It might be getting a little colder in hell, because I just chose an instant camera as the next Staff Pick. Don’t get me wrong: as a whole, Pro Photo Supply has always been very fond of instant cameras, especially after the resurgence of Polaroid film from the Impossible Project. It’s just that, personally, instant cameras have never really appealed to me. I mean, let’s consider the facts:
- Instant film has always offered lousy image quality and always will.
- The cameras seem unnecessarily large for the features they offer.
- The cost-per-shot ratio ranges from ridiculous to ludicrous (kudos to those who get this reference).
- And finally: digital cameras are instant cameras, without the hassle of physical prints to clutter up your fridge or get lost!
So for people who enjoy facts, there’s really no arguing that instant film cameras are inferior in every way to digital cameras. But what about for people who don’t enjoy facts? You see, this is where I had been going wrong for so long in how I formulated my opinion on instant cameras. I failed to recognize that another audience of photographers—one not concerned with facts—exists. These are photographers who probably stay up past midnight on a Tuesday because, hey, something interesting might just happen. They are also people who have social lives, dress smartly, and attend parties. They are people who don’t necessarily like photography for photography’s sake, but they do like self-expression. You can’t fit this type of person into a box, because that box would have to be built into the 5th dimension, and such things are highly improbable. In short, these are the people who shoot Fuji Instax cameras, and the newest addition to the lineup—the Mini 90 Neo Classic—is the greatest thing to happen to the instant camera world since Edwin Land. Well, I don’t know, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s still really cool. Here’s why:
Looks – Where previous Instax cameras looked like miniature, plastic submarines, the Mini 90 actually looks like a camera. And a very handsome one, at that. When you show up at the party with this camera in hand, you will definitely be the center of attention. Especially if you also bring beer.
Features – Remember, this is an instant camera, yet its feature list includes capabilities not found on many digital cameras, like bulb and double exposure modes. It also features a standard tripod socket and rechargeable battery. Fuji has gone the extra mile to make this camera easy to use in creative and experimental ways.
Build – This is the first Instax camera I have used that actually feels like a legitimate piece of hardware. It may still be plastic, but it is much sturdier than previous models, and the film hatch feels much more secure. This is an instant camera built to last.
Image quality – Okay, like I said, instant film is never going to offer amazing quality, but the Mini 90 definitely takes the best Instax images yet. Thanks to some intelligent flash control, pictures come out with much more accurate exposures than before. Furthermore, there are no light leaks, something I had noticed in other Instax models.
One thing I have to constantly remind myself of is that photography is supposed to be fun. It’s not always about facts. It’s not about megawhatsits. And if I was in the market for a sub-$200 camera, why wouldn’t I consider the Fuji Instax Mini 90? I honestly think I would have more fun with it than any digital camera at that price point. It is a tool that can create instant memories, inspire creativity, and make a fashion statement all at the same time. It may even be better than Instagram.