Reviewed by Jasvir Nanackchand for Hypertext.
Instant cameras… passé, right? Fujifilm would beg to differ. In an age of ubiquitous digital photography – which, seemingly, has put the age of the venerable film camera to bed – instant cameras could well be worth a second look, and, over the course of a week-long review, we found out that the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 is one of its better exemplars.
Whether you’re a casual Instagrammer, geek auteur or even a professional image wrangler, we think this fun, cute and affordable little snapper will bring an extra dimension to your photographic toolkit.
While instant cameras can’t match the specs or image quality of DSLRs or mirrorless cameras, or even a modern smartphone, there’s something unique about them – and it’s more than just novelty – that brings a smile to one’s face, whether it’s the antiquated feeling of clicking a physical button and watching the print automatically emerge, or seeing your image develop as if by magic right in front of your eyes.
Or perhaps it’s the subtle glow that comes from holding a tangible copy of your photo in your hands mere seconds after you captured it – a feeling that the average selfie taker today is entirely bereft of.
With that in mind, let’s get down to the Instax Mini 11’s finer details.
In terms of specifications, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11 yields 6.2cm X 4.6cm sized images thanks to its 60mm f/12.7 lens. Added to this is a minimum shooting distance of 30cm, along with built-in flash (cannot be deactivated), an optical viewfinder. It utilises two AA batteries, and this latest model features some glow in the dark accessories and jewel shutter buttons.
We’ll admit it, the Instax Mini 11’s specs certainly won’t blow anyone away, least of all pro photographers. But, we’d argue, specs are somewhat besides the point when it comes to this camera, and what the Instax Mini 11 does do, it does well.
As an entry into the world of instant photography, and as an entry-level camera at that, the Instax Mini 11’s simplicity is its strength: it takes the guesswork out of getting a great result – and it doesn’t get much simpler than point and shoot – which is part of the appeal of instant cameras in the first place.
That being said, we’d like to point out a few of the camera’s highlights, which set it apart from the competition. First up, and a first for the entry-level playing field, is the Instax Mini 11’s “Automatic Exposure” function, a form of exposure control which goes some way towards making up for the camera’s otherwise lack of creative controls.
As the name suggests, it automatically senses ambient lighting conditions, and optimises the camera’s shutter speed and flash accordingly, banishing the all too common underexposed picture from this instant camera’s repertoire.
Instead, and as our tests showed (admittedly, with a few exceptions), the automatic exposure function guarantees a well lit photograph most of the time.
Next up is he Instax Mini 11’s niftiest feature, its Selfie Mode, which inestimably adds to this little camera’s value. While it might seem a non-sequitur to point out – after all, who, in the age of Instagram doesn’t take selfies for granted? – up till now, instant cameras haven’t exactly made taking them easy.
The Instax Mini 11’s Selfie Mode does away with all that, and the end results are impressive, to say the least.
Essentially consisting of an easy to use built-in macro lens – conspicuously absent from other instant cameras, and building upon the Instax Mini 11’s previous iteration, the Instax Mini 9, which required a separate add-on lens for selfies.
The Instax Mini 11 makes selfie taking a breeze: simply pull out the lens until “Selfie On” is visible, frame yourself in the selfie mirror next to the lens, and that’s it, you’re all set to take selfies to your heart’s content.
The macro lens also conveniently makes close-ups possible, allowing focusing anywhere from 30cm to 50cm away from the subject.
The prints themselves are a treat, and the experience lends itself easily to what we think is the Instax Mini 11’s best use case: a fun way to instantly commemorate a social event with friends, like a party, dinner or wedding, for instance, in a manner that ordinary selfies can’t.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out a few shortcomings. Most glaring is the fact that the Automatic Exposure function isn’t perfect: we found that around one print per film pack wasn’t exposed properly, leading to an over-exposed or ‘bleached’ effect in the resulting image.
Considering the cost of each print is R15.50 (each film pack of 10 sheets costs R155), this means that these errors can be costly, and they can add up quickly. While nine out of 10 usually indicating a great score, we were left frustrated with the camera’s failure rate in this respect.
We also have to point out that, while we were charmed with the Instax Mini 11’s old school appeal in other areas, AA batteries are an anachronism that isn’t easily overlooked in 2020.
And the two glow in the dark and jewel shutter buttons are gimmicky at best, and have garnered some mixed reaction from others in the industry.
The Final Picture
Anyone looking for a more fun, affordable and easy-to-use entry into the world of instant photography would be hard-pressed to do better than the Fujifilm Instax Mini 11.
It is still quite pricey though, especially when yo factor in the cost of prints. To that end the Mini 11 will cost roughly R1 199 (RRP) or a bundled kit with one pack of 10 prints for R1 349.
That said, it’s a charming modern day throwback to a world of lo-fi, and we think it should be an indispensable part of anyone’s photography arsenal.