Archive for January 28th, 2020

The state of instant film cameras

I invested quite some money on instant film cameras in the last few months, trying to get the right vintage look for an art project of mine. After buying a few of these cameras, and testing them, I could never get the pictures I needed, because they are not as full featured as a 35mm film camera, for example, which allows different lenses, or filters etc. Here are the negatives I found on some of these models. I won’t list their positives, because anyone can read a feature-list on their respective web site, this is only about what I found annoying in them.

TL70:

– No manual shutter speed.

– Shutter is not faster than 1/500th (overexposes at f/5.6, even with the strongest ND filter that Mint provides separately. It also overexposes at maximum f/22 if no ND is used).

– Proprietary filter thread, so you can’t add fun filters or more ND.

– F/22 aperture has massive vignetting.

– No flash sync.

– Can’t use the sun hood while using the filters.

– Instax Mini is tiny.

PROs: Good all around camera for artsy pics with nice bg blur. Lovely, large screen.

RF70:

– Fixed lens, with no possibility of wide, or tele. For that price, I would have liked some choice, or at least add-on lenses.

– Shutter is not faster than 1/500th (overexposes by 1 stop at f/5.6 under sunlight, even with the ND8 filter that Mint provides separately).

– Proprietary filter thread limits the use of other filters or add on lenses. This is really, really annoying, because it’s what really limits this camera from expandability. If they had gone with a standard filter thread, this camera would actually be useful for most photography cases.

PROs: Full manual controls, flash sync, wide format.

SLR670-s:

– No support for the Mint Flash while using the Time Machine. It’s one or the other.

– Proprietary filter thread limits the use of fun filters.

– No flash sync (more expensive -X model supports it though).

– No frog tongue is installed by default (Polaroid Originals film requires it, or it will come out washed out).

– Camera was modified to have fixed aperture at f/8 (not great for macro or for most landscapes, but great for portraits).

– No internal meter (requires phone app, or professional light meter).

PROs: Fastest shutter speed than anyone else, ensuring it won’t overexpose. SLR finder, easiest to compose. Focusing guide.

Lomo’Instant Wide:

– No aperture or shutter control (it almost never gives you a good bg blur, despite its rather big aperture at f/8).

– Slow leaf shutter makes the camera overexpose by 2 stops in sunlight, while it only provides a -1 compensation.

– Provided wide lens flares a lot. And I mean, a lot.

– Add-on lenses don’t have a filter thread.

– Focusing with it is (almost) a joke.

PROs: Add-on lenses, double exposure and compensation, wide format.

Polaroid OneStep+:

– Proprietary filter thread (which doesn’t even provide you the right color filters to compensate for tungsten lights).

– Manual controls, light painting, and double exposure available only via phone app, so it requires a tripod to operate it (or an assistant).

– Shutter too slow at 1/125th max.

– Aperture just f/12.

– Weak flash. No flash sync.

– Focusing with it is a joke.

– Firmware bugs! I need to press 3-5 times for the shutter to activate (I’ve been hearing about this bug by others too).

PROs: Great battery life, manual controls when possible.

Fuji Instax Mini 90 NeoClassic:

– No aperture or shutter control.

– Slow leaf shutter (1/400th) makes the camera overexpose in sunlight often.

– Focusing with it is a joke (deep field of view every time).
– No filter thread.

– Instax Mini is tiny. Fuji doesn’t have an equally powerful camera for their square or wide formats.

PROs: Double exposure, exposure compensation.

Fuji SQ6 Square & Wide 300:

– They’re toys.

My opinion is this: If you’re shooting portraits, or objects within 2-3 meters, or landscapes (except for the SLR670), then these cameras are good. If you want to shoot precise macro, or have a very precise framing of far away objects that require a zoom (e.g. architecture geometry, city photography where you have to be far away-enough to not spook people), then you should shoot digitally and then buy an Instax or a Polaroid Lab printer to give these pictures the film/vintage treatment.

What each manufacturer needs to do to get one step ahead:

– Mint: Stop making proprietary filter threads. They ruin everything.

– Lomography: Decide if you want to be serious, or a toy. You can’t have it both ways in the instant world, as you can in the 35mm film world. The choices here are so few, that you could be a serious player.

– Polaroid: Be less toy-like with your more expensive model.

– Fuji: Stop making, essentially, just toys.