Fujifilm’s latest instant camera, the Instax Mini Evo, manages to perfectly balance good design and retro gimmicks to encourage play. Housed in a plastic body that evokes cameras from decades ago is a hybrid camera with intuitive dials and buttons and software that allows for 100 combinations of lens filters and color profiles. But this fine balance comes at a high cost. At $200, it is one of the most expensive Instax cameras that Fujifilm makes, only second to the Square SQ20. But it is also, by far, my favorite one.
The Instax Mini Evo primarily acts as a digital camera with the added bonus of being able to print photos onto Instax Mini film. It’s the successor to the Instax Mini LiPlay that came out in mid-2019. But with the Mini Evo, Fujifilm dropped the incredibly useless audio recording feature and instead embraced a retro design.
Most excitingly, though, the Mini Evo’s vintage-looking dials and buttons aren’t just a facade; they actually function. For example, there is a replica film advance lever on the top of the camera that is repurposed as a lever to print your photos. So clever! And a dial on top, which is typical of an ISO dial on a film camera, is programmed to change digital film effects. The dial around the lens even rotates for switching between lens effects. In previous Instax cameras, switching these effects meant digging through a rudimentary and confusing menu system, which the Mini Evo also has. But by having all these settings on physical dials, I rarely had to use that menu and therefore felt more compelled to play with these filters.
The 3-inch LCD screen is clear and easy to see even in bright light, and the overall profile of the camera is slim enough that carrying this camera while out never felt like a burden. However, I do wish there was a viewfinder to complete the feel of using a film camera. The upside is the Mini Evo has a slimmer profile without it. There are two shutter buttons on the Mini Evo: one on top for taking landscape orientation photos and the other on the front, which better suits taking portrait orientation photos.
The Mini Evo has an internal battery that takes around 2.5 hours to charge from zero, and in my use, I never had a problem with the camera’s battery life. It easily lasted through an entire weekend of casual snapshots. I am saddened by the Micro USB port, though. We are well into the USB-C revolution — come join us, Instax.
This camera fell short on internal storage, though. It only holds 45 images internally. For file sizes as small as 1MB, this was a bit of a shock for me. And when a small, red Mini Evo icon popped up on the lower-left corner of the screen, my first thought was not full storage. However, 1GB of external memory on a microSD card will get you 850 images.
Being able to choose what photos get printed and how many of them get printed is what adding a digital back to an Instax camera allows, but Fujifilm has always married that feature with gimmicks that rely on a poor user interface. With the Mini Evo, Fujifilm instead put those gimmicks on physical dials and buttons that encourage their use and make their use a lot more fun. With that, the screen is predominantly used for viewing your image and deciding whether or not to print it. Yes, you can get deep into the bad menu system, but your experience doesn’t rely on it as heavily.
All of this comes at the high cost of $200, though, which doesn’t even include the film needed to fully utilize the camera, which will cost around $7 for 10 exposures. But with how well the Mini Evo is physically designed, how it allows flexibility on what to print, and how it actually encouraged me to play with filters, I’m finding that price a bit easier to justify.
Photos by: Becca Farsace / The Verge