In today’s fast-paced world, digital cameras and mobile phones give us the ability to capture almost every single moment of our lives. Forever captured as binary digits, these images sit quietly in our hard drives, always available if we want to relive our special moments.
But how often do you really dig into your vast library of digital images? How tangible are those moments really?
If you are someone who prefers something more physical, something you can touch and see without the aid of some sort of computing device, then one of Fujifilm’s Instax cameras may be just what you need.
Instax cameras are not about the highest resolution images or the ability to capture many millions of pixels. They are about capturing a moment in time and giving you a physical memento that you can glance at any time you want to. These cameras are about the soul of photography – printed images – without any of the extra software, time, or hardware needed to get them.
The History of Instax Cameras
Fujifilm Instax cameras have been around for a while. Based on Polaroid’s old instant camera, the first Instax, the Instax 10, debuted in 1998. Fujifilm released a number of different models after that, some using different sizes of film, and there are now over five different Instax cameras you can choose from. All of them are friendly, easy-to-use cameras that use special film to give you an instant printed image. No waiting required!
How Instax Cameras Work
Instax cameras, and in fact all instant cameras, use a special type of film to provide the instant gratification of an immediate printed photograph. Those of you who remember the era of film know that a chemical reaction is needed to ‘develop’ a negative or slide to reveal the image captured by a camera. In instant cameras, the chemicals needed for this reaction are held in the borders around the film. Right after you take a picture, these chemicals are released onto the film, allowing the reaction to take place. A few moments and your picture is ready for you!
Of course, this is a highly simplified version of events, but if you’d like to know more about the details, the Web is full of information.
Meet the Current Instax Lineup
As of November 2017, Fujifilm offers eight different Instax cameras. It may be a little confusing deciding which one is perfect for you, so we’ve listed all eight of them below in an attempt to make your decision easier.
Instax Mini 9
The Instax Mini 9 is arguably one of the most popular Instax cameras currently in production. Colorful and bright, this fun little model packs a bunch of useful features. Its rounded corners give it a friendly, almost gentle, look that is far removed from the usual angular lines of many cameras. The Mini 9 is less than 5 inches high or wide, and less than 3 inches deep. It weighs just 10.8 ounces, meaning you can carry it anywhere you go. The model is available in five attractive colors including lime green and flamingo pink.
The Mini 9 features a fixed 60 mm lens that is designed to keep everything that is at least 2 feet away from the camera in focus. However, the camera comes with a macro adapter for those times when you want to capture something closer to the camera. An optical viewfinder is what you look through to frame your image, and if you want to be in the image, the handy selfie mirror aids framing. The camera features a constant firing flash to ensure that subjects are lit well and a number of exposure modes (including one for high key pictures) to suit different lighting conditions or creative choices.
Lastly, Mini 9 users have two types of film to choose from – color and black-and-white. The camera produces pictures that are 2.4″ x 1.8″ (62 x 46 mm) in size.
Who is the Mini 9 Good For?
This little camera is great for those who want an instant camera that is light enough to carry everywhere, and bright enough to be noticed. The availability of different types of film opens up more creative possibilities, and the useful selfie mirror and macro adapter remove potential limitations. The camera’s low price doesn’t hurt either!
Instax Mini 8
The Instax Mini 8 is in many ways, the smaller sibling of the Mini 9. It does a lot of the same things, and even produces pictures of the same size (2.4″ x 1.8″), but it is a bit simpler in some areas.
The Mini 8 is available in a choice of seven friendly colors including pink, blue and yellow. It features a brightness adjustment dial with a separate setting for high key images, and like the Mini 9, has a flash that fires for every picture. Also like its bigger sibling, Mini 8 users can choose color or black-and-white film.
What are the differences then? The Instax Mini 8does not include a selfie mirror and it lacks a macro adapter for close-ups.
Who is the Mini 8 Good For?
This simple and compact instant camera is a great entry point for those who want to experiment with instant cameras. It is affordable, and its no-frills approach is great to learn the basics. Like the Mini 9, its small size and low weight mean users can carry it around with ease.
Instax Mini 25
The Instax Mini 25 is one of the more complex cameras in the Instax lineup. This camera is also available in different colors, but unlike the bright bodies of the Mini 9 or 8, the Mini 25 features a mostly white body with colored accents. It also comes with two shutter buttons, making it easier to capture vertical shots. The front of the camera comes with a selfie mirror, helping you frame your selfies perfectly.
Unlike the Mini 9 and Mini 8, this camera adjusts its shutter speed automatically. However, users can tweak the settings to go brighter or darker to match their tastes. In addition, the flash on the Mini 25 does not fire for every shot, and instead fires as needed. The Mini 25’s lens can capture sharp images of anything at least 1.6 feet in front of the camera, and a close-up macro filter is included for objects that are closer. This camera also produces images that are 2.4″ x 1.8″ large.
Who is the Mini 25 Good For?
The Mini 25 is not as cheap as the Mini 9 or Mini 8. However, it does offer a more sophisticated feature set. This is an excellent choice for those who are looking for a more serious instant camera that is still fun and easy to use.
Instax Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC
The Instax Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC is unlike any other Instax camera. Gone are the bright colorful bodies. In their place stands a sophisticated and graceful camera that looks a lot like an expensive rangefinder. It is available in just two classic colors – black and brown. Like the classic rangefinders it is modeled after, the Mini 90 features a leatherette finish and timeless looks. The 60mm lens is retractable and features three motor-driven settings. The Mini 90 also comes with a range of additional controls and functions.
For instance, users can take double exposures or extended ‘bulb’ exposures with the Mini 90. In addition, the camera includes a high performance flash with automatically adjusted brightness. The Mini 90 also comes with different modes to quickly change settings to suit different environments. Brightness controls allow creative control for high- or low-key images, while the macro mode is perfect for striking close-ups. Other features that users are sure to appreciate include the camera’s rechargeable battery and tripod socket.
Who is the Mini 90 NEO CLASSIC Good For?
The Instax Mini 90 eschews the toy-like look of other Instax cameras for a more sophisticated look and feature set. It is a great choice for those who want more control of their instant cameras and the creative freedom to do more with them. The fact that it looks at home anywhere is a definite plus.
Instax Mini 70
Not as sophisticated as the Mini 90, but a step above the simpler Instax cameras, the Instax Mini 70 is all about fun. Featuring a good-looking plastic body, the Mini 70 comes in five metallic-looking colors including gold and white. The front is dominated by the retractable lens while the back hosts most of the buttons on the camera.
The Mini 70 features a dedicated selfie mode and a selfie mirror for framing. The tripod socket means users can perfectly frame an image, and using the self-timer mode, capture selfies that are more complex. Automatic exposure control and a performance flash ensure images with both foreground and background detail. This camera too produces 2.4″ x 1.8″ images. The 60mm lens features three motor-driven ranges – normal, landscape, and macro. Unlike the Mini 90, the Mini 70 does not have a rechargeable battery and uses two CR2 batteries that Fujifilm states can last through 30 packs of film.
Who is the Mini 70 Good For?
The Mini 70 is an excellent choice for those who need more than the simpler Instax cameras offer, both in terms of features and image quality, but who do not need the advanced features of the Mini 90. While you cannot take double exposures or long exposures with the Mini 70, it is a capable instant camera that is fun and easy to use.
Instax WIDE 300
Like its name suggests, the Instax WIDE 300 takes images that are wider than what other Instax cameras produce (2.4″ x 3.9″). Using film that is twice the size of the standard film used by non-wide Instax cameras, the Instax WIDE 300 creates images that better show faces in group images, or details in other shots. This camera is larger than other Instax offerings, and also comes in a bit heavier at over 21 ounces. It uses AA batteries for power and comes in one two-tone color option of black and silver.
The Instax WIDE 300 has an automatic exposure control and a built-in automatic electronic flash that users have some control over. The 95mm lens has two focal settings and also comes with a close up lens for macro shots. The tripod socket ensures better group shots.
Who is the WIDE 300 Good For?
While it does not offer as much creative control as the Mini 90, and although it does not come in fun colors like the Mini 9, the WIDE 300 has its place. It is an excellent choice for those who want more detail or resolution if you will, in their instant images. This camera is perfect for capturing group shots at parties or other gatherings. It may be a bit of a niche instant camera, but if detail is something you value, then this one is for you.
Instax SQUARE SQ10
The Instax SQUARE SQ10 is not a pure instant camera like the other Instax cameras we’ve talked about so far. This one is a ‘hybrid’, melding the best of both digital and analog to give you an instant digital camera. It comes in a tiny form factor and two colors – black and white.
The camera’s sensor is a small 3.7MP CMOS sensor and the back features a 3″ screen. You’ve probably guessed it already, but the SQUARE SQ10 produces square images. That means this instant camera uses a film unlike other Instax cameras. However, the biggest change is in how images are printed.
With the SQ10, users have the freedom to review and edit images before choosing to print them. In addition, they have the option to print multiple copies of the same image. The camera can store 50 images (more if you add a micro SD card), and users can adjust brightness or use any of 10 built-in filters.
Who is the SQUARE SQ10 Good For?
If you’d like more flexibility after you’ve taken an image, but not as much as you capture one, the SQUARE SQ10 may be just right for you. In addition, the flexibility of digital files gives you the option to share images on Facebook or Instagram, but in some ways loses a bit of the charm the other Instax cameras offer.
Instax Mini HELLO KITTY
The Instax Mini HELLO KITTY is a special edition Instax that is a lot like the Mini 9 except that it features Hello Kitty branding and accessories. The camera has a selfie mirror to frame self-portraits better, and an exposure adjustment dial to deal with different lighting situations. In addition, it includes a close-up lens for in-focus macro shots.
Who is the Mini HELLO KITTY Good For?
This one’s easy! This instant camera is the perfect choice (or gift) for a Hello Kitty fan.
What about Film?
All Fujifilm Instax cameras (except for the WIDE 300 and SQ10) accept Fujifilm Instax Mini film.
You can choose from color or black-and-white types. In addition, you can also choose the color of the border. These are available in white and black borders for both color and black-and-white films, as well as in a range of different colors for color films. Each pack contains enough film for 10 prints.
Instax WIDE film is what you need if you use an Instax WIDE camera. This type of film is available in both color and black-and-white variants, and comes in packs of different sizes – some with 10 exposures, while others offer 20 or even 60. It has a sensitivity of ISO 800. This Instax film too is available in different border options.
Lastly, Instax SQUARE film (available in packs of 10 prints), is what square-format Instax cameras like the SQ10 use.
Take the Dive and Enjoy an Analog Adventure
Digital is fun and versatile, but there is just something more real and tangible about film and prints. Instant cameras add to this by creating one special picture of one special moment. If you are itching for an excuse to go back to analog and embrace the fun and creative challenges it offers, Fujifilm’s Instax cameras give you an inexpensive way to indulge yourself. Moreover, the range of choices available mean there are models to suit different styles and creative needs. Go ahead, take a break from pure digital imagery and enjoy an analog adventure!