Last summer I was photographing an outdoor wedding here in Vancouver, when I noticed one of the guests showing photographs of the bride to her friends - and not just on the back of her camera, but actual printed photographs. I was amazed, and a little bit deflated if the truth be told - I’m supposed to be the one wowing people with images of the bride!
That was my first encounter with Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 8, a camera that follows in the footsteps of the iconic Polaroid instant camera which those of a certain vintage will remember fondly. For those unfamiliar, the Polaroid was a camera that produced a hard copy of your image almost immediately.
And this is exactly what the Instax does. I say ‘almost immediately’ because when the photograph is first churned out of the camera it is blank. You need to wait about a minute or so for the final image to be revealed.
I’m sure many of you will remember waiting for what seemed like an age while the murky opaqueness of the Polaroid dissipated to reveal goofy faces beneath; the ritual of shaking the picture, which supposedly sped up the process but may in reality have just been a time-killing exercise.
The Fujifilm Instax brings all that back to life, albeit in a slightly different format; about the size and shape of a credit card. The camera accepts a cartridge which allows you to take 10 photos, and comes equipped with a built-in flash. It’s a pretty minimal contraption in terms of controls; it has an On button which pops out the lens, a dial which allows you to choose the appropriate light conditions (there is an indicator which shows the suggested setting), and of course the shutter button. The lens is a 60mm and the focus range is indicated to be 0.6m to infinity.
What is really unique about the Instax is that it is a purely analog experience; the images cannot be downloaded or shared or anything like that. You have just one physical copy of the photo and further copies can only be made by scanning or photographing that photograph.
I really enjoyed using this camera. You simply can’t beat the near-instant gratification of holding a physical photograph in your hands, just seconds after the shutter button was pressed. And somehow that impatient wait for the chemistry to resolve makes the object all the more revered. My kids (2.5 and 4 yrs old) were intrigued by the camera; the whole process was completely novel and amazing to them. I think the Instax is a really great way to get your kids interested in photography, although they may occasionally cover the flash with their fingers! That's why the wife and I are underexposed in this image.
In terms of performance, what I discovered is that because of the size of the photo produced, the Instax Mini works best for close-up portraits. Also in indoor situations the light from the flash is pretty weak so your subjects should be less than about 5 feet away, as the shot below demonstrates.
The Instax Mini 8 comes in 5 colours: black, white, pink, yellow and blue. I should also mention that it is quite a bulky and heavy unit. If you're not the bag carrying type, it'll probably only fit in the pocket of a big winter jacket.
Also available from BestBuy.ca is the Instax 210 Wedding Kit, (shown in the picture at the top.) The kit comes with two packs of super wide format film. Speaking of film, you can always order refill cartridges for your Mini 8 here at Best.Buy.ca.
Justin Morrison is a wedding and portrait photographer based in Vancouver, BC. You can see more of his work here.