In the day and age when everything touts some sort of cutting-edge tech and all that, it a return to something retro that brings a sense of simplicity. Right on cue is the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay, with a generous blast of the past in a modern-ish avatar. This is basically an instant photo product, and there are two parts to it. This can be a fun camera to have with a bunch of filters and is also a mini printer when that is what you need to take those cool credit-card sized prints of memories that’ll eventually make their way on to the fridge door with a magnet holding that up. The modern touch with the Bluetooth capabilities and a rather usable Fujifilm Mini LiPlay app, which is free for Android phones and the Apple iPhone. The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay is priced at around Rs 13,799 and you can snare a pack of 20 film for Rs 999. How many of those you buy and how often will depend on how soon you create more memories worth those prints. Each print is 62mm x 46mm while the film size is 86mm x 54mm. Utility, still remain a question, doesn't it?
For starters, it has to be said that a rather cool lifestyle product such as the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay has to do its part looking good too. And it does. Fujifilm offers the Instax Mini LiPlay in four colour options—Elegant Black, Blush Gold, Stone White and the Beige Gold Limited Edition. What you see pictured here is the Stone White version. It isn’t the most compact piece of tech and it will not fit in your trouser pocket, but perhaps will slide into a jacket or a coat pocket. It feels well-built and has a reassuring chunkiness to the design. Do not look for the shutter button the side spine, because it is the large silver physical button next to the lens on the front. Mind you, get your fingers out of the way properly. There is also a screen that lets you preview images before you print them—no more wasted film with someone’s eyes closed.
Mind you, this 2.7-inch LCD display isn’t a touchscreen and you’ll have navigate using what now feel like fiddly keys, in this era. There are a bunch of settings as well, such as flash and Bluetooth connectivity. But what you’ll want to get to are the filters and frames. There are quite a few, and as with filters, which ones make sense and which ones don’t will depend on what you have clicked. Take your pick. Some colour filter ones may just work well with most photos.
If you intend to use the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay to also click photos, you have a 1.5-inch CMOS sensor doing the duties for you. This has a focal length of 28mm and f/2.0 aperture. Needless to say, this isn’t exactly the most modern camera. Yet, with the glass lens, what you get even from the camera itself are crisp pictures with neat colour. Before you print, you can also adjust the image for exposure, brightness and colour. It is best if you make the photos taken in inconsistent light a bit brighter before hitting print. Mind you, this is no match for your smartphone camera. So, why wouldn't you take photos with your phone instead?
Chances are you’ll use this more as a direct printer. That is where the smartphone app comes in handy, allowing you to select and fire photos to the printer from there itself. Here also, you have a detailed set of image tweaks before printing. There aren’t any editing tools though, and to be honest, that would be too much to expect as well. It is the printer functionality that had me the most interested from the outset, and I’m glad to report the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay delivers well on that front. Apart from the ability to tweak the illumination of images, the print speed itself is pretty quick. Fujifilm says the Instax Mini LiPlay prints a photo in 12 seconds, and by my calculation, it is actually 11 seconds. Neat.
Battery life is quite solid too. Based on my experience with fast draining instant mini printers earlier, I expected this also to start draining the charge soon enough, and it is no fun to have the charge run out in the midst of printing photos. The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay lasts 100 prints on a single charge—I have no reason to disbelieve that, but I didn’t print 100 prints to actually be able to run the battery down completely while testing this.
There is, if you like a bit of complication, the sound mode. Basically, you can add an audio message to the credit card sized photos you print and share. The audio can be up to 10 seconds and when the image is printed, along with it will come a QR code. The person who you share the print with can then scan the QR code and listen to your audio message. It’s a fun addition but remains unlikely that anyone will really wrap their head around this.
The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay is doing what it sets out to do. Remind you of the simpler times. Give you an instant mini photo printer. And a camera that you can show off to friends. This isn’t for you if you are firmly now in the world of pin-sharp high definition photography. This is for those who like a blast from the past. Still use their fridge door to pin up mini photo prints from fun travels or parties and simply want a print memory of something they truly cherish. And on that front, the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay delivers. But you have to understand that just one of the two sides of the Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay will actually be useful. And that is the printer, for photos taken from the vastly superior camera on your phone. In which case, you have less expensive and more capable options, that are less complicated too.