Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay: a camera that brings sound into the picture
The whole audio clip process is too complex for the payoff
The Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay: Sound isn’t something that you typically associate with still images. However, Fujifilm is betting that you’ll like it enough to shell out on the new camera
Product name: Fujifilm Instax Mini LiPlay
Where to buy: www.harveynorman.ie
I have a soft spot for Fujifilm’s Instax cameras. There is something comforting and familiar about them and their ability to spit out old-school prints in seconds. Which doesn’t make much sense because I never owned a Polaroid camera when the company was at its height. I own an Instax Mini 9 that is well-used, but it was a Christmas gift from a family member two years ago , so any familiarity is entirely in my own head.
But that aside, the cameras are fun to have around the place, and they’re easy to use. Plus the photos can be printed instantly, so there is less chance they’ll stay marooned in some digital limbo.
In the past few years Fujifilm has put out a few different models. There is the Instax Mini, which uses the smaller format film; the SQ range, which uses the square film that looks more like the Polaroid you might remember; and the SQ20, which can take short video clips.
The latest addition to the range is the LiPlay. Another hybrid camera, it mixes digital and film so you can pick your photos and print them on the Instax Mini instant film. That puts it ahead of other ninstax Mini cameras, where you have to print what you take there and then, with no digital preview.
You can also add filters before you take the photo and frames before you print, so your phone becomes a bit redundant for editing too. That said, your smartphone can get back in the game by linking to your phone over bluetooth via the Instax Mini app and printing the photos you have taken there.
You’ve got three buttons on the side of the camera that can be linked to your favourite filters for quick access, and these can be reprogrammed through the Instax Mini app. There’s internal storage that will hold about 45 photos, but you can expand it with a micro SD card should you need it.
So where does the LiPlay fit into the Instax line-up? The key selling point for the camera is that it brings sound into the picture – literally. A button on the front of the camera captures an audio clip before and after you take the photo – linking it to the picture.
You would be forgiven for thinking this was a solution that had no problem. And in a way you would be perfectly correct. That’s not say I don’t like the feature; I do. It’s just not essential.
Sound isn’t something that you typically associate with still images. But Fujifilm is betting that you’ll like it enough to shell out on the new camera.
Here’s how it works: you press the audio button before you take the photo, and the camera starts recording. When you print out the photo, you’ll have the option to print it with sound; if you choose that you’ll get a small code printed on to your picture. Simply point your smartphone camera at the code and you can access the audio.
But – and it’s a big but – to generate that code you have to involve your smartphone. And that’s where the audio crosses from “nice to have” to “annoying to use”.
The process is just too complex and clunky. Yes, I know there has to be a process for getting the code linked to the audio, but it’s just too many steps to deal with.
You have to use the Instax Mini app to generate the code, and that takes time. Too long, in fact for something that is just not an essential feature. Sound isn’t something that I immediately think of when I want to take a photo. Nine time sout of 10 I completely forgot about it.
When I did remember to use it, though, the end result was interesting. Photos I took on holiday have an added dimension to them. It triggers a bit of a nostalgia trip when you have a soundtrack to your photo.
I just wish it was a bit easier to use.
The camera itself is simple to use: point, shoot, and then review before you print. You get the selfie mirror on the front too, so although you can’t see your photo before you take it you can at least take a good stab at lining it up correctly. The ability to connect your phone and print photos from there is also a good addition.
The not so good
A lot of the key features depend on yet another app. You can’t connect the camera to your phone over bluetooth unless you use the Instax Mini app. The customisable buttons can only be changed via the app. The sound needs to be added through the app. And speaking of that, the whole process is too complex for the payoff. Make it less clunky, or else people won’t bother with it.
The app can be used to remotely control the camera should you feel the need. The LiPlay isn’t quite compact but it’s smaller than the other hybrid cameras in the Instax family, which is a bonus. Plus the rechargeable battery is good for around 100 shots.
A fun instant camera but the audio feature isn’t its biggest draw.