Photo filters are quite the rage these days on social media, and more often than not, we use them to give our photos a retro effect. Riding this wave is Fujifilm with its range of Instax cameras that brings the old-school polaroid cameras into the hands of the millennials. Despite how old and simplistic the technology is, you can never get over the satisfaction and anticipation of a whitewashed paper turning into a photograph you clicked. With the Instax Mini 8, Fujifilm not only gave the old-school polaroid cameras a modern look and feel, but also made it affordable enough for most of us. Now, the Japanese company has updated the Instax Mini 8 without really making wholesale changes. The new camera is called Instax Mini 9, and it was launched in India last week priced at Rs 5,999. Having spent sometime with the new camera, here’s my review.
At first glance, you will be hard-pressed to tell the difference between the Instax Mini 8 and the new Instax Mini 9. Fujifilm has retained the overall design language, and has only added two minor changes. One includes a selfie mirror on the front, and the other is a detachable close-up lens. So in essence what you get is a square-shaped camera with rounded edges that make it easy to hold the device while clicking photos. The front houses the lens, a ring around it to shift between shooting modes, a flash, and the shutter button. The back is fairly plain with a viewfinder towards the top, the slot to insert the film cartridge, and the battery slot on the right edge. Photos eject from the slot on the top.
Fujifilm has retained the use of funky colors that made the Instax Mini 8 stand out. With the new camera, the company has introduced a few new colors, including Lime Green, Flamingo Pink, Cobalt Blue, Smoky White, and Ice Blue. It’s a big plus that Fujifilm hasn’t changed the overall design. After all why change something that works.
In case you’re not familiar with Fujifilm’s Instax cameras, here’s a quick overview. Old-school instant print cameras used a sheet of film containing a chemically treated material, which when exposed to light, changed color to replicate the image that you saw outside. Fujifilm’s Instax cameras use these kind of films to replicate the retro technology. Talking of films, these Instax Mini cameras use credit card-sized films with a print area of 62x46mm. One cartridge holds 10 printable sheets, while a box of films (priced around Rs 900 on e-commerce sites) comes with two cartridges – 20 sheets. Powering the camera requires two AA-sized alkaline batteries. Fujifilm claims that a pair of batteries are good enough to survive up to 100 photos clicks.
Now the whole appeal of these Instax cameras is the retro feel, so it is futile to expect DSLR quality photos. Old instant cameras didn’t have the best of focus or performance in low-light conditions, and all the photos had a warm and dreary look to them. Fujifilm’s modern instant cameras follow the same idea, but do improve a bit on the performance front.
On the Instax Mini 9, Fujifilm has retained the light meter ring that determines how much light the camera should be let in. You can choose from indoors/night (f/12.7), cloudy/shade (f/16), sunny/slightly cloudy (f/22), and sunny/bright (f/32). There is also a mode called ‘Hi-Key’, which is basically meant to brighten up a photo. While it takes a couple of tries to understand what mode works best in a given scene, the camera can actually automatically detect what mode you should use. When the LED lights up beside a given mode, you just need to turn the dial to that setting, and hit the shutter button.
In my time with it, I was quite happy using the modes recommended by the camera. It is quite accurate, except for when using the Hi-Key mode. This mode is meant for when you need a photo with an unreasonably bright background, which in fact we rarely do. The overall performance is quite satisfactory, especially when clicking photos in bright sunlight. While quality indoors suffers a bit, the camera does its best to compensate for the low light by making use of the bright flash.
When compared to the Instax Mini 8, the new Instax Mini 9 brings in two new features. The selfie mirror on the side of the camera lens is clearly aimed at the social media-crazy millennials. While I don’t count myself a part of that fraternity, I must admit the mirror does help a lot when you do find yourself in a situation that requires you to click a selfie. The other new feature is a close-up lens that now lets you click a photo from as close as 35cms without having to worry about focus.
I personally am quite charmed by Fujifilm’s range of Instax Mini cameras that are a hark back to simpler times. Rather than worrying about focus, aperture or ISO, it is quite a welcome change to instead just ensure that your subject is properly framed. The photos, when you do get the lighting right, are quite artsy, and there’s a real sense of satisfaction when a photo comes out exactly how you imagined it. The results are more often than not better than anything Instagram filters can offer.
Having owned the Instax Mini 8, I’m happy that Fujifilm has kept all the good things intact. The addition of the selfie mirror and close-up lens are handy, and the new colors too are quite appealing. So do you need to upgrade from your Instax Mini 8? The answer is probably not, since there is no major improvement in overall performance, or design for that matter. But in case you do plan to jump onto the instant camera bandwagon, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 9 is a worthy buy, and at Rs 5,999, it won’t really burn a hole in your pockets. The new camera is set to go on sale via e-commerce sites at the end of this month.