So it’s come to this? The latest camera to enter the halls of Stuff has also provided one of the most excited reactions to the technology we’ve seen here in a while. But, horror of horrors, all that love has gone to a piece of equipment that is, technically, old technology.
We’re referring to the Fujifilm instax mini 90 Neo Classic, a retro-styled shooter that has only the barest concession towards having an LCD display and which pops out instant images – Polaroid style. Have we gotten so used to digital camera technology that an instant-access hardcopy camera seems exciting by comparison? Why yes, it seems that we have.
The instax mini 90 Neo Classic is a fairly chunky unit that consists of a grippable plastic frame, a retractable lens, an embedded flash and a basic LCD readout that shows how many shots you have left, whether the flash or timer are active and a few more things besides. The rear has a section for the rechargable battery and a door for inserting your film cartridges.
The built quality is something that we haven’t felt in a while, that hollow sensation of a cheaper film-using camera – even when the film is loaded, you can tell that there’s a fair amount of empty space inside the instax mini 90. It uses a viewfinder instead of any sort of digital option – like we said, this is quite the old school piece of camera hardware.
Film: Fujifilm Instant Color Film “instax mini”
Film size: 86mm x 54
Image size: 62mm x 46
Exposure control: Automatic, LV5.0 – 15.5 (ISO800), lighten-darken control ±2/3EV, +1EV
Viewfinder: 0.37x, with target spot and parallax adjustment for macro mode
Battery: NP-45A lithium-ion
Use is simple enough. Take the film cartridge, slot it into the provided bay and snap the door closed. The cartridge’s covering is automatically ejected and you’re ready to go, unless you are like us and get curious. Don’t open the door once you’ve loaded film. It was an elementary mistake on our part but to be fair we haven’t seen anything like this for a while.
Once you’re locked and loaded, it’s just a question of pointing and shooting. There aren’t many focus options and while there are presets that can be selected, you need to spend some time with the instruction manual in order to know what they really are doing since the only way you know which is selected is by the icon on the rear of the camera. Right by the ‘open bay doors’ switch, where temptation keeps making your fingers stray.
Images are tiny, relatively speaking. The film used by the Fujifilm instax mini 90 Neo Classic results in a little credit-card sized photograph of your subject. In terms of image clarity, we managed to nab some very high quality shots which were then scanned into a digital format because we liked the look of them that much.
We also managed to get a few less-brilliant images, direct sunlight is not your friend and the flash also has the chance to overexpose portions of your instant-print pics. That doesn’t have to be a negative however, there’s an art in overexposing shots all of its own. We’re terrible at it though.
By and large though, the instax mini 90 produces the kind of photos you wouldn’t feel ashamed about handing out to random people in the street – though it’s more the sort of thing you’d take on a leisurely road trip to catalogue your stops.
As fun as it is to use (and it is very fun), that amusement comes with a price, one figurative and one literal. The viewfinder is tiny enough to make framing your subject a squint-filled experience. It’s not a deal-breaker but the camera is a mission to use effectively.
And there’s the literal price you’ll have to pay. It’s easy to burn though an entire 10-pack of film in minutes and you’re going to have to pay for that privilege. To the tune of about R150 per 10 photographs, which is extremely pricy in this age of digital photography. Add to that the bulk of the film you’ll have to cart around if you’re planning on a high volume of shots and the Fujifilm instax mini 90 Neo Classic starts looking like a very expensive, space-consuming toy.
We’d love to have one of these on hand at all times, for capturing images in a new (old) way. Instant photos are still a lot of fun and the form factor that Fujifilm have provided here makes the mini 90 something that we’d carry around. But having to shell out around R15 per picture is a painful thought, though it’s a price that some people will be willing to pay to goof around with this little instax camera.