FujiFilm Instax Mini Neo ClassicI’m going to be honest with you. I have never understood the appeal of the FujiFilm Instax Mini film and cameras. Yeah, they’re cute and all but I wrote them off as a hipster craze. As proven time and time again in my life, I’m a moron who can miss the point.

On my recent trip to Marrakech, Morocco I was asked if I wanted to take the new Neo Classic Instax Mini 90 camera along for the ride. Full disclosure, I was in Morocco to shoot for Fuji with their new XT1 camera. Instax is a completely different division from the digital camera side of Fuji that I have worked with. This is not a paid endorsement or anything like that. This is a completely independent take on something that happens to fall under the FujiFilm name. My job was to shoot with the XT1. The Instax was sort of an after thought that I could take or leave. Cool? Cool.

Within thirty minutes of being on the streets in Marrakech I found that photographing people was going to require something of me that I don’t deal with often. That requirement was money. No matter which street I went down, which corner I turned, which shop I walked into — Money talks. Photographers walk. My local guide informed me that this was going to be the case for the entire trip. The cost? 20 to 40 Dirhams would be sufficient in most cases. That’s basically $3 to $5 whenever I began to interact with someone. I was going to be broke by the end of day one.

Now then, let’s get this discussion out in the open right away. To pay for photos or not. I’ve heard arguments on both sides of the issue. Some photographers refuse to pay anyone to get a photograph. It’s damn near a morality issue for them. Other photographers don’t mind spending a few dollars to shoot a portrait of someone. Me? I don’t mind giving a few dollars here and there. Here’s how I see it: I’m an outsider. I’m a voyeur. I come out of nowhere and ask for someone to give me something of themselves. They are giving me access. They are giving me time. They are giving of themselves and I’m supposed to take some moral high ground and say that isn’t worth something? If I value the photographs I am making how can I look at my subjects and say I don’t value them?

Again, I’m an outsider. I have no reason to be in some of the places where I end up except to shoot pictures and experience something new to me. If I break it down and get honest, I’m darting through back alleys for completely selfish reasons. The people I meet have no reason to trust me. They really have more reasons to NOT trust me. They have no reason to give me access to their lives. They are living their day to day and I come bounding in with a camera and want something of them and then to not give something in return? See the end of this post for some links to great posts on this subject.

FujiFilm Instax MIniI don’t have a picture unless I either steal it (which I do on the streets quite a bit) or someone gives me access and gives me their time. Time and access is worth something. I’m ok with that. I’m not into shooting landscapes and buildings. Even if I was I’d probably be paying to get access in the form of admission prices and tickets to a park. Amirite?

In Marrakech I was dropping bills like Snoop Dogg at a strip club then I remembered that I had the Instax Neo Classic with me. I wanted to share my photography with the people I met  but many didn’t have an email address or Facebook page. Hey! I could shoot a little Instax photo for them and give them that! Brilliant huh? I’m so smart! I started shooting Instax pictures and a new level of trust, interest, and access was now mine for a simple instant photograph.

FujiFilm Instax Neo Classic

I’d walk down an alley, meet someone, and ask to take their picture. I was told no nine out of ten times. Then I’d ask if I could take a picture for them. Eyebrows would sort of raise and I think out of curiosity many would then say yes. I’d snap a photo with the Instax and we’d stand there together watching the image magically appear. Then others would start to congregate and a lot of laughter and chatter in multiple languages would start. Then… everyone wanted an Instax. I was in like Flynn.  For the price of a few Instax photos I was not just another tourist being a voyeur. I was sharing the very thing that I love so much with the subjects I wanted to meet and photograph. Everyone was happy.

Then something happened. I fell in love with these tiny ass photos. They really are beautiful little prints. I’d watch the image come up and then say… I want one of those too! I’d take two shots at times. One for them and one for me. Son of a gun. There’s a reason people love these little cameras and prints! Let me share how I kept them protected during my travels.

The film comes in a little plastic cartridge that you simply drop into the camera. I kept the box the film came in and all of the plastic cartridges. When I finished a pack of film I’d break off the little plastic tab and remove the light tight protective strip on the edge where the film pops out.

fuji_film_packThe tab is easy enough to break by applying a small amount of pressure with your thumb. The strip is easy to remove as well by pushing it in with your finger nail until a corner pops out. Grab that corner of the strip and simply pull it off the cartridge. Once that is done you can now slide prints back into the cartridge for storage. I slide them in with the thicker white border going in first. The reason I do this is so when I want to slide the print back out I can push on that part of the print without getting finger prints on the image itself. Once you fill a cartridge you can then slide that back into the original box and your prints are safe and secure.

Fuji Instax Film

 

 

Instax Mini Scan

 

Instax Mini Scan

For the first image above I used the “party mode” or whatever it’s called. It’s basically a slow sync with the on camera flash.  I found I preferred having the camera set to -1 darker most of the time.

It is safe to say that I’m a new bandwagon jumper for Instax Mini cameras. Of course I love the looks of the Neo Classic ($153.17 on Amazon) due to it favoring the Fuji X cameras I have come to love. The camera is very lightweight and fit just fine in my ThinkTank Retrospective 5 camera bag (Amazon for $143 or at MPEX for $137). I’m planning my trip for Cuba next month and I’m going to be ordering quite a few five packs of Instax film. You can get a five pack (50 images total) for $36.31 on Amazon right now.

Fuji has recently announced the Instax Share SP-1 WIFI printer (Available June 1). It hasn’t been released in the States yet so I haven’t had a chance to try one of those out although I did see it at CES earlier this year. Right now those printers only connect to iOS and Android. I hear they will soon be able to connect directly to a WIFI Fuji X camera. That will be amazeballs. Check out Matt Brandon’s recent review of the SP-1 printer and thoughts on sharing photos with subjects over on Digital Trekker. I’d also love for you to read Fernando Gros’ post Taking Photos or Sharing Them and then read his great post Stealth Photography and Other Urban Problems.

Are you into the Instax cameras? What has been your experience with them?

Cheers,
Zack

PS – The XT1 full review is in the works now that I’m home. Stay tuned! I’ll also be talking about the 10-24mm f4, the 56mm f1.2, and the 27mm f2.8 pancake lenses.

 

 

Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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70 Comments

  1. Patrick Magee

    I can’t wait to get my hands on the Instax printer! Can you imagine the response if you put the printer in a jacket pocket, shoot an image with the XE-2 or XT-1, send image to printer, and then “magically” pull the print out out your pocket!

    • Zack Arias

      I really really really hope it becomes that seamless! That would be so freaking great!

      Cheers,
      Zack

    • Eric

      BTW, Photojojo has the printers on sale — only a $10 premium over what the official release price will be. Allegedly they’re “in stock,” so wish me luck, I’ve got one on order…

      • Patrick Magee

        Thanks for the tip! Mine just shipped! It looks like it would take serious firmware changes to both the camera and printer to provide a direct connection so I’m going to have to be satisfied with a two transfer workflow to print from cameras to the printer.

        • Eric

          Yeah, I have to agree with you — the current printer interface wouldn’t make a direct-from-camera workflow easy. And worse, the printer doesn’t seem to have any firmware upgrade ability (not too surprising, I suppose, given its relatively low cost).

          That being said, I’m seriously impressed at the prints the little gem produces. I fed it a full-sized JPEG from my micro-4/3 camera (via cellphone) — it’s sharp with well-saturated colors! I’ll have to post a link in the comments here once I get a chance to write up a review…

        • Patrick Magee

          I’ve been mulling it over some more and I think Fuji might be able to create a direct-to-printer connection – if the hardware supports it. If they have the capability to detect the printer and the firmware memory space and data memory (RAM) required to hold the additional code and data. You probably wouldn’t have templates but I don’t believe most users would care. Just the ability to print straight from the camera would probably satisfy most users. If you shoot RAW you can always apply changes and save as JPG to print. Of course Fuji would have to see a ROI to take on this software update. The benefit is more Instax film being sold but that may not apply to the X series group financials. If the printer sells well then we may see direct support in the next new camera.

  2. Paul Atlan

    Hey Zack,
    I second this wholeheartedly: I asked Fuji to borrow an Instax mini at GPP and they actually gave me one …. I used it on my last day of shooting for the DAH class – the fishermen in Dubai where so happy. They would actually come over discreetly one by one and ask for a shot to keep. The look on the face of the last guy – when I’d run out of paper – was heart wrenching.

    But the real kicker is that my kids reinvented this ON THEIR OWN on a trip this weekend. They started handing out pics to all the hotel staff instead of keeping them. This speaks volumes to the power of the image in their young minds.. Also, I need to add a new budget line for the next vacation: photo paper for the kids …

    • Zack Arias

      @Paul – That’s what I love so much about Fuji. Especially at GPP. They loan shit out left and right. It’s so great of them to do that. Had a *big name* DSLR user in a class and her camera went down. Asked the company who was there if they could have a loaner for her to finish the class. Only needed it for a few hours. They said they couldn’t loan anything out. Guess who did give her a camera and lens? Yep. Fuji to the rescue.

      Cheers,
      Zack

      PS – Great seeing you again this year!

  3. Thiago Medeiros

    I love my Instax! I even use it with external speedlights for amazingly-lit instant shots. Easy enough with a flash with built-in slave function, such as the LumoPro 180 or the YongNuo 560 II. If only film was a bit cheaper, I’d shoot it everyday…

  4. Thiago Medeiros

    To those interested: the Mini 7 is a fixed shutter-speed camera (always 1/30s), but has a variable aperture: f/12.7 (indoor), f/16 (shade), f/22 (outdoor), f/32 (sunny).

    The Instax 50s, which I use, has a fixed f/12.7 aperture and more shutter speeds (1/3s to 1/400s), and handles pretty well outdoors with that max speed. They sync flash in all speeds! The 50s also has a handy exposure compensation button. The “DARKEN” mode underexposes by 2/3, which allows you to use fill-flash at will.

    Instax film is ISO 800 – thus the lens is an equivalent f/4.5 in ISO 100. Here’s what I do: I use a digital camera to preview the shot, switch to the Instax, hold the “DARKEN” button, set my flashes and fire away! Never had a bad experience 🙂

    I assume the Mini 90 is very similar to the 50s, so this technique should work!

    • Zack Arias

      Thanks for the tech info!

      Cheers,
      Zack

    • Alex

      You rock. I’ve wasted about fifteen bucks trying to get my strobe and my instax to play nicely.

      • Thiago Medeiros

        Hehe, no prob! I may make a video sometime, to crystallize this info in an easily-searchable place such as YouTube.

  5. Tim A.

    I love the Instax. I have that neo classic as well and it is just a fun little camera to shoot. I’ve also found it’s a great way to break the ice with kids who are not all into getting their photos taken when I’m on a shoot. To the kids and even to many of the younger parents, this is like magic and once they see it they want more. Great way to say “ok, once we finish these photos ok?”

    I’ve also used it for street shooting too. If you keep the shutter pressed down, the film won’t eject until you let go. So, once you turn the flash off, if you are outdoors, you can quickly take a shot and it’s a fun way to mix it up a bit on the street. Fuji’s had this for many years but the new neo classic has gotten people talking about it again and I’m glad it’s making a bit of a comeback!

  6. Andrew Livelsberger

    I bought my mother in law an Instax 210(wide format) and she loves it. She never quite warmed up to digital and used to shoot film all the time. Then her film camera broke and for a while she had nothing.

    I then started looking at the Diana f+ instant back camera and fell in love with it. Yes, it is not as “manual” as I would have liked, but it does give you the ability to shoot off camera flash with radio triggers, which is excellent as well as a bulb mode.

    I’ve been using it for personal projects and I have a few ideas of integrating it into parties, wedding receptions as a “fun” item to bolster the non-traditional side of that business.

  7. Phil

    Love the look and feel of the Neo Classic. There’s no question the instant pix are a huge hit at parties and a great ice-breaker with people. The colors are classic Fuji — bright and beautiful. My only gripe is the focus and clarity of the images … I can’t tell if I have a bad camera or they all do this, but it seems like half or more of my snaps turn out almost unusably blurry.

    One neat thing to try, as described by Blunty here

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ciVVkiNm3o

    is to put some tape or other material over your Instax flash. I taped some white paper over mine and it makes the strobe a little less harsh on people in dark party environments.

  8. Aaron

    Zack,

    I’ve toyed with the idea of scanning the instant prints at a really high dpi and making some enlargements from them. It might make a fun wall piece. I may try it with my Instax 210 and get back with you.

    Your friend,
    Aaron

    • Zack Arias

      Let me know how that goes!

      Cheers,
      Zack

  9. Josh

    I’m in Marrakech right now and I recognized one of the Gnaoua musicians from your photos so I went and showed him this post on my iPad. He loved it!

  10. Greg

    “…darting down back alleys..”
    “..bounding in with a camera..”

    What, did you move to LALA Land and join a parkour club?

    Love the instax and have been using as my party camera.

  11. Neal Carpenter

    I have a couple of instax wide cameras that I use for photo booths at weddings. People are always amazed. They are either nostalgic for the days of Polaroid or shocked because it is new. An instant print is a hit regardless of the film and camera. I’m thrilled you found it so handy in morocco.

  12. Bobby Brown

    I bought the Instax 210 to take with me to the Dominican Republic on a mission’s trip. I new I would be photographing a ton with my DSLR, but I didn’t want to blow into a village as the traditional American, “taking” pictures of third world living back with me. I wanted to give to these people and children something that was tangible that I could leave with them- not just giving them our used clothing and 99 cent store toys, but a photograph that was of value to them. I ended up becoming the most popular guy around as I was swarmed with shouts of “Amigo, Amigo! Una photo!” It was such a great tool to allow a bridge to be formed between myself as an American and the Dominican people. Mothers would bring out their babies, guys would gather all their friends together, Grandmothers would grab grandkids…it was great! Even at around $.80 per photo, it was money well spent!

  13. Dave H

    Dang it Zack. I had convinced myself last night that I DID NOT NEED this camera. Now you post this. 🙂

  14. Miguel

    Hey Zack, im soo pumped for the Cuba trip you got no idea. My luggage is already packed and all. Im glad i saw this post cuz my brother has the instax 50s eating dust, and im bringing that little puppy with me.
    Cheers,
    Miguel

    • Zack Arias

      I can’t wait either Miguel! Cuba is fantastic!

      Cheers,
      Zack

  15. Alex Atienza

    I’ve been pondering on getting one but what’s putting me off is the cost of the film. Instax cameras are cheap but Instax film is not (especially for just 10 shots /box. But they are cool, I agree on that.

  16. Will

    I got an Instax Wide for my wedding. Instead of a guest book, we had a friend take a picture of every guest or couple. These we’re put in a book I’d pre-filled with photo corners to perfectly hold the pictures. We had sharpies on hand for people to sign and leave a message next to their picture. Couldn’t be happier with the book, and have enjoyed bringing the camera out at parties and gatherings ever since.

    The Mini pictures strike me as too small, but the Neo is a handsome little devil. As others have said, I’m excited by the printer, in concept at least.

    • Zack Arias

      @Vali – Thanks for sharing that. That is fantastic.

      Cheers,
      Zack

  17. Gus Samarco

    Man, I really regret not having one of those while Im in Brazil…

  18. Daf Owen

    Agree with you in terms of paying for a shot or not – they’re fully within their right to ask and i shouldn’t feel hard done by due to that. I have to make the decision how much is getting this photo worth to me.
    I think I’d likely pay for just a few – those with that extra special character.

    Having a printer that would work with a DSLR would be amazing – would have loved to be able to give prints out when on safari in Kenya and visiting local villages.
    I wonder if we could get WiFi cards in SLRs to talk to the printers!
    Mind you – could always try a wired connection.

    Saw another on kickstarter the other day. CAn’t recall where I saw the link.
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1528016185/lifeprint-wireless-social-photo-printer-for-iphone

  19. Leif

    I really like the idea of sharing images and give something back.
    My doubt with the Fuji printer is that it seems to use the same technology as we’ve seen in the Polaroid Pogo or LG printer. Of course it better than nothing, but from the image quality and colors they were much less attractive than a Polaroid or Canon Selphy with battery pack (which is much larger).

    • Eric

      Nope. A Pogo with Zink paper basically gives you a small thermal printer. Instax is much like the old Polaroid “integral” system (think SX-70), but with more-saturated colors.

      Zink printers are smaller, and the pictures come out of them already “done,” while the Instax printer is chunkier and you have to wait 20 seconds or so for images to develop.

      • Zack

        Eric – I’ve yet to hear any Pogo users report that they are head over heels for those printers. I hear a lot of complaints from battery life to print quality issues. Also, those little magical moments for many folks is watching the image appear. I just shot 250 Instax shots in Cuba over the last week and there is no way I’ll never travel with it again!

        Cheers,
        Zack

  20. Bert Stephani

    Hey Zack,

    I had the chance to briefly play with the Instax Share printer. Seemed to work really well. Transferred the images from my camera over WiFi to my phone, quick Snapseed edit and then print wirelessly with the Instax iPhone app. I really liked the whole idea and I can see some really nice uses for it.
    I preordered it. Should have bought one when I was in Japan, they even sold them at the airport.

    grtz,
    B

  21. adam

    i saw the little printer at wppi and tried hard to get the fuji guy to admit there would be one that worked with the xe2 and xt1. he wouldn’t budge.

    they’d be the perfect little gadget to have with you when on the street, as you have illustrated with the instax.

    though it be nice if they included a cable option so those of us without a wifi enabled xe2 or xt1 could print out images on the fly.

    please pass that on to your overlords at fuji zack.

  22. Flynn

    In like Flynn … well done Professor!

  23. Alex

    The Instax Wide: one aperture, dodgy metering, zone focus, forced flash, lashings of paralax error, a buck a frame…. and easily the most fun I’ve ever had with a camera.

    Everyone should shoot some polaroids. Something about having a tangible product appear in your hand is just awesome.

  24. Bernardo Arce

    I ORDERED ONE YESTERDAY, AND I COULDN’T FIGURE OUT HOW ZACK HADN’T TALKED ABOUT THIS, AND SUDDENLY, BOOM YOU CAME OUT WITH THIS POST.

    FUNNY. YOU’RE ONE STEP AHEAD.

  25. bottle of Broon

    Said student was impressed by fuji loaning her a camera but was hesitant to make the switch permanent due to the volume of prime lenses she has…..she will see the light even if the big name DSLR didnt 🙂

    • Zack Arias

      BROON!!!!

      🙂

      Great seeing you in Dubai my friend!

      Cheers,
      Zack

    • Zack Arias

      That would be awesome Marius! The problem is the 4×5 and 3000b films are being phased out. 🙁

      Cheers,
      Zack

  26. John Grubb

    It would be great if there was a way to plug the camera into the printer. I have the X-Pro1 and X100s. No wifi. Getting another new camera is not an option and I’m very happy with the 2 X-cameras I have.

  27. MS

    I only wish it had the ability to store a digital copy of each photo. That would be perfect in my mind.

  28. James Spencer

    I think you’ve found the perfect use for these types of cameras. Of course they’ll be thrown into the hipster douchebag pile but in reality I think they’re actually really quite a pure form of photography. Even on nights out this would be fun, printing of photos and giving them straight to your friends. Perhaps this is the start of a new renaissance in printing once again. Nobody prints their photos out anymore, they just go onto Facebook pages and Flickr profiles. Might just have to invest in one of these, or perhaps one of those portable printers. Sold! 🙂

  29. Instax NZ

    What a neat blog post – cool to hear how the Instax helped to break down boundaries and create human connections! Love it 🙂

  30. Sterling

    Have been doing this for clients with a Polaroid 440 auto land camera and Fuji 3000B for some time. Considered going for one of these for the smaller size, less waste, cheaper (actually) film. May have just convinced me.

    Anyone had any bad experiences with the 210?

    Cheers,
    -Sterling

  31. Kaye

    I have been debating for months if I should get an Instax to play with, but feeling stupid about it since I have a “pro” camera. then I stumble on your post and now I REALLY want one!! But which one to get……!!

    • Andrew Livelsberger

      I recommend the Diana f+ with Instant Back.

      I find it much more versatile than the Fuji camera, at least in what you can and cannot control.

  32. Jim Robertson

    I love instant films. I still use some of my favorite SX-70 images as bookmarks so find the little surprises when I pick up a book to read it. I also saved the sx-70 cartridges to protect photos in the field much as you describe with the fuji.

    Love having a print in my hand!

  33. Richard

    Wow, great. How much more fantastic if it would pop a JPEG on to a card and you could give away the print every time. You could travel all over making friends everywhere and getting and sharing lots of pics.

    Please Fuji, create a JPEG version.

  34. Jay Eads

    If I could shoot everything instant, I would. Instax, polaroid Land Camera, RZ, 8×10. That would be juuuust fine with me.

  35. Sean

    I read this today one day into a really awesome shoot with the artist Adam Harvey [ http://ahprojects.com/ ] and decided to go out and buy this camera to really give something back to the guys who were volunteering for him.

    Everyone loved it, the pictures from this got the most amazing response.

    Thanks to all the commenters as well as Zack. Fantastic resource you have here.

  36. MC

    Dammit Zack, another thing to play with. On order. I thought it was neat, showed my wife this post and she asked me when it would arrive. Told her I had not ordered one and she asked me what I was waiting for. Get to start playing with it in a couple days.

    Mark

  37. Eric

    A question for Zack (and all the other Instax users out there) — given that these things use ISO 800 film, do you have to worry about airport security X-ray machines fogging it, or is that avoided via the chemistry involved?

    I might be able to find my old lead-lined bag from my film days, but would rather avoid having to use it again…

    • Zack

      @Eric – I thought the same thing. I had a few packs go through 3 xrays on my trip. No issues.

      Cheers,
      Zack

  38. rick collins

    Zack, thanks for all this. I shoot lots of different instants in a bunch of sizes. And I’ve been doing it in the street for years as you found out it is the ticket into the hearts of humans all over the world. We as photographers should know that giving is always better than taking. I hope Fuji comes to its senses and does not end the two remaining “Polaroid” type films it has left. And then it makes the Wide version of the Instax with the new look etc. Thanks again.

  39. Dennis Domingo

    I just stumbled on this post. So apologies if this reply is over a month late.

    I actually use Fuji extra wide instax camera quite a bit for family parties especially my own kids birthday parties. Nobody ever prints photos any more. When teens and young kids see my instant camera, they love it!

    These photos are little keepsakes after the party has ended

    Yes, I’m waiting for the little portable printer!

  40. Ross Prohaska

    Hello Zach,

    While this question is based more on the film rather the camera, I was wondering about something you said in your review that has me thinking out loud. You stated that you were shooting at a -1. Is that a full stop or just a -1 on the camera setting figure? Was that because you were blowing out your highlights or such in the prints? I am concerned because I just picked up one of the SP-1 printers and bought a (5) 10 pack of prints. I have been shooting like crazy and mainly have been using the XT-1 and the app through the iPhone to bring them in and print out shots on the SP-1. I also just flew into Wisconsin last week from Denver so I did go through airport security with the packs in my bag and they did get X-Rayed also. Im just wondering of what you had to do in order to get the prints to look properly exposed after you took a few sample shots. Or if there was a possibility maybe the film going through the x-ray machine may have caused my film to become “wonky”?

  41. Mike

    So any news on your XT1 review 😉

  42. Mike

    Zack, your article highlights exactly what those types of cameras are for. They aren’t made for quality pictures, but rather instant memories. I have been tempted in the past to buy one of these, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Maybe I am still too worried about my ability to take good pictures, but I find that most of those photos would end up collecting dust and eventually in the trash.

    Glad to see though that it became a new tool for your kit. Hopefully I can make good use of it someday as well.

  43. Tiffany

    Did you have any airport trouble? I have a fujifilm instax, which needs film. I wouldn’t want the TSA to make me throw out perfectly good film. Also would the altitude of flying ruin the film?

  44. Jayna

    Taking the oveeivrw, this post hits the spot

  45. Jorja

    Action requires knweeodgl, and now I can act!

  46. Romain

    Hi Zack, thank you for the clever tip with the empty cartridge. I find it so useful indeed I made my own tutorial, text and pictures, on my blog : http://www.polaroidmania.com/astuce-proteger-instax-mini/. Of course I credited you for being the source of inspiration and I’ve set a couple of links in the post, one heading to this article, the other one leading to your online portfolio. I hope you’ll be OK with this. Thanks!