I’ve been itching to try out a film SLR, but the thought of actually developing the film has put my dream on the back burner. That is, until I heard about the Nons SL660. The SL660 is a blend of old and new. It’s a new camera body, but it’s made for vintage lenses. It’s an SLR, but it takes readily available Fujifilm Instax Square film. It’s a film camera, but it has a rechargeable battery and a built-in light meter.
The Nons SL660 delivers the film SLR experience without the cost or process of film development. It’s compatible with EF mount lenses with an aperture ring, but it can also be used with an adapter for additional mounts. With a bright prime lens, the SL660 spits out instant prints dripping with bokeh that point-and-shoot Instax cameras just cannot deliver.
The Big Picture
The Nons SL660 is an easy entry into the world of film SLRs. The Instax Square compatibility makes it possible to jump into film photography without a darkroom. Yet, with interchangeable lens capability and manual controls, the Nons SL660 delivers more flexibility and bokeh than a basic Instax point-and-shoot. With adapters allowing for a wide range of compatible lenses (F-Mount, Micro Four Thirds, Pentax K, Contax-Yashica/CY) along with the native EF, it’s compatible with a wide range of optics that have an aperture ring.
Of course, without a darkroom, you can’t take those photos and turn them into large prints. The size of the Instax Square film packs forces the camera’s size to be a bit bulky in order to accommodate the film packs. With a maximum shutter speed of 1/250, an ND filter will occasionally be necessary for shooting in bright sunlight. I also had two film packs that wouldn’t eject because the film tore inside.
I’m giving the Nons SL660 four out of five stars. Check them out on their website.
- Easy to use with a built-in light meter
- Lovely metal build with a wood grip
- Uses easily accessible Fujifilm Instax Square film
- Delivers tons of character
- It’s possible to swap lenses mid-film pack without ruining the film.
- The maximum shutter speed is 1/250, so an ND filter is necessary for bright sun.
- Battery is built-in
- Occasional error ejecting film
The Nons SL660 was gifted by Nons. I used the camera with:
- Rokinon 85mm f1.4, Canon EF Mount (on loan from Phoblographer’s Editor in Chief)
- Nikkor 20mm f2.8 (on loan from Phoblographer’s Editor in Chief)
- Fujifilm Instax Square (provided by Fujifilm)
Nons first camera, the SL42, was the first interchangeable lens camera to use Instant film. The SL660 shares many features with the SL42, but it uses the larger Instax Square film, has a sturdier metal build, a smaller body, and a shorter shutter delay. Instant film is loved for its mix of true film character and the convenience of a print that develops in mere minutes. What Nons is doing is taking that Instax character further with vintage lenses while keeping the experience simple and straightforward.
The Nons SL660 is a large camera that feels more like a DSLR than a mirrorless. It’s a little more than five inches tall and weighs roughly 30 ounces (850g).
The front of the camera is dominated by a lovely wooden grip, accented by the nearby silver shutter release. The grip is more comfortable than the SL42’s, and I found it sufficient for the conservatory way I shoot when working with film. However it’s a blocky shape; it’s not one of those grip systems that feels almost as one with your hand.
The lens mount actually juts out a way from the rest of the camera body. Nons says there’s a built-in optical system that makes full frame lenses appear like a medium-format field of view. This is likely to help with vignetting. On the opposite side of the lens mount is the lever to prepare the shutter for the shot and make the viewfinder accessible.
The top of the camera houses a shutter speed dial and a small screen that displays the number of shots remaining as well as the suggested aperture and remaining battery life. The display also shows an asterisk after a shot is taken: a helpful symbol for shooting a double exposure (or avoiding an accidental one). There’s a hot shoe slot too.
The back of the camera is dominated by the door for loading Instax film. Above that is an optical pentaprism viewfinder. The view from the finder is narrower than what’s actually photographed, so there may occasionally be some distractions on the fringes of the shot. In the bottom corner, next to the film door, there’s an on-off switch, a USB-C port for charging, and a film eject button.
The film pops out of the grip side of the camera, so you can’t use the grip while ejecting film. The opposite side of the camera has two loops for attaching a strap. The included strap is a rope style, which looks nice but isn’t as comfortable as a flat strap. And there is a tripod mount on the bottom of the camera.
There’s no door to eject a battery: it’s built-in. I shot six film packs, and the display still showed a half battery, so it’s not a huge issue unless you’re traveling without access to power. But, that also means replacing the battery won’t be easy once the battery ages.
The previous Nons SL was a bit plasticky and had a wide body without a comfortable grip. The new Nons SL660 is constructed better. I can tell that its metal. The wood grip is also a nice detail that’s both aesthetically pleasing and more comfortable than the earlier model.
The knob, buttons, and lever all feel well constructed. They don’t feel chintzy. And the shutter release makes a very loud but satisfying click.
Will it stand the test of time like old metal SLRs still shooting decades later? It’s hard to say. But, it’s definitely a significant improvement from the build quality of Nons’ first camera.
The camera lacks an electronic connection to the lens, which means this is an all-manual focus affair. Thankfully, focusing with vintage metal lenses is quite pleasant. I did, at times, miss the focus peaking of digital cameras, but Instax isn’t pixel-peeper friendly anyway, and I found the optical viewfinder sufficient for focusing. Some of my photos are undoubtedly a bit soft, particularly those shot wide open, but it adds to the vintage charm of the camera.
Ease of Use
I’ve used Instax cameras before but never a film SLR. Despite my rookie status, the SL660 was easy to jump into. A quick video (less than 90 seconds) had everything I needed to know to start shooting.
Using the Nons SL660 is a joy. Between the prints you can hold in your hand and the ability to use vintage lenses, the SL660 packs a ton of charm. Despite the nostalgia, the screen at the top that guided my exposure settings ensured the camera was manual enough to be fun, not frustrating.
I did, however, come across an occasional glitch. Twice, the film wouldn’t eject after loading a new film pack and spitting out the black protective slide. Both times, the film was torn in the corner where a metal tooth sits in the camera to help eject the Instax. The first time, I threw the whole pack out. The second time, I threw out two torn images and another because it had been exposed by opening the back of the camera, but I was able to use the rest of the pack. When I reached out to Nons, they said the one-year warranty would cover a camera that’s not spitting out the film.
The screen at the top of the camera displays a suggested aperture for the shutter speed selected and lighting conditions. This is a huge help, and I was able to get most of my shots nicely exposed.
However, the camera does shift a little between viewing the screen and putting the viewfinder up to my eye. Uneven lighting can create some metering errors since I can’t see what the screen is actually suggesting when I’m also looking through the viewfinder.
In full sun, I found that I needed to shoot a bit darker than what the meter suggested. And indoors, I got the best results when shooting a little brighter than what the meter suggested. With a max 1/250 shutter speed, I found myself wishing I had packed an ND filter when f22 was still too bright in full sun at noon.
The mix of Instax colors, manual focus softness, and vintage lenses full of flare create a stunning combination. The blend worked well, photographing people in costume at a Renaissance Festival. I can see this being a fun camera for street photography or simply in the hands of any photographer with an eye for unusual shots.
As an Instax camera, Nons creates those familiar Instax tones. The colors feel a little deeper than in real life, particularly the darker greens and the reds skewing slightly more maroon. The photo of the giant Rubix cube has prime colors in real life. The sky on a sunny day is brilliant blue. Unless, of course, you overexpose a bit, which makes the colors more pastel.
Nons notes the best focal lengths to use are 28-58mm. There’s a slight square vignette on my shots taken with an 85mm lens, but I actually like it. Similarly, there’s a circular vignette on shots with the 20mm lens. This just adds to the overall character. But, if unwanted, sticking with the manufacturer’s suggested focal length range should help reduce vignetting.
The SL660 doesn’t have the wide dynamic range of a full-frame digital camera. The shadows are much deeper, and the highlights are often overexposed. While this can create some challenges, it also can create some nice contrast. But, if you want the bokeh that using an interchangeable lens Instax allows, shoot in more even lighting to avoid the background being black shadows.
Instax isn’t made for pixel peeping; you can’t really get close enough to a 2.4-inch square to really nitpick on sharpness. That’s fine with me because I typically can’t shoot an f1.4 lens wide open with manual focus, but I could if I wanted to here.
Extra Image Samples (Unedited)
Who Should Buy It?
If you want a film SLR without the complications of actually developing film, buy the Nons SL660. It’s an easy-to-use camera, yet it supports many vintage lenses and spits out instant prints. The camera is an excellent mix of old-school character and new-world convenience.
Of course, Instax can’t be enlarged the way traditional film can. It has all the film character, but you can’t blow up the photos into giant wall art. The shutter speed maxes out at 1/250, so you’ll also need an ND filter if you want to shoot in bright sunlight. And an occasional flaw ejecting film also meant throwing out some film.
Nons lists the following specifications for the SL660:
- Passive EF mount (no electronic signal to auto-focus or adjust electric control aperture)
- Shutter Speed (10 modes): 1/250, 1/125, 1/60, 1/30, 1/15, 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, 1 second and Bulb mode
- Recommended F/# based on current shutter speed
- Counter up to 999 seconds when using bulb mode
- Film counter and battery status display
- Standard hot shoe, flash sync to 1/250
- Power supply: 3200mAh internal Li-ion battery. Input: DC 5V, 1A
- Film: Fujifilm Instax square film, ISO 800
- Film size: 72 x 86 mm (width x height)
- Picture size: 62 x 62 mm (width x height)
- Mechanical dimension: 135 x 131 x 92 mm (width x height x depth)
- Weight: 850 g
- Package: Camera body, USB Type-A to Type-C cable, Manual
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