I have always been fascinated by instant film processing cameras. I remember as a child getting to take a couple of shots with a family-friend’s original Polaroid and being amazed by its ability to create a fully processed photo within minutes.
It seems that fascination has not gone away…
Instant film cameras have been around since the late 1940s, and their popularity has held firm through to this very day.
The latest rendition of such a camera is the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay, targeted at the selfie youth market. (Not that there is anything wrong with that! I have taken the odd selfie here and there too…)
The Mini LiPlay is the smallest and neatest of the extensive range of Fujifilm Instax cameras.
Unlike earlier Fujifilm Instax models which performed a little ‘toy-like’, this one is a hybrid digital/instant camera which unlocks the restrictions of an otherwise analogue product.
This key feature allows for greater levels of interaction and creativity in creating an image well before you press the print button.
With a nominal amount of support and interaction with a smartphone app, its a perfect fit for its target audience.
Let’s take a look at the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay review to see if it’s the best instant camera of 2022.
Many thanks to Instax Australia for supplying us with the review unit.
Table of Contents
Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay | Specs
- Small and neat in size and weight
- The hybrid digital system allows for far greater creative control
- Fun features thanks to the interaction with the Mini LiPlay app
- Ability to print directly from a smartphone
- Takes a little while to get used to
- The shutter button can be a little touch-sensitive
- Cost of the Fujifilm Instax film
- 1/5-in. CMOS with a primary colour filter
- Built-in memory with additional micro SD / micro SDHC memory card (purchased separately)
- 28 mm focal lengths (35-mm film equivalent) with F2 aperture
- Built-in flash
- 82.5 mm (3.25″) x 122.9 mm (4.84″) x 36.7 mm (1.45″)(excluding protrusions)
- Weighs 255gm (9oz) (excluding film pack and memory card)
Build & Appearance
Despite its Blush Gold finish (also available in Elegant Black and Stone White) and sparkly appearance, the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPLay is solidly constructed of a rigid feeling plastic.
Nothing feels loose or rattly when handling the camera, especially the large door where the Fujifilm Instax Film is loaded. This is critical given that the door ensures zero light penetration to expose the film inside.
Fujifilm Instax cameras have always had odd design choices and I must admit that most seem bulky and bulbous. An obvious reason for is to allow the canister of 10 Fujifilm Instax film slides to be pressed right up against the front element and shutter. All other features of the camera are built around that core structure.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay is no different. However, it’s probably the most minimal of the Fujifilm Instax range in the current generation.
It is mostly rectangular with softened edges and corners. The camera is actually held vertical with small plastic nubs on the base to allow for the camera to be placed on a flat surface.
The front face of the camera features a shutter button, audio record button and a raised platform for the flash, front element and a convex selfie mirror.
On the side are three customisable feature buttons along with the power button. On the back of the camera is the Fujifilm Instax film access door. This door is slightly raised to accommodate the LCD screen along with the menu buttons and selection dial.
There is also a raised nub for your thumb to rest against when holding the camera up for a shot. At the top is the felted gap for the Instax film to slide through once the shot has been taken.
The Mini LiPlay comes packed with a USB / USB mini charging cable and a small nylon wrist strap.
Ergonomics & Handling
When I first picked up the LiPlay I found it incredibly awkward to hold and shoot – mostly because it required to be held vertically rather than horizontally like I am used to in my day to day interactions with cameras. But as with all tools, use them enough and they become second nature.
The Mini LiPlay has two big playful buttons on the front just begging to be pushed. If anything, I found that the shutter button a little light on the touch as I was taking photos I didn’t intend to take.
Thankfully this is a digital hybrid camera and I could easily delete the file rather than suffer a dud print.
The buttons and command ring on the back of the Mini LiPlay are a perfect size and have easy to understand icons printed on them. The same goes for the customisable function buttons on the side.
There are two parts to the menu system with the first allowing for camera settings to be changed and the second is to use the command ring to select image changes such as filters and frames.
Knowing how to load the Fujifilm Instax film into the back of the LiPLay is very intuitive with a clear yellow marker indicating where the place the film and align it. The door has a very snug fit to ensure that there is no light leakage to expose the film.
The Mini LiPlay is easy to hold in the one hand (right hand only) thanks to the way your hand curls around the side of the camera while your thumb is snug again the thumb nub on the back. Your shooting finger tends to align perfectly with the rather large shutter release button on the front.
Given that it has a polished and highly rounded body, it would be wise to ensure that you use the included wrist strap. Whilst the ability to hold the camera is comfortable and ensures a good grip, it is not a highly secure grip, making it not ideal as a camera for kids with their smaller hands.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay has an effective autofocus system that in good light, grabs focus with minimal hunting.
With a half-press of the shutter button, the autofocus will hit the target in the middle of the sensor and then confirm with a solid green square on the screen.
With the shutter button pressed halfway down focus can be held until the shutter is pushed all the way down and the image is captured.
In lower light, the Mini LiPLay can struggle to capture focus quickly and in some cases will hunt for focus. If it cannot obtain a clean focus then it will confirm that with a solid red square in the middle of the screen.
Given the sensor size, this is to be expected and anyone shooting with any instant camera should know it isn’t meant to be shot in low-light without a flash.
Low Light Performance
As mentioned., the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay is not designed with the kind of sensor and processor to combat low light conditions. However,it does have a few tricks up its sleeve to combat this…
The first is that the built-in flash on the Mini LiPlay doubles as an Autofocus Illuminator. This assists in achieving great autofocus in low light especially with objects closer to the camera.
The second feature to assist with low light performance is with the adjustable Exposure Compensation function. This allowed for the exposure to be manually changed up or down two stops of light with 1/3 increments.
Fujifilm Instax cameras have always struggled with low light in the past and it is great to see that Fujifilm is addressing this with smart solutions built in to the Mini LiPlay.
How this all impacts image quality is difficult to confirm as the images printed from the Mini LiPlay are so small it is hard to detect noise or image degradation.
It is important to be aware that the shutter speed and ISO are fully automated by the camera’s processor. As a result, the images shot in low light are sometimes a little darker.
The images shot with the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay have a good quality of sharpness and contrast. Again, however, it is difficult to tell exactly as the resolution of the image on the screen is quite low.
The printed images from the Mini LiPlay have a trustworthy consistency as with all Fujifilm Instax cameras. The images have enough sharpness and contrast to allow for image recognition, while still retaining that ‘vintage-vibe’ that Instax users are drawn to. Someone using this camera obviously cannot expect high-resolution prints.
The Mini LiPlay and the Mini LiPlay smartphone app, allow for a direct print function. This allows you to choose any of the images from your smartphone image library to be sent directly to the print function on the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay.
This is a smart addition given the market audience for this camera. You can see an example in the image above.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay performs exceptionally well and actually surprised me with some of its clever and creative features.
There is sturdy reliability that comes with the Instax range of products. Their purpose and concept are very simple – take fun small images and have immediate gratification with a printed image. That is what attracted me to the instant film cameras I experienced as a child.
It’s important to note that the Mini LiPlay was not built to be a high performing camera. Speed and processing are not key considerations for purchasing such a product.
It was designed and made to be a fun product that produces surprising results, and in that the Instax Mini LiPlay has exceeded expectations.
Other Useful Features
Given that the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay is targeted to a youth market, all advertising and box art for this product show young women having a blast with small groups of people. It is fair to say that this product is perfectly matched to that demographic.
Whilst writing this review of the Instax Mini LiPlay, my 17-year-old daughter found the camera and fell in love with it instantly.
To further enhance the user’s experience, this camera is packed with a raft of additional features to enhance the user’s experience.
The most important features is that the camera has a companion app available for smartphones. The Mini LiPlay app allows you to connect directly with the camera.
From there you can use the app to control the camera for remote shooting. If you want to take a group shot and be included, you can set up the camera on a flat surface and get in the shot. Then activate the camera from the Mini LiPlay app.
Further to this, the Mini LiPlay camera can act as a printer for images to be sent from your smartphone’s existing image library, via the Mini LiPlay app.
So if you have a great photo on your phone and want a copy of it to stick on your fridge, it is a simple and quick process to print that photo out.
Another worthy mention of the Mini LiPlay app is that it can be used to customise the three shortcut buttons located on the side of the Mini LiPlay. These shortcuts can be used to add any one of six creative filters before you shoot, and any one of 30 creative frames to the image either before or after you take the shot.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay comes with a small amount of built-in memory that will allow around 45 images to be saved to the camera. The memory can easily be expanded by adding a microSD card via the slot located on the side of the camera. Images can be selected deleted or the entire volume deleted from the memory.
One of the craziest features of the Mini LiPlay is its ability to record sound. That may sound crazy as you be inclined to ask why does a film photography camera need to add sound to an image. Or you may even ask how that is possible.
The Mini LiPlay has an ingenious feature where you can add a short sound bite to a photo either while you are taking the shot or after you have already taken it.
The camera will then print a QR code in the corner of the image. With a QR code reader on a smartphone, the recipient of that printed image can scan the code and get a 10 second sound message!
Value for Money
Given that the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay is marketed at young adults, the retail price is fair and affordable especially given the full range of highly desirable features for that market.
At around $220, the Mini LiPLay is placed perfectly in the middle-pricing for the Fujifilm Instax range.
I have always found that the biggest cost consideration for purchasing any Fujifilm Instax camera is the film. Fujifilm Instax film comes in a pack of ten sheets to create ten printed images.
In the past, Fujifilm Instax cameras were not digital hybrids so what you shot was always printed no matter what. At least now with the Mini LiPLay, you can select which images you really want to print so as to minimise print waste.
When purchasing film for the Instax, I would recommend looking for bulk packs such as this Film Value Pack of 60. They will be far cheaper per sheet in the long run than just buying a box at a time.
It’s also important to keep an eye out for all the accessories that are available for the Fujifilm Instax range. There is a wide range of different film with coloured and themed frames. There is also a pack of Fujifilm Instax film that is monochrome with a black frame, such as this.
If you’re looking for original photography gifts, or even to pick one up for yourself, the Mini LiPlay is a great little product.
Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay Review | Conclusion
I really enjoyed getting to know and playing with all the quirky settings on the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay.
I took a couple of truly horrible selfies of which you will never see. I also took some fun photos around the house.
Further to this, I enjoyed being able to select some of my images from my smartphone and print them directly via the Mini LiPlay app.
The Mini LiPlay is all about the fun factor and documenting great memories. It is designed for a demographic with a serious set of social needs and expectations and the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPLay certainly meets those needs… so much so that I now have to get one for my daughter!