An inexpensive camera system with a retro flair has been making waves and it’s more than just a fad: the Polaroid-like Fujifilm Instax Mini camera.
What’s an Instant Print Camera?
Anyone old enough to remember probably has fond memories of the Polaroid Instant camera. If you’ve never seen one in action, the camera was pretty much magical in a time before the internet, smartphones, and other modern technology. Just like with the Polaroid Instant Camera, capturing and printing a physical photo takes minutes using an Instant Print camera.
After lining up the shot in the viewfinder and hitting the capture button, the photo prints out and develops quickly, sometimes helped by a bit of shaking. For example, here’s the Instax Mini 8 in action:
Everyone at my house would hover over the print, waiting for the image to appear. Some were perfect, many were not, but each one was a special and physical memento of the moment.
But now in the age of Instagram and Facebook, where any image — good or bad — can go viral and be seen by millions in the blink of any eye, an interesting trend is occurring. Instant cameras, more specifically the Fujifilm Instax Mini line, are flying off the shelves. They are a consistent top performer in Amazon’s Camera, Photo & Video category. But which one should you buy?
Let’s check out the Fujifilm Instax Mini line of Instant Print cameras.
What Is the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9?
The latest model in the series, the Instax Mini 9 is available to purchase for about $59. Buyers can select from a number of fun hues including lime green, cobalt blue, flamingo pink, smokey white, and ice blue.
Not exactly svelte, the rear of the camera features the film compartment, print indicator dial, and viewfinder. On the front of the camera is the always-firing flash, shutter button, lens, selfie mirror, and power button.
Each print, about the size of a credit card, comes out of the top of the camera. The AA batteries that power the camera fit into a side compartment. There is also an included wrist strap that matches the color of the camera.
Once you load the batteries and the film, which takes just a few seconds, you can press the power button and get started.
The shutter speed is fixed, but you can adjust the aperture depending on the best brightness level determined by the camera. You can do that by turning the brightness adjustment dial to the lit lamp on top of the lens. There are four different possible choices: indoors, cloudy, cloudy and sun, and sunny.
For macro shots, a special close-up adapter can be used in the event of an extreme closeup. Just snap the adapter onto the lens to capture subjects 14–20 inches away.
Another fun feature is the High-Key option. Perfect for portraits and indoor shots, it significantly brighter pictures with a softer look, much like an Instagram filter.
After you’ve taken a photo, the print will be ready to remove from the camera in around five seconds. It will usually take around a minute for the special film to develop.
If you like the idea of the Instax Mini 9 but are looking for a few more features, the Instax Mini 70 (UK) could be for you. Available in a number of different colors just like its less expensive brother, the Instax Mini 70 retails for $119.
Looking less like a children’s toy, this model features a specific Selfie Mode setting along with the selfie mirror like on the Mini 9.
Instead of a fixed 1/60th-second shutter speed, the Instax Mini 70 has automatic exposure control. That means the camera’s shutter speed can activate anywhere from 1/2 second to 1/400th second depending on the conditions. You should definitely notice improved photo quality because of that.
Another nice feature is the self-timer mode that automatically snaps a photo after the first image. The bottom of the camera also sports a tripod mount.
It also takes up less space in your gadget bag and is lighter than the basic model. The Instax Mini 70 also uses lithium batteries designed specifically for cameras. While those are more expensive, they’ll last four times longer than batteries the Instax Mini 9.
The previous-generation Instax Mini 8 (UK) is also widely available for $49 or less. It lacks the selfie mirror and close-up adapter. But if those features aren’t important to you, it’s also something to consider.
What About the Film?
While the cameras are very reasonably priced and well made, the film is where you’ll spend most of your money — anywhere from $0.60 to $1 per print.
The best deal is for a 20-pack of standard film that can be found for about $11. Those offer the usual white border.
But if you’re looking to add a bit more flair to the prints, there are a surprisingly a huge number of different choices to select from — if you’re willing to pay more. You can choose everything from rainbow colors, Finding Dory, or Star Wars to the film borders for about $1 per print.
One of the more interesting film packs is a monochrome option. That film can turn any image into an old-school black-and-white option. Surprisingly, the film produces some vibrant, rich, and sharp images and are a big improvement from the Polaroids of old. And thanks to the Instax Mini line’s popularity, there are a number of other accessories available to purchase online. Some of those include camera cases, albums, and photo frames.
While arguably even the most basic smartphone can capture an image better than anything the Fujifilm Instax Mini line, there’s something about being able to hold a real print just seconds after capturing the moment. And instant cameras can also serve other more noble purposes as well.
Have you ever used a Fujifilm Instax Mini camera? Would you recommend the instant printing system? Let us know in the comments.