Over the past few months we’ve been trying Fujifilm’s range of instant cameras, with the Instax lineup proving one of the Japanese company’s most profitable areas of late, and for good reason. Not only do they tap into nostalgia, but more recently Fujifilm has been imbuing newer models with new features to keep casual photographers interested.
The latest offering is the Instax Mini LiPlay, which launched locally last month alongside Fujifilm’s PrintLife exhibition in Sandton City. At the time one of the features that the company punted on the LiPlay was its ability to record audio and print QR codes with pictures for playback.
At the time it struck us as a little gimmicky, and a feature that didn’t truly differentiate the LiPlay from Fujifilm’s other hybrid instant cameras.
Having tried it out for review over the past couple of weeks, here’s our verdict on Instax Mini LiPlay and whether it is more than just a gimmick.
Before we delve into the features, let’s talk design.
The LiPlay has a similar aesthetic to some of Fujifilm’s newer instant cameras, but with a slightly more rectangular body. Unlike the Instax Square models though, things feel a tad more plastic-y than normal, and perhaps lacks the premium quality we’ve come to expect from the Japanese company of late.
Nevertheless the plastic-heavy design means things are relatively light at 255g, so the LiPlay does not become a burden to lug around. It’s shape, although a tad thick, is easier to fit into smaller bags than other Instax models.
If there is one aspect of the device that proved irksome though, it was the button layout, especially while trying to snap pictures.
The shutter button in particular, which is up front, can be a little difficult to find after you’ve done framing up what you want to snap. As such it does not lend itself well to rapid use.
Above the side-located power button, which I often confused for the shutter (perhaps from too much smartphone use), sits a trio of buttons for quickly switching between different the number of frames and filters available on the LiPlay. Personally I’m not a fan of the frames, so I quickly assigned the three buttons to filters instead, with the black and white being my favourite of the options.
What did please me however, was how easy and intuitive the menu navigation was, with a quartet of buttons found below the 2.7″ TFT display on the back.
An app for that
Now for the feature I really enjoyed on the Instax Mini LiPlay. No, not the QR codes. We’ll get to that later.
Instead it was the LiPlay mobile app (iOS and Android), which really proved the most useful. Specifically as it facilitates a number of handy tools, with the first being able to delve into your phone’s gallery (once connected via Bluetooth) and printing pictures from there.
In general I found this method a better option than shooting with the 1/5″ CMOS sensor on the LiPlay, mainly as the detailed afforded on my smartphone results in better looking prints.
One of the other truly great features on the LiPlay is remote shooting. Once paired to your phone, you can use the app to set up a particular shot at a distance and see what’s going to be snapped via the LiPlay’s viewfinder.
If the 10 second self timer is not long enough, this becomes particularly useful. Added to this is taking selfies, with you no longer needing to see how the print came out to know if the selfie is good or not.
All of this functionality comes at a price though, with battery life dipping quite a bit once you’re paired and using both your app via the phone, and printing pics on the LiPlay. While using it for example for no longer than 10 minutes, the battery level dipped from two bars to one.
As such it’s a function you should use sparingly or at least when you know a plug point is close at hand.
A once-off feature
Okay now for the QR voice notes. Yes, these do indeed add a nifty touch to any picture you may want to share with someone, but outside of the initial “hey look at this cool thing” moment when you first introduce people to the LiPlay, we don’t foresee it being used very often.
As such it’s not quite a gimmick in our books, but rather a novelty, and not the reason why you should be thinking of buying the LiPlay alone.
Instead it is the app and its range of features where this hybrid instant camera really succeeds.
The Instax Mini LiPlay is not cheap at R2 499, and like many of the instant cameras that Fujifilm makes, should only be bought by those who are going to make the most of them.
As such if you plan to share a number of Instax pics with friends and family, the LiPlay is the best offering that the Japanese company makes right now.
We’d advise not getting sucked into the QR voice notes, and rather focus on the things you can do with the LiPlay mobile app. Used in conjunction with your phone, the LiPlay can do quite a bit.
Those who call this instant camera nothing more than a gimmick then, are either not into the nostalgic artform, or simply haven’t tried it in full yet.