As TechRadar’s Cameras editor, I review the latest and greatest devices for photography and video. Mostly serious tools, for serious creatives. Rarely do I get to play with a camera that I’d call cute, a camera like the new Fujifilm Instax Pal.
It’s a tiny, golf ball-sized digital camera with the Instax name, only it doesn’t churn out instant prints like a traditional Instax. This is a digital-only Instax camera, fine-tuned to pair with Fujifilm's Instax Mini Link, Instax Square Link, or Instax Wide Link portable printers, via a new Instax Pal app.
Simple as they come, Pal doesn’t have a screen to compose your ultra-wide angle snaps as the Instax Mini Evo does. It emits a happy jingle when you power up via the multi-color-light-up power button and a sad sound when powered down. The app dishes out rewards the more snaps you take. If Tamagotchi were a camera, Pal would be its name.
Instax by name, cute by nature
The Fujifilm Instax Pal is not one of the best instant cameras per se, but it can be as good as one when paired with an Instax Link printer. There’s a switch on the underside of the camera with “L” and “F” modes; “L” is a direct-to-Link printer photo mode that effectively creates the instant camera experience by using a Bluetooth-connected Link printer, while “F” is a photo to memory mode that stores onto the Pal’s 50-shot internal memory, or onto micro SD card.
There are five exotically named color varieties of Pal; 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 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). You get a detachable ring included that can act as a support to rest the Pal on, slide onto the top as a 'viewfinder' (you don't need to do that), but, most helpfully, as a kind of wrist strap.
Photos consequently uploaded to the Instax Pal app are automatically wiped from the camera’s memory, and the app gives a seamless experience navigating your image gallery to pick your best snaps for print (and avoid wasting that expensive Fujifilm instant film), applying fun edits in the process that include filter effects, adding text or stickers, plus there’s a brightness correction and crop tools. You also choose which of those three Instax formats to output to, too.
It’s worth noting that the new app can work for any photos in your phone’s gallery, not just ones imported from the Instax Pal. So here’s the question; how is Pal better than otherwise pairing your smartphone with one of Fujifilm’s excellent portable Link printers via the app?
Well, there are times you might not want to use your smartphone for photography, plus the Pal is a dinky snapper that all the family can use. Even I, a seasoned photographer, am somehow more drawn to Pal – it’s a camera that I’d want to use more regularly than most other Instax cameras that can feel a little clunky and awkward in the hand – you're carrying a printer after all. Pal on the other hand feels super easy to use, especially for small hands, and can slip right into your pocket. Heck, it’s so discreet you could even use Pal as a street photography camera, which I gave a stab at when walking through London after the Instax Pal press event. That’s my next personal photography project lined up.
In a way, I don’t mind the separation of the Pal camera and Link printer versus an all-in-one instant camera, plus you can also use the accompanying app to remotely control Pal, with self-timer and interval modes. Chuck in the mini-tripod thread and the included multi-use detachable ring as potential supports for hands-free selfies and group shots, and the Pal is an Instax with a difference. I’ll share more thoughts about the Instax Pal in my upcoming review.
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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.