Its happened! I’ve been lured by instant film!
Not the now resurrected,rare and expensive Polaroid but the very popular Fujifilm Instax brand.
I was drawn in by instant film because I was looking for something that my daughter could use with her left hand and something tactile…she has cerebral palsy with learning difficulties and I found the Instax Mini 70 fit the bill. I recommend Instax for kids with challenges. Recently children from my daughters play group had a go with her Instax and they all were fascinated by the process and loved having a souvenir to take home.
Its lovely to see peoples anticipation while the film develops. This is what instant film photography is all about.
Here she is proudly holding her camera
So what can I say? It’s fun…it’s addictive and as a result its dangerous for the wallet!
Before using instant film you should understand that there is virtually no latitude when capturing a picture. Dynamic range is very limited.
You have to be aware of high contrast & low light environments. Don’t expect the most perfect image but do expect to have something unique. No two pictures are ever alike and there is something enjoyable about waiting to see how the picture turns out. The quality of the prints are excellent. Lovely Fujifilm colours!
The film is iso 800 so this is why the cameras have very small apertures.
I’ve tested a few cameras… Starting with a Lomo’ instant wide (uses Instax wide film) and the “luxurious” Leica Sofort (uses the credit card sized Instax mini). Using these this has led me to post some advice for those wanting to have a try with instant film. So lets get these two out of the way first…
Lomo instant wide
No matter what Instax wide camera you are going to buy its going to be a big lump of plastic so the Lomo is no exception. Saying that the Lomo has a nice aesthetic even if it is just a brick. Unlike some of Fujifilm’s models the Lomo has some “creative” options available to it…you can do multiple exposures to your hearts content as seen here…
Other things is being able to switch the flash off and have some control on the focus (it uses a zone focus method not unlike the Trip 35) and basic lighten darken setting.
You can also do long exposures and comes with some gels for artistic effect.
It has a very cool remote built into the front cap which aside from the fun multiple exposure mode is probably the ONLY thing I liked about this camera.
As creatively aimed the Lomo’ Instant wide is its poorly made. The viewfinder was optically terrible (very blurry to see the frameline). It never ever produced a correctly exposed image from my use…it would be either under or extremely over. Reading up the trick is to tape up the rear door because of light leaks (great workmanship by Lomo’)…however this did not make a bit of difference.
Yes exposure is tricky with instant film and I could be blamed but when you have such inconsistent results as this “creative control”is redundant and I will explain later why I’m convinced the Lomo’ Instant wide is a dud…a £169 (from the lomo shop) dud I might add.
Look at this picture. This was taken with the Lomo’ all taped up on a cloudy overcast day and I had it set at the minus exposure which was a ironic mistake on my part…yet?
WAY over exposed…you cant even tell she’s holding a bunch of flowers. The camera has a mind of its own and wants to crap up your pictures!
As well as the build and the results my Lomo’ had another glaring issue right out of the box. The rollers in the camera were not working as they should so as a result I would get white blotches on the side of the image. This can be caused by debris in the roller or uneven rollers. I bought this camera new and after the amount of films ruined by the Lomo’ I returned it facing a long battle to get my refund. Here is one more shot with the Lomo’ the best one I have got. Fuzzy because the lens is SOFT.
I’ve had past experience with the company Lomography and I will be frank..they’re crap.
I sent them off some 110 film for developing and it took forever to receive my images and took months to receive the negatives back. Their customer service is poor. Their products are poor.
The excuse that “imperfection is all about the Lomo’ look” is bollocks.
I liked this camera. I had a orange one. I like the look of it. I liked the images it made. Very sharp lens. Yet it broke down after using it for a week..another roller fault. Just failed after taking 2 pictures from a pack. So I lost the remaining film to boot. Considering its such an expensive Instax camera (£200-£225) you would expect it to be better. Maybe I was unlucky? I don’t go back to a product if it fails within a week so off it went.
I bought one from Harrison Cameras who were great and refunded me no problem.
My daughters Instax mini 70? still working!
I was finding the whole affair a bit frustrating. I had some Instax wide film left so looked into the Fujifilm Instax wide 300…then after a bit of research I found that the 210 & 200 are basically the same..just ergonomically uglier but very cheap. I bought one on ebay for £20 with free postage so at least I can use the rest of my film.
We’re talking fisher price toy camera here…
But you know what? I like it! Its no nonsense auto. Just point and shoot. You have lighten/darken option for the exposure (which works btw)…that is it.
To be honest with instant film that’s all you need as long as the camera is consistent And so far from use it has been!
And this is why I cant recommend the Lomo’ instant wide. For all its promises it cant even match the image from a “crappy” second hand £20 camera.
I found the exposure, colour and sharpness superior in the 210.You can’t switch off the flash but you can make the flash less harsh by covering it over with some white masking tape.
Here is some shots from the 210
I’ve just bought a 200 for £10 in case the 210 gives in.
So my advice is this with Instax film cameras.
Buy a cheap second hand camera and use the rest of your money on the films. Looking around you will find Instax cameras going cheap in lots as people use them for events then sell afterwards.
These are not serious cameras so don’t spend serious money on them. Its not worth it. Go cheap and have fun!
But what about getting the very best image from Instax film?
Well with that you have to mate it with digital…but I will leave this for part two.