The Fuji Instax Mini 11 was Fuji’s best instant film camera they’ve ever made, one that finally matched vintage Polaroid in terms of simplicity, ease-of-use, and results. Now, several years later, Fuji is back with the Instax Mini 12, an iterative update that keeps what works about the 11 but makes it even better. We’ll get into the details below, but if you’re looking to jump into the world of instant film, the Instax Mini 12 is the best Instax camera out there.
Fuji made some smart changes with the Instax 12 that make it even easier to shoot with. Instead of pushing a button to ‘eject’ the lens and then requiring you pull on the lens to switch into closeup mode like on the Mini 11, now all you have to do is turn a dial from ‘off’ to ‘on.’ Easy. I’ve watched people struggle with figuring out how to turn on an Instax 11 camera, so I appreciate this ease of use improvement.
Going along with that, the shutter button is more pronounced on the front, making it more obvious to the newbie that’s what they need to press. The Instax Mini series is a great camera for events like weddings and parties, and anything that helps grandpa pick it up and use it is a boon.
The closeup function gets some improvements in the 12 as well. When you switch over the closeup mode, the viewfinder automatically adjusts accordingly, helping you frame people and objects.
I wish there were distance instructions printed on the camera itself for closeup mode, as well as a label informing the user that closeup mode is also the correct setting for selfie mode. Without the instructions or experience, it’s impossible to know what distance is considered ‘closeup.’ (Just so you know, closeup mode is best for photos taken at arm’s length – think 1.5ft to 2ft or 40cm-60cm. It will not work for macro or filling the frame with a tiny object like a small flower).
The Instax Mini 12 is a no-nonsense camera that makes it easy to take a photo. There aren’t a lot of extra modes or confusing buttons – it’s a simple machine that gets the job done. The improvements discussed above go a long way towards keeping things straightforward.
The viewfinder is teeny tiny, but you’re taking teeny tiny pictures so it’s not a big deal. Included to help with selfie composition is a tiny mirror right next to the lens. It’s surprisingly useful, and I’m glad it has stuck around.
There is very little in the way of manual control in terms of focus, exposure, or flash, but this is Instax Mini. I feel this format is best for fun photos of friends and family – serious photographers should consider stepping up to a larger format like Instax Square or Polaroid.
Auto exposure is fantastic. I don’t know what secret sauce they applied to their exposure system, but I got some of the most consistent, well-exposed results out of any Fuji Instax camera I’ve used. Especially for people, pictures are bright and accurately exposed, even in challenging indoor situations.
As always with Instax, flash falloff is hard. Expect dark backgrounds and the flash to struggle with subjects too far from the camera. Keep your subjects relatively close to the camera and you’ll be fine.
The Instax Mini 12 has an… uh… unique design. It’s a bulbous, toy-like design with rounded edges that slips well into a pocket or bag. I’m also not sure how I feel about these new crevices. Is it just me, or is it like this thing has a butt? It’s just me, isn’t it?
Colors this time are all pastels, and I miss the bold colors of previous generations. The deep blue of my Instax Mini 9 is still my favorite look for an Instax camera.
The big weak point is the battery door, which fits terribly. This has always been an issue with the Fuji Instax Mini line of cameras, and I’m frustrated that it remains a problem.
Speaking of batteries, the Mini 12 takes two AA batteries. Heck yeah. I absolutely love when film cameras use easily removable batteries in standard sizes. No weird CR2 batts here, just easily sourced AAs.
Just keep in mind you should never, ever leave alkalines in your camera when not using it. Most people will not use their instant film cameras often enough to catch a leaking battery, and alkaline batteries will always leak eventually if not regularly discharged.
I wrote a whole thing about this, but I recommend using rechargeable lithium AAs instead of alkaline, as they won’t leak and ruin your electronics if you forget to remove the batteries.
The Instax Mini 12 rocks. Fuji makes countless more expensive Instax Mini cameras, but this is the one to get. It’s perfect for weddings, parties, and events, especially as a camera left out for people to use.
If you can get a Mini 11 for cheap, it’s also still a great camera. However, avoid the 8 and 9 unless you get a great deal – they’re not nearly as easy to use. Also avoid more expensive Instax Mini cameras. If you’re interested in more serious photography, larger formats like the Instax Square or Polaroid will serve you much better. The Instax Mini frame is just too small for the detail required for decent scans.
I also recommend grabbing the monochrome version of Fuji Instax Mini film. The black and white version of Instax Mini is a blast to use and pairs perfectly with a Instax Mini 12 camera.
The Instax Mini 12 takes the crown as the best instant film camera for beginners. It’s fun, easy to use, and perfect to throw in a bag to bring to a party. I wish it was a little cheaper, but then again, everything about shooting film is expensive compared to using your phone. If you’re looking for a great camera to make memories with, you can’t go wrong with the Mini 12.