As younger photographers continue to discover photography, film photography has experienced resurgence in popularity. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the instant film market. Many shooters who may have fallen in love with photography thanks to smartphone apps (and their image filters) like Instagram and Hipstamatic have fully embraced instant film like Fujifilm Instax not just for their throwback appeal but for the flexibility they offer. Unlike the snapshots we’re most accustomed to seeing from instant film, we decided to shoot some portraits with Fujifilm’s Instax Mini Monochrome and Lomography’s Lomo’Instant Automat to see just how far you can push the film and the camera.
Before jumping into the review some tech specs:
(Taken from Lomography’s website)
- Film Format: Fujifilm Instax Mini Film
- Exposure Area: 62mm x 46mm
- Shutter Speed: Bulb (maximum 30 seconds), 8s-1/250 (Auto Shooting Mode)
- Exposure Compensation: +1/-1 Exposure Values (Ambient Exposure)
- Film Ejection Mechanism: Motorized
- Multiple Exposures: Unlimited
- Built-in Flash Guide Number: 9(m)
- Built-in Flash: Automatic Flash & Flash Off Mode
- Aperture: f/8, f/22
- Zone Focusing Setting: 0.6m / 1-2m / infinite
- Remote Control: 2 sensors (one at the front, one at the back), transmission via Infrared
- Remote Control Sensor Range: 1-2m in bright sunshine, up to 5m indoors
- Film Counter: LED indication, counting down
- Battery Supply: 2 x CR2 batteries (2 x 3V)
- Remote Control Battery Supply: 1 x CR1632 batteries (3V)
- Tripod mount: Yes
- Filter Thread Diameter: 43mm
Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome
(Taken from Amazon)
- Color: Black
- Included Components: Instax Mini Monochrome Film
- Item Dimensions 4×0.75×2.5 inches
- Item Weight: 0.1 pounds
- Package Quantity: 1
- Shipping Weight: 0.22 pounds
Getting the camera and film ready is a piece of cake; simply align the yellow tab of the film with the yellow tab on the camera, close, and shoot a test shot to remove the black cover of the film pack. That’s it you’re ready to shoot.
Shooting with the Lomo’Instant Automat continues the ease-of-use of the Fujifilm Instax Mini film. Like many instant cameras available now, the Automat uses a zone focusing system – 0.6m/1-2m/infinity – but instead it employs a click-y focus ring that lets you know you’ve made an adjustment. When shooting, this allows you to move about and recompose without taking your eyes off your subject and keeping a natural connection with them throughout the shoot.
Shooting Fujifilm Instax Mini Monochrome for portraits was a personal first and a reminder of the importance of properly lighting a subject. The film itself delivers a contrast-y look to most shots however it is extremely easy to blow out your image. In working with the Instax Mini Monochrome film packs, slight adjustments in lighting could be the difference between creating a pleasing look and blowing out your model’s features. With this in mind, you’re constantly considering each of your lighting set ups and composition – creating a pleasing look with Instax Mini Monochrome is wholly up to how you play with its sensitivity to light.
The biggest issue with working with Instax Mini Monochrome continues to be the lack of manual controls available in the cameras that work with the film. As good as the Lomo’Instant Automat is as an instant film camera, there simply isn’t enough manual control to really push the film to its limits. There is currently no way to pair these cameras with strobes leaving you to work with constant lighting and the direct flash from the camera or working with natural light alone. The Automat offers unlimited multiple exposures which can be cool, but that’s no replacement for being able to fully control the output from the camera.
Despite Fujifilm Instax Mini’s current reputation as a snapshot film, there’s a lot to appreciate in the Instax Mini Monochrome film packs. The Instax mini monochrome contrast profile is neutral enough where a photographer can create a pleasing aesthetic by understanding how to properly manipulate lighting and properly posing their subjects. The film itself holds up the quality of the image even when scanning. For portraits the Instax Mini Monochrome is an ideal medium as it creates a more flattering image of subjects. Though not tack sharp, the soft edges around your subject when properly lit can create a dreamy glow that would otherwise have to be produced in post-production.
Working with the Instax Mini Monochrome results in overall pleasing portraits with a major caveat that there are no professional grade cameras that work with the film straight out of the box. Overall the Instax Mini Monochrome delivers beautiful images with very little fuss to work with. Comparatively Instax Mini Monochrome creates a pleasing contrasting image that is truly black and white as opposed to the sepia tones found in some competitor’s films. Working with what we have a proper lighting set up and embracing the quirks of the film will allow a photographer to create dramatic portraits or dreamy scenes.