Camera Geekery: MiNT InstantFlex TL70 2.0
A while back we featured Joe Curzon‘s excellent review of the Original InstantFlex TL70, which was very well received. Now MiNT have upgraded the InstantFlex with the 2.0 version. And Joe has been kind enough to come back and give us another review. Check it out.
At the end of May MiNT camera announced their new InstantFlex TL70 2.0 along with some new accessories compatible with both the original and 2.0 TL70 including a camera strap and a lens set.
Having pre-ordered the original TL70, I was keen to get my hands on the 2.0 to see the difference. I got in touch with the good people at MiNT and asked for a review copy, they kindly sent me one to play with along with the lens set.
First thing you’ll notice about the TL70 2.0 compared to the original, is erm, nothing. The exteriors of the cameras are identical. The buttons and features are all in the same places on both cameras. There isn’t an extra badge on the front to say 2.0 or anything. This makes sense from a manufacturing point of view, if it isn’t broken, then why fix it?
It still takes 3 AA batteries and Fuji Instax Film.
Some MiNT Employees went to the old Rolleiflex factory in Germany for some inspiration. Apparently the Rolleiflex staff gave the MiNT team some tips on making a TLR. As a result they’ve added a new Fresnel anti-glare coated viewfinder to the camera. They claim it’s 5 times brighter than the original. It does indeed seem brighter, placed side by side you can see a clear difference. The magnifier is also larger.
Looking at the view finder, it’s the only real way to tell the difference between the original and the 2.0. The original has a crosshair in the middle, while the 2.0 does not and you see the rings from Fresnel lens on the viewfinder, along with a subtle purple reflection from the anti-glare coating.
MiNT offer an upgrade kit to upgrade the viewfinder, you can do this yourself following a YouTube video [https://youtu.be/wsP_tuCFwwM], or send it into MiNT and let them upgrade it. They recommend the latter, but it really depends on how confident you are at taking cameras to bits.
The company found that some shutters were stuck in some cameras, so the 2.0 changed the internal design so shutter jamming shouldn’t happen anymore. The tension on the rollers has also been tweaked so the 3 white lines on the film will disappear quicker.
The new lens set works on both the 1.0 and 2.0. It comes with 3 Neutral Density Filters (ND2, ND4 and ND8), a close up lens that improves the original closed focusing distance from 48cm to 18cm, plus a lens hood to reduce glare. This set is interesting. It’s presented in a cardboard box, with spongy padding. The included microfibre cloth has the instructions printed on it, which is a nice touch. There isn’t any kind plastic case to put the lens filters in, which makes the set a lot less portable. The lens filters won’t let you clip the lens cap on either, so you can’t get things set up before you go out. I’m not certain how scratch resistant the lens filters are, so I’m not really keen on just throwing it in my bag without some kind of extra covering. You also can’t use the lens hood with the lens filters.
Mounting the lens filters is a bit tricky, they a very tight fit and first time I put them on it shaved a bit of the plastic off from the filter. I was worried I’d break it if I wasn’t careful. I hope future versions of these filters have more precise fit and also some kind of carry case.
Those issues aside the lens kit does work as advertised, the ND filters do adjust the exposure and I’m sure with some practice you’ll be able to get the effect you’re looking for. The close up lens was my favourite to play with. It’s great for getting those super up close shots.
When I first heard of the 2.0 version I thought calling it the 2.0 it was more of a marketing gimmick as the upgrade is incremental, should it be the 1.5 instead? Then again a lot of companies do this. The brighter screen and improved magnifier do indeed make the camera easier to use, and I found in the grey cloudy UK the brighter screen did make a significant difference.
If you’re keen on getting this camera from MiNT and can’t decided whether to save a bit of money and get the 1.0 instead, I’d say it’s worth spending a bit more on the 2.0. I found that I had a higher rate of successful photos with it. The brighter screen does make it easier to compose and focus shots. If you’ve already got a 1.0, I’d seriously consider the upgrade kit. You make the money back on the cost of the upgrade kit / getting the 2.0 from the amount of shots you’ll save over the camera’s lifetime.
You can get one here https://mint-camera.com/tl70/
Thanks for the review, Joe. Always happy to see new toys being reviewed.
One thing I have not seen in your 2 reviews or on Mint’s website, does the TL70 have a self timer? I’m guessing not. Please advise?
It doesn’t have a self-timer. It’s got a bulb mode, where you can press and hold the red button for a prolonged exposure, but no actual self timer.
Nice review with lots of details… great pics too! Joe I’m trying to get myself to understand the what and why of this camera (TL70). The goal of any camera and photographer should be to produce the best possible image given the limitations of the equipment used (price factors in big time)… then why does using Fujifilm Instax film in this camera make sense when you can shoot Instax film in the Mini 90 Neo Classic or the Mini 70? They both produce an image of around 6 x 4.5 cm… the TL70 2.0 does that at the mid to upper $300 range compared to $150 to $180 for the Mini 70 or 90… which by the way, has more features and flexibility to boot. My point is not to take down the TL70 as it is what it is. If someone wants the “look” of using a twin-lens reflex camera then invest in a working Yashica TLR for around $80 or so. You’ll end up with tack sharp 6 x 6 cm images that can’t be matched.
My choice is the Fujifilm Instax Wide 300… I’ll get a 6 x 9 cm image at about $1.50 per pic and the camera sells for $130.
You raise good points and I totally understand what you’re asking. I’d say they’re different beasts. Both with their own pros and cons.
I had the Fuji Mini 90 Neo Classic, but longed for more manual control. So I got MiNT TL70 to see if it would do the trick.
The Neo Classic has auto focus, while the TL70 is manual. The Fuji’s exposure settings are “mostly” automatic, I say mostly as you can set brighter / darker, but not the shutter speed itself. This means you do get a higher hit rate for the Fuji, but at the same time you get less manual control, as the hardware is trying to guess your intended exposure.
You can set the aperture on the TL70, plus the artistic bokeh mode.
I know the Fuji Instax range has a double exposure mode. The TL70 has a manual film eject. This means you can do double or triple exposures (I’ve done this by mistake, frustratingly too).
Both cameras have long exposure modes.
The Fuji Instax range also has a macro mode built in, while you have to use the extra lens filter for Macro on a TL70.
The top down view finder on the TL70 is huge compared to the eye viewfinder on the Instax Mini range.
The TL70 is also significantly bigger, making it less pocket-able. This means I find myself carrying the Neo Classic more.
Generally, if I’m going out to a party and taking an Instant Camera, I’d take the TL70 if I’m doing the shots, while I’d take the Instax Mini if I know anyone could be taking photos. There isn’t really a learning curve with the Fuji Cameras.
Overall, I’d say that the TL70 is more a niche camera. It gives you more manual control and also invites more experimentation. People who have seen me use assume that it is an old TLR.
Of course a medium format TLR would give you huge gorgeous images, plus you get a nice range of black and white film to choose from. While with Instax exposures you’re locked into Colour 800 ISO.
With medium format you have to wait to get the images developed, and if you’re not developing the film yourself that can up the costs significantly. Plus you’ve either got to find a local place that develops medium format film or mail order place. The TL70 is kind of a halfway house between a classic TLR and an instant camera. You get the TLR experience, but you don’t have to wait for the film to be developed. The TL70 is classed as a toy camera. Instax Film is widely available.
Generally I enjoy using both the Neo Classic and the TL70. if I want to take my time and experiment with taking an instant shot, I’d use the TL70. I can also cheat and use another camera taking photos of it’s top down view finder like in the above review.
I do need to write a review for the Fuji Mini 90 Neo Classic! I admit the Instax Wide 300 is very tempting. I’ve considered buying one, but can’t decide if I should.
Hey Joe… great response.
I appreciate the points you make and agree with most of them. I can see the advantages of the manual override abilities of the TL70 but wish Instax film was available in different flavors. As a photographer more control is usually better than less control. The TL70 certainly has its strong points (optics for one) over the Fujifilm Instax cameras.
I was a bit off on my estimate of the costs associated with the Instax. My new Instax Wide 300 and a two pack of film arrived yesterday… $99 delivered!
Overcast skies with rain kept me indoors so I used it in the studio… epic fail! This is sunshine film for use outdoors. Let’s just say I won’t do that again! Once the sun does return to my part of the world (Hurricane Hermine just passed through) I’ll be out and about with the Wide 300… can’t wait!
I look forward to reading your review of the Fiji Mini 90 Neo Classic or the Wide 300.
Great review and thanks for sharing.
Got a question. I got the first TL70 and wonder if there is a big difference in the “advanced shutter and aperture mechanism” in version 2? Is there any difference in the lenses other than the brighter viewfinder?
Should I buy a brand new version 2 or just go for the upgrade?
What I am looking at is the difference in photo quality?
Thanks if you can advise.