The best part about negative film was infinite reproducibility. The best part about Polaroids or instant films was instant gratification. Digital photography seems to be the best of both worlds, instant gratifications reproduced infinitely. We see our shot right away in the LCD screen. We can print as many copies of a .jpg as we want. But what film has and digital lacks, is a sense of authenticity.
Digital has a sterility to it. Pore-less skin, porcelain eye whites, perfect exposures, geometric compositions. I feel more attached to my post-processing software than my digital camera. I capture a moment with this tool, but I bring it home to create my image. Film photography is so much more visceral and immediate. And nothing exemplifies this timelessness of photography than with instant films.
No redos, no second tries, an instant camera produces an end product. I love the geniunenss of this medium, and I have only recently begun to appreciate it.
It all got started with this Fujifilm Instax 200 camera last September. My girlfriend gave this to me for my birthday and I’ve fell in love with instant photography since. It is a beast of a camera. Big and bulbous-y, every time I asked a friendly stranger to take a picture for me, they would ask me questions like “Wow, what is that?” or “Can it shoot underwater?” It is a bit clunky to carry around and to use indoors, but it is an awesomely easy to use camera. It’s got a strong flash, a small lcd screen with simple exposure compensations, and it shoots the nice & big Instax Wide films.
My next instant camera was another Fujifilm, the Fujifilm Instax Mini 7. My good friend brought this back for me as a souvenir from Hong Kong. Much more pocketable than the Instax 200, this camera shoots the credit-card sized Instax Mini film. I bought a self-portrait/close-up lens in Shanghai for $10CAD and it works great. Just clip it onto the front and compose with the little mirror.
The next one is an oldie from my dad’s camera collection, a Bronica ETRS medium format camera with a polaroid back. More on this camera in another post. This beauty uses Fuji’s peel-apart pack film instead of the Instax integral film. You have to the take the photo, pull out the film, wait a specific amount of time, and peel apart the film from the developing negative. It’s been around for decades and thankfully Fujifilm still produces them. It takes the FP-100c, FP-100b, FP-3000b films. The Bronica’s polaroid back only exposes a small portion of the image so all you get is an Instax Mini sized image and a big black border.
Finally, my latest addition to my small collection of instant cameras, the Polaroid Colorpack II. First introduced in 1969, it was the first plastic body land camera that shoots color film in addition to b&w film. It has an electronic shutter with a bulb function, a simple meter, and a nice viewfinder. I bought this off of craigslist for $25, and the images it captures is by far the best out of all four camera. I can’t wait to use it more!
A bit on the film. We all know about the demise of Polaroid instant film, and the Impossible Project resurrecting this icon of a medium. But as of right now, only Fujifilm is in the mass market instant film game. The Instax Wide and Instax Mini are integral instant films, meaning you take the picture and wait for the chemicals inside to develop the image. No fuss no mess. The FP-series pull & peel professional films are quite messy and finicky. You have to time their development and you have to make sure they develop at a certain ambient temperature. But the results are way better than the Instax series. I recommend anyone interested in instant photography to read up more on Polaroid Land Cameras that use pack film like those below. It is often the cheapest way to get into this medium of photography. Buy yourself a cheap vintage polaroid, and get some pro Fuji film.
In case you were wondering how much it cost to shoot instant film, it is $1 a shot for all Fuji instant films. A pretty inexpensive entry fee into instant authentic gratification.