It might come as a surprise that, for someone who has her own website, I'm somewhat disenchanted with digital images, preferring to wait three days for Boots to develop photos from a 35mm black Nikon box. Polaroids eliminate the wait, but everyone knows procuring film isn’t always easy or affordable – enter Fuji’s Instax, which I’m sure you’ve all heard of by now. After borrowing a friend’s standard-sized Instax a while back, I was impressed by the results, and trying out its miniature offshoot (kindly provided by Cath Kidston) was a real joy. Hopefully, a specific run-down of pros and cons won’t go amiss, as well as a few general pointers.
People get confused between the many Instax models out there, so I hope this doesn’t sound crudely obvious – the Instax Mini 25 is super compact; almost small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. It’s smaller than the 7s and the 8, and is also extremely lightweight.
Having ricocheted to popularity in Asia, the Instax remains somewhat of a rare beast here in the UK. Usually garnering plenty of intrigue, it is a real conversation starter at parties. Not to mention that the novelty factor will attract even the most camera-shy of pals, saving them from having to hide their face in the corner.
This is the easiest ever camera to use. Easier than peas. You need only press a button. Speaking of which, those shutter buttons are sensitive! Something to be aware of, as you don’t want to waste film firing an accidental shot, but more of a pro I’d say. For the selfie-inclined amongst us, there is also a handy mirror near the front of the lens. Forget the hiding your photo in your bag - the Polaroid faff isn't there, the photo will develop by itself.
Availability and variety of film
In the world of instant photography, this is a big ‘un. Instax film can be reliably ordered from just about anywhere that stocks it on the internet, as well as from most specialist photo stores. Also, try all you like but you won’t be able to come up with an instax film design that doesn’t exist. The Cath Kidston floral frames are one example, if you are bored of the standard white. An Instax Mini uses ‘Mini’ film, not to be mixed up with the larger format.
Only one, really. The photo size is what it says on the tin – mini – but when you take into account the frame around the photo, you’re left with a smaller image than you’d expect. Not necessarily a surprise if you’re going for a Mini Instax, but just something to keep in mind when choosing what to photograph – see below.
- A special type of battery is required for this camera. I’ve done the leg work for you – Boots is one of the only places that stock CR2 batteries. You’re welcome.
- If using patterned film, make sure your subject doesn’t colour-clash with it. Otherwise it gets a bit “lost”. My shots demonstrate this better than an explanation – see above!
- Get a case. For all the obvious reasons, but also: the camera is white with flowers on it. A case keeps it that way. This Cath Kidston travel pouch is a perfect fit (although I’d recommend putting an extra layer of bubblewrap or similar material if you’re travelling with it, for extra protection, it's a delicate thing); it also has enough room to store accessories and mini albums.
- Don’t stand too close to the subject, or use the close-up lens which is provided with the camera. Generally, I’d recommend the Mini for individual or two-people shots.
- The flash goes off even when it’s slightly cloudy outside, and almost always indoors; not a bad thing but something to watch out for. But also, embrace the flash, it’s all about the kitsch factor.
- Hold the camera still – this sounds obvious, but I sometimes forget when switching between a dSLR and a film camera that there’s no autofocus!
Finally, trial and error goes a long way, so don’t be discouraged if the first few shots turn out blurry or washed out. It is a much cheaper mistake than with a Polaroid. That is all, but do let me know if you have any burning questions or want extra info.