Why I returned the Fujifilm Instax Mini 90 Neo Classic

img301A few months ago I went full hipster. I bought an instant camera. Not just any instant camera, but one costing $150, and outputting ‘mini’ sized pictures. I wish I could claim that I didn’t know why I bought the thing, but that would be a lie. There are really two reasons: Zack sung its praises, and I got an e-mail from B&H telling me they had it in stock. I’ve got a bit of a man-crush on Zack, and I typically slip into “Aw man, I wanna be just like you” pretty much every time I read his blog posts.

So I bought the camera, and two twenty packs of film. The whole thing set me back $180. Yes, $180 for a toy. OK, fine, I’ve spent more on other photography toys but, yeah. The price tag for a limited use toy camera was a bit steep. I tried to put my buyer’s remorse aside as I opened the box. The camera is definitely well made, and has a nice classic aesthetic–way better than the very-Japanese-toy-looking models that are half the price. I put some batteries in, put in a film pack, and took my first shots.

Buyer’s remorse instantly turned to regret. I knew, with near certainty, that I would be returning the camera. Some of my first pictures are above. My biggest complaint is that the prints are small. Yes, I had read that they are ‘credit card sized’, but the actual picture window is only 60% of that (yes, I just measured it). Yes they are cute, but let me put it this way–the height of the picture window is about the same as the width of the screen on my iPhone 6 (not the 6 Plus). When I look at the pictures, I want to zoom in with a reverse pinch.

Here’s another way to look at it. Below is one of the pictures next to a 4×6 print.

img300I’m not saying that I was expecting ‘credit card sized’ to compete with a 4×6. I’m just saying that I really didn’t understand just how small the prints would be. Its kinda like when the fund-raiser candy you bought from the kid down the street clearly said there would be 4.5 ounces of chocolate, but you just didn’t grok how little that would be.

The other problem I had with the images was how expensive the prints were. At the time I bought them, each exposure would cost $0.75. No, it’s not going to break the bank, and yes it definitely makes you think before shooting. But I’m a people shooter. If a picture is worth taking, it is worth sharing. So, that’s one print per person in the shot, plus one for me. That pic of my son and his friend up top? That’ll be $2.25, thankyouverymuch. And prices have gone up since then–now we’re up to $0.85 each, or $2.55 for a trio.

So I was starting to feel like I had to buy the razor AND the blades, and I wasn’t all that happy with the blades.

As a last-ditch effort to put it to interesting use, I took the Neo with me on a senior portrait shoot with a very creative young woman. I figured we’d play with it after I knew I had quality portraits from my D7100.DSC_1658First lesson, also visible in the pics up top–use flash in pretty much any setting, otherwise the image will be soft and under exposed. Second lesson, double exposure could be fun. Of the four pics we took, the second from the left was our favorite. Alas, there is no sharing that photo. She has it. I have just this picture of it.

So that was the end of it. There were two unexposed frames in the film pack when I pulled it from the camera to box it up.

I had to admit, yet again, that I’m not Zack. I don’t shoot like Zack. I don’t have opportunities to use the camera like Zack did. Not right now, at least.

Maybe some day.