The first thing about this camera is that, for such a rare and hard to find point and shoot film camera, it seems to go by lot of different names. The second, is that for such a compact camera, it has plenty of features, as well as a cool 28mm aspherical Fujinon prime lens.
As far as I can tell, this camera goes under the names Fuji DL Super Mini, Fujifilm Cardia Mini Tiara and also the Tiara II (which is actually a later model, with the only difference I’m aware of being an eyelet for the wrist strap). The version that is shown here is the earlier model, with Cardia Mini Tiara printed on the top, which probably signifies that it is the model released for the Japanese market.
The metal case, Fujinon lens and a number of user controllable features all indicates its quality to be well above many run of the mill plastic point and shoot film cameras.The DL Super Mini/Tiara (which is what I’m going to call it from here on) seems to be a high-end compact film camera. It has a metal case, a very well respected Fujinon lens, and a number of user controllable features. This all indicates its quality to be well above many of the run of the mill plastic point and shoot film cameras. Debatably, it may not be as highly valued as some of the more well known premium compacts, such as the Konica Hexar AF, or the Contax T range, for example. That said, bearing in mind the 28mm wide angle lens, the Nikon 28Ti or the Ricoh GR series might be its closest peers. It also appears to be much harder to find than these other cameras.
Fuji DL Super Mini/Tiara Specifications
The DL Super Mini/Tiara has a 28mm f/3.5 Fujinon prime lens, with an Electronic Beam Coating (EBC) – which is supposed to reduce flare, improve colour, help with ghosting in photographs from backlighted and sidelighted situations, as well as increasing sharpness in details. According to the manual, the lens comprises four components, four elements which includes double-face aspherical optical-glass lens elements.
The camera itself is very small, amazingly even slightly smaller than the Olympus mju II/ Olympus Stylus Epic, in width and depth (although not height). However, the Olympus feels smaller, because of its tapered and contoured body. This makes the Olympus easier to slip into a pocket and also makes it feel less bulky. The entire body of the DL Super Mini/Tiara is constructed out of aluminium alloy, which makes the camera extremely light. My only complaint about this, is that the brushed aluminium finish makes it quite ‘slippery’ to hold. It also makes it harder to open the sliding lens cover with one hand – something that the ergonomic shape of the Olympus mju II makes much easier.
The back panel of the Fuji DL Super Mini/Tiara has a very clear LCD, which displays the various modes the camera has, as well as the image count, battery level and the date. There are the usual flash options one would expect from this kind of camera, including red-eye reduction, back-light compensation, night portrait modes and the ability to disable the flash completely. I say completely, however, like most point and shoot film cameras, it resets everything (apart from red-eye reduction, for some reason) to default settings whenever it is switched off. Depending on your point of view, this is either a sensible approach, or rather irritating. On the subject of irritations, the DL Super Mini/Tiara has a power saving mode which kicks in after a short time, switching the camera off. This also reverts the settings to default. There is also a warning light, which flashes in case your finger accidentally covers the flash lamp, which is a nice touch – although it seems quite hard to actually do this by accident. Strangely, the warning light flashess even when the flash is switched off.
The ISO DX range covers 50, 100, 200, 400, 800 and 1600. There is no ability to manually set the ISO, which is probably the one feature which marks it down in relation to other high-end premium point and shoot film cameras. The shutter ranges from 1/2 and 1/800 seconds. There is the usual self-timer feature and it is also possible to print dates.
Focusing specifications range from as close as 0.35m up to infinity and includes autofocus, as you would expect, but also landscape mode, snapshot mode (for quick photographing between 1.5 and 3 metres) and manual focussing, which is one feature which raises it above most run of the mill compact film cameras.
Using the DL Super Mini/Tiara
The DL Super Mini/Tiara is as compact as any point and shoot film camera I’ve come across. It weighs 153 grammes (before batteries) and measures 99.8mm x 60mm x 31.5 mm. It is a very aesthetically pleasing tool.
Despite its compact size, the squarish shape of the DL Super Mini/Tiara makes it comfortable to hold and the shutter release is smooth to use. The shutter door needs to be opened fully, including a little click at the end, to switch the camera on. Turning the camera off involves ‘clicking’ the shutter door back towards the protruding lens, which retracts the lens and switches the camera off. The door can then be closed. The motor involved in this, as well as in winding the film on, is somewhat noisy.
The camera size means that the viewfinder is understandably small, but still gives a fairly clear field of view for the 28mm perspective. This was a pleasant surprise, as many of the smaller point and shoot film cameras have appallingly cramped viewfinders. Switching to panorama mode is shown in the finder, which is useful if you like that kind of thing.
One of the simplest aspects is loading the 35mm film. The film cartridge is simply dropped into the partially open camera back, the door is closed and the camera proceeds to wind the film completely out of the cartridge, into the camera body. As photos are taken, the film is wound back into the cartridge. This is an implementation also taken by the Ricoh TF-200. I’m ambivalent about this approach, as I sometimes like to remove films half way through and transfer them to other cameras and this can complicate this. At the same time this approach means that, if the camera door does accidentally come open before a film is finished, photos that are already taken should be protected.
Auto-focussing works in much the same as any other compact camera, pressing the shutter release half way down triggers the autofocus. Manual mode focussing is controlled by one of the buttons on the back of the camera and goes through several increments ranging from 0.35 metres up to 10 metres and then infinity. This isn’t as smooth as it could be, perhaps, as you have to scroll through all the distances using one button and, if you miss the desired distance, you have to go around again. But, this is a point and shoot film camera after all, not an SLR or rangefinder.
The control buttons themselves are very easy to use and this is not even considering the size of the camera. They are unobtrusive, yet are large and tactile enough to access and use easily. Vastly better than even some much larger compact cameras.
All in all, a hard to find, somewhat exotic, very nice point and shoot camera, with just about the right amount of features.