Three tiny cameras compete for your money

Mar 29, 2024

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Three tiny cameras compete for your money

Mar 29, 2024

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Three tiny cameras compete for your money

There seems to be a thing for tiny cameras recently. And I’m not talking about cameras that are supposed to be tiny, like action cameras and the Insta360 GO 3 (buy here), but regular camera-style cameras. Just… smaller.

There are three that keep popping up in my feeds lately. There’s the new collaboration between Yashica and I’m Back, the Kenko Tokina Pieni M, and a ridiculously tiny 1080p camera from AliExpress.

Yashica/I’m Back Micro Mirrorless – A Tiny Powerhouse

YouTube video

We’ll start with this one as it seems to be the hottest mini camera at the moment. Or at least, certainly the most talked about. What makes this particular camera special, aside from its size, is that it’s an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera.

It’s currently running on Kickstarter with 36 days left and has already raised over $170,000. This hammers the measly $11,000 goal. It’s a team-up between Yashica – a name with a long history in photography – and I’m Back.

You might remember some of I’m Back’s past products, such as the digital backs for 35mm SLRs launched in 2017. And they’re still launching new film to digital conversion products as recently as just last year.

This time, it’s all digital and the collaboration with Yashica, the Micro Mirrorless, is a very small camera indeed.

Yashica/I'm Back Micro Mirrorless

It contains a 12-megapixel 1/2.33″ sensor with a 5.8x crop factor. So, an 8.6mm lens provides a similar field of view to a 50mm lens on a full-frame digital or 35mm film camera. It seems designed primarily for video rather than stills, although it does shoot both.

It has a metal shoe on top of the camera. And this is what makes me believe the camera’s aimed more towards video. It’s not a hotshoe. It doesn’t have the universal trigger pin in the middle. So, there’s no flash option when using it for stills. It’s just for holding accessories like small video LED lights or an on-camera microphone.

When it comes to the video specs, it shoots up to 2880×2160 video at 24fps. But it will go up to 60fps when shooting 1080p HD. For photos, it’s 12-megapixel images in RAW, JPG or RAW+JPG – Yup, both at the same time.

It offers a lot of connectivity, including a USB-C socket, HDMI output, and a microphone input. Despite its small stature, it offers a lot of capability in that little box. And don’t forget, you can swap lenses!

Price and Availability

Currently, the Micro Mirrorless is currently running on Kickstarter, with pledges currently starting at around $198.

Kenko Tokina Pieni M – Officially a “Toy Camera”

YouTube video

The Pieni M is Kenko Tokina’s attempt at a teeny tiny camera. Unlike the camera above, this one doesn’t have interchangeable lenses. Instead, it has a fixed 3.2mm f/2.8 lens. This produces the equivalent field of view to that of about 85mm telephoto lens on a full-frame camera.

It has a very low 1.3-megapixel resolution, and the company even markets it as a “Toy Camera”. With this in mind, as toys go, it looks like a pretty fun camera. I’m not sure it would be able to replace the phone in my pocket as a daily carry.

It has a microSD card slot with a 16GB capacity limit. These days, it might be tough to get cards, with most manufacturers starting at 32GB capacity. There are a few smaller-capacity ones out there, but they’re about the same price as the larger ones.

Kenko Tokina Pieni M

It doesn’t shoot raw stills, just jpg. It shoots MJPEG AVI video and records MP3 audio. It’s pretty basic. It looks like it has a fixed shutter speed of 1/100. So, all of the exposure control is done automatically in-camera, presumably using just ISO.

Given its toy camera moniker, it could be a great first camera for a child. Even if it’s not very advanced and it’s small enough to lose quite easily, it does have strap lugs and only costs around $50. So, as long as they’re not losing one every week, it’s not a massive expense.

Price and Availability

Kenko Tokina Pieni M is currently available to buy for $39.85 on Amazon. But it’s imported from Japan, so don’t expect quick delivery.

Monoreflexes Mini Camera – Great for kids

Monoreflexes Mini Camera

To give it its full title, this is the “Monoreflexes Shaped Mini Camera CMOS Indoor Home Outdoor 1080p Portable Vintage Very Very Small Mini Camera Video Recorder”. This is just the way with titles on sites like AliExpress.

It’s probably the smallest of the three cameras here, and the description does say it shoots both photos and video. It doesn’t mention the sensor size, resolution, or angle of view of the lens, but it does state that it does 1080p video – although not at what frame rate, let’s assume 30fps.

Monoreflexes Mini Camera

It claims to offer up to an hour of battery life. The built-in battery is 180mAh. They don’t say how long it takes to charge back up, but I would expect at least an hour. It has a tiny 0.96″ display on the back to let you see what you’re shooting or what you’ve shot

At only 47mm wide and 31mm tall, it is extremely small. It’s less than 2 inches wide by a little more than an inch tall. For comparison, the Insta360 GO 3’s front face dimensions are 54.4×25.6mm. So, it’s pretty close. Of course, the specs differ wildly, and this is reflected in the price.

Price and Availability

The standard price for this listing on AliExpress is around $24, but it’s currently reduced to $16.33. This can be reduced even further with coins from the AliExpress app games as well as other coupons. So, it’s very inexpensive. It’s likely also sold under many names by multiple sellers at different prices on AliExpress, so shop around.

Summary

Tiny cameras can be a lot of fun as well as very practical. I often use the Insta360 GO 3 – and sometimes still the Insta360 GO 2 (buy here) – when I need a camera in a small space. For me, that’s more on the practical side of things.

When it comes to fun, the Weeview SID is still my favourite tiny camera, and not just because it’s 3D. The image quality still isn’t great, and the 3D effect isn’t always perfect, but it’s still fun. When you can’t see the images until you offload them, it makes you take a lot more care in your shot. And sometimes, it results in a pleasant surprise.

What’s your favourite tiny camera?

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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