Fujifilm INSTAX Mini 12 review
Written by Gordon Laing
The INSTAX Mini 12 is the latest instant camera to use Fujifilm’s enormously popular INSTAX Mini film. Launched in March 2023 and available in five pastel colours, the Mini 12 produces small prints using a fully analogue process that eject straightaway and gradually develop before your eyes in roughly 90 seconds.
The concept and print quality is essentially the same as earlier models, but the 12 now features a newly designed body shape, a twisting barrel for easier power-up and access to the selfie mode, plus a useful automatic adjustment to both the viewfinder and flash brightness when shooting close-up. In the video below I’ll show you all the upgrades in practice, but if you prefer to read the written highlights, keep scrolling!
Like the Mini 11 before it, the 12 is not a digital camera, it doesn’t have a screen or any means to connect it to a phone or computer. The only way to get images from it into your phone is to literally take photos of your prints, although Fujifilm’s new INSTAX UP app launched alongside the Mini 12 does make capturing and sharing them easier, and can be downloaded free of charge.
The Mini 12 camera itself costs around $79 dollars or pounds, roughly ten more than the three-year-old Mini 11 it replaces. Meanwhile INSTAX Mini film costs around $20 or £15 for a twin pack of 20 shots, which works out around a dollar or 75 pence per print. Larger packs can work out a bit cheaper, and Fujifilm also sells a variety with different border styles if you fancy it.
To compare the Mini camera’s shape, let’s go back a couple of generations to the Mini 9 seen here with its relatively chunky grip. Note the exposure settings on the lens barrel which you had to set manually and the button alongside to power it up.
Fujifilm skipped the number 10, so the next model was the Mini 11, seen here with its slimmed-down grip, and while the push power button remained, the exposure was now automatic, and you no longer needed to remember a clip-on adapter for selfies.
And finally here’s the latest Mini 12, showing-off its less curvy grip, and switching the push power button for a twisting mechanism similar to the INSTAX SQ1.
With all three side by side, from left to right, the Mini 9, 11 and 12, you can see how Fujifilm’s evolved the styling, and I have to say I really like the look of the latest model which moves away from the almost toy-like bubble appearance of the earlier ones without losing its cuteness. Which do you prefer?
But for anyone who still finds the Mini 12’s styling a little too frivolous, here’s the earlier Mini 40 on the left with its more serious looks, a little like a vintage film camera, albeit much the same as the Mini 11 inside.
Let’s now switch out the Mini 40 on the left for Fujifilm’s most recent INSTAX Square camera, the SQ1 which is obviously much wider. The main difference between them is of course the shape of the prints, square for the SQ1 and tall for the Mini, and since each INSTAX camera or printer can only take one type of film, you should choose a model based on your preferred print shape.
Like previous models in the series, the Mini 12 is powered by a pair of AA batteries housed in a compartment on the grip side and good for up to 100 shots, or roughly 10 packs of film. Fujifilm includes a pair of disposable Alkalines to get you started.
Round the back you’ll find a large door for loading the film cartridges, although do check the window first for a yellow mark which means you’ve already got one loaded; if you do, a counter towards the bottom right will tell you how many shots you have left.
If the counter says S, you’re safe to open the door and load a new cartridge – just align the yellow mark with the one on the camera, push it inside, then close the door.
Next switch on the camera by twisting the lens barrel, then push the shutter button: this ejects the initial safety sheet which you can dispose of, then you’re ready to go. After loading a new cartridge you’ll notice the counter on the rear indicating you have the full ten shots remaining.
The first major difference between the 12 and the models before it is how you actually switch it on: the Mini 12 employs a twisting control on the barrel, so one twist will power it up and extend the lens for general use, while a second twist will extend it further for close-ups or selfies.
Compare it to the previous Mini 11 seen here, where you’d push a large button to extend the lens and power up the camera, before then manually yanking out the lens further for selfies or close-ups.
The twisting control comes from the earlier SQ1 seen here, and makes the Mini 12 easier to use than previous models.
To frame your shot, you can either use the simple optical viewfinder when you’re behind the camera, or a small mirror to the left of the lens when you’re shooting selfies.
At first glance this would appear no different to the Mini 11 before it, but in a useful upgrade, Fujifilm has now added parallax correction to the 12 where the viewfinder adjusts when you have it set to close-up mode. This allows you to more accurately frame subjects at close range and avoid them appearing off-centre.
To show it in action, I’ve filmed the view through the Mini 12’s viewfinder where you can see the old SQ1 camera positioned in the middle. This is with the lens set to the normal distance, but here’s the actual photo taken with this framing, where you can see the subject is off to one side. This is due to the parallax effect at close range where the viewfinder and lens are not showing the same thing.
As I twist the lens barrel to the selfie / close-up mode though, notice how the viewfinder changes, showing the subject now shifted to one side. I’ll now move the subject to recentre it in the viewfinder and take another shot. Now while the final print is still not perfectly centered, it’s an improvement over the previous version and allows you to be more accurate with your framing at close-range with fewer wasted prints.
Switching the camera into selfie / close-up mode also reduces the power of the flash to minimise over-exposed subjects. Here’s two selfies I took, with the older Mini 11 on the left and the new Mini 12 on the right. The difference is subtle in this comparison, but the Mini 12 selfie on the right is definitely a little less washed-out, showing better skin tones and more detail.
Anecdotally I found most of the selfies I took with the Mini 12 looked better exposed than those from earlier models, and since that’s a key use for the camera, it’s a useful upgrade – unless of course you like the washed-out look.
As for the lens, it’s the same as before: 60mm which on the Mini format delivers coverage equivalent to around 34mm, capturing a mild wide angle, that’s ideal for general use from portraits and selfies to buildings and landscapes.
Again as before, the camera can focus between about half a meter to infinity, but twist the lens into selfie / close-up mode and the range adjusts to between 30 and 50cm.
As for exposure, the Mini 12 remains fully automatic, like the 11 before it. Both employ a fixed aperture and automatic shutter speeds between 1/250 and half a second.
As before this is adequate for general situations, but will struggle under very dim or bright conditions. The flash is fine for illuminating people or other close subjects in dark surroundings, but don’t expect to see much in the background of a dimly-lit club or a dusky landscape.
And at the other end of the scale, the Mini 12 still over-exposes bright outdoor scenes. Here’s a couple of shots I took in Brighton on an overcast day where the sky is completely washed-out – and remember this is England in Winter. If it’s sunny, the subject can become washed-out too, so beware of using any INSTAX cameras for bright daytime photography.
It’s frustrating Fujifilm still hasn’t fully addressed this limitation, as having only a slightly faster shutter speed could resolve most over-exposures outdoors. But so far it affects all INSTAX cameras, so at least you’re warned.
The photo quality is unsurprisingly similar to the models before it, albeit with the benefit of better-exposed selfies and more accurately framed close-ups. These in turn should reduce wasted prints.
Fujifilm INSTAX Mini 12 verdict
Overall the INSTAX Mini 12 becomes the best budget INSTAX to date, especially if you’re into selfies or portraits. The print quality may be essentially the same as previous models but by reducing the flash power and adjusting the viewfinder when set to close-up mode, the 12 minimises washed-out subjects and inaccurate framing.
I also like the twisting barrel which makes it easier to power-up and enter close-up mode. On the downside though, you will still suffer from over-exposures under bright daylight conditions, but the upgrades are still worth spending the extra tenner over the previous Mini 11 if you mostly photograph people.
If you love the INSTAX format, there’s only two questions you need to ask yourself: first, do you want the fun and convenience of a camera or the flexibility of a printer that connects to your phone, and second, which of the three INSTAX print shapes is your favourite as each model can only use one type. Only you can decide, but I have reviews of them all here to help you and if you opt for a camera that takes the Mini format, then the latest Mini 12 becomes the best budget option.Check prices on the INSTAX Mini 12 at Amazon, B&H, Adorama or WEX UK. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!