- Fujifilm's Instax Pal is a small, lightweight, and highly portable device that easily fits into your pocket or bag.
- Unlike other Instax devices, the Pal does not print film but is meant to be used alongside other Instax products and your smartphone.
- The Pal has a quick-to-use nature, allowing you to easily take snaps and store them in its internal storage or SD card reader.
The world of photography continues to evolve. However, while we love all the sophistication of modern cameras and the new smartphone technologies, adding a mix of simplicity is just as alluring. This is where Fujifilm’s Instax range stands out. The devices offer a mix of instant results, simplicity and a great sense of nostalgia for many. Instax has delivered plenty of great cameras in recent years, packed with new features on technology that are some 40 years old. And it’s worked. Now, adding a new product to its range with different features, the Instax Pal is a great companion ahead of the festive season.
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Build and Design
The first and most notable design feature of the Pal is its size. It’s pretty small, lightweight and highly portable. This isn’t an exaggeration in any part, as it’s not a question on any front to take it along with you wherever you’re going. It easily fits into your pocket or any other bag you’re lugging around. At times, I even carried it around in the same pocket alongside my smartphone just to drive home the point of it being impressively small.
Regarding the specifications, it weighs just 41g, so you’ll hardly ever notice you’re even carrying it in your pocket. As for its dimensions, it measures 42.3×44.4×43.0mm, which is a nicely squared setup, even with its rounded appearance.
That being said, this isn’t your conventional Instax device. Unlike the other cameras and printers, the Instax Pal doesn’t print any film. Instead, it’s meant to be used alongside the other Instax range and aided by your smartphone.
Another great feature to boast about is its quick-to-use nature. Once you’ve powered on the camera, you can easily just click the button on the rear to take as many snaps as possible. This is limited to the Pal’s internal storage or SD card reader.
Despite its compact size, the device still has all the basic requirements. This includes the central camera lens, which takes up quite a significant amount of the front real estate. It also has a flash and a built-in speaker on the opposite side, indicated by the three small holes. A large power button is visible on the top of the device, surrounded by a casing with LED lighting, indicating various stages of its operation. The rear houses a large shutter button, which also claims as much of the rear real estate as the lens on the front. It also has a Type-C USB port below it for charging.
Lastly, there are also a few notable additions at the bottom. First, there’s the universal port to connect to your tripod and stand you have around. Then there’s a strange toggle with the letters “L” and “F” etched. This is a simple switch between Link and Fun modes, which I’ll discuss below.
Overall, it’s a small and solid device, showcasing something unique within the Instax range.
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Setup and Features
There are two main options for setup. One is to connect the device to your smartphone, while the second is to connect directly to one of the Instax Link printers. As stated, users can use the toggle below the device to switch between the Link and Fun modes. The Link mode is self-explanatory, allowing the device to link with the Link and print directly from the Pal device. Conversely, the Fun mode can be standalone but offers better support when used with your smartphone. Here, you can take remote photos, ideal for group settings, and add other stylings and filters to your photos.
Once you configure the Pal, it opens up all these additional, easy-to-use features. The device’s internal storage can simultaneously store up to 50 photos. Connected to your smartphone, you can configure it to do this automatically after each photo taken, removing the manual intervention.
As stated, the unit also has an LED lighting case around the power button at the top. The LED flashes turquoise when powered on for the first time, and an excellent chime sound indicates its overall charm. Before connecting to your smartphone or Link printer, it will then strobe red and switch to blue once connected accordingly.
Its front-facing lens has a 1/5-inch CMOS configuration and a primary colour filter to add effects to your photos. The image has a 4.9MP rating, producing a 2560×1920px resolution image. This is a decent size, especially for the smaller Instax prints.
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Performance and Battery Life
The Instax Pal delivers a solid performance in terms of its overall usage and the picture quality of the images captured and printed. Adding filters and other settings via the mobile app beforehand gives you plenty of options to get the most out of the device.
Another aspect of its performance, which will come into play when you’re not using an SD card, is the transfer rate. On average, copying each new image takes 15-20 seconds. It doesn’t seem overly dramatic in isolation, but a burst of 21 photos for interval shooting takes up to five minutes to transfer before it’s completed.
As mentioned, you can use the smartphone app to control the Instax Pal. In doing so, you have a direct view from the camera via the app to know exactly what you’re shooting. While this live feed is excellent, it is a laggy experience. There’s a daily of about two to three seconds in what happens in the real world and then is displayed on your smartphone. This isn’t the ideal way to take action shots, which would be best utilised directly from the device.
In addition to standard photo snaps via the shutter button, you can also opt for two other modes. Users can configure interval shots, taking 3, 6, 11 or 21 photos on the spin. At intervals of three seconds in between each, it can be set up via the app before enabling the option. Alternatively, you can also opt for burst shooting. This allows you to take up to 7 photos when you press and hold the shutter button. These work out great when taking a few action shots.
Two aspects of the Instax Pal can be a bit annoying. The first of these is that it doesn’t offer any zoom functionality. While you can change focus and other aspects to get the best result, adding zoom functionality would’ve been greatly appreciated.
However, a more significant concern is its lack of IP rating. It is pretty compromised for a device built on fun and with its expected frequent use over the summer in settings including the beach and the pool. Users will need to be extra careful at events over the summer holidays.
Battery usage is another strange one on the Pal. On paper, you should be able to take around 350 images before needing a recharge. This is quite decent and in line with many other Instax devices. However, these are usage stats in isolation, away from its Link and Fun mode features.
For starters, when connected to your Link printer and sending through images for printing, battery life can quickly drop by 10-20% depending on the number of prints. Then, when switching to Fun mode via the smartphone, using the live view and interval shots can increase the battery usage and deplete it much quicker than the suggested 350 shots.
You’ll need to keep a keen eye on the battery percentage via the app when in use. Thankfully, charging isn’t much of an issue. A portable charger is a great accessory where users can quickly recharge the Pal within 30 minutes to get about 100 more snaps.
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Is It Worth Buying the Instax Pal?
There’s a lot to enjoy about the Instax Pal. It’s easy to set up and use, and I had quite a bit of fun testing the various options available. Its remote use via the app makes for quite a bit of fun, making it a nifty party piece.
The device isn’t inexpensive, having a retail price of R1,999. This matches many Instax cameras double up as an instant printer. If not for a few shortcomings, it could be the perfect summer companion even with its price point, especially considering the missed opportunity for underwater photography on the fly.
- Easy and quick to use
- Live smartphone feed
- Plenty of useful features to enjoy
- Compact and lightweight
- Battery Life is a mystery
- Priced a bit on the expensive side
- Lacking zoom and no IP rating
Ease of Learning
Ease of Use
Value for Money