “looks” controlled by a top-mounted dial and 10 “lenses” held by the fake aperture ring on the front. In reality, these are all effects, but the analog-like nature of selecting these creative tools makes it feel like you’re using different film stocks and lenses rather than simply programming in a setting.
I hadn’t expected to evaluate this camera, and I hadn’t expected to be so enamored with it either. PetaPixel is currently in the process of reviewing Fujifilm’s Instax Square Link smartphone printer, and during that testing, I was comparing the larger Square format prints to the mini film and so I asked Fujifilm to send us an Instax mini EVO to compare.
Naturally, the more oversized prints from a device with higher resolution are much nicer, and there are intelligent features in the stand-alone printer, like a QR code addition to seeing notes and effects. But naturally, the printer requires a smartphone, while the mini EVO is self-contained.
Why I Am Drawn To This Camera
Years ago, I owned a coffee shop, and we used to take photos of our customers with an analog Instax camera and hang the prints on the wall. We had hundreds of pictures in an ever-growing art display in the shop, and people loved to to see themselves as part of the store. But it always bothered me that I couldn’t give customers a print to take home with them and that I couldn’t post to Instagram or social media without taking a photo of the photo.
Maybe that’s why I am so drawn to this camera. The combination of physical and digital output solves these problems.
My friend Eric has a two-year-old, and I saw them while I was testing the camera. I took a photo of him holding his son and handed them the print, which his son immediately started to play with.
When the film finally developed, his son looked at it and said “baby!”
The chances of the image making it home in the hands of a toddler are very low, but I was also able to send them a copy of the picture I took of them.
Everyone I’ve given prints to was surprised to see the film coming out of the camera and was delighted to get a photo. The owner of our local deli hung a snapshot I took of her on the wall and was excited to get it.
I’m particularly fond of the monochrome preset, which has Fujifilm’s signature look, and the Vivid preset also has a typically-Fujifilm feel to it. The normal mode tends to be a bit washed out, especially in bright sunlight. The camera tends toward overexposure, but there’s an exposure compensation setting in the menus.
Most of the time the prints from the mini EVO are crisp and rich, though sometimes the prints will come out blown out or muddy. Usually this is a case of challenging lighting, but sometimes I not sure why a print came out so clear or came out so blurry. Again, that’s part of the charm.
A Creative Reboot
The Fujifilm Instax mini EVO is much more expensive than the company’s fully-analog cameras, but it’s vastly more helpful. One of the reasons that film photography is regaining popularity is that the format spurs creativity. Having grown up shooting film, the only thing the thought of shooting on film gives me is dread. But in contrast to that, the Fujifilm Instax mini EVO gives me a creativity boost, and it takes my creative vision to a different place than the technically-perfect lenses and cameras I shoot regularly.
Disclaimer: David Schloss was formerly in charge of media relations for Sony’s Alpha Public Relations agency. While this makes him more familiar with the system, his opinions are his own, are backed by PetaPixel’s editorial team, and are not swayed either for or against the company. Previous to his time with Sony, Schloss racked up more 20 years of journalistic experience and he takes his integrity seriously.