Back when I was a kid, my family had a Polaroid camera, which we often used to capture memorable moments. Christmas, birthdays, and vacations were all made permanent on instant film. My dad had a 35mm SLR that he used sometimes, but when you look through the old picture books from my adolescence, a large percentage of the photos are Polaroids. My childhood was captured on instant film.
There’s magic in instant film photography. The camera would spit out a print, which started out completely white and would slowly reveal an image. Maybe you’d shake it, hoping to speed up the process. Back when I was young most things weren’t “instant” like today, so having a tangible picture in mere moments was a seemingly impossible novelty. The cameras were easy to use—even a child could capture pictures, and my brother, sister and I were occasionally granted permission to be photographers. The legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams published a book on instant film photography. It didn’t matter if you were a complete novice or experienced pro, the magic of instant film photography was for everyone.
Polaroid is no longer the king of instant film. Fujifilm, with their Instax line of cameras and film, is number one. Introduced in 1998, Instax was an immediate hit, but like Polaroid, it was greatly affected by the emerging digital camera technology, and sales began to decline sharply after 2002. Polaroid jumped ship in 2008 (they’ve since returned), but Fujifilm continued the Instax brand, and in 2009 sales began trending up. Today, Instax is Fujifilm’s top selling photography product by a large margin.
My oldest daughter, Joy, was gifted a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera for Christmas five years ago, and she loves to photograph with it! The Mini 8 was introduced by Fujifilm in 2012, so it’s by no means a new camera, but, since it was a popular model, nearly a decade later you can still find it sometimes brand-new. I asked Joy to write a couple paragraphs about this camera and Instax photography to include in this review.
“I like the Fujifilm Instax Mini 8,” Joy began, “because of the many possibilities that come with the camera! I love the pastel blue color of my Instax. To capture a picture, there is a button near the lens that must be pushed first, which pops the lens forward and powers the camera on. There’s a ring around the lens that controls the brightness of the picture. Choose between Indoors, Cloudy, Cloudy and Sunny mixed, Sunny, and Hi-Key. Press the circle shaped button and a picture comes out the side of the camera. My Instax Mini 8 is amazing!”
“Taking pictures with my Instax is super exciting! I like to photograph plants, cities and my family. There are two trails near where I live that are my favorite places for pictures. The Instax Mini 8 has a flash that cannot be turned off, so sometimes my pictures will come out too bright. It takes a little practice to capture good pictures with this camera. I have four different colored filters that attach to the lens, and I can change the color of the photos with these filters. I have taken pictures with different films. The film loads into the back of the camera, and it’s easy to change. I love the awesome pictures I capture with my Instax Mini 8!”
There are three different Instax sizes. Mini measures 2.1″ x 3.4″ with a 1.8″ x 2.4″ image. Square measures 2.8″ x 3.4″ with a 2.4″ x 2.4″ image. Wide measures 4.3″ x 3.4″ with a 3.9″ x 2.4″ image. No surprise, Mini is the smallest, and most lo-fi. Image quality isn’t especially great, but that’s a part of the charm. The instant-film magic is what makes the Instax Mini a fascinating camera.
The biggest cost with Instax is the film. It adds up quickly. You can save a little by buying in bulk, but it’s still not cheap. There’s a real cost with each picture, but you get a tangible photograph, which is uncommon anymore. Holding a physical image is also a part of the instant film magic. More importantly, Instax is fun, and there certainly is a childlike joy photographing with the Mini 8 camera.
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Below are some of Joy’s Instax photographs captured with her Mini 8 camera: