The little Instax Pal is Fujifilm's first all-digital Instax-branded camera, which transmits digital images for printing via an app instead of directly onto instant film.

Credit: Theano Nikitas

The Instax Pal camera is a super small 4.9MP digital camera that comes bundled with two Instax components designed to work together with the Pal camera; the Pal app and the Mini Link 2 printer combine to deliver both digital snaps and printed images.

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The camera can be placed in tiny spaces and triggered remotely. And its sounds and lights add to its cuteness (let the eye-rolls commence). That said, we know it may not be for someone who takes their photography even semi-seriously. But maybe that's okay – if the Pal and its cuteness make someone smile and adds fun to their lives, then that's a good thing. It's weird, but on the other hand, weird can be fun. However, at an MSRP of $200 for the bundle, casual photographers, parents or gift givers will have to consider how much they want to shell out come the holidays.

Key specifications

  • 4.9 megapixel camera
  • 16.25mm equiv wide-angle lens
  • F2.2 aperture
  • ISO 100 - 1600
  • 1/4 - 1/8000 sec. shutter speed
  • Up to 50 images with built-in storage
  • 1 USB-C port
  • 1 microSD slot
  • Approx. 350 shots on a charge
  • Bundle includes camera, printer, downloadable app; uses Instax Mini film
  • MSRP $199

First Impressions

On paper, this bundled offering makes sense (kind of). But also, it's odd and from time to time a new product release leaves us wondering–why? Fujifilm's just-announced Instax Pal is one of those products.

Instax already has a couple of hybrid cameras that produce both digital and analogue in one device, so it's hard to imagine where the Pal fits or what makes it stand out. Beyond that, the Pal camera is more than a little bit strange to come from the company that has brought us some great instant cameras, not to mention popular mirrorless models like the Fujifilm X-T5.

What's in the bundle?

The Instax Pal camera comes bundled with a two-pack of Instax Mini film and the Instax Mini Link 2 printer for $200.

Credit: Theano Nikitas

The Instax Pal Camera

Diminutive in size and reminiscent of BB-8 from Star Wars with its quirky start-up chime, colorful power-on lights and round, squat body, the Pal measures 3.81cm (1.5") in height with a circumference of roughly 12.7cm (5") and weighs a mere 40.7g (1.43 oz). Although constructed of plastic, the Pal is solidly built and can withstand accidental drops on a hardwood floor (and, therefore, less than gentle handling by kids and teens). Despite its mostly rounded body, the Pal stands on its own when placed on a flat surface, which makes for some cool dogs-eye view shots.

A large, round shutter button on the back of the camera can trigger the shutter manually with a single thumb press.

Credit: Theano Nikitas

Although the Pal is unique, it is equipped with some standard camera features such as a tripod screw mount, a small built-in flash, a speaker to play sounds (or other audio prompts), a USB-C port for charging and a microSD card slot on the side. Head around back to find the thumb-sized manual shutter button. A tiny switch on the bottom takes the camera from the Fun (shooting) mode to the Link (printing) mode.

The camera's internal memory can hold up to 50 images, which should be sufficient for most shooting sessions. But if you plan to use the camera's interval shooting feature – which can capture up to 21 images for a single session – then the optional microSD card is highly recommended.

The palm-sized Instax Pal is highly portable and can easily be stashed in a pocket or attached with a carabiner to a teen's backpack.

Credit: Theano Nikitas

The 4.9 megapixel camera use a tiny Type 1/5 (2.9x2.2mm) sensor; the metadata shows a JPEG image size of a little more than 1MB.

In addition to the Instax mini Link 2 Smartphone Printer, the Pal comes with a USB-C to USB-A cable for charging as well as a plastic ring that can be used to carry the camera, serve as a viewfinder or a stand.

The Instax Pal App

The Instax Pal app connects to the camera and printer via Bluetooth and provides control over picture-taking. One of the app's main functions is to act as the camera's viewfinder. A preview of your composition appears on the app's screen within a virtual Instax film frame so you can properly align the image.

Users can apply one of the Pal's 18 effects such as monochrome, sepia, soft and others to images before printing. Post-capture, users can edit images to adjust exposure, contrast and saturation.

Then all you have to do is tap the virtual shutter button to capture images in single-shot or self-timer modes. Alternatively, choose Interval Shooting to capture a series of images, 3 seconds apart, in sets of 3, 6, 11 or 21 photos.

Exposure options are limited to +/-2 EV (exposure compensation). There's a choice of two quality settings: Rich mode and Natural mode. The former offers a (very) slightly more vivid image than the latter but the difference is almost indiscernible.

A bundle of effects – that range from monochrome and sepia to cool, vivid or soft can be applied beforehand or in post-capture editing. Other post-capture options include brightness, contrast and exposure adjustments along with rotate and crop tools. For fun, images can be decorated with text, stickers and emojis, among other colorful tweaks – again, cuteness prevails.

"For fun, images can be decorated with text, stickers and emojis, among other colorful tweaks–again, cuteness prevails."

Images from the internal memory are automatically copied to the app as they're captured with an optional setting for the app to delete images from the camera once they've been copied. If a microSD card is installed, photos can be copied from internal memory to the card. Once the images are on the app, you can start shooting again, view the images in a gallery, save images to your smartphone's camera roll, share them to social media or send off via email.

While you can print from the app, you have to download another app for the mini Link 2. Disappointing since it would be convenient to automatically have Bluetooth access without having to add another app to your smart phone. You can, however, print automatically directly from the camera if desired.

The Instax Mini Link 2 Printer

The bundled Mini Link 2, which is also sold separately for $100, is a compact, portable Instax printer that measures 91.9mm (3.6 in.) x 36.4mm (1.4 in.) x 124.8 mm (4.9 in) and is charged via an included Micro USB cable. It uses Instax Mini film and can print up to 100 images on a single charge. Each photo takes about 15 seconds to print and about 90 seconds to develop.

Portable and rechargeable, the Instax mini Link 2 produces nice-looking prints and works with a variety of products including smartphones.

Credit: Theano Nikitas

It's a good companion for the Pal camera whether you print directly from the camera or via the app. And, as we'll explore below, the image quality is pretty good straight from the Link 2.

Performance and Image Quality

The Instax Pal camera, on its own or in concert with the app, was decently responsive when the shutter button was pressed. Once captured, however, it took about 7 - 10 seconds to copy the image to the app (an animation in the app shows the transfer time percentage).

Interval shooting takes about five minutes to copy 21 images (the maximum number of shots in a set) to the app. A fully charged battery should last for up to 350 shots but can drastically drop by as much as 15-20% without warning. But you can always view battery capacity on the app.

All of this doesn't sound too bad, but there's a catch. Using your phone for live view is a lag-filled experience, which made it a difficult to set up shots. At times it took a couple of seconds for the virtual image on the smartphone to catch up with the position of the camera (or a slow-moving subject).

Images shot with the Fujifilm Instax Mini Square SQ40 (L with flash) and those captured with the Pal camera without the app or flash (R) and printed with the Mini Link 2 printer produced similar colors and quality.

Credit: Theano Nikitas

Images captured with the Pal camera were surprisingly sharp, thanks in large part to its wide-angle lens. At its default, colors were relatively accurate albeit not terribly vivid. Even when set to Rich mode, colors didn't jump out off the screen but, nonetheless, were generally kept from looking too cartoony.

Fujifilm's Instax film has a reputation of delivering prints that are less muted than those from Polaroid, with a higher degree of consistency and that proved true with the Instax mini Link 2. We compared prints from the bundled printer and from the Fujifilm Instax Square SQ40 camera and found virtually no difference in color accuracy, intensity and sharpness.

The Pal camera often had problems exposing high contrast scenes but managed to do a good job, capturing some details in the dog's coat (and his cone-of-shame pillow), as seen in this straight-out-of-camera JPEG.

Credit: Theano Nikitas

Perhaps the biggest drawback of the Pal's image quality is often its difficulty to deliver good exposure when challenged with high contrast scenes. Let's just say, its dynamic range is nothing to brag about. There were exceptions of course (see above image).


Despite the fun that the Pal, its app and printer will offer to some, the price is probably a little too steep for parents to stomach. For the same money, you can get the Fujifilm Instax Mini Evo, which offers the same benefits of hybrid digital with analog printing in a single device. Or, for less money, a kid with a smartphone can print any photos they want – The Instax mini Link 2 printer on its own is half the price of the Pal bundle.

Of course, the biggest difference is the Pal's form factor and therein, we think, lies the Pal's appeal. It's tiny, pocketable and I can imagine teens attaching the Pal to their backpacks with a tiny carabiner and snapping lots of pictures on the fly. Printing might come as a second thought, one that they're more selective about.

"The Instax Pal is, indeed, a niche product and, as such, will appeal only to a select few."

The Instax Pal is, indeed, a niche product and, as such, will appeal only to a select few. Will I ever use it again? Maybe.

I just wish Fujifilm had opted to put its Instax engineering budget into making a full(er)-featured instant camera like the Polaroid I-2 rather than an oddball digital camera.

What we like What we don't like
  • Sharp, wide-angle lens
  • Tiny body fits in any space
  • Fun creative features
  • Multiple sharing options
  • Better than expected print and digital image quality
  • Expensive
  • Tiny body can be hard to handle
  • Slow-to-refresh live view in app
  • Requires separate app for printing
  • Only available as a bundle in US

Who it's for:

Teens (and maybe some adults) who want a unique product to have fun with.

Who it's not for: