Fujifilm Instax Mini 99 review: unique photos with light effects
Product test

Fujifilm Instax Mini 99 review: unique photos with light effects

The Fujifilm Instax Mini 99 instant camera is the successor to the Mini 90 Neo Classic. It again scores with its retro look, but also has manual features for colour effects.

Trying to capture every detail, thinking three times about whether I really want to capture a subject and from what angle. Only then do I pull the trigger. I appreciate taking photos with an instant camera far more than with a smartphone. With the Instax Mini 99, I also have the option of using colour effects and settings for different scenarios. Good pictures still require luck and skill.

Classification: average analogue camera or creative playground?

When I think of Fujifilm instant cameras, colourful, bulky devices pop up in my mind’s eye. I’m talking about the classic, purely analogue instant camera, the Instax Mini 12, which has no influence on the result.

The Instax Mini 99 from Fujifilm captures unique memories.
The Instax Mini 99 from Fujifilm captures unique memories.
Source: Michelle Brändle

With the Instax Mini 99, Fujifilm offers a successor to the analogue instant camera Instax Mini 90 neo classic. A combination of retro chic and various settings for scenarios such as interiors and movement.

Design and lens: classic and versatile

The Instax Mini 99 has a matt plastic surface reminiscent of leather. It measures 10.4 × 11.8 × 6 centimetres and weighs 340 grammes. You can attach a handle to the tripod thread for a better grip.

The lens is fixed, but has a rotating mechanism for turning on the camera and switching between three distance ranges: Macro (0.3 to 0.6 metres), Standard (0.6 to 3 metres) and a landscape mode (3 metres to infinity). The focal length is 60 millimetres.

You can set different distance ranges using the dial on the lens.
You can set different distance ranges using the dial on the lens.
Source: Michelle Brändle

The two shutter release buttons on the Instax Mini 99 are positioned so that both portrait and landscape format shots are easy to take. The camera’s equipped with a Li-Ion battery. You can charge it in around two hours using the battery station supplied. According to the manufacturer, the battery lasts for up to 100 pictures. During my test consisting of 40 pictures, I didn’t even drain the battery by a third.

Brightness and effects: adjustable with dials

The Instax Mini 99 has two small dials on the side – one for brightness and one for various effects. There are five brightness settings: one regular and two levels either brighter or darker. For vignetting, move the aperture ring in front of the lens.

Use the two dials to adjust the LED effects (left) and the brightness.
Use the two dials to adjust the LED effects (left) and the brightness.
Source: Michelle Brändle

The camera creates the effects automatically when taking a photo using built-in LEDs. These are installed next to the sensor. If you press the shutter release button, the set LED also lights up when the image is exposed. Here are your options:

  • N: neutral, no filter
  • FG: faded green
  • WT: warm tone
  • LB: light blue
  • SM: soft magenta
  • SP: sepia
  • LL: light leak
The built-in LEDs conjure various lighting effects.
The built-in LEDs conjure various lighting effects.
Source: Michelle Brändle

The effects are self-explanatory. I still don’t know all the abbreviations by heart – and am always surprised by the results. For a cross comparison, I captured a motif with every effect: my little spread for a movie night on Star Wars Day.

It’s easy to experiment with so many effects. Here’s an overview of them all.
It’s easy to experiment with so many effects. Here’s an overview of them all.
Source: Michelle Brändle

Recording modes: for special scenarios such as night and motion

On the back of the camera, there’s a small screen with three buttons for shooting functions – these were already available on the predecessor Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic. A self-timer, the manual flash setting and a button for four modes:

  • Interior: slow shutter speed, brightens background in low light
  • Sport: reduces the blurring of moving subjects
  • Double exposure: combines two photos into one
  • Long exposure: shutter is held open for up to 10 seconds for night scenes (use with tripod)

Putting it to the test: brightness doesn’t always help

I’m impressed by the manual settings using the button and dial. When I wear gloves, I have no restrictions. A touchscreen is much more cumbersome. And I can see what’s set at any time.

Setting the brightness leads to my first experiments. It can quickly lead to over- or underexposure. On the other hand, automatic flash adjusts itself when underexposed. It’s always used in dark environments. Subjects that are a little further away are generally less clear as to their brightness. Even indoor mode is usually of little help here. Depending on the picture, this gloomy mood can also match the atmosphere of your picture.

It can easily happen that objects are overexposed (left) or the subject is generally too dark. It goes quite well with the Star Wars scenarios on the right.
It can easily happen that objects are overexposed (left) or the subject is generally too dark. It goes quite well with the Star Wars scenarios on the right.
Source: Michelle Brändle

In two settings, the Fantasy Basel comic convention and a botanical garden, my friends and I play with various effects, vignetting and distances. I have fun creating portraits. Every colour filter brings a certain mood and need to be considered in advance. Some of the shots are great, others I tend to smile at – but each one is a new little surprise. After all, it takes about 60 seconds to achieve the developed result.

Depending on the effect, a particularly beautiful atmosphere is conjured up.
Depending on the effect, a particularly beautiful atmosphere is conjured up.
Source: Michelle Brändle
Effects sometimes make a motif stand out better. The tadpoles are much easier to see with blue LED lighting (LB) than with warm tone (WT).
Effects sometimes make a motif stand out better. The tadpoles are much easier to see with blue LED lighting (LB) than with warm tone (WT).
Source: Michelle Brändle

Image sections are difficult to estimate. How far away do I have to be for a full-body picture? How close can I be for a macro shot? Will the image be blurry now?

Getting the right detail isn’t always easy. Two unsuccessful sections on the left. On the right, I’m too close to the motifs.
Getting the right detail isn’t always easy. Two unsuccessful sections on the left. On the right, I’m too close to the motifs.
Source: Michelle Brändle

Turns out the viewfinder has no parallax compensation. As a result, it doesn’t show how my selected image section will ultimately be captured by the lens. The three distance settings on the lens are more of a guide. And so, sometimes I need a second attempt – or accept the suboptimal result. After all, the pictures aren’t cheap at one franc or euro each.

A cartridge like this with ten images isn’t cheap and has to be recycled afterwards.
A cartridge like this with ten images isn’t cheap and has to be recycled afterwards.
Source: Michelle Brändle

They also produce plastic waste. The cartridges in which the films are packaged to protect them from light aren’t very sustainable. At least the plastic used can be recycled. Either way, the pictures are a fun souvenir after the convention.

I definitely look at this experimental series of pictures more often than my smartphone snapshots.
I definitely look at this experimental series of pictures more often than my smartphone snapshots.
Source: Michelle Brändle

In a nutshell

Fun, but needs a gentle touch

The Instax Mini 99 scores with its retro look and various experimental features. This gives you unique pocket-sized memories to look back on years later. Which scenario requires which setting demands a sure instinct or even a second attempt. At one franc or euro per picture, this can quickly add up. The plastic packaging of the pictures could also be a counterpoint.

Don’t want to do without instant photos, but want to go a little cheaper? Then you can also use the Instax Mini 12 without any additional features.

If you prefer to print your smartphone pictures straight away, the Fujifilm Instax Mini Link2 could be something for you. The printer instantly delivers snapshots on the instant photo paper. I’ve already extensively tested the device together with other mini-printers.

Pro

  • unique pictures
  • manual lighting effects
  • various modes and brightness levels

Contra

  • expensive photo paper
  • weak in dark environments
  • sustainability issues

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In my world, Super Mario chases Stormtroopers with a unicorn and Harley Quinn mixes cocktails for Eddie and Peter at the beach bar. Wherever I can live out my creativity, my fingers tingle. Or maybe it's because nothing flows through my veins but chocolate, glitter and coffee. 


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