In recent years we have reviewed pretty much every device that Fujifilm has rolled out under its Instax brand.
The nostalgia of its instant film offering has proved a success for the Japanese company, with its printers in particular being an offering that is too good to pass up, especially for those wanting to add something different to their mix of photography gadgets.
This brings us to perhaps its most unique offering to date – the Instax Pal.
Described as “a super small digital camera“, the Instax Pal takes the lens that usually features in higher end instant cameras and pretty much ditches everything else, leveraging the use of apps and an aforementioned mobile printer in order to deliver the same instant film experience you may expect from a device like the mini 12.
But is this something that fans of this niche photography medium should be picking up, especially if they already own a printer of instant camera? We spent some time with the Pal to find out if it’s indeed a worthwhile pick up or simply a gadget that missed the mark.
Oh, what’s that?
First thing first and the cuteness factor of the Instax Pal is hard to deny.
Its gumdrop-shaped design is one that immediately demands further inquiry. In fact, whenever we whipped out the Pal, the reaction from onlookers were usually quizzical looks followed by questions as to what it was precisely.
It looks particularly futuristic in the Gem Black colour option of our review model. There are also some more on-brand pastel options available like Power Pink, Pistachio Green, and Lavender Blue.
The Pal, as most cute things are, is a small device, nestling in the palm neatly. In terms of dimensions, it stands less than five centimetres tall, with it measuring 42.3mm × 44.4mm × 43.0mm and weighing only 41g. From a convenience perspective then, it is for batter than the clunkier and heavier instant cameras that Fujifilm makes, with the same going for the printers that the Japanese company produces too.
If you’re wanting something small to potentially print at a later stage then, the Pal seems to tick that box, with it also featuring native storage capacity for up to 50 photos. A microSD slot is present too, and capable of housing up to 850 images per 1GB SD card you choose.
Other notable elements include a lithium-ion battery, although its precise mAh capacity is not disclosed. In our experience it mustered up to three days of intermittent use before the need for charging arose. Speaking of which, Fujifilm says this takes anywhere from two to three hours to fully charge, with a USB Type-C port present to facilitate the process.
From a portability and battery life perspective then, the Pal seems to cut the mustard.
As for the setup process, without a dedicated app (iOS, Android) your Pal is nothing. As such, you need to download said app and pair your Pal before you start snapping, especially if you want to ensure that your snaps appear in the image gallery. The app has a few other features such as editing your photos before sending them to the printer, with a handy live view akin to a webcam present as well.
This is particularly handy when trying to establish framing for pictures, and this is where we get to one of the first issues with the Pal. While there is a viewfinder attachment to assist you in knowing precisely how you’re snapping pictures, most of the time you’re operating blind and waiting to see the result as it populates in the app’s image gallery.
Capturing solid photos in the moment is therefore a little difficult, which ultimately fails to deliver on one of the aspects that people really enjoy about instant cameras and film – candid pictures.
As for the lens present, a 1/5-inch CMOS sensor is present that captures 2560×1920 content. In terms of the image quality, it is comparable to the Instax Mini Evo, which is nothing to snark at, but now we get to an important aspect of the Pal.
If its primary function is for capturing images on par with modern instant cameras for printing at a later stage, why not simply use the combination of your smartphone and one of Fujifilm’s Instax printers?
We have already remarked how it is the superior way to go if you’re a fan of the instant film medium, while also holding all of the advantages and convenience that comes with a smartphone.
We took pictures with the Pal and an iPhone 15 Pro (our daily driver) to compare the quality. As expected the latter was leagues ahead, along with having the benefit of snapping quickly to ensure we got the images we wanted.
It therefore begs the question, if you already have an Instax printer, do you actually need something like the Pal?
In our experience, the answer is no, with a smartphone do just as good a job, if not better.
The Instax Pal is a kawaii piece of kit, of that there is no doubt. At R1 999, however, it quite simply is too expensive to justify adding to your instant film arsenal, regardless of how much of a fan you are of the genre.
Add to that the fact that you’ll need to buy an Instax printer too, if you don’t own one already, as well as a smartphone being capable of performing the exact same job at a better quality, and this may be one of the rare times that Fujifilm has unveiled a device that is not that worthwhile.
As such, it’s difficult to justify picking one up locally in our opinion.
FINAL SCORE: 5 OUT OF 10.