Fujifilm Cardia Tiara I, II, and Fujifilm DL Super Mini are all but one point-and-shoot camera with a few minor differences.
It’s tiny (#3 smallest ever), light (just 153g or 5.4oz), featuring Fujifilm’s 28mm Super EBC aspherical lens in a minimalist aluminum alloy body.
In this review, go over all of this camera’s features, highlight a few sample images, and talk about the lens. This camera reminds me of another great — Minolta TC-1 — to which I’ll make some comparisons (and discern the differences between Tiaras I & II, and Fujifilm DL Super Minis I & II).
Be warned: is a lovely camera but it’s not free of flaws; I’ll list a few things to watch out for below.
Cardia Tiara in use.
Fujifilm Cardia Tiara is a classic point-and-shoot camera. You only need to know how to load film, how to power this camera on, and where to look when you press the shutter button.
Cardia Tiara feels absolutely tiny in hand yet it’s perfectly usable. Like a clever mechanical or a “smart” watch with a great number of functions and no bulk. It has a matte-grey aluminum body finish that looks and feels like a three-thousand-dollar laptop (but very small).
My first interaction with it — loading film — felt immediately unique.
Fujifilm’s Tiara/DL camera’s film door does not open the full way. Instead, it swings about 15° — just enough to slide a 35mm canister with its leader out in. You still have to stretch the film out until its tip touches the green “FILM TIP” mark; I did it from the other side with my left thumb.
This action felt a little cumbersome though also helpful: anyone smart enough to match shapes can figure this out, including people who’ve never touched film before. Thankfully, there’s also a way to unhinge the door and flip it all the way open to load film the usual way.
Powering Tiara on is also a very intuitive interaction: just slide the thin aluminum cover with a shiny raised logo and the lens comes out with the sound of a small electric motor whirring. Powering it off works the same way in reverse — except the cover stops moving once it touches the retracted lens barrel still in its way; the barrel needs a second to retract — after which you can finish sliding the cover over the glass.
There are cameras with sliding covers and motorized lens bellows that have that problem solved. Tiara isn’t one of them, but it’s also a lot smaller.
Once it’s time to take a picture, you’ll find that the viewfinder on this camera, despite being exceptionally small, isn’t too bad. It’s possible to use Tiara with the glasses on.
The finder includes parallax markings for taking pictures as close as .35m or about a foot and masks for switchable “panorama” mode. Some may call the “panorama” mode wasteful. But if you want an imperfect border around your frames and don’t mind cropping your film, this is the only way on a camera of this size.
If you’re into adding permanent date stamps to your photos — you can do that too. But hurry — the latest year Tiara can display is 2025, so there isn’t much time left for these to be useful! I had them off on mine — you can tell by the “-- -- --” on the rear display next to the frame counter (below).
Speaking of the frame counter: after inserting the film and closing the door, the camera auto-winds the entire canister onto its spool which may prevent certain disasters. For example, if you’ve accidentally popped your camera open in the middle of your roll, your exposed images would already be wound back onto your roll — so if you’re smart enough to extract your canister then, the photos will be saved. I also appreciate not having a long whirl of a small motor immediately and often unexpectedly after taking the last frame on film.
Of course, with Cardia Tiara, you’ll always know when you’re about to be out as the film counter goes down (similar to Fujifilm TX-1 — a true panoramic 35mm film camera).
There isn’t much you can do in terms of controlling your exposure other than turning your flash off (you can also set it to red-eye reduction mode), setting the backlight compensation mode (+2EV), or using the night portrait mode. You can cycle through all these modes by pressing the flash⚡️ button. Keep in mind that your preferences will be reset next time you turn your camera on.
Film cameras are significantly more energy efficient than digital sensors (often, there’s no battery required at all). Nevertheless, Tiara shuts off its LCD display after a few minutes of inactivity. It springs back on once you interact with it.
While exposures are strictly up to the camera’s internal light meter, extensive focus controls on this tiny body make zone focusing and hyperfocal focusing (“snapshot” mode) possible. I’ve never used those modes as they are slow and cumbersome to operate but focus locking with half-pressing the shutter is very handy. As is the “landscape 🏔” mode when focusing on far distances.
Thankfully, Cardia Tiara has an excellent missed focus indicator which will blink a small green light next to the viewfinder while preventing the shutter from firing. Many point-and-shoot cameras can’t do this well enough.
Tiara also has a feature that shows you a warning if you accidentally cover the flash with your finger (the small grey bar under the flash bulb is a touch sensor).
Unfortunately, Tiara will want to fire flash with every shot by default (even in bright light), unless you disable it or set your camera to the “landscape 🏔” mode. The good thing about the flash on this camera is that it automatically adjusts its variable brightness, which helps avoid over-exposures.
Cardia Tiara specs.
This camera accepts DX-coded films with speeds of 50-1600 ISO (accurate to 1 stop) and defaults to ISO 100. It takes a single CR2 battery, which should last about ten rolls.
The flash has a 0.4-5sec recycle time and an effective distance of up to 14m (45’) with an ISO 1600 film or 3.5m (11’) with an ISO 100 film.
Cardia Tiara’s shutter can fire between ½ and 1/800th of a second.
Cardia Tiara measures 99.8×60×31.5mm and weighs 153g (5.4oz). It is the 3rd smallest full-frame camera ever built.
The Super EBC Fujinon lens is very wide at 28mm but it only opens up to 𝒇3.5 — which is not surprising at this size. I like how Fujifilm describes the optics of this camera in the manual:
Super EBC Fujinon Lens, f=28 mm, 1:3.5, 4 components, 4 elements including double-face aspherical optical-glass lens elements.
Cardia Tiara 28mm 𝒇3.5 Super EBC lens image quality.
Given its size, the lens is impressive. It can be very sharp and resolve a lot of detail. The autofocus system is fairly accurate on this camera, though it can get tripped up by reflective surfaces and setting it on infinity is pretty much a requirement whenever shooting landscapes where the bulk of the detail is 100m/yards+ away.
In the best-case scenario, Tiara’s flash will help create natural-looking photographs without over-exposing anything. However, artificial light does not always help — especially with colour films. Because of that, readying this camera can take a little extra time — needed to press the flash button twice in order to disable it.
Back to the lens. Super EBC is very sharp at distances greater than ~1m/3’. It maintains that sharpness across the frame even at wide apertures:
However, that sharpness drops at closer distances, even when the aperture is stopped down:
Super EBC flares — though no more than you’d expect from an unshaded lens. There aren’t any significant aberrations; the lens makes high-contrast images and the out-of-focus areas create swirly bokeh.
Super EBC appears to make a really nice portrait lens. It can separate backgrounds and fill the frame with faces at its close focus distance.
I think it helps that this 28mm lens is housed in such a tiny package with autofocus and auto-exposure. It feels nimble and is the opposite of intimidating.
Given all that this lens brings to the table, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there’s nothing better in the ultra-wide + ultra-small category. But of course, that’s not the case.
Cardia Tiara vs Minolta TC-1.
Fujifilm’s Cardia Tiara was launched in 1994 followed by Minolta’s offering in 1996: TC-1. Minolta TC-1 looks very similar to Tiara, yet it is anything but.
In addition to an even sharper, more contrasty, and more flare-resistant lens, TC-1’s apertures that control it are perfectly circular. It also never misses focus as it displays its measurements in the viewfinder — and the focus motor is set during half-press, making the shutter reaction instantaneous. This is in contrast to Tiara’s split-second delay as it moves the lens into position before taking a picture.
TC-1’s aperture can be controlled by hand, or you can trust the camera to set it on its own (though it won’t be circular in the “auto” mode). TC-1 also lets you override film ISO, adjust exposure settings, and has a spot meter mode for perfect exposures with nearly every shot.
TC-1 is made of titanium and is the smallest full-frame camera ever built.
Minolta’s offering is on another level, and it also appears to have fewer defects. But to own this camera, you’ll need to pay three times more than you would for Tiara.
Read the Minolta TC-1 review here.
Cardia Tiara build quality.
Though Tiara is not TC-1, it is still very well made.
The camera’s thin metal shell is beautiful to look at and hold. It may dent when dropped or handled roughly, however, and you’ll need to be a little careful with the plastic battery door. But well-cared for Tiaras feel exquisite in hand — on par with very expensive modern electronics.
I can’t think of a single camera in the same price range that uses such quality materials, is this small, and has such a nice lens.
Cardia Tiara common issues.
Unfortunately, Cardia Tiara cameras have a number of known faults. Thankfully, they are easy to identify and avoid.
Cardia Tiara I and DL Super Mini I have a battery door that’s detachable and can sometimes get lost. The II is attached to the body, though it may have issues with locking in place.
More commonly, I’ve seen (and experienced) these cameras fail to fully extend the lens after opening the cover. You have to go through the open/close motion twice or more. With each attempt, the lens will move forward further until fully extended and ready to shoot. I think this is due to old capacitors as mine has fully improved after two rolls of film from regular use. But I would still avoid buying cameras that have this issue.
A harder-to-diagnose problem is a broken light meter unit. It rendered my Tiara II completely useless. This short post shows how you can diagnose it at home without using any tools. You may also want to ask your seller whether they tested the camera’s shutter speeds with the flash off, an issue with which is a red flag.
Fujifilm Cardia Tiara I vs. Tiara II vs. DL Super Mini I & II.
Since I’ve got to try both Tiara I and Tiara II, I can tell you first-hand that the differences aren’t many — but I would still prefer the II.
The II has a permanently attached wrist strap lug — and this camera needs a wrist strap (it’s very small and feels like it could slip out of the hand easily). I also appreciate the improved battery door design.
Aside from the above, design, features, and usability-wise Tiara I & II are identical; Tiara II has the raised “TIARA II” on its cover, whereas the other variants just say “FUJIFILM.” I used both cameras to illustrate this article — see if you can spot the differences.
How much does Cardia Tiara cost, and where to find one.
As of this writing, Fujifilm Cardia Tiara cameras sell between $250-400, depending on condition. Tiara II fetches a little more (about $50 in difference). A lot of these cameras are sold in Japan, but many are also available in North America.
❤ By the way: Please consider making your Fujifilm Cardia Tiara I or II camera purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!