What if you could bring the feel of vintage Instagram filters to life? What if you could print out your favorite Instagram photo with that artsy old-school filter and hold it in your hand or post it on your fridge or tape it to your monitor? That’s sort of what it’s like using the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Camera which prints out photos as you take them using real film. It’s the camera a real hipster would use and it’s definitely fun to use.
For my generation, cameras that aren’t digital aren’t nostalgia. We barely used them. For us, what’s old is really new. I’ve heard of Polaroid cameras; in fact, my step-dad had one when I was growing up and I know he really liked using it. But I never really used it, never got attached to it and grew up in an age where phones supplanted cameras for the average person who wasn’t a professional photographer. For me, cameras that print film are intriguing.
Actually it was my wife who said we should check out the Instax Mini 90. She was looking for something that could capture our toddler and provide some instant satisfaction in the physical world. It’s interesting because instant satisfaction is what my generation thrives on. When we post a photo to social media we can get immediate feedback from friends and strangers. So it’s actually a logical transition, I think, for us to take kindly to photos that print out instantly.
And there’s something really fun and challenging about taking a photos that you can’t edit! You’ve got to get it right the first time. You have to think about composure and lighting. Or, on the opposite side of the matter, you don’t. You can think about things less and just enjoy the lack of control and let pictures turn out how they turn out. And in that regard, using the Instax is a little bit like using Beme, the app from Casey Neistat which is meant to remove all superficiality from sharing a moment.
I also like the feeling of needing to conserve film. It costs real money to buy film for the Instax Mini 90 and each roll only gives you 10 pictures. You’ve got to be sure something is worth capturing before you pull the trigger.
Would the Instax Mini 90 be a suitable camera for everyday use? Probably not. But it’s something you could use around the house or bring with you for a night or day on the town or for capturing special occasions or for fulfilling your hobbyist desires.
The camera itself is a bit awkward to hold due to it’s square shape, but that doesn’t mean it’s hard to use. If anything, it’s really easy to use. Turn it on, aim and press the shutter button.
Once you do, you’ll immediately hear the inner-workings of the camera set in motion as your moment is committed to film. In just about a second or so the camera shoots out a print from it’s left side and thirty seconds or so later your image will be fully developed.
I’ve learned that you don’t want to take closeups with this cam. It’s best to shoot subjects that are at least three or four feet away.
Pictures come out very unique. For people like me used to crisp 4K displays, the photos from the Instax might seem a bit dull. To me the photos really look like a picture out of the early eighties — something the Goldbergs would be into.
Every time we bring this camera out people are intrigued. Some, I’m sure, think, “Why would anyone lug that around?” Others clearly think it’s cool. In any case, you’ll definitely turn some heads and grab some attention when you’re shooting with the Instax Mini 90.
On the back of the camera there’s a lever to pop open the film compartment to change it out. There’s also five buttons to change some basic settings (like using the flash, setting up double exposures, etc.). There’s also a very basic display where you’ll see the remaining battery life and the number of photos left on the roll of film. Finally, there’s a door to the battery compartment which, you might be surprised to find upon opening, hold a rechargeable battery. I’ve been using the camera for several months here and there and actually haven’t even had to charge it once since I opened the box.
It’s interesting getting used to using the viewfinder. There are no grid lines, there’s no zooming (unless you count using your feet): what you see is what you get. Finding the “view” through the viewfinder is sometimes tricky. The camera really must be held at just the right angle to see through it, but you get the hang of it as you go.
The build quality of this camera is very, very sturdy. For whatever reason, this is one of our toddler’s favorite toys. He loves playing with it (while it’s off, of course) and, as you know, toddlers aren’t always the gentlest of people when it comes to handling stuff. I’ll stop short of calling it a tank (mostly because it’s made of plastic), but it’s not delicate. You can take it with you and not be worried about breaking it (unless you drop it on concrete or smash it against a building on accident or something). Overall, it’s pretty tough. Tougher than my DSLR.
This camera is a bit of an unexpected surprise. I wasn’t sure I’d like it or that it would have a place in my life, to be honest, but once it arrived and got some use, it’s become a family favorite. You can see how a camera like this influenced all the photography apps we use on a daily basis and it is fun to go back to the roots of things and discover and make some history.
I think anyone could get some serious enjoyment out of this camera: especially parents or grandparents. Hipsters — true hipsters — need this in their possession. It’s fun, it’s different and it’s freeing in a way. If you’re looking for a gift this holiday season, this could be fun for a photographer or anyone, really. It’s one of those items our family is stoked to have in our “arsenal” and has really carved out a niche in our house.