The Most Modern SLR of 2021. NONS SL42 Mk2 Review

A few years ago, we took a very hard stance on SLR gear. We told manufacturers we wouldn’t review them. We also said we probably wouldn’t report on new news about DSLRs. That’s one of the factors that’s put a strain on a few manufacturer relationships we have. But the industry itself also decided to pivot. The DSLR, in 2021, is for the Luddite. And depending on what side of the table you’re on, the NONS SL42 Mk2 is totally new. It’s the successor to the first SLR-style camera to specifically shoot Instax Mini film. The Mk2 gets a few upgrades from the original. And if you really want full control over your Instax shooting, this is the best chance you’ll have.

Editor’s Note: I bought the NONS SL42 Mk2 for myself. I did so at full price and not using the tactics influencers do to get free gear. When I did, they remembered our coverage and offered a free upgraded kit that included the NFE and the 50mm f1.8 lens they make. I took it and am declaring this. I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and my reviews aren’t tainted by manufacturers trying to butter me up. I instill the same thing in The Phoblographer staff.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

The NONS SL42 Mk2 is a fantastic camera that’s surely still got some quirks to be ironed out. But if you’re going to buy any Instax, Instant Film, or SLR camera, this is the one to get. It’s the most innovative one on the market right now.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Incredibly lightweight because it’s very plastic
  • It shoots instant film!
  • Beautiful to look at
  • Very fun!
  • Pretty simple controls
  • I actually like how large it is
  • I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to hold an SLR that shoots Instax film
  • It goes to sleep!

Cons

  • Incredibly plastic
  • No camera strap comes with it
  • When you put the adapter on to have the lens cover the whole film plane, you can’t see the new image fully through the viewfinder
  • This thing really needed a split prism finder
  • Shutter speed dial oddly goes to other positions not marked for shutter speeds
  • I wish it had depth of field preview

Gear Used

We tested the NONS SL42 Mk2 with various Samyang, Rokinon, and vintage lenses. Our camera uses a Canon EF mount. Most Canon EF lenses don’t have an aperture ring, so you have to use the ones that do. Samyang and Rokinon are the best brands for just this. Best of all, there are tons of lenses available.

Tech Specs

These specs are taken from the NONS product page.

  • EF mount – SL42 is a passive EF mount camera, compatible with EF lens, and also lots of vintage lenses with an easy-to-get adapter.
  • Instax mini film – SL42 works with the widely-available Instax mini film.
  • Single-lens Reflex (SLR) – The precise SLR structure and viewfinder inside SL42 make it easy to frame and focus accurately.
  • Integrated light meter – The display panel will show the recommended aperture (F/#) for better exposure.
  • Intuitive design – We take care of the hard part, so you can enjoy using SL42 with its powerful, yet easy-to-use functions. SL42 is perfect for both pros and beginners.

Innovations

The NONS SL42 Mk2 is one of the first cameras in the world to use the SLR format to shoot Instax film. More importantly, it also uses currently available lenses. We’ve asked Fujifilm to do this for years, but they didn’t care. We asked Lomography to do this a while back, and they integrated it into their other camera systems. MINT camera hasn’t done it. Polaroid also hasn’t done it (we wouldn’t support a company that backs Unplash anyway). It’s a quirky camera, but it delivers exactly where you need it to.

Ergonomics

The NONS SL42 Mk2 is a proper SLR film camera that uses Instax film. And that’s awesome. NONS has its own 50mm f1.8 lens, but you can use a variety of lenses.

Here’s the front of the camera. You can tell it’s very plasticky. The only control you’ll see here is the mount and the shutter cocking mechanism under the mount. 

On top, you’ll find barely any controls. There’s a standard hot shoe that doesn’t have any sort of TTL interface. There’s also a shutter release (which I wish were threaded). Then there’s the shutter dial. This dial has a lot of black space, and it keeps turning without any true hard stops. Next to that is the small metering window.

On the back, you’ll find the viewfinder. Then there’s the film door and the ejection button.

Finally, on the bottom, you’ll find the on/off switch. Plus, there’s a tripod socket.

Build Quality

Online, the NONS SL42 Mk2 looks like everything you’d want a camera like this to be. Let me just rattle off words. Big. Chunky. Metal. Solid. Durable. Of course, that’s what you get when you photograph the camera. That’s also why reviews like ours are so important. The NONS SL42 Mk2 is indeed big and chunky. It has the ergonomic appeal of a brick with none of the weight, thanks to the plastic body. And it also reminds me of the old Argus 35 rangefinder cameras that were just as brick-like. I totally understand using plastic to keep the costs down. But the build quality here is very lacking. Make sure it’s on a good camera strap. 

Some recommendations: 

  • Maybe give it a grip, or even a bit of a bump like Fujifilm cameras have.
  • Include a good camera strap made of canvas or leather.
  • A metal body would be ideal here. Heck, I’d pay more money for a brass version that shows wear with age.

I think the consumer who wants to shoot with an Instax SLR camera will totally understand that it will need to be heavy. I mean, lots of photographers take to YouTube to use their Mamiya RZ67 to shoot. The NONS SL42 Mk 2 could’ve surely been heavier and more durable. But I also doubt it would reach a Pentax 67 level of heavy. 

Of course, this camera isn’t weather sealed. I wouldn’t expect it to be.

Ease of Use

The NONS SL42 Mk2 is straightforward to use. Power it up. Put the Instax film in. Eject the dark slide. Put the NFE on. Then put your favorite lens on with an aperture ring. Cock the shutter. Focus. Check the light meter’s recommendations on top. Make adjustments accordingly. Shoot. And print! It’s an art and craft for sure. 

What I found is that the system becomes most usable around f8. That’s what most Instax cameras have their lenses set to. Anything more shallow requires you to be very careful. But when you nail something in focus at a super shallow depth of field, you’ll be enamored.

It gets even tougher with the NFE. Think of the NFE as a speed booster that widens the focal length and gives the lens more light. Basically, try focusing a Samyang 85mm f1.4 without a depth of field preview through an optical viewfinder. Better yet, do it wipe open. No, there is no diopter adjustment. So if you’re visually impaired like I am, you’re going to need to be extra careful. Essentially, you need to stop the lens down, focus, open the aperture up a bit, touch up focus, and repeat. Also, remember that you’re extending the frame, and the format is basically around 645 sized. 

Trust me, it gets complicated. But that’s also what makes using the NONS SL42 Mk2 so fun! Today’s digital cameras do everything for you. The NONS SL42 Mk2 isn’t trying to be like them either. DSLRs tried way too hard to be super innovative and ended up failing. This camera takes it back to a time when we had to be patient. More importantly, it doesn’t give in to the digital dream that’s been shoved down our throats for the past decade.

Where I think the NONS SL42 Mk2 could really shine is with the Nikon variant. In the last decade, Zeiss made some incredible prime lenses for F mount. All of them had aperture rings too. We’ve even tested some on film. The Canon variants don’t have that luxury, so you’ll need to stick to Samyang and Rokinon primes. 

Focusing

Focusing on the NONS SL42 Mk2 is a tall task if you’re legally blind the way I am. I bought a diopter magnifier to help. Unfortunately, it keeps falling off the eyepiece. The next version should really consider this. What could’ve also helped is a split prism viewfinder. More of the focusing was discussed up top. 

Image Quality

Even with the NFE attached, you’re still going to get a bit of vignetting. But it’s not all that bad, and I’d consider this acceptable. Overall, the image quality is dictated by the lenses you’re using. With the Samyang lenses we used, we were pleasantly surprised. As an editor who has been asking for cameras like this for years, I’m elated.

Conclusions

Likes

  • One of the best Instax cameras I’ve ever used
  • Interchangeable lenses
  • Manual shutter speeds
  • Light meter
  • A working viewfinder, though not perfect

Dislikes

  • Plastic body
  • Need to improve the viewfinder experience
  • I wish it had a better grip

The NONS SL42 Mk2 is a fantastic camera. It shoots Instant film, and it’s the only SLR-style camera to do that. It can use readily available 35mm SLR lenses and adapts them to cover most of the frame of Instax film. This camera is for anyone and everyone who wanted an SLR that shoots Instax film. There are lots of us out there. Truly, I think everyone should get one. But be warned that it has its quirks and issues. Hopefully, they’ll iron those out in the next version.

The NONS SL42 Mk2 receives four out of five stars. Want one? Head to their website.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.