Instant film. People either love it or loath it. After shooting over one hundred photographs with FujiFilm's Instax Mini Film I'm ready to give my review of this flash from the past film. Does it live up to what many of us remember?
Maybe it is because I live on Oahu, Hawaii but stores out here carry both the Japanese and English packaged versions of the Fuji Instax Mini film. After all we are halfway between the US and Japan. They are priced exactly the same so I’ve been shooting both and picking pack after pack up. By now I’ve shot well over one hundred images with this film in my Fuji 7s. After all that I’ve felt I’d offer a review of the film for all of you.
Seems the first thing people often complain about any instant film is the price. With the Fuji Instax Mini film I’m able to pick it up in local stores for $20US a 20 pack; which is a box of two 10 packs. This works out to be about one dollar a photo. Compared to 35mm film you will pay more per image. That said you get that image right there on the spot! You have to decide for yourself if that is a price you are willing to pay. Personally, I’d like to see the price slightly lower but I can live with it as it is.
What I love most about Fuji Instax Mini film is that you can get surprisingly rich and vibrant colors. With the glossy surface of the image I feel as if I can look down into the image and there is a depth to the photographs. The colors might not always have the latitude other films have. As an example I recently took a picture of a jellyfish warning sign that had a very bright neon dayglow orange flag. The Instax film rendered it as simple red with a slight orange tinge. This effect, however, can often make colors come out more vibrant than you think they might.
What can be frustrating with the film is that it, like slide film, is not as forgiving as print film. Part of this is due to the fact that you don’t have a person or computer in a lab color correcting each image. It also is the film itself. Once you take the picture it will develop and that is how it stays. A bigger part, though, is the insistence of Fuji and Polaroid to make their cameras as low-tech as possible. Most cameras past and present have fixed focus, fixed shutter speed, always on flash and marginal aperture settings. For the typical Lomographer this is wonderful as it gives us that plastic toy camera feel. One must remember that this is a limitation of the camera and not the film itself. If you have ever seen Fuji Instax Mini images from a Lomo LC-A+ camera you’ll be drawn to them like a moth to the flame. I freely admit to being extremely envious of people that have the LC-A with the instant back.
In the end I feel that, fantastically, Fuji Instax Mini film is pure essence of Lomography. Each image is a work of art that is unique and not easily duplicated. Once the image is taken and ejected it just develops right into your hands. Instant films beg to be used just for fun and passed around to friends and strangers.