Although the majority of amateur photographers prefer to use point and shoot digital cameras these days, there are still those who are content to use instant cameras for usage in a variety of situations. The digital age may pride itself on being able to capture photographs quickly and easily, digital cameras still cannot produce photographs quicker than an instant camera, and this type of camera is still popular on the consumer market. Being able to take a photograph and hand it over within a few minutes can be quite impressive and in certain situations, using an instant camera can be a real boon.
Knowledge in this area can be hard to obtain without prior experience, so follow the guide below to discover advantages and disadvantages to instant cameras, and all the things to consider when making a purchase of this kind.
What is an Instant Camera?
Instant photography is the use of a piece of photographic equipment that can take an image and print it (from the same piece of equipment) also instantaneously, and it has been popular for a long time. The most well-known brand in this market is Polaroid, although their range is temporarily suspended from production. Fuji, however, are still making theirs, as are several other manufacturers who recognise the gap in the market.
Traditional instant photography depends on instant camera film. This type of film, unlike others, usually comes in packs that have ten pieces of film, making ten prints. Each pack is loaded manually into the camera in a similar way to that of a camera film for a non-instant camera. There is a chemical packet at one end of the piece of film, and the image taken by the camera is projected onto the film (in the same way as any other type of film). The chemicals from the packet are spread across the film by rollers as the film leaves the camera. The chemicals develop the image and after a few minutes, the image appears on the front of the picture.
Types of Film Available
In a similar way to some other film cameras, film for instant cameras needs to be produced by the same manufacturer of the camera itself in order to work correctly. When making any purchase, this is worth remembering as some brands no longer produce instant film. Polaroid and Kodak, for example, no longer make instant camera film (although some may still be available to purchase online in the right places).
Fuji currently produces two different types of instant film, and also produce professional style films for cameras with instant film backs (such as those used in passport photo booths). The two types of film available on the consumer market are Instax Mini and Instax Wide. The first one produces photos that are roughly the same size as a credit card, and the wide version produces images that are 6cm x 10cm.
Below are details for three of the most popular instant film cameras, although there are others available on the market.
Since making a purchase of instant film also is partly reliant on the ability to procure an instant film camera, it is always worth knowing which models are still available to purchase on the market. Vintage Polaroid cameras can still be found relatively easily online or in markets, as can the film for them. The most highly respected Polaroid instant camera is the SX-70, as it was an early forerunner to an SLR type camera, rather than a point and shoot style camera. The SX-70 allowed the user to look through the lens, which gives an accurate view of how the final image will look. Some SX-70 models are manual focusing but also have auto exposure. It is also worth remembering that Polaroid cameras did not require batteries, as the battery pack is located in the film pack itself, so the camera cannot even be tested without a film pack. The battery packs are capable of lasting longer than the 10 shots they are designed to take, so it is possible to pick the packs up just for testing.
As Fuji is the main supplier of instant cameras on the markey today, Fuji's Instax Mini Film can be loaded and used in several makes of camera, most of which are roughly the same size as a point and shoot camera. The 50S is at the top of the range in this brand, and all of them are automatic cameras with close-up lenses and exposure compensation. Instax Wide film can be used in one Fuji camera, which is the Instax 210, and is similar to a point and shoot camera, with two focus settings and exposure compensation, much like the 50S. Many Fuji cameras have the added ability to turn the flash off and on manually.
Some cult Lomography cameras have had special instant blacks produced so that instant images can be created for these too. These cameras are the Diana and the LC-A. The instant blacks are fixed to the back of the camera, replacing the rear door, and use Fuji's Instax Mini film. This has proved to be a good halfway system between a modern and traditional camera, as using instant blacks does not permanently alter the camera itself.
However, despite the obvious advantages to using an instant camera, there are also some downsides. Sharing instant images online can be quite difficult, unless a scanner is used, and as there is no film negative, the image cannot be reproduced and copies given. The cameras themselves also have some limitations in that focus and exposure cannot be properly controlled. Shooting instant film can also become quite costly, as each photograph is printed automatically and each film pack only contains 10 images. Instant cameras are best used for special occasions or in certain environments, not for ordinary everyday photography use as the cost can mount up quite quickly.
A modern camera made by Polaroid called the PoGo has attempted to replicate the instant camera phase. It has a built-in printer which is attached to a point and shoot camera. Photos are printed on special paper that do not require ink (called ZINK - Zero INK), and the camera operates much like any other, with the added bonus of being able to print any image stored at any time. It could be that the future of instant cameras rests with models like these and not instant camera film. Other models may soon be available if the popularity of these types of cameras remains strong.
Instant film cameras are a key niche in the camera market, and remain popular even today. There are still instant cameras and the type of film that make the photos available on the market, and these can be found relatively easily. Before making the choice of any product, always conduct sufficient research to be sure that the intended purchase is exactly what is wanted and needed. By doing so, quality photographs can be taken for all to enjoy.