I’ve used many Instax cameras, and the digital-only Instax Pal has proved to be the funnest of them all, and the best for all ages, even though it’s technically not an instant camera, nor technically a great camera. Its tiny and cute design is made possible because the printer isn’t built in, while the new app makes for a fun UX that rewards time spent creating. With the option to print now or print later using one of Fujifilm’s excellent portable Link printers, the Pal is an all-round smart choice with familiar Instax quality, unless you want an entirely analog experience. Pal might just become your digital family pet.
Cute design and fun UX
Handles better than clunky Instax alternatives
Choose between print now or later
The Link printer is the real star of the show
Better image quality from modern camera phones
Costly when bought with a printer
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Fujifilm Instax Pal: Two-minute review
Today’s cameras are so good, and so serious, that it’s proved cathartic to review the Instax Pal, a camera that’s seriously enjoyable and no more.
This fuss-free ball of fun – it's about the size of a golf ball, to give you an idea – is suitable for all ages, and the closest a camera can be to a digital pet; it lights up and emits a happy jingle when powered on, and a sad sound when inactivity sends it to sleep, while the compatible Instax Pal app gifts you digital rewards for your activity. Tamagotchi, eat your heart out.
As a self-respecting adult I didn’t fall for such blatant manipulation to motivate me to use the app (okay, I did). And you only have to make the Pal available to the whole family – which you can, because you don’t need to be precious about this low-cost snapper – to appreciate that it speaks to all ages.
This is an Instax camera that might actually be used day-to-day, and not stowed away in the cupboard once your film supply has run dry, as is so often my experience with analog Instax cameras.
The Pal might well have the Instax name, but it’s not an instant camera as we know it. It’s a digital-only camera that fits better in the hand, printing via one of Fujifilm’s Instax Link printers, which come in ‘Mini’, ‘Square’ or ‘Wide’ formats; directly via a Bluetooth connection; or through the new Instax Pal app.
So while you don’t get the analog-only experience of traditional Instax cameras, which can be a wonderful remedy in this digital world we live in, you're more likely to take your tiny Pal with you everywhere, and you’ll also print your candid moments with one of Fujifilm’s portable Link printers more often than you would with a desktop printer.
To me, the Pal feels like the best of both worlds; it’s a camera that’s not weighed down by a built-in a printer, while the shoot-to-print experience – either directly, or through the app – is seamless.
You can print blind the old-school way, directly to a Link when the switch on the underside of the camera is set to ‘L’, or be selective via the convenient app, and not waste your expensive film by using the ‘F’ setting instead. That’s not the analog soul, but these days I’d rather have the control.
I’m a big fan of Fujifilm’s Instax Link portable printers – and it was the Instax Square Link printer that really completed my Pal experience. You can also use this printer to print the higher-quality photos in your phone’s gallery using the relevant Link app.
The Pal doesn’t even have a screen on which to compose and view your ultra-wide angle snaps, like the Instax Mini Evo hybrid Instax does, and nor does it produce technically excellent image quality images – this is essentially a basic 2560 x 1920 pixel stills-only camera, clothed in cuteness.
As a camera, the Pal isn’t great. But what it does bring to the table is a fine-tuned experience with the app and printer, in colorful packaging for all to enjoy, and it has one or two surprises up its sleeve.
Selfies and group shots are made easy via the self timer on the app, with the camera supported by the included detachable ring (that you’ll need as a kind of wrist strap if you don’t want to keep dropping the ball-like camera). The Pal even has a tripod thread that's compatible with small table-top tripods.
Also, it was a real curveball to discover that the Pal is a discreet snapper; no one batted an eyelid as I took candid street photos around London with the Pal nestled into the palm of my hand (although the automatic fill-in flash caught me out a few times).
Fujifilm has put a lot of thought into the new app, too. Automatically wiping photos from the 50-shot internal memory once they’ve been uploaded to the app is a smart move, while there’s also a micro SD card slot for those that want to double up on storing their photos.
In-app images filters, basic edits, plus output to the various Instax Link printers cover your bases and ensure that you remain active, provided you don’t run out of paper. And the beauty is that when you do run out you can keep using your digital Pal until you top up your supply again.
The Fujifilm Instax Pal is not one of the best instant cameras – it’s not even an instant camera, technically – and on paper it can’t compete with the Instax Mini Evo. However, sometimes you’ve just got to go with the feeling, and Pal gives all the feels.
Ultimately, Pal isn’t a technically great camera, but it is one that I want to use more than most others, and that says a lot.
Fujifilm Instax Pal: Price and release date
- Available in the US, bundled with the Mini Link printer only, for $199.99
- Available in the UK and Australia as the camera only, from £89.99 / AU$149
The Instax Pal is available in five exotically named colorways: Milky White, Powder Pink, Pistachio Green, Lavender Blue, and Gem Black.
In the US the Instax Pal is bundled with the Instax Mini Link printer only, for $199, while in the UK and Australia you buy the camera separately, for £89.99 / AU$149 respectively (while the Gem Black version with a shiny, reflective surface costs £104.99 in the UK).
In the box you get a detachable ring that can act as a support to rest the Pal on, or slide onto the top as a 'viewfinder' (you don't need to do that), or, most helpfully, use as a kind of wrist strap.
As for the cost of paper, that depends on which format printer you're outputting to; Mini, Square, or Wide. Twin packs of 10 sheets of Instax Mini film start from $14.99 / £14.99 / AU$34.95
Fujifilm Instax Pal: Should I buy?
Buy it if...
You want an Instant camera for the whole family
The tiny design is much easier to use for small hands than the (often) clunky Instax alternatives with built-in printing capability. Throw in the fun app, and this is a camera for all the family to enjoy.
You want control and convenience over what you print
There’s no getting around just how many prints you ‘waste’ with a traditional analog Instax camera – you press the shutter, and out comes the print. Analog is cathartic in this digital age, but also costly considering how expensive film is. The app, on the other hand, lets you pick and choose the best shots, and the convenience of a Link means that you're more likely to make prints than if you're relying on a destkop printer.
You want an Instax that you use day to day
The cost of the camera and printer is more than most other analog Instax cameras, but the running cost is much lower if you print selectively through the app. And because the camera is so small, you can easily take it around with you – it’ll slip right in your pocket – and print later.
Don't buy it if...
You want a digital-free camera
All-in-one Instax cameras are the anti-tech antidote, a real analog experience. And while the digital Pal makes more practical sense than all-analog options, it's a digital process – you’ll still need a Bluetooth connection for direct-to-Link prints (which works fine, by the way), while controlling and printing through the phone app is an even better experience. This is 2023’s digital Instax – the Pal has the Instax name, but not its spirit.
You want an all-in-one instant camera
If you want to print your Instax Pal shots, you need a compatible Instax Link printer, and unless one lives in your bag, you wont be able to capture and share the moment with a print right away.
You want the best image quality
No Instax camera and printer makes technically excellent photos (they have the lovely Instax color, though), but when you can print any of the photos in your phone’s gallery through the app, it only goes to spotlight the gap in image quality between the Pal and your superior modern camera phone.
Fujifilm Instax Pal: also consider
If our Pal review has you interested in instant cameras, here are a couple of other options to consider...
Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo
This retro-design hybrid Instax gives both analog and digital options; with a rear LCD screen, built-in Mini-format printer and compatible app, it does everything the Pal does and more, and on paper is easily the better option. The tiny Pal has its own appeal, though.
Read our full Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo review.
Fujifilm Instax Link
A printer as an alternative to a camera? Strange as that sounds, it's the very convenient nature of these portable printers, available in Mini, Square and Wide formats, that makes the Pal such a solid Instax camera, yet you don't need the Pal itself to make those precious prints. Your camera phone paired with an Instax Link app is another alternative.
Read our full Fujifilm Instax Link wide review.
Fujifilm Instax Pal: How I tested
- All the family played with our new Pal
- Printing directly to portable Link printer, and via the app
I had the Instax Pal in my pocket for over a week, and in my family home with two generations getting to grips with it. Throughout this time, I've became very familiar with the accompanying Instax Pal app, through which you can access most of the Pal’s functions. The camera device itself is super-simple, and I also operated it bypassing the app altogether and making direct-to-Link prints, for a more ‘authentic’ Instax experience.
I’ve used the camera for family snaps, as a discreet street photography snapper, and for all-round every day moments. I played around with the in-app editor, and made lots of prints from the Instax Link Square printer, which is my favorite size of Instax print, collecting plenty of in-app rewards in the process.
- First reviewed September 2023
Tim is the Cameras editor at TechRadar. He has enjoyed more than 15 years in the photo video industry with most of those in the world of tech journalism. During his time as Deputy Technical Editor with Amateur Photographer, as a freelancer and consequently editor at Tech Radar, Tim has developed a deeply technical knowledge and practical experience with cameras, educating others through news, reviews and features. He’s also worked in video production for Studio 44 with clients including Canon, and volunteers his spare time to consult a non-profit, diverse stories team based in Nairobi. Tim is curious, a keen creative, avid footballer and runner, and moderate flat white drinker who has lived in Kenya and believes we have much to enjoy and learn from each other.